Sunday, October 31, 2010

Gods & Gold, Mysore Art

As I write, Claudia draws and draws and draws. We are at the private residence of a local artist, Assand, who specializes in a Mysore style of painting deities. The flat, two-dimensional paintings are colorful, almost cartoon-like. They are images of the Hindu pantheon and mythology. They are appealing with its embossed gold leaf. They are very Indian.

In fact, for the first time in this trip we are surrounded by Indians. The artist, his assistant, the four fine older ladies in their colorful saris speak the local dialect while working. The ladies are painting their masterpieces, intricate pieces, so incredibly detail oriented its hard to believe that it will take them only one month to finish it. This will be Claudia’s secondary “occupation” for the next month.
He has started her in sketching key Indian iconography: the lotus, Shiva linga, hand mudras. She even has homework. For me, most importantly, her art classes put us in touch with Mysore locals outside the world of the shala.

It’s awesome being at Gokulam. The streets are orderly. The people are friendly. Westerners seem to instantly share a bond, however tenuous sometimes. We all love yoga. We’re all here for yoga.

Still, life in Gokulam is a bubble. And it’s nice to venture outside of it for the day. Already, we are invited for Sunday puja and to share a meal with the artist and his crew of mid-aged ladies. Claudia has been invited to a wedding—Assand is also a wedding photographer. And since Claudia herself is a photographer, he has invited her to help out. After Claudia’s first 2-hour session, we wander down the streets of Mysore. Have a chai at a corner store. Visit the city’s art gallery, which hold’s an impressive collection of Mysore painters and historical artifacts from the days of the Maharaja. By the time we get home, we are tired and hungry. We agree in unison a repeat at Tina’s—which was even more delicious than the day before. We rest early to prepare for our first led class with Sharath at 5:45am.

(Today’s Lesson: Make sure the rickshaw driver puts on his meter. This saves time haggling and being cheated an extra Rp10 or so.)

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