Monday, July 31, 2006


...which is the heat index here in Chicago. An auspicious number in Hinduism, Buddhism and possibly even Catholicism -- but not when it comes to air temperature.

It's hot enough to fry a dog's brain.

It's so hot my skin itches from prickly heat.

It's so hot I refuse to get on my bicycle.

It's so hot the cat lies pancaked and panting in the bathtub.

It's so hot you can get second degree burns from stepping on the sidewalk with bare feet.

It's so hot a lot of old people are probably going to die.

But probably not as many as the 739 that expired during the heat wave of 1995.

To top it off, five of the city's Lake Michigan beaches are closed due to high levels of E.coli (poop) bacteria. These beaches are not adjacent to each other, which seems logical, but located up and down the shoreline, from 6000 North to 7500 South.

Yet the beaches in between -- all 28 of them -- remain open for business.

How does that work? Do the fecal greaseballs stay in one spot during the hot weather? Does the water refuse to move if the temperature is over 90? Or is the city afraid to close down the entire lakeshore during a heat wave? (Remember, this is the city where an incumbent, Machine-backed mayor lost an election after The Snowstorm of '79 crippled the city).

Whatever the case, I bet The People are out there splashing around anyway.

Friday, July 28, 2006


Last night I went to teach my ashtanga class at the health club that fired me on Wednesday (it'll take two unpaid hours of paperwork on my part, but they're hiring me back). When I arrived I saw one of the regulars frantically wiping down one of the club's sticky mats. "Did you read today's New York Times Style section?" I asked. He said no, that he always wiped down his mat. Smart man. Because what's news to NYers is old hat to Chicagoans, who've long feared those uneven stacks of Frito-smelling sticky mats. Stinky mats, we call them. Last year a yoga student mounted a mini yoga musical that included the witty full-cast song, "My Community Mat has a Community of its Own." But now that someone in NYC has noticed, stinky mats are hot news:

Communal Yoga Mats: Beware of Germs

Published: July 27, 2006

GREG E. COHEN, a podiatrist at Long Island College Hospital, hears the same story a lot: women complaining about a flaky red bump or a persistent itchy patch on a foot. By the time he sees them, they’re embarrassed and horrified. A few years ago, Dr. Cohen, who also has a private practice in Brooklyn Heights, didn’t know what to make of it, but these days he doesn’t blink an eye.

“The first thing I ask is, ‘Do you do yoga?’ ” he said. As often as not, the answer is a resounding “yes.”

In the last two years, Dr. Cohen said, he has seen a 50 percent spike in patients with athlete’s foot and plantar warts. The likely culprit? Unclean exercise mats, he said.

Gyms have long been hothouses for unwanted viruses, fungi and bacteria, a result of shared equipment, excessive sweat and moisture in locker rooms. Many facilities provide disinfectant so clients can wipe down machinery, but they are often less diligent when it comes to exercise mats. It’s common to see staff members clean a stationary bike. It’s rare to see them disinfect a mat...

To see the full article, click here.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Actress Sandra Bullock (1964) shares your birthday. People often notice you. You're out there with your colors flying. Your leadership skills are effective because you understand what makes people tick. You do your homework before undertaking a task; nevertheless, you'll also take a gamble. You're self-confident, and your views are definitely your own. A major change might take place this year. (Perhaps similar to 1997.) may have a conversation that goes like this:


CACA: (looking up from Elle magazine) Yes?

MECHANIC: We checked your car

CACA: (apprehensive) Yes?

MECHANIC: The dye we put in with the power steering fluid shows that...

CACA: Yes?

MECHANIC: Apparently there's no leak. And the rattle disappeared once we replaced the fluid.

CACA: Huh?

MECHANIC: We didn't find anything wrong with your car

CACA: (incredulous) Really?

MECHANIC: So you can go.

CACA: This is the best birthday present, ever!

...or one like this, a few hours later, over the phone:

HEALTH CLUB BOSS: I hate to tell you this but you've been terminated, for being away for too long

CACA: Huh? What?

HCB: You've been away for over 90 days. We had to let you go.

CACA: I was gone for only 45 days.

HCB: Yes but you were supposed to fill out a Leave of Absence Form before you left, so we have to let you go.

CACA: What form? Nobody told me about this form. I did everything right. I even got subs for my class -- including a new hire! I did everything I was supposed to. Someone else dropped the ball....

HCB: Are you telling me how to do my job?

CACA: (abashed) Oh, no. It's just that I was so thorough I wonder how something like this could have fallen through the cracks. Why didn't anyone tell me about this form? I have e-mails documenting my leave, and nowhere did you or {your predacessor} mention this form to me.

HCB: How dare you put this on me, when I went to bat for you with Human Resources twice today -- on my day off! I even told them you were away to learn more yoga but they won't budge.

CACA: You know, the only reason I'm back at {this highfaloutin' health club} is because one of your members recruited me from {very expensive and exclusive health club}.

HBC: Yes I know, the members really like you. This has nothing to do with performance.

CACA: Then someone should have told me about this form.

HCB: It's all there in the employee handbook -- if you'd taken the time to look at it.

CACA: You know, you're firing me -- for no reason -- on my birthday.

HCB: Oh. Well. Happy birthday.... I had no idea it was your birthday.

CACA: Yeah well it's all there in my file -- if you'd taken the time to look at it.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Because if you can't show something nice -- .....

Bangles at Devaraj Urs Market

Chamundi Hill in Monsoon Season, as Seen from The Kaveri Lodge Roof

Lovely Green Bananas

Real Live Elephants in the Wild

Koi Pond at the Ramakrishna Ashram in Mysore

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Today's Vocabulary Words:

Specs = glasses
Chappals = flip-flops
Crackers = fireworks

Blogger is being a pill about uploading photos -- must be a problem with the server in Bangalore, er, Silicon Alley -- so for the moment text will have to suffice....

Before leaving Mysore Jammu* and I made a visit to City Optical Paradise for eye exams (Rs 100 or just over $2) and new specs. There was no wait, and of course you take the exam in bare feet. Their eye chart has a different set of letters: No E FP TOZ LPED PECFD, etc, so it was hard to cheat. While we were selecting frames they sent out for chai. I decided to embrace my old age and purchased my very first pair of bifocals (Rs 2100 or around $45). Lucky for me Jammu was there to talk me into getting supercute frames. Apparently they take some getting used to, and give me a mild headache. I wore them on the plane of course, and was disoriented during the entire 34 hour trip from Room 19 at the Kaveri Lodge to my overheated West Wrigleyville abode. But at least I looked good.

Did I mention that on the way from Mysore to Bangalore P. put in a CD of American pop hits -- the first of which was "Short Dick Man?"

Before leaving Mysore I tried keep up with my laundry so that I could leave some things behind in a trunk without worrying that they'd fester and rot while I was gone. One outfit that remained in Mysore was a lime green and cobalt blue georgette salwaar kameez that I washed one morning and hung outside under an awning, in case of rain. I spent the day going about my business, and after an afternoon nap I went out to check on the laundry... and one-third of the outfit -- the impossibly huge lime green genie pants -- had vanished!

