Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sharath and the name game

I was laughing when I showed my friend Sharz my autographed copy of Sharath's new book, Astanga Yoga Anusthana, which he signed after the last Sunday conference (March 24). 

"Are you going to ask him to change it?" Sharz asked.

"Nah," I was doing my own version of the Indian head bob, "Really, it's perfect."

The inscription read: To Kiz, With Blessings. Sharath Jois. 

Erm, what's one vowel, right?! Eh, good enough! 

It was funny since I was so careful with my friend's copy which I asked him to sign first but then was complacent with my own. I guess I thought that since he started calling me by name at the start of the season, and especially after assisting in February, he'd already learned my name.

And he did, just not quite so perfectly.

It's not really a big deal. Sometimes, Sharath gets names fast. Sometimes, it takes time--in many cases, a lot of time. With Sharath, one's name, especially if it's an unusual one, can evolve creatively over time. Accents and vowels change, additions might be made, letters may go missing. You can see he's really trying. But as sharp as Sharath might be with students' asana practices, with so many people coming through the shala, he would rightly have trouble remembering people's names. 

In truth, I think it's a miracle he knows my name at all. My first year, I thought he'd never get it as he would write out the four names listed on my passport, none of which was the name I actually went by. But each time, I was in the office to register, I was too freaked out by him to point out he could skip the first three names altogether and replace them with the monosyllabic nickname that I was often called by. By my second trip, he stopped writing my last name and just scribbled down my three given names (they took the entire line already). This year, I suggested he just write "Kaz."

With the student-teacher ratio here totally out of whack, every little interaction is worth it's weight in gold. My first trip, I knew Sharath was my teacher. But did he know that? Was he conscious of the role I had assigned him in my life? It's taken some time, but I feel that by knowing my name, he recognizes me as his student now too.

So, it's ok if he doesn't have my name perfectly. Maybe this is also a part of the subtle schooling here in the shala, where the practice helps you grow but also keeps you humble. Besides, there are plenty of seasons to come. There's time for him to keep on getting my name wrong. There's time for me to keep on learning--among many many things, that there's more to being Sharath's student than a silly name game. 

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