Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Ekam, Settling In
For us, India started at the Singapore airport. As we checked in, our visual senses were heightened by the colorful saris and bangles on many of the Indian women.
On the plane, during take off, the stewardess politely reminds the passengers to stay seated while the seat-belt is on.
By the 4th reminder, she had lost the cool monotone, she becomes aggressive with the same instruction.
A little later, a man comes up to the stewards area, the curtain is pulled close to shield the rest of us passengers but doesn't hide the raised voices between the agitated Singaporean stewardess and an irate Indian passenger.
Claudia and I look at each other and giggle...The closer we get to India, the orderliness of Singapore fades, replacing it, something that looks a little bit like colorful chaos.
Fast forward...we land rather exhausted at Bangalore airport at 10:30pm, 1am Manila-time. Luckily, our prearranged pick up is waiting for us (thanks to Ganesh, firstname.lastname@example.org, 009845279513) with a sign and a smile. Thus starts our 4-hour drive to Mysore. It was a symphony of Indian pop radio mixed with permanent honking. It oddly went together.
Colorful lights flashed past in the dark, sudden speed bumps shifted us into wakefulness, as did our first chai tea in India from a tiny stall along the highway.
We get into Mysore 2:30am (5am, Manila time). We were zombies. Thanks, however, must be given to the lovely Laila, our landlady who met us with a big smile, a box of tea, extra blanket and who showed us the 1,000 some odd locks to the fortress/apartment that Ganesh arranged for our first 2 nights--which would give us time to find something more permanent.
8ish, we wake up continuing to feel like the undead. However, breakfast called. We got up, decided to stop at a little all-in-one store to quickly purchase SIM cards for our phones on the way. After various stages of applications, photocopying of documents, submitting and registering passport, visa, shala letter and passport photos, we were done, TWO HOURS LATER.
Still hungry, feeling three-fourths dead by then BUT still feeling the simple joy of being here, wandering the streets of Mysore, seeing...cows. Many cows.
So, off to breakfast we go. Then we meet Maria from Portugal. We stop to ask her directions only to find that she in new here as well, looking for an apartment. We get derailed into apartment hunting. At some point, Claudia put her foot down and said, "I am starting to get aggressive, let's eat something." If you know Claudia, the most non-aggressive person I know, you would understand that it was a serious situation...
In any case, it took still some time for us to get some food. We met and paid Ganesh for his services. Got introduced to Kiwi Leroi and Australian Kelly who knew of someone who knew of someone who knew of rooms, who we then sidetracked into breakfast at Santosha—a wonderful café/house currently run by a sweet Swedish couple.
(Aside: Claudia’s version of aggressive is totally not aggressive in my point of view. She continued to be a sweet and thoughtful travel partner.)
Breakfast was just what the doctor ordered: Spinach, cheese and tomato omelet and the most lovely home-baked bread—that Claudia is still dreaming about. We had bottomless chai—which I am still dreaming about—and an energy ball, a concoction of oats, chocolate, dates, nuts, and lots of healthy secret ingredients.
Having full bellies, we then returned to our house hunting which led us to Shiva and Krishna Murthy (Murthy is on the KPJAYI website, ), both really helpful and both of who specialize in helping set up accommodations. With their help we saw at least a dozen houses. It was a blur. Unfortunately, nothing stuck out.
The house hunting would have to wait for the following day as time had come to register at the shala (3:30-5:30pm daily). We were sure that we had the requirements: a passport photo, a photocopy of our passport and visa.
After hearing about Mysore for so many years, the stories about Guruji, the classes that he taught at the shala, stepping through those doors for the very first time was an emotional experience. From the lobby, we caught a glimpse of the Guruji and his wife’s huge portraits, decorated with garlands. You could feel the energy, the countless millions of vinyasa, this is the place where breath moves in a continuous motion. We were about to join it.
After the first formalities, we met Sharath, filled out our student passes and stamped them. I tried in earnest to get “Kaz” on my card, after he commented that I had a particularly long name. But with no result, he managed to squeeze in my 3 first names, the last name would not fit even. In the back of my head I thought, he will never remember my name now!
With further investigation of our student card, we realized that we were in fact in Sharath’s class. A happy surprise!
We stopped by the shala store. Bought a KPJAYI top each and a Sharradah towel for our 6:30am morning practice.
On the way home, we realized that all the breakfast places we knew were just that—breakfast places, and now it was dinnertime. Hmmm. What to do?! Whom to ask?! Like a fairy godmother, Radjni, an Indian woman with child in tow stops us on the street to tell us that her home is open for dinner for Rp100 per person, all you can eat. We make a reservation (9945699957), she tells us to go to Rishi’s Internet Café. There we had our first Indian vegetarian meal in Gokulam, it was home cooked as promised and very delicious! We enjoyed our meal there while using the wi-fi at a minimal additional cost—to blog!