This is the same rooftop clothesline where the long-time student had lost her knee-CUZZ-a,** which she then accused me of nicking.

After a quick search of my room, I was certain someone had taken them. I ran down to tell the manager, and showed him the other two pieces of the outfit. "Someone has stolen my pants! Punjabi dress has three pieces! One is here! One is here! Pants are missing! Someone has taken!"

And he looked at me very calmly and said, "No problem Madam -- they have blown to neighbor."

I gave him a skeptical look.

"I will send the boys to look," he said.

And a few minutes later Harisha was standing at my door, smiling and holding up my giant polyester lime green pants.

This is the same Harisha and same hotel staff that would find my scooter key when I lost it (which was often) and lock my door when I forgot to and bring in my laundry when it rained and make chai tea and recommend movies to see and help me with my Kannada.

I realize now that between them and 3 Sisters, etc. I was more or less reparented during my most recent trip to Mysore.

No wonder we westerners are always itching to go back there.


*Jammu is 1/2 of the duo Jammu and Kashmir, a pair of inseparable friends who came with me to Mysore in 2004. Kashmir -- who taught us all how to crochet -- is in Chicago and about to give birth to a baby boy. Jammu has become quite an excellent crochet artist. I, on the other hand, have not.

**It took me a long time to figure this out, but "knee-CUZZ-a" means "knickers" -- ie, panties.

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Today's God:

Lakshmi = goddess of wealth and wife of Vishnu; usually depicted sitting on a pink lotus with gold coins streaming from one of her right hands.

Today I earned Rs500 teaching yoga, or about $10.

But I am rich in photos. So here is a wealth of words. Or maybe just a few thousand, since Blogger won't let me upload more than a handful at a time:

Home sweet home, where one month's rent is about $80 and a steaming cup of chai is just a phone call away. Long-time students wax poetic about the olden days in Mysore, when they practiced at the old shala, Guruji knew their names and "we all rode push-bikes and stayed at the Kaveri Lodge." Now they must suffer in tony Gokulam* with in-house WiFi, Coffee Day espresso and Royal Enfield motorcycles. (For the record, Caca-come-lately also stayed at the Kaveri Lodge and rode a push-bike to the olde shala. And Byron Bay Jack hasn't let Gokulam or two children stop him from riding a push-bike. So there.).

'Twas a sad day indeed when Caca found out that female urinals exist outside of her nightmares. These are at the Rajkamal Talkies. Apparently you squat and face away from the wall...Or is it the other way around?

Garbage collection; it really does exist. When the cow-pig-dog-horse Streets & Sanitation Dept. volunteers finish foraging through the cement tubs used as municipal garbage cans-cum-dumps and whatever is left has been burnt, these men finish the job. They use round, flat baskets to gather the garbage -- which is usually strewn everywhere -- by hand. Then they dump the stuff into the truck. It's dirty, thankless, backbreaking work, and one assumes that it's the job of the so-called "sweeper" caste.


*Now there's a nom de plume -- Tony Gokulam.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


Today's Vocabulary Word:

Oota gante = Kannada (sort of) for "lunchtime"

It's 3AM in Chicago and lunchtime in Mysore -- which means it's the time for photos:

Around the corner from the tailor Sachin, the Ayurvedic Hospital, the fabric-pusher Mansoor, the Bharath diagnostic center (where we got mammograms) and the word famous Piles and Fistula Clinic.

Karnataka's answer to Reservoir Dogs? As far as I know, "voilent" is not a word. Yet every poster for this fillum boasted the same typo. You can tell from the writing and hero's moustache and poofy hair that this is a Kannada fillum.

The road by Tina's house in Gokulam, where I often dined on breakfast of y'eggs, coconut dosa and a large masala chai. Note the absence of the One-Legged Man, Dirty Wee Boy with Monkeys and Snakes, Impossibly Thin Woman with Infant, and others in need of Western rupees.

The back room where Harini and Shashikala of Three Sisters give ayurvedic massages and castor oil baths. They stand holding a rope made of twisted fabric (top middle) and let their feet do all the work. The room is on an angle, so you end up inching towards the wall on the right, and they have to keep telling you to slide back to the center. Afterwords Shashikala bathes you with warm water as though you're a helpless infant -- quite a healing treat for the improperly mothered.

The famous Three Sisters frozen lassi. It takes forever to make, comes in flavors such as banana, papaya, cocont and mango, and becomes unexpectedly unavailable when the power goes out. They close the kitchen door securely and there's great secrecy when they make it; while sitting on the floor in front of the fan you can hear them pounding away on something that is either a block of frozen yogurt (my theory) or a block of ice (everyone else's theory) or something else. On my last day it was quite hot and I had a saffron one, which immediately cooled me off and made me feel felt like everything would be OK. Still, I was packing up to the very last minute and was delayed a couple of hours in Amsterdam -- which meant time for an awesome veggie sandwich on that too-fresh brown, seed-encrusted European bread; fresh-squeezed orange juice; and a superstrong latte. Not enough time, though, to view the Rembrandts on display at the airport. Funny, I was the only one on the flight wearing Indian dress.

Friday, July 21, 2006


Today's Vocabulary Words:

Member = person
Sport = sports
Maths = math
Math = religious institution

Sometimes in India you have a bad day or even a not-so-bad day and think, “What am I doing here?”

Actually it happens quite often.

During my last several days in Mysore the question was more along the lines of “What am I doing THERE.” As in, back home.

I also was weepy -- to the point where the smallest thing would set me off. I was homesick for Mysore even before I left.

I haven't felt quite like that since I left Madrid in 1985, and that was due to my infatuation with a Basque architecture student named Pedro.

These crying jags are about leaving the place itself. And its members....

On Monday I slacked off in backbends. My wrist, knee and lower back did not feel great, so after some attempts to come up I gave up and went into the forward bend counterpose. Later I couldn’t decide if this made me a loser (for laziness) or a winner (for listening to my body).

On Tuesday Saraswati helped me and I had the breakthrough where I stood up a couple of times with very little effort (as described ad nauseum in an earlier post).

On Wednesday I arrived at the shala a little late (around 6:55 AM shala time, which is 12 minutes ahead of the rest of Mysore) and waited while a bunch of unfamiliar people went in ahead of me. After several minutes of this Sharath looked into the waiting room and said, “Caca! You come.” So in I went.

Practice was OK, but I was tired due to late nights trying to make the most of my last days in Mysore. When it came time for backbends I took my time. I’ve decided that I need to do at least five before trying to come up. And I’ve been taking Sharath’s advice to take a few extra breaths and “relax” in the pose. At least I try to do… After the fifth backbend (you're only supposed to do three), Sharath stood in front of me. I tried to come up and failed. I tried again and failed. But this time I remembered that I *really* need to walk my hands in as far as I can and tilt the pelvis forward and use my bandhas and move with my breath. I also remembered that it used to work best on the third attempt. And then I stopped thinking about it, and came up with relative ease and took a step back. Sharath gave a little smile and held up three fingers. “Muru?” I asked, and he nodded. So three times I dropped back and stood up. Three times in a rather graceful (for me) and controlled manner. In between each I had to stand there and take a few seconds to catch my breath. But it actually felt good – like how I would imagine flying might feel.

