Monday, January 31, 2011

LH, AliBaba Pants, Bylakkupe, First-Time Neti

Well of course it had to happen. A month in Mysore and at some point that "ladies holiday" has to make an appearance. Gentlemen, you may excuse yourselves at this point if you like and pick up on this post once I'm done with talking about our "feminine occurrence". I will mark when you can pick up reading this post again with a row of asterisks like this:

*********** Girl Talk: START *****************

Interesting conversations abound whenever the topic of whether menstruating ladies should practice or not. It is strict shala RULE that you shouldn't step foot into the shala during the first 3 days of your period. And this not only means that you shouldn't practice... It also means you don't come for any of the chanting nor Sanskrit nor Sutras classes. Like... Literally... Don't STEP FOOT into the shala.

Hmm... You can see why interesting conversations arise around this.

I've always gone with the theory that women should follow that downward Apana energy that our monthly flows bring. I mean - engaging the Uddiyana and Mula Bandhas pull your internal energy upwards, going against that downward Apana flow. Besides, an Ashtanga practice just wipes me out even more during the time of the month so why would I fight that?! I usually just take the first couple days off.

Another theory has been that the above energetic theory is probably how the Western sensibility has tried to make sense of this Indian cultural point-of-view. Coz if you think about it - if its *ONLY* because of the energetic flow, then granted, it's fine if you don't do asana practice... But then why shouldn't you be allowed to come to the other classes like chanting and Sanskrit?

I remember reading in the Guruji book that whenever Amma was on her LH, she would basically keep to herself in her room and not do anything. Guruji would then take over all the female duties in the house, down to the cooking and cleaning (I'm pretty sure I remember reading this. Correct me if I'm mistaken?) ...So clearly there is some cultural difference here where this aspect of femininity is acknowledged in India (I wouldn't go so far as to say it's "celebrated", but it's definitely "acknowledged"). Whereas in the West, the view is more like "All is well, nothing to see here. I'm having my period and so what? That ain't gonna stop me". (Just look at all the feminine hygiene ads on TV for a start.)

I hardly think it's misogynistic AT ALL to get a chick to slow down during her time of the month. Show me any Western dude who's gonna take over ALL the female duties in your house when you're having your period and he has my R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

ANYWAYS... I digress. Since I was only gonna be here for a month, I had every intention of being a rebel Ashtangi and just practicing through my LH (and why don't they add 3 days extra to every girl's class pass in lieu of this, anyways?!) I suppose the Universe was probably not having any of my rebel plan coz... um... the floodgates opened Friday morning after led Primary, and thankfully this gave me an excuse to skip the next day's led class (Saturday was a practice day, the 7th day of practice last week, in lieu of Sunday's rest day coz the Dalai Lama was giving his talk in Bangalore).

I was secretly overjoyed I didn't have to do that 7th day of practice, and dunno about you, but um... there ain't NO WAY I'm practising a led class on my LH coz um... There ain't no way I'm doing inversions and screwing up my flow even more... But then this would also mean that (1) the WHOLE ROOM can see this and then work out I'm having my period, and (2) I don't wanna be yelled at for being in the shala coz I'm not doing inversions hence I must be on my LH and so WHY THE HELL ARE YOU HERE IN THE FIRST PLACE?! (This happened to a friend of mine last week, so I wasn't about to get caught out too. She was sent to the changing room to do Savasana when everyone else was in inversions and given a talking-to by one of the female assistants).

Also - I dunno why it seems OK to tell the whole internet about my LH, but not the practice room of oh say about 100 people.

OK. Enough with the Girl Talk.

*********** Girl Talk: OVER **********************

*********** GUYS CAN JOIN IN THE POST FROM HERE NOW **********************

For Evelyn, who wanted pictures of my Ali Baba, I mean, MC Hammer pants. The first pair is made of soft black cotton material, with an elastic waistband at the top, with a whole row of elastic smocking. The top most elastic waistband was waaaaaaay too tight (it could fit my thigh comfortably, which meant it gave me a serious muffin-top around the waist), so I got Rashinkar to measure my hips and make the top elastic band looser. They made it 3 inches looser and it's STILL way too tight. I give up.

The other one is a similar Ali Baba style, but with a dropped waist too and a drawstring top. I made this with a thicker dark grey, textured fabric and really like this one. It's a little too short but screw it, I can always tie it lower down my hips.

I have a feeling they might be pants I'll never wear outside of India again... But HEY! I have my wardrobe for my next Mysore trip sorted. Heh.

On Sunday's official rest day, 4 of us decided to go to Bylakkupe, an area 2 hours' drive away from Mysore that is a Tibetan refugee settlement. The drivers here have some pretty crazy hanging ornaments on their mirrors, but I haven't seen anything as crazy as this:

We made it