Saturday, November 25, 2006

I have moved back into the hills for a couple of days in the Wayanad region, known in these parts for the wildlife sanctuary that is the main attraction. A small group of towns, the two largest being Kalpetta and Sulthan Battery, make good bases from which to explore the sanctuary, jain temples and caves of the region.

The weather has improved a bit from the conditions further south while I was at bodhi zendo and we now have 27C, sunny and very humid. Haresh, a 27 year old slightly overweight chemistry MSc who I got talking to on the bus here tells me that this is definitely the best time of year to be here though. From April onwards as the monsoon builds humidity builds from very humid to stupidly humid. Even the locals are drenched in sweat some of the time. Mental note - always come to Kerala after July.

Leaving Kozhikode this morning, after catching a few soul destroying hours of the first Ashes test from Brisbane, the bus hammered along towards what looked like an enormous cloud bank, ominously grey and weighty. I assumed for an hour or so that we were in for a soaking. As we covered more ground, swerving dangerously along the main streets of small towns, the exhaust pipe of the bus emitting a sound similar to a large calibre machine gun particularly at mid-gear revs, the cloud bank resolved intself into the Western Ghats. Above, if one dipped one's head to look out of the side of the windowless bus, was the hazy washed out blue of the sky, and rising towards it was a sheer wall of foothills that began abruptly from the fertile plains on this thin strip of coast. The Ghats are narrow here and it was simply a few hairpin turns and 30 minutes before we were travelling across a plateau, now covered by a mixture of plantations from cardamom, vanilla, tea and sugar palm to rice paddies and bush clad hillsides. Monkeys scampered across the road ahead dodging road works and potholes as the bus barreled along. These bus drivers can pull some interesting overtaking moves.

My discussions with Haresh were proving fruitful. Apparently the reason for the apparent boom in North Kerala is not really to do with domestic economics. It seems that, like Philippinos for example, Keralans are big migrant labourers. Millions work overseas, mostly in the Middle East (West Asia as it is known here). It is the remmitances from the 3 or 4 million Keralans slaving away overseas that is now boosting local family incomes here. Still, lets not get excited. Haresh, qualified as he is, and his wife, with a similar education in Physics, together earn about Rs10,000 per month. GBP120. In addition, there is definitely some serious inflation in sectors of the local economy here. Commodity prices have risen inexorably around the world over the last few years, pulled higher by the combination of monetary pump priming in the US and Chinese hypergrowth. If your main expenses include cooking oil, bus fares and rice then your household budget may be more highly impacted by this than households with higher incomes and more diversified consumption patterns. Unsurprisingly Haresh would love to go overseas. Almost anywhere. To do almost anything. He talked about a local saying, 'Shining India'. An evocative phrase indeed. Aspirations here are high. For some they may be fulfilled.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I am a museum

As someone who effortlessly brushes off hawkers and touts (for some reason) and who does not feature regularly on any of the '10 most sexy...' lists I can honestly and without modesty say that I am unaccustomed to objectification. However, this sultry bustling and panic laced lunch time on the streets of Thrissur, the cultural capital of Kerala, I can report that I was by all measures possible at the time more interesting than the State Archaeology Museum first thing today.

Having eased open the 12 foot wrought metal gates at what turned out to be the back of the museum and taken an unplanned turn around the Heritage garden to the side of the building I was actually enchanted to find a beautiful pond and carved stone fountain at its centre. I say actually because it is not a sensation I am used to feeling. But I was. The fountain was becalming, beautiful and clean, a trio rarely found in unison at these latitudes. Dark pink lotus flowers were spread evenly over the surface of the pond, interspersed with the shiny lushness of their leaves. The font at the centre of the round pond was carved to resemble a chunky spiral staircase, 10 foot high with only every 3rd step in place. Not another soul shared this with me although the city could be heard all around and the nagging smell of animal dung seemed to drift around sporadically. It was only when I looked over the wall at the west side of the garden to see what was producing the drumming and percussion I could hear that I saw a large bull elephant, in leg chains, at rest. Using a palm frond as a fly swat it was swaying forward and back between a half pace slowly expelling generous quantities of poorly digested plant matter. These rugby ball sized pellets reminded me of the glops of white hot glass that appear down the shoot in a bottle factory just prior to their flowing into the casts.

At the front of the museum, where the doors were 5 minutes late opening, I saw that I was to be joined in my wait by a party of schoolgirls whose teachers did little to control the surge towards me that their charges seemed to make.

'What is your good name?'
'Where is your native place?'
'How are you?'
'How are you?'

As their heads turned and their hair bows followed it was like watching a sort of collection of interconnected beings, whose individual movements passed a charge causing the next to also pass it on in turn. A small crowd of eyes, with teachers trying to remain dignified in the face of my incomprehensibly accented replies to their exemplar questions, flashed and blinked in the dark unblemished faces. Once inside the museum however the exhibits proved too much and I was relegated. Of less interest, and certainly less importance, than the wonders of the house of the Cochi Royal Family.

I particularly liked the 18th centuy marble buddhas who sat in lotus position and held their hands in the mudras for universal love and knowledge. No more than 6 inches high their typical serenity was given an unusual liquid quality by the medium.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Tamil Nadu

It rained for 3 hours of the 7 hour train ride south from Bangalore to Coimbatore, my half way stop on the trail to Zen. The 2nd class sleeper, no bedding provided just bare pvc covered bunks and barred, slatted windows, was full of human cargo and redolent with piss. Water was leeching through the window frames to mix with seepage from other parts of the carriage and run across the floor like oil legs on a hot griddle pan at around 5am when I de-bunked and got ready to detrain. Those 3 hours of rain translate into about 200kms of track. Solid, dark, murky foetid rain.