The next day I arrived at the shala around 6AM and sat down among all the other students waiting to go in. I was putting my keys away less than a minute later when Sharath, who was on the other side of the large practice room, looked over and said, “Caca! You come.” So I did.

Guruji got to me before I could make my second attempt to stand up. I’ve seen Nori-the-Japanese guy wave him off and say, “Not finish” so he could drop back on his own first. Not me. My back was tweaking a tiny bit so I let him work his magic. On the first one I came up with such momentum (with his help) that I took a step back and he said, “No dancing.” Then I rocked back three times, putting my hands down on the fourth. When I stood up, in the midst of our post-BB hug (during which he counts off five of your breaths), I told him “Leaving today, Guruji.”

He replied, very loudly so that people looked, “Today leaving? Bad lady!!!” And then he laughed.

“Poor lady,” I replied, in patronizing-but-effective pigeon English. “Ticket was free, so airline decides when I fly.”

“You come back?” he asked.

“Yes, yes Guruji. Coming back next year.”

“Good, good.”

And then he gave me that fabulous forward bend adjustment of his where he lays on top of your mat, which is covering your back. When he finished, just before he stood up, he said his usual, “Yes!” which always makes me think of Yoko Ono's fammous conceptual piece with the ladder, magnifying glass and ceiling with the word "yes" painted on it.

It was quite sweet, and a lovely, positive way to end my last day at the shala.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Today's Vocabulary Words:

Eve-Teasing = groping a woman

Toast Soldiers = British for vertical pieces of toast, often served with soft-boiled eggs and featured on the menu at the Green Hotel

There was an informal going-away party for Janice and Stephen tonight; last week I said goodbye to Matrika and Becca and before that it was Abby. And now I'm going.

I bought a trunk today -- which means I should be coming back at some point. Yet I haven't even begun to pack....

I had a minor backbending breakthrough today, which makes me think that perhaps there *is* some method to the madness here. Or maybe I'm just the new Goldilocks. Because when Guruji does dropbacks with me, he helps me and does all the work whether I want him to or not. Sharath, on the other hand, will wait in front of my mat and tell me to stand up. But Saraswati (Guruji's daughter) has been pursuing the middle path. She will watch me bounce up and down, trying to come up, for awhile. Then she'll tell me to stand up. When I can't quite get all the way up -- I've been floating up 3/4 of the way and then falling back into backbend (albeit gracefully) -- she'll grab my hips and help me the last bit of the way up. A few days ago she said, "Dropping back?" and I said "Yes, that part is easy." So she had me drop back on my own and then helped me stand up and the very end.

Today I felt like crap; I was overtired after dinner at Jammu's friend Shanthala's house last night and my wrist hurt and my ankle hurt. And Sharath busted me in Parsva Danurasana (apparently the toes should point and you should really "stretch the back." Today in backbends Saraswati watched me struggle for a long time, as I bounced up and down. I was in the corner spot by the office, and I felt Sharath in there watching me, too. I must have made at least a dozen to stand; I bet they're as sick of me as I am. I keep making it 3/4 of the way up and then going back down. Yet the past few practices I haven't cared that much whether I stand up or not. I've also been watching the people who do it well. They don't struggle; they just do it.

During today's attempts to stand up I *really* used my legs and naval lock (abdominal muscles) rather than pusing off hard with my arms, which can cause harm to both me (my back) and others.

Finally Saraswati moved to the front of my mat. I tried to come up and got 3/4 of the way there and she helped me on the last quarter. "Thank you," I said. "Maybe it's coming tomorrow or next day." She nodded and motioned for me to drop back, which I did. And then I walked in my hands and floated up to standing -- without her help. And then I did it again: drop back, walk in, float up.

Yes my feet were splayed. But I used my legs and abdominals. And I did it without slapping anyone or stomping on anyone's head or running backwards or knocking down my teacher. And my back felt great.

Now, if I can only repeat the feat sometime this lifetime.

Monday, July 17, 2006


Today's Vocabulary Word:

Bisi = Kannada for "hot"

Today I was in a deep squat having my usual Caca vs. Pasasana struggle when suddenly I felt footsteps behind me. Next thing you know Guruji was wedging his shin behind my bum and pulling my right arm around my legs. He's still a strong man at 91. Nonetheless I sort of collapsed after each side. It seemed he was about to let go with a "Eh! Bad lady, heh heh," so I handed him my spare towel. But he ignored it and said "Caca! You know what Caca means in Kannada?" And I said, "Spicy?" And he said

"Yes, yes, spicy, heh heh. Always spicy -- you!"

Last Thursday I asked Guruji about authorization ("It OK I teaching?") and after much back and forth he said I needed to get an "application" from Sharath, and then pointed to what turned out to be someone's authorization letter. That was the same morning Sharath had given me Danurasana and Parsva Danurasana. On Friday afternoon I got up my nerve and asked Sharath about authorization. He of course said no. Apparently you *do* now have to come to Mysore at least four times -- not three. For some reason (denial?) I'm not taking it personally. From the website (courtesey of Matrika):

"Authorized teachers generally are permitted to teach only
the Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series and generally have made at least four
trips to AYRI of 3+ months duration. The student must also demonstrate
appropriate attitude, devotion to the practice, and proficiency in the
Primary Series (and usually at least half of the Second Series) as
determined by the directors of AYRI."

Perhaps next time one oughtta check the website before she opens her big yap....

Saturday, July 15, 2006


Whose shoes are these?*

Caca's birthday gift to Guruji. Notice the snowman in her name.

Caca's big, pink-ass sari. So big in fact you can't even see Guruji, whom she is kissing -- on the lips. Stephen may have gotten it right last night when he observed, "No wonder all the women here are sick." The guy whose face you can see is Shankaracharya. Notice the kaka in his name.

Nearly-naked Brahmnins with buckets and banana leaves. None would make eye contact or crack a smile for Caca, no matter how clever her Kannada.


*Our lieutenant friend DKNY thinks that the lyrics to all Hindi movie songs sung by female plaback singers sound like, "Whose shoes are these" repeated over and over again.

Today's Vocabulary Words:

Butterfruit = avocado
Finger Chips = French fries
Jerkin = rain-resistant windbreaker
Is it? = What? / Is that so?
Sweeper = bathroom cleaner / code term for Untouchable or Dalit
NRI = non-resident Indian, or Desi

Recently my friend Patel and I had some illuminating conversations. The first took place on his motorcycle, after we saw the fillum Krrish. P. is wearing a bright red jerkin with the words "I Support the Agricultural Strike" emblazend across the back. We'd just passed one of those three-wheelers with a loudspeaker going full stop. It was so loud you could not make out the words even if you did speak the language. The man was raging about something in Kannada; it sounded something like "BUGABOO BUGABOO BUGABOO-ALOO PINDI BINDI YAYNO BUGABOO-ALOO" and seemed very angry and forceful. You see and hear these things all the time here, but I never know what they're actually saying....

CACA: Is that man calling for the overthrow of the government?

P: Is it?

CACA: What is that voice saying? Is that fellow calling for revolution?

