Thursday, January 31, 2008

i'm sore in mysore!

mysore is a princess of a city..
dubbed fairyland, i hear!
palaces galore..gardens..
and of course, one of the
great yoga meccas of india these days..

it is my great, good fortune to be studying
the art of living with saraswati, the
daughter of the yogacharya, patabhi jois.
her son, sharath and daughter, sharmila
have taken on the tradition;
carrying it forward with integrity and spirit.

every morning from 4:30..5:00 am..
the students gather..
as the classroom fills up,
those waiting are called in
one by one..
to fill in the spaces
where one has finished
their personal practice..
students keep arriving
'til about 9:30 am..
the sessions finish up around 11:30 am.
o my o

it is a mix and blend of people
from all over the globe..
all different shapes and sizes..
hues of colour: varying levels of abilities..
it is hot!
it is crowded!
it is bliss!

this is a new experience for me..
the astanga tradition of asana
has not been on my mat this
intensely before now...

who said you can't teach olde dawgs new trick?
i do seem to be one of the elders here..
keeping me on my yoga toes..
bowing to the grace the body offers..
my sore..

Monday, January 28, 2008


it's an urdu word that means tip.
the muslims still use it.
a tip which is given as a sign of love
from a master to a servant;
from one who appreciates another.

here in india...
those on the streets, the beggars
the lepers, the disfigured...
use it to get the attention
of those passing by..

when i was in kerala,
for the first time in all my visits..
i rode in a rickshaw driven by a woman!
the fare was 30 rupees..
i just had to give her 100..

near many of the temples,
those seeking a tip line up
to receive the offering from those
in attendance to prayer.
i have seen a tibetan man
with a fresh stack of ten rupee notes
go down the line distributing baksheesh.

a school boy be-friended me
on my morning walk asking for baksheesh.
we stopped at the water shoppe;
he got a kit-kat bar and was on his way.

the young western girl took a digital photo
of the one-legged man who was asking for some rupees.
she showed it to him immediately..
that was enough and he returned the gift
with a huge smile!

when the young ones come up,
they are usually in a trance of sorts..
repeating over and over..
give me ten rupees, ten rupees, ma..
so i find out their names..
it takes a few times asking to break the spell
yet when it happens, i get a wide smile
along with their good name..
i give them cashews or almonds which
they nibble up right away..
it seems that the money they get
has to go back to...???

once, while in a shoppe attempting
to re-charge my indian cell phone..
three girls came in
with a piece of paper which said..
we are from such and so and such..
please give us money to buy new clothes..
both the shoppe-keeper and i were
in the thick of things with airtel
and held them off..
the lead beauty would have none
of us having none of them..
she persisted with an intensity
kali herself would admire..
the young woman and i locked eyes
in an fierce embrace..
neither one of us budging a blink...
finally, we both saw the depth of each other
and broke into smiles..
i handed over 10 rupees..
and off they went..
a few days later,
we met on the street..
recognizing each other
with a bow and namaste..
the ultimate tip!

Thursday, January 24, 2008


we had a little kettle,
we let it leak.
our not repairing
made it worse.
we hadn't had any
tea for a week;
the bottom is out
of the universe.

~rudyard kipling

Saturday, January 19, 2008

hat trick

olde men like hats.
i like olde men..
it seems that
wrinkly olde men wear hats~
most of the older fogies i've known
have hair that has descended
from the crown of their heads
to their chins..
it occurs to me that this may well
be why they inhabit hats.

when i was younger and blonder,
traveling through countries
such as pakistan, afghanistan,
iran and turkey..
israel and egypt..
it was a challenge for me
to keep the younger, darker men at bay!

this was when i conjured up the hat trick.
throughout these rugged lands,
the olde men gathered in the squares
at the chai shoppes and hookah stalls
to play sheshbesh, tavali..backgammon.
they would roll their own smokes,
imbibe cup after cup,
hookah after hookah
and peddle the breezes.

they all wore hats.
these hats were hand crafted particularly
within each region of fine dyes and exotic fibers..
some brightly coloured, some dull and plain
all of them well worn..

i took to wearing the hats of olde men.
wherever i went, i would settle down in a seat
just out of reach of their games and gossip.
slowly, slowly..
i would edge in to watch a move on the board..
or ask for some papers/tobacco for a hand roll
or buy an oldie a cuppa!

inevitably..and it worked every time..
i'd be in the game, at the table
chittering and chattering away in
some unknown garble that we all understood..
the young and the restless and the o so dark boys
would leave me to the finely chiseled grey olde men.

no longer young nor blonde,
i have no need for the protection of hats.
i did want for a few caps
for pals back home.
this led me on a search for gandhi caps..
usually made of white khadi fabric
and always, always worn
by olde,
wrinkly men.

i reserve the right to be reserved
but this day, waltzing right up to such a gent,
i asked.. where indeed did he find such a fine gandhi cap?!

just there, was his patent reply..
just where? i questioned...
just there, he stated again a bit impatiently.
just where, sir? i requested again...
just there..o, i'll take you to the khadi shoppe myself..

would you, could you, please and thank you, sir?!