I readied my pack to step down and noticed a pocket right on the bottom which had never caught my attention before. It contained a blue rain protector which handily covers the whole pack.

Out onto the dark and grimy platform, seemingly covered in a disarray of things resembling wool sacks, red LCD clocks and notices flash a dubious and dissonant welcome. A walk through the platform underpass becomes a wade as brown water inches its way out of some unseen opening to cover the floor. The women in front dawdle under their huge head balanced loads. Those of us behind feel the murk swish tepidly around our feet. Everyone is feeling squeamish, you can see it on their faces, but there is nothing to be done, it is a moment of displeasure in what for many must be a life full to the brim of far more distasteful matters.

It is surprisingly calm in the early morning gloom of the station entry hall. Crowds just outside huddle under the roof awnings in the hope that this rain will peter out soon but the road cutting left to right across the view of hotels, broken pavements and swamped autorickshaws is actually a torrent. A cow, silhouetted by flourescent lights and neon flashes, is in the middle of the street up to its knees in the rippling flow.

Three police sit at a wooden desk, one dozes head down stll grasping his cane. I ask the other two the way to the hotel which they have never heard of. The woman corporal laughs at me softly, shyly, to her colleague. I have taken off my flip flops, rolled up the jeans and thankfully drawn up my hood for the river crossing ahead.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Just been to sort things for departure, like buying a trunk to store stuff in that won't be leaving Mysore - speakers, bedding etc.

Leaving Wednesday, first to Bangalore to drop mum off to her flight early Thursday morn. Will be seeing her (and sis) a month or so later in Australia. Gotta love these multi month holidays.

After that I will be heading to Tamil Nadu, further south, where up in the cool and verdant Palani Hills the place known as Bodhi Zendo is to be found. I will be there for a couple of weeks, maybe longer, then I plan to make my way to Goa. But you know what they say about plans.

Friday, November 03, 2006

A backet fell out of moy vagina

Nice eh? That is what S (from WA) came up with as a contribution to the discussion about strange excretions/sensations we were having. Apparently said bucket expelled somewhere in the Arizonan desert. Nobody actually knows why. I can't match it for sheer spontaneity and shock value (she wasn't pregnant at the time) but I have had a few wierd things going on to which I refuse to become attached in any way. The only thing that is worth mentioning is the following event:

I am walking down the street here in Gokulam having nipped into the hospital to get my dressing changed (the cut is no longer 'paining' and is in fact healing 'nicely' now) when a random dude walks past me carrying a big bag of cement on his head. As he draws level he says to me the word 'Srirangapatnam', which is the name of a place outside Mysore that I was just then thinking about. This has happened to me 3 times since I've been here. How do they know what I am thinking?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I'm leaving Mysore in a week to take Mum to Bangalore. After that I'm gonna take a little trip down to Tamil Nadu, the neighbouring state, for a little look see. A couple of weeks there will be good, up in the hills, cool, peaceful and rural(ish). Still planning on Goa but I really felt that 5 whole weeks in Israeli raver central (even if still doing yoga) might take the shine off things a little.

Quiet here at the moment, just going to a cooking class this afternoon. Still going to the hospital evey 2 days to get the dressing changed on the cut, which is slowly healing up. Big (ok, not that big, don't get too excited) juicy scar likely. Hopefully it will be in place before the travelling next week.

This weekend mum and I are going on a (very small) excursion to Srirangapatnam, just outside Mysore, where we will explore the local bird reserve and a colourful fountain ceremony on the Saturday night.

For those interested in such things - yogawise this has been an eventful trip, mainly because of the crash which has affected my practice in many ways. I've had the best part of 2 weeks off in total and at the moment I'm off jumps because of the risk of opening up 'the cut'....nonetheless physically I have certainly opened up in the shoulders and am sweating lots less than ever before. Not really lathered up until prasarita pad. Now that is a result. Those chilly NZ mornings could be interesting. Mari D is still a way off but mainly now because my left medial collateral ligament is getting sore and protesting that I'm rushing too fast. So much for Sharath's prediction that it would take me a week. It has got closer though. And he told me to go on and do Navasana and Buja pidasana anyway just to mix it up a bit ( I suppose). I'm still easily the first to finish. On the non-physical side of things I have watched some impatience with things come and go though it has never been predominant. My concentration is a lot better, more focused, less easily broken and the practice seems to whip by now which is a huge contrast to, say, the start of last year when it all seemed quite lengthy.

The comment on rhe previous entry relating to injuries rings true to me. Ashtanga people are more aware of (and obsessed by) the state of their bodies. They do get lots of injuries though, and practice when it might not be the absolute best option for them physically. Attachement to the practice of yoga can be a big issue for the individual and those that know them, but is it any bigger than the other attachments we have - to foodstuffs, diet, drinking, relationships, work, status, possesions and so on.

All of which can provide variously excuses, distractions and rationales for not paying attention to the real issues we all must confront sooner or later - of living well, loving well and understanding our own pain and that of others as well as celebrating the joys of life and trying to see things for what they perhaps really are in this world......