P: What? Revolution? What?

CACA: Is that man calling for a revolution? Or is he telling people to buy lottery tickets?

P: What?

CACA: Lottery tickets? New government? Which?

P: What?

CACA: That man on the loudspeaker. What is he saying?

P: Oh! That!

CACA: Yes!

P: (listening intently) They are selling.

CACA: (disappointed) Oh.


The motorcycle passes a man standing on the side of the road, facing a field. In his right hand he holds a burning cigarette. In the other is his skin flute, from which spurts a pale yellow stream of urine. The arc is high.

CACA: (laughing) That man is multi-tasking!

P: What? What is funny?

CACA: That man back there! He was multi-tasking!

P: Which man?

CACA: The one who was smoking and peeing.

P: (laughing) Oh. That man. Yes.

CACA: He is mult-tasking.

P: He is what?

CACA: He is doing two things at the same time.

P: (laughing politely) Oh.

Later, at the Kaveri Lodge. P. is still wearing the Commie red "I support the Agricultural Strike" jacket

P: I am glad Italy has won [the World Cup].

C: Why?

P: Hitler.


P: I like Hitler.

C: (thinking he is mispronouncing someone's name): Is that a player? Is it the goalie?

P: No, Hitler.

C: Adolph Hitler?

P: Yes, that.

C: (annoyed) He was in Germany. Mussolini was from Italy.

P: Is it? No.

C: Yes, Hitler was in Germany.

P: Oh

C: Hitler???? Why do you like him?

P: Everyone knows his name. That is what I want.

C: They know his name because he was evil.

P: What? Some of the things he said I like.

C: What??? Like what?

P: He came from poor peoples and made a name for himself.

C: Yes, by killing many, many people.

P: What?

C: Don't you know about Hitler?

P: He came from poor peoples and his name is known. I want my name known.

C: That is a bad way to be known. Very, very bad. Hitler was evil. A bad man. Worst man. Killed many people.

P: Is it?

C: Yes. (beat) Who will you kill first? The sweepers? The Brahmins? Which group do you want to get rid of?

P: What?

C: Hitler rounded up a certain type of person and killed all of them.

P: What??

C: He killed many people.

P: Oh.

C: Choose someone else. Anyone else. What about Mittal (NRI steel magnate)? Tata? (autos, steel, tea, etc.) Murthy? (Infosys). Even Bill Gates would be better.

P: When I become rich I will give to poor peoples, 60/40.

C: Just as long as you don't become like Hitler....


*Hitler is also a brand-name for a gym shoe. I took a snap of a pair outside of Aunties in 2004.... and the photo never turned out. Hmmmmm......

**I told P. to tell Jammu about his love of Hitler (Jammu was raised Jewish). Actually she brought it up after I told her about our convo. She explained it far better than I. She gleaned from him that Hitler is portrayed in movies here as a great military leader, and that was where P. was getting his info. She also talked P into seeing Schindler's List with her. No dancing in that one....

Friday, July 14, 2006


Today's Vocabulary Word:

Rajkumar = huge, huge HUGE Karnataka film star who died earlier this year and was so beloved that there were riots for days in Bangalore that more or less paralyzed the city (actually, the riots are said to have been caused by the opposition party, to discredit the BJP or whoever). They call Dr. Raj the John Wayne of South India Cinema, but he was so much bigger than that....

I just signed up for 3.6 hours at Sify, India's largest Internet something-or-other. This particular branch is on the way home from Gokulam, where I just was for Session Number Five of Rolfing with Ken. Today was psoas day. The left side is so messed up... Anyway -- Unlike Bangalore's lovely Cafe Coffee Day on Brigade Road, Sify has neither cappuccino nor hipsters. But they do have a wall of clocks showing the time in the US, UK, Germany and.........Canada.

The breakfast of champions; this is what I'd eat before class (well, one of each) before I discovered the purging power of CCD's Kodagu-grown espresso. At the moment my motions are so loose I don't need either.

These are the "cloths" you must search through at Sachin's when he's not there, which is often, so you can find out whether he's even started your order (my pieces are always missing for some reason; does he cut the patterns at home?). I saw Sachin last night and he seems to be back on form; he widened my armholes and even put some darts into the raw silk top. Now, if he could only figure out how to make me not look ten months pregnant...

Movie posters for the big-budget Bollywood fillum Krrish, starring the fabulous dancer Hritik Roshan (who also appeared in the Suketu Mehta co-penned "Mission Kashmir"). This was at the suburban Sterling Talkies, which attracts a lot of women -- including Muslims and Sikhs -- and is across from a huge Bata shoe store. Yet look at all the men.... Unfortuantely the film featured only a few songs -- all of which were good -- but I missed Roshan's dancing. And despite his mullet and ever-present shit-eating grin I found the film (in Hindi, no subtitles) to be one of the most fun I've seen this year; apparently it's India's first superhero movie.... Which could explain why it was so rooted in the eighties; there was even an unironic dance sequence featuring actual mimes. But the many arial Crouching Dragon-style fights and clever camerawork and editing made it all come together, plus parts were shot in Singapore *and* Roshan played dual roles. Either I'm getting a clue or films here are so broadly drawn here that any idiot can pick up what's going on, because more than once I knew what was going on before Prashanth did, and even predicted a couple of lines of dialog. There's a classic Rajkumar film playing at the Olympia Theatre in the city center this week but apparently the place has bedbugs and people spit all over the place during the screenings -- so we're gonna have to see something else this weekend.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


Today’s vocabulary word:

Gube = the Kannada word for owl, which is also used as a derogatory slang term for “lazy”

I just got off the phone with United Airlines, and I STILL don’t have a seat on the last legs of my journey home (Frankfurt-Amsterdam and Amsterdam-Chicago). The second flight is overbooked but they can’t do anything for me because seating is controlled “by the airport.” Huh? Even though I’d called the US 800 number, I’m certain the woman on the other end was in a Bangalore call center. F-ing America. So it may take me as long to get home as it did to get here (I left on a Tuesday, arrived on a Friday). I’ll just make sure the carry-on bags have toiletries, yoga mat, DVD’s, my new prison throw and plenty of those amazing pink over-the-counter Indian migraine meds that are so cheap here they're practically free....

Much of the past two weeks has been spent searching for Sachin, the formerly amazing tailor who stopped turning on his cell phone and now takes weeks to make a single dress. Once upon a time he did everything perfectly, the first time. But now you have to beg him several times -- in person -- before he’ll even START making your clothes. If you can catch him, that is. Hours and hours are wasted waiting "fifteen minutes" for him to show up to work. Like poor Matrika yesterday, standing up there waiting for them to finish her clothes an hour before she leaves for the airport – just like me in 2004, and just like Jammu last year. Only it’s far, far worse now that Sachin has married. I think the plentiful food and whatnot has made him quite gube. And now he’s also taken to copying the mistakes of every bad tailor I’ve ever visited (and I’ve been to plenty). Tonight I’m hoping to pick up a raw silk top that they’re reassembling a THIRD TIME for me. Apparently these ashtanga arms and lats are quite the challenge; they love to make the arm-holes too small and the chest too tight, flattening my cans. Yet they take measurements. So what’s the problem? Apparently it's with me.