after he had finished his shopping..
for i pulled him right off his gabbing chair..
he led the way through the streets of hubli..
i, following a few steps behind.

he stopped at the vegetable women 's baskets along the way..
haggling prices, pinching the flesh of oranges,
tasting the gooseberries..while the women looked on
with delight and surprize at his foreign puppy in tow..
at one such stand, he was satisfied with his grazing
and planned to make a purchase.
i jumped in,
attempting to gift him with his branches of berries..
i don't need your money, he stated firmly..
i replied..
i know that, sir..but i need your hat!
we laughed as he paid for the bundle himself...

he dropped me quick as bunny
at the khadi shoppe and was gone!

i bought two gandhi caps..
sizes 23 1/2 and 24..?
they were 30 rupees apiece
and as i was pulling out my bills,
the shoppekeeper said..
(this has never, ever happened to me in india ever before ever!)
we offer a 15% discount!

mostly, i travel bareheaded these days..
no young, dark men are after my tail.
i still enjoy fiddle-dee-deeing
(if you know what i mean)
with the curmudgeons i meet!
i like olde men in hats!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

photo op!

the night before,
we all received a phone call
from tani, our monk..
..we were to be ready by 6am the next day..
for an audience with His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama!
the great awakening at 3 am..
out on the street by 4 am for the bus..
everyone was wide awake..and bubbling..
as bubbling as one can be at 4am..

we arrived early to have tea
and bread
and something called cheese spread..
which had the texture and taste of wallpaper glue,
i think..
it has been a while since i had that delicacy!

we were then whisked away,
after security cheques,
to the upper hall
while dances were performed by young tibetans..
and a long, life puja for the abbott of loseling.

(would you like you like to sponsor a monk?

again we were called to follow a few
to more stairs and hallways,
more security measures
as we entered a large room..
we were instructed to sit in front
of an empty chair and microphone..
it seemed HHDL would be speaking with us..
we waited..
it is now 10:30am..

a buzz about the room ..
we were then bustled and hustled
to configure into a standing mandala
with a space where HHDL would join us..

there was a small group from mexico,
our small collection from the u.s.a.
and a handful of red-robed monks
holding precious statues..

a great wind blew ..
His Holiness stepped through the door..
posed with the mexicans,
popped over to us..for a quick photo
and rushed out with the group of monks.............

it is now 11:30..
a photo with the 14th, Dalia Lama..
om ah hum!

Photo to arrive soon!

Friday, January 11, 2008

bonked and bamboozeled in mother india

i have started too late to collect
expressions that are found often in
india on signs and in conversations..
from this time onward...
i will be making note, madam!

whenever talking to a government official,
it is highly recommended to call the
above mentioned as sir..
you just might get somewhere
with your request!

you do just one thing..
this is often stated
when asking for some assistance..
you do just one thing..

if you are asking for directions
or the proximity of such and such a place,
the most frequent answer is:
just there..
which could be anywhere
from here to timbuktu..

reading the newspapers..
which are great in number,
you will find the most interesting
stories noted in the most
entertaining way..
instead of being hit on the head,
by a tree, no less!

"one can never have too much of cricket" be continued....sir!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

cool joint surfing

finding an internet cafe in india..
and with the power on once you do..
is a bit more challenging
than walking down the coast to the next library!
the above is the name of one such cafe..
though now i am in iway in hubli.

the 14th dalai lama is in the neighboring village;
mundgod..a tibetan settlement full to the brim
with monasteries and universities..
the streets are once more flowing with monks
who are studying the dharma..
this is one way that the tibetans in exile can
keep their culture alive and flourishing..

i am staying in the bustling towne
of hubli
at hotel swathi..
the shower (hot water, yes!)
from a wood-fed boiler
comes out sideways in one strong jet
just this side of the toilet..
so i cuddle up to the bowl and
enjoy the luxury...

all the hotel boys have names like:
hannuman, nagaraj, shiva, shrikhan,
ashok, narayana..gods walking around
the halls with hot water, fresh towels..
mosquito mats and newspapers..
i do my best to recall their names
yet inevitably
krishna becomes jai raj.....

from bodhgaya,
we took the mahabodhi express..
the overnight train to delhi..
traveling by train is one of the
great adventures in india..
we had a two tier sleeper
with a/c..meaning a fan..
tea is served,
thali meals..
fresh linens..
though i know other trains and routes
which serve up cockroaches as
fellow passengers..
we were fortunate!

it is the porters who i hold
in the highest esteem..
these men dressed in a lunghi
and a red shirt gather around
to offer their services..
between lorraine and i,
we have two rather weighty
bags..(don't ask!..
i have no idea what is in my bag,
why it continues to expand and put on weight!)
our particular porter..
after wrapping a towel around his head..
picked up lorraine's bag and set it squarely
on his head..then with the help of a gent standing by..
lifted mine on top of hers..
o my o o my!
his posture was impeccable..
i was astounded by his grace and stature..
...and then!
he proceeded to accompany us to our platform..
which was 3 stairways up and down away..
up the stairs..o my..
down and up..o o my..
he found our car and seats..
off-loaded our bags ..
and took a mere 100 rupees
for this tremendous feat!

cool joint surfing...
in deed!