Monday, September 18, 2006

early early

For those people who read ashtanga blogs this may all sound a bit familiar but, whatever, it's all local colour....

It’s still dark outside and there is a surprising lack of any noise at all from outside. Not that Gokulam is particularly noisy even in the day. People buzz around on mopeds and the odd fruit or kitchenware seller passes by with a friendly shout to alert the neighbourhood to his presence but that is it really. The absence of any noise at all at 430am is more surprising because normally when in ‘the tropics’ one would of course expect to hear nature doing its thing. Insects and frogs, that might make quite a cacophony, usually create a vivid, pulsating eventually subconscious backdrop to sleep. Here there is nothing.

When we landed at Bangalore I noticed the altitude on the ground was nearly a thousand metres. Mysore is only a little lower at around 700 metres (I think). Thus the air is cool from evening onwards at this time of year. In fact the climate is pretty much perfect. Daytime highs up to 25Cish, 24 hour lows perhaps 17-18C with quite low humidity. It’s easy and very liveable here as the tail-end of the monsoon ebbs away.

So maybe the fact of this relative coolness means that insects and frogs prefer to provide their soundscape elsewhere.

This being India there are of course many other animals shuffling, trotting, sauntering, climbing, fluttering, flapping and skittering their way in and out of the picture. Yep, bony holy cows chewing plastic bags and shitting in the street but also the odd gecko on the bathroom tap. From my hotel window in Mysore I watched a small troop of monkeys, like small children at a bit of distance, shin down the drainpipe on a peeling nicotine coloured wall across the vacant and overgrown lot. Now I am in my apartment in the leafy and very pleasant ‘suburbs’ there are flocks of green parakeets wheeling around the rooftops and the odd sow with her piglets cleaning the streets of the detritus of which there is an endless supply. A little note from the landlord comments on a few of the finer points of inhabiting these few rooms, such as buying detergent so the maid can wash the clothes and turning off lights when going out. There is also the remark ‘Drop tissue paper after use into a small plastic bag. The cleaning lady disposes of it through the scavengers’. Obviously the use of toilet paper is a European oddity resulting in the buildup of expended sheets. Indians are far more eco-friendly. Who are The Scavengers then? This is a little reminder of the fact that, unseen and beyond the cosy confines of Gokulam, there exist microcosms and communities covering the full spectrum of biodiversity that depend entirely on the waste of others. In other words another person may find a use for our used toilet paper.

Having said that, on first impressions Mysore really isn’t that hardcore. So far I have only seen one person asleep actually in the middle of the road (at least I assume he was asleep) and a couple of people missing limbs. There is a huge bustle and throng on the streets of course and the markets and parades of shops are all busy and well stocked. Compared to Madagascar for example, where a man with his left eye hanging out followed us around a market which more closely resembled a shanty town, where some of the better produce on offer were cracked, dirty and empty bic biro tubes and smoked rats, this all compares very favourably. Which is all to the good as I have no need of any travel rites of passage. I think I’ve had a couple of them in the past and they weren’t always that much fun.

In keeping with this I must say that it is extremely easy to come here, get to Mysore and find oneself a place to stay for a few weeks or months. In this suburb things are very much laid on for the yoga devotee. Local service providers appear in the hiatus between alighting from the auto rickshaw and fully grasping the handle on your laptop case to begin walking. They have it all worked out and can show you a few apartments within an hour or so, introducing the landlords and explaining the subtler points of drinking water provision or broadband connection in a flash. They know yoga students, who after all have been coming here in relatively large numbers for at least 10, perhaps 15 years. For a very small fee they will sort you out in no time at all with whatever might make life more comfortable and convenient.

My simply furnished two bedroom apartment, which has ensuite European bathrooms (I would actually have preferred to squat but beggars can’t be choosers), plenty of space and access to a terrace roof costs around GBP100/NZD300 per month including electric and the maid. The yoga is just under GBP200/NZD600 per month.

The apartment is mid-street, important because near the junctions people toot their horns when passing through, on the top floor of two and has similar apartments either side both of which are taken. I went and said hello to my neighbours yesterday. Good guys.

Yesterday evening (Sunday) I went into town, a 10 minute ride, and sifted around buying some adaptors and trying to find mossie coils and blankets. Had a bit of mutter paneer for dinner and then walked around some more to get a feel for the place, asking people the name of this street or that market and realising that the city is pretty manageable in size and scope. It is only 1 million people of course, tiny in Indian terms and ultra compact by NZ standards. Unexpectedly I also coincided with the highlight of the sightseeing week round these parts which is the illumination of the huge and impressive old Mysore Palace by (gasp!) 100,000 lightbulbs (ungasp!). It was pretty cool. I could almost sense the local electricity grid straining to keep up and I’m sure the street lights pulsed and dimmed as the palace lights went on. That is probably a very tired old joke in this locale.

Anyway, it’s just getting light now and will soon be time to get myself sorted for the first practice with Sharath


Anonymous said...

Just curious:are you going to practice with Sharat only during your stay in Mysore or are you going to study with Guruji as well?

jb said...

I will be with sharath until he leaves in november then after that am not sure what i will do.

salad said...

Hi JB,

It's great to hear from someone in Mysore, I really like your writing and your down-to-earth attitude. I'm really interested to hear what it is like to be in Mysore and practicing in Sharath's shala (as opposed to Guruji's)... I went to Mysore when neither of them were teaching in 2001 and got to practice with Saraswati in her living room, with Guruji sometimes wandering in and out - quite an experience! I'll be practicing with Sharath in November in Sydney, which I'm really looking forward to (I'm from Sydney, living in Melbourne now)... Anyway, I saw your clustrmap and thought it was pretty cool, only they do not allow new users at the moment unless you are invited. Do you think you could invite me some time if it is at all possible (i'm aware of the dodgy nature of internet in India, so understand if not)... keep up the India updates!
my blog is http//