Speaking of Jammu and I got mammograms (pictures to come) for Rs 600 or around $13. Many Muslim women waited with us in the “lounge" at Bharath diagnostics, which is not far from jewelry row and the mosque and St. Philomena's Church and the tiny Army and Police Surplus shop we discovered last night while crossing the street at Nehru Square..... A sign on the door to the mammo room said:

"Conduct of the Sex Determination Tests or Disclosures of the Sex of the Fetus is Prohibited"

(Every sign here has at least one grammatical error, which I find quite endearing. Yet I fantasize about making a living going around with a thick red pen and correcting signs and menus and visiting cards so that I can afford to stay here year round). Female infanticide and foeticide are widespread here -- after a woman marries, people wish her well by saying, "May you be the mother of a hundred sons" -- and like dowry also quite illegal. But like with fireworks back home, people still do it.

Like every other medical experience I’ve had here, everything was very matter-of-fact. No robes, no waiting. You go in and take off your top and stand there in front of the machine called Bucky. They stick your can in the machine and flatten it between two pieces of glass like so much Playdough and tilt your head to the side and put your finger on the free breast and make you push it away. No lead vests, no radiation suits -- and one of the technicians wore the lightest blue silk sari possible. And like with yoga they do the right one first. This was my first mammo and it didn’t hurt as much as I thought (ie, nothing exploded). Afterwards they give you an analysis and your films; the images recall the surface of the moon. It's one souvenir I'm definitely taking home with me.

Recently, during lunch at Three Sisters, some yoginis (including Reena) from a handful of countries had an animated discussion about mammos. Apparently they don’t start mammo-ing in the UK until you’re 55, and they’re also far less keen to irradiate their women in Canada. I think it's every few years. They also do fewer Pap smears. Is it because of socialized medicine? Is it such a priority in the US because of our culture of fear? Or are our cancer rates simply higher? The doctor here was loath to give me a ‘scrip for the mammo, since there were no warning signs. "Why do you want it?" Same with the pap smear. Here, such tests are a luxury. So are we practicing preventative medicine in the US? Or are we lining the pockets of the insurance company? Discuss.

I do know that it's highly unlikely they'd let you take pictures of your friend getting a mammo back home in America (these are coming, I promise).

After the mammos we went to the prison, which is off Ashoka Road, just past the Muslim Girls' Orphange. Here the inmates wear all white short-sleeve, 3/4 pant outfits with conical white Night-Before-Christmas caps. White! People here in mourning also wear white, as do the widows in the fabulous fillum Water (god forbid you wear WHITE to a function. Oh, wait, all the Brahmins and western Brahmin wannabes wore white to Guruji’s birthday party. And Amma-the-hugging-saint’s followers all wear white. Hmmm…..Now I am confus-ed). Anyway we went because they have a tiny store that sells handloom fabrics made right there on the premises – throws, towels, sheets, and rugs. That's what they make, instead of license plates. And apparently the prison was once the only place yoga students could get Mysore rugs (the cotton mat that ashtangis put over their sticky mats so they don’t slip and slide when they sweat). Each prison has a signature rug design, and here in Mysore it’s French blue with a white stripe in the middle (Rs 150, or under $4). The blue and purple throw I picked up (Rs 350 or under $8) made this afternoon’s post-Three Sisters thali-and-saffron-lassi nap so delightful I didn’t even hear the mournful keening of the cat I cannot see, but which broadcasts from directly below my window. It kept me up all night, though, and apparently it showed; when I ran into Prashanth after class today he said, “I think you are looking dull.”

I'll be sure add that one to my list of Mysore Caca-slams 06.

Yet just two hours later the receptionist at the clinic seemed surprised by our ages, and said, "Not looking more than 25."

I guess it depends on who you're talking to....

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Today's Kannada Phrases:

Wanda Naygaloo = thank you

Tumba Chennai G’day = very good

Mugeetoo = stomach is full

Today (Tuesday) was Guruji’s birthday – he seemed quite pleased at my gift of chocolate in the midst of all the flowers – and I wore a pink sari because, at the last minute, every Indian person I know came out of the woodwork to tell me that wearing black to such a function would be a bad omen. So much for the fabulous new black sari. The night before the birthday puja-cum-party (which began at 10:30 AM) I took my pink sari from 2002 next door to be pressed (Rs 12) and had dinner with Matrika at the Southern Star, where there was a huge function for bankers and MPs – money and power – that of course got rained on.

Then after an unsuccessful attempt to track down the genius tailor who has a fever and half of my clothes in his possession, we flew down to Devaraj Market just before closing to get a princess kit (matching and rather flashy pink earrings, necklace and bindi). I hate it when you ask for pink and they pull out green and say “take it” but it also has its charm….

I brought it all over to Three Sisters to see if it would work out and they were all quite pleased with how the jewelry matched up with the sari. The color pink was a huge hit, but of course they wanted to know where I got the sari and how much it cost. It was fun, acting like girls – like I never did when young, what with being raised by wolves and all.

And today was the big dress-up. Shashikala (middle sister) draped my sari and Harini pinned it in a million places. I'd put my hair into a ponytail but of course it was falling all over the place. I put on the bangles (12 gold ones on each wrist), the ankle bracelets, the sari pins, the bindi and princess kit and went back to the hotel to show the woman down the hall. She gave the head-shake that said it all looked good. Then she knocked on my door. I let her in and she showed me a hair clip. She undid my hair , asked for a comb, sat me down on the bed and proceeded to re-do my hair. It looked quite good when she was finished – like Sonia Gandhi’s younger sister. Then she re-draped my sari, with fewer pins (not so good for the 6km scooter ride to the shala).

When I went back to 3 Sisters (which is three doors away), I showed Harini, who said, diplomatically, “Everyone has a different way of doing the sari.” Nagarathna (eldest sister) put a string of orange jasminy flowers in my hair, and Shashikala – who studies with Guruji at the old shala – and I made our way to Gokalum, where the puja was already in progress…of course it started to rain on the way there.

The place was packed. Lots of westerners and Indian women in saris. During the puja, which revolved around a big, smelly fire and lots of Brahmins in white, I noticed that all of the Second Series Guys were also in white, and seated in front. A Western caste system. (We are also just as big of busybodys as any of the Indians; if a student farts in Gokalum, they hear about it in Chevalamba Agrahara within the hour). There was a Bollywood dance performance by some students – Phillipa really stood out – and then the gift-giving and photo-taking.

After paying respects to Guruji we went downstairs to eat in shifts. Downstairs in their garage, which is bigger than any garage I’ve ever seen and has a long sink with several spigots for a hand-wash. As with the 2002 wedding where I ran into Guruji and family, there were plastic chairs set in front of narrow tables, and you ate facing another group of people. It had a certain game show aspect to it. There was a banana leaf at each setting. Once we were seated, barefoot Brahmin guys wearing nothing but orange dhotis, sacred threads and moustaches ladled out some of the best food I’ve ever eaten, including FIVE types of sweets. FIVE. It was exquisite, plus I sat between two people from ’02. In the midst of eating I realized it was the opposite of Hooters – instead of nearly-topless women pushing beer and steak, we were being served saatvic food designed to help control the mind by topless guys. I like the turnabout.

Later I learnt from a long-time student that this birthday was far more intimate and, in many ways, more special than last year’s big fete for Guruji’s 90th, which had some 500 people in a rented hall. This year there were between 150 and 200, and it took place in their home – which, we noticed, has its own elevator.

By 2PM it was over, and I went home to sleep it off. But not before I told both Sharath and Saraswati “Wanda Naygaloo” and “Tumba Chennai G’day” and “Mugeetoo.” To Sharath --- who usually adjusts me in Pasasana -- I added, “Well, always Mugeetoo. But now more Mugeetoo.”

On Monday I had an entire conversation in Kannada with the doorman at the Southern Star – who has a full moustache and perfect posture and is dressed in full Raj-era regalia, including tall, elaborate hat with feathers and tassels, long military dress-style jacket with braided ropes and breeches. Afterwords Matrika (WHO, CONTRARY TO SHALA GOSSIP, IS NOT MY PARTNER) asked, “What was that all about?” A translation:

DOORMAN: Have you finished your meal?
CACA: I have finished my meal. (pointing) Stomach is full.
DM: Good, good.
CC: Have you finished your meal?
DM: No, meal not finished.
CC: No meal? What time meal?
DM: 8 o’clock
CC: 8 o’clock? (in English: Coming! Good!)
DM: Yes
CC: See you soon.
DM: Come back soon.
CC: Good night.
CC: (pointing at sky) Full moon!

Monday, July 10, 2006


Today’s Vocabulary Words:

Shala = yoga studio

Saucha = cleanliness

Samskara = subliminal impressions."veil of illusion". karmic impressions from previous lifetimes

Kundalini = “coiled one” cosmic energy, that lies dormant in a coiled form in the muladhara chakra at the base of the spine. this extremely subtle force, also described as the supreme goddess, is awakened and begins to purify the entire being.

Pratyahara = ("withdrawal"): sensory inhibition, the fifth limb of Patanjali's eightfold yoga path

Pranayama = breath control, the fourth limb of Patanjali's eigthfold path

Maya = Fear-driven illusion or false belief

Asana = yoga poses


(NOTE: Children were running around, screaming, playing with loud toys, dancing, etc. and I have trouble understanding Guruji anyway, so I only heard bits and pieces. In other words, I missed more than I caught. Also, flashbulbs were popping throughout, since this is the only time photos are allowed in the shala).

First off, a man was in the middle of asking, “Guruji, what is your definition of a dumb question?” when his cell phone started ringing. Oops. Guruji made him come closer (“COME HERE!”) and his answer went something like, “….Samskara, samskara, samskara…. 100 years possible…. mind control… nine holes controlling…”

Then the man asked, “What is Mula Bandha” (aka Kegel muscle). “Anus control…practice, practice, practice…. battling enemies is gone…. You take practice, practice, practice.”

Someone asked, “What if Kundalni is awakened?” All I caught was, “Inside practice, outside practice…. Don’t think bad…. Maya. Pranayama…. You don’t take practice, no use.”

The next question was about self-practice at home, vs. with a teacher. “Once it is perfect you can do. If once teaching, your practice is gone.” This last was met with laughter. Then Sharath clarified: “You should follow only one method.” And then Guruji continueded, “One Guru you take. One guru your health is very good. Two gurus your health is very bad.” At this point I turned to Jammu (it was loud in there anyway) and said, “One wife taking.” And sure enough, Guruji said something like, “One wife good, Two wife bad.” A bit later Sharath said, regarding teachers, that a piece of paper means nothing. “Experience. Learning. Philosophy” are far more important. “First of all you have to be student 10 years.”

Since I was not up to having the whole room turn around and stare at me, Jammu asked Guruji to talk about saucha (funny; afterwards two people came up to me and said, “Good question.” Apparently the odor problem isn’t limited to the front row). Guruji said it means body inside, outside clean. Thinking God. Pranayama. Clean. Sharath added, “Saucha means you have to think good, both of self and others.” One suspects they too knew who was really asking the question.

Someone asked Guruji what he eats. “Very small….. Milk everyday….Two litres.” Sharath added, “No spicy food. Food affects your mind also. Non-veg is not good.” Guruji picked up the ball. “Fruits… you first eating… God has given food. God is in here (points to stomach). God is eating.” Sharath said, “In our caste we don’t eat others’ food. They touch it and we don’t eat it.”

Not sure how we got to the next subject, but Sharath said, “Getting rid of maya (magic) very difficult. Only way to get rid of it is by thinking good.”

Someone asked what to do about pain when practicing. The only thing I caught was Guruji: “No problem…. Inhale/exhale, asana you take.”

It ended with Guruji’s usual, “Thank you! Thank you!” followed by the scramble for feet and photo-ops.

Sunday, July 09, 2006


Today's Vocabulary Word:

Saucha = Sanskrit for "cleanliness"

As usual I was in the front row at Friday's led primary series class. It all seemed to be going well until the man next to me and his adjacent buddy were told to stop at the Marichyasanas (ie, before the halfway point). Instead of sitting still and facing forward or meditating or pretending to meditate, they turned around and made a big show of watching the class -- which was facing them -- continue their practice. Their heads turned this way and that as they stared at various people struggling to do the various poses. As if that weren't annoying enough -- and it was -- they began talking to each other! I shusshed them while in Supta Kurmasana -- no small thing while you are face down, legs behind your head. I think I actually said, "Shut it!" But they started up again a short time later.

(Someone also shusshed Flatsie the other day in the closing room, when she was doing her noisy and verboten kapalabhati breathing).

Today one of those Mr. Natural types plopped down his mat next to mine. He already smelled of body odor. As the practice progressed it became so strong I almost gagged (which in hindsight probably would have helped me with uddiyana bandha -- the abdominal lock I'm trying to engage in backbends). I wanted to ask, "What part of saucha don't you understand?" since one of the basic tenets of ashtanga yoga is keeping one's effing body clean.

Which brings us to today's print-n-clip-n-save entry:



Do your pre-practice warmups at home.

Practice saucha, which is one of the yamas and part of the eight limbs of yoga. Keep your mat, towel and person clean. Bringing bad smells to class is not part of the ashtanga practice. If you have a faulty sniffer, err on the side of being too clean rather than too dirty.

Use mula bandha. Contain your farts.

No homesteading. Space at the shala is scarce. Leave the extra wide mats and rugs at home. Live with the fact that there will only be an inch or two between your mat and the person next to you. Same goes for the closing room.

No bullfighting. Whipping around your mat before putting it down creates the equivalent of an icy, gale-force wind for the people who are already practicing and have built up heat. Unfurl your mat slowly. Same goes for the closing room.

Don't come to class sick. The shala is a humid petri dish where everyone is (or should be) focusing on their breathing. By coming to class sick, you infect everyone else and, even worse, could get Guruji sick. And when you do come to class sick (and you will), don't put your dirty snot-rag on someone else's mat.

Don't eat a lot of garlic or onions the night before class; it's non-sattvic and offensive to your teachers.

The shala clock is fast. About 11 minutes fast. Set your watch accordingly.

Don't come before your scheduled time. If Sharath says 6:45, come at 6:45 -- not 6:35. If you do come early, wait for the others to go first. Order is not determined by who gets to the shala first but by the date of your first practice.

Don't come after your time, or Guruji will ask in a hurt voice, "Why late?"

If you sweat a lot, bring an extra towel for the teacher.

If you smack or kick someone, apologize so they know it wasn't on purpose.

Even if it was on purpose, apologize anyway.

If you get stopped partway through the series in a talk-through class, practice in the back of the room so you don't disrupt those who are continuing.

Getting stopped partway through the series should not be interpreted as an opportunity to practice other poses or to catch up with friends. Be still. And maintain silence! There are signs posted to this effect all over the shala, in case you forget.

Don't do savasana (corpse pose) backwards, or someone may stomp on your head.

Don't do extra poses in the closing room. You signed a contract agreeing that you would stop when told to stop. Honor it.

Respect the culture. Don't dress like a slob, harlot or street person outside the shala. A woman wearing a single toe-ring on one foot denotes a prostitute; one on each foot means you're married. A woman's bare shoulders/ankles/calves are considered obscene. No public displays of affection (unless you want to find out what the jails are like). Use your right hand to eat and hand people money. Do some research before you come.

Say hello to others who greet you. Acknowledge their existence. Show that the divinity within you recognizes the divinity within them -- even if you don't like them.. That's the real yoga.

Saturday, July 08, 2006


Today's Vocabulary Words:

Pure Veg = no-egg vegetarian

Mutton = goat or sheep meat

For breakfast my stepmother used to make the bacon first and then fry the eggs in the leftover grease -- which made for tough, chewy eggs with chalky yellow centers. Some people like this. I found it to be the most vile concoction ever created -- worse than baked halibut -- and every time she made them they'd get stuck in my gullet and I'd throw them up right there at the table, in front of everyone. Yet they still made me eat them (well, at least I wasn't forced to eat my own vomit). One morning after one of these fried egg ordeals, wanting to mend fences, I asked my stepmother what we would be having for breakfast the next day.

"We're going to try fried eggs again," she said, teeth flashing. She was the type of woman who used a cattle prod to discipline her children.

Every time it comes to standing up from backbends, I feel the same inward cringe I used to get on those fried egg mornings. My victory Wednesday -- when my back hurt and Sharath had me skip dropbacks -- was a pyrrhic one. The next day I had a great spot in front of the stage. Janice and Stephen were on either side of me, and KenTheRolfer was in the spot behind me. Just as I finished my third backbend, Sharath stood in front of me -- so there was no chance of my pushing up too hard and tripping over the elevated stage a few inches in front of my mat. Everything was in place so that I could come up from backbend -- good vibes from people I know, Sharath's magnetic self in front of me -- and yet it was like my body was made of lead. I simply could not do it. The first couple of times my hands barely left the floor. The third time I got some air but lost the nerve to go up all the way. Sharath finally helped me stand up and then immediately had me do half-dropbacks.

Another failure.

Or was it?

After talking with some long-time students / teachers about their back problems and Sharath's own disc problems and those of other senior teachers** (apparently Peter Sanson has been told he needs surgery), maybe I'm better off giving it up.

There's such a fine line between slacking off and doing the right thing...

Although they also said that if I tucked in my tailbone and worked the bandhas (energy locks) and abs very hard, I could come up safely.

And KenTheRolfer has said I should add nauli*** (an abdominal exercise that recalls the workings of a washing machine) to my at-home practice in order to strengthen the abs and protect my lower back.

If nothing else I'll come home with abs of ghee.


*Guruji once said at a conference that "Yeggs" are bad. Like all observant Brahmins he avoids eating eggs, which are not "pure veg." They also avoid non-sattvic foods such as onions and garlic. Many western yogis have also adopted the sattvic diet. I think I may have had some bad yeggs at the Southern Star this morning.

**Senior teachers Tim Miller and Chuck Miller have also suffered acute back problems. So has Graeme Northfield, although I'm not sure if his came before or after The Ashtanga.

***Guruji has also said, repeatedly, that ladies should not take nauli (apparently it's not good for making babies). Oops.

Friday, July 07, 2006


Today's Vocabulary Word:

Mallay = Kannada for rain

I was on Deva Raj Urs Road (a big shopping strip) today and the skies opened and I had a Mysore Moment -- the good kind. The rain was so heavy everyone ducked into doorways. I found myself in a men's clothing store with a woman in a sari, two police officers and a bunch of short men with moustaches. The proprietor indicated that I should sit my arse down on a very dirty white stool, which I did. And I watched the show outside as the rain created a muddy river that ran down the street. To negotiate it women hiked up their saris and showed their ankles (this is considered indecent and usually means you have to go to the bathroom). Some men covered their rickshaw in tarp and took refuge inside. Traffic disappeared. More people ducked in. Those that walked by tried to stay under the awnings. The air became clean and cool and the rain went on and on and on..... but eventually I got up and braved the rain and did what I came to do -- buy some Frooty and whatnot at Food World for a dinner party.

Prior to that I had gotten my nerve up to buy beer for said party. Because Matrika and other women have been barred from ordering a glass of wine at the Metropole Hotel because they were not accompanied by a man, and because the only thing I've seen in front of bars are scores of drunken drink-slamming short men with moustaches, I was hesitant to go. And when I say bar I mean drink dispensary; there's no TV or seating or anything like that; you lean against a splintery piece of wood, drink, and leave. And there are no women. Ever. It's very seedy and most people here look askance at drinking. Anyway I went to the alcohol dispensary near Niru's -- he's the little person who used to do shipping and faxing for westerners but has now moved on, which has left me in quite a quandary. There were only two patrons who didn't stare too much (it helped that I was still wearing my helmet). They were nice, and changed my 1,000 rupee note without batting an eye.

So much for expecting the worst.

My trip to the post office today was equally painless. And I'd been putting it off for months.

I finally learnt the identity of The Blondes. You know, the bevy of blonde women and puberteens who paraded through the studio on the final day of filming, plopped down their pink mats and received many adjustments under the hot gaze of showbiz lamps. Apparently they were the (Aussie) wife, family and friends of veryrich American trader Paul Tudor Jones II. The wife is an ashtangi and apparently the Joneses fly Guruji around in their private jet for emergencies, safaris, etc. and are quite close to "the family." Apparently a verylarge diamond was given to Guruji on his birthday last year.

Yet somehow the $5, battery-free, shake-it-and-it-works very time flashlight I recently gave Guruji did elicit a wee bit of enthusiasm from him.

Or maybe he was just being polite.

I suppose I could offer to drive Guruji around in my 92 Civic, should he ever come to Chicago...

Which brings to mind the image of Guruji, Saraswati, Sharath, Shruti, Sharda, et al staying in my vintage one-bedroom apartment.

Sure, it's not as nice as Sting's or Mike D's place. But it's comfortable and veg and there are even a couple of TV's.

And many fans are there.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Today's Vocabulary Words:

Note = 100-rupee note
Lakh = 100,000
Crore = 100 lakhs (10 million)
Grand = fancy

Jammu (of 2004 trip's Jammu and Kashmir) arrived on Monday and we've been shoping ever since.

The bright blue salwaar kameez depicted in my profile picture is ripping apart at the seams because 1) the fabric is cheap and paper-thin, and 2) I'm rough on clothes. So Jammu brought me to a flashy-dressing fabric-wallah named Mansoor, who was wearing all black and a Harley Davidson belt.

But when I was explaining to him what I was looking for and showing him how my current dress is falling apart, he said, with a straight face, "I think you are becoming fat."

Which I think tops last month's unsolicited "Looking very old today, Madame."

Lucky for Mansoor that in addition to perfect English, he had the perfect replacement dress.

He also has every fabric you could want (except raw silk and saris with silver trim, which are scarce in Mysore). I also picked up some lovely homespun cotton or khadi. Even Matrika was impressed with the selection. I call it the porn shop; she dubbed it the opium den. And it's just steps away from Sachin, the best tailor in Mysore -- don't tell anyone -- whom I discovered in 2002 with the help of the surly guy at VT Fabrics.

Yesterday I had my second rolfing session with Ken (more on that soon), who introduced me to his new roommate. "This is Reena," he said. Realizing she was a fellow blogger, I said, "REENA? MEDIC IN MYSORE REENA?" and she said yes, and I whispered in her ear, "I'm NosleeptilMysoreCaca." I can't wait to get together with her, but alas! her medical work gets in the way.

Today Sharath told me to start coming to practice at 5:45 AM. I've been sleeping in until the 5AM call of the mullah and leaving for practice at 6AM. During that hour I heat the coffee / induce an elimination round, complete my toilette and do my first practice of the day -- a very soft pre-practice practice consisting of S-I joint exercises, hamstring stretches, lunges, and easy backbends. Now I'll have to start the whole rigamarole at 4:30.

I remember hearing senior teacher David Roche say over coconuts in 2002 that he did pre-practice warmups and thinking, "Why would anyone want to practice before practice?"

Uh, because one is not just looking but feeling very old today, Madame.

My third practice of the day is another relatively soft one and is not done in the closing room, thankyouverymuch. It focuses on Pasasana -- still too fat to clasp hands on the second side -- and backbending and wall-walking with a block and a strap (don't tell anyone) and doing the exercises that Ken-the-rolfer has recommended.

Today in class my lower right back hurt like hell in backbends, and after doing about five of them the way Tim Miller showed me (going onto the head first and putting the knees over the ankles and pulling in the elbows) I asked Sharath, who has his own back problems, what to do. Without missing a beat he said, "Paschimottanasana" -- which meant to skip dropbacks and go directly into the counterpose. My back was thankful. But it was hard to slack off like that.

It seems at some point it's better to do less and avoid permanent spinal damage -- even when in Mysore, where it's all about making "progress" and getting the next pose.

Yet despite all this, and my recent failure to stand up from backbend, Sharath gave me a new asana this week -- bhekasana -- which actually makes my back feel good.

Go figure.....

Monday, July 03, 2006


Today's Vocabulary Words:

Minister = politician
Pundit = religious leader ("pandit")
Camp = workshop

Mysore has a new evening newspaper, called The Mysore Mail, which competes with the more established Star of Mysore.

The latter's movie listings are more accurate, but the former has headlines like these (all from today, Monday 3 July 2006):

Man Axes Wife to Death [another dowry death]

Snake Bite, Two Hospitalized

Elephant Electrocuted in Nanjangud

Minister's Car Catches Fire, Unhurt

Spoken English Camp

Free Piles Check Up and Screening Camp

It always comes back to the piles, doesn't it?

Speaking of which; my friends Janice and Stephen* have come up with a surefire way to induce an elimination round before class: heat up milk and a double espresso purchased the night before at Cafe Coffee Day. Their coffee so rich and fresh (and grown in nearby Coorg) that it makes Starbucks seem like Nescafe.

I am now a convert.


*To see an historic photo, taken on the roof of the old shala, go to Janice and Stephen's website and click on "workshops."

-Mattress on Floor

-Makeshift Seating

-Heating Coil in Room



-Indian Bedspreads

-Shared Bathrooms

-Bikes & Scooters

-Minimal Mixing with Townies

-Care Packages from Home

-Public, Regrettable Hookups

-Cutthroat Competition to Obtain Best Housing

-Everything Revolves Around Class(es) -- And Currying the Favor of the Teacher(s)

-Instead of the R.A. or Housemother Keeping Watch, One's Activities Are Monitored by the Landlord, Maid, Coconut Wallah, Flower Man and Everyone Else in Town.

-"Where are you from?"

-"Where do you study?" = "Where did you prep?

-"What poses are you working on?" = "What's your major"

-Seniors Can't Be Bothered with Freshman

-Cliques (Frats)

-Road Trips!

Saturday, July 01, 2006


“Put inside.”
Your mat bag belongs in the changing room, not next to your mat.

“Take your toe.”
You must grab your big toe in triangle pose, regardless of alignment.

“Don’t dance.”
The student should not lose their balance and jump around in Uttitha Hasta Padangustasana (a standing one-leg balance).

“Don’t break window.”
The student should not lose their balance and put their hand or foot through the window in Uttitha Hasta Padangustasana.

"Don't leave your leg."

A. Your hand should not let go of the foot that's on the thigh in Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana (a standing half-lotus balance) until the final exhale.

B. You should not let the leg drop to the floor in Supta Padangustasana (hard to explain) until the final exhale.

“Don’t change your leg.”
You should not widen your stance when moving from Warrior I (forward lunge) to Warrior II (side lunge).

“Don’t touch”
Your knees should not touch your elbows when moving from Utkatasana (standing zigzag pose) to Caturanga Dandasana (pushup pose) – ie, don’t do Bakasana but, rather, a half-handstand.

“Loose your feet”
Your feet should be together (ie, closed) in poses such as Pachimottanasana (sitting forward bend) and Karna Pidasana (ear squeeze pose).

Pull the legs through the arms and directly back into Caturanga Dandasana (pushup pose), without touching the floor..

“Don’t let knees touch.”
The knees should stay off the floor when moving from Chakrasana (a backwards somersault) to Caturanga Dandasana (pushup pose).

“Don’t move your head.”
The head should remain static when going from Matsyasana (a lotus backbend) to Uttana Paddasana (same pose with straight arms and legs).

"You have insurance?"
We're not responsible for any injury that may befall nearby students when Caca tries to stand up from backbend.

"Take back your hands."
Drop back from standing into backbend.

"Move back! Move back!"
Move foward on your mat so we can cover your sweaty body and give you a foward bend adjustment.

“Take up!”
If you come down early from backbend or headstand or the final interminable lotus arm balance, you must act like you’re trying to lift up or the count will slow down and the rest of the class will suffer (and no one will talk to you at breakfast).

“Thankyouverymuch. You go home take rest.”
Savasana is over. Give your respects to Guruji and get out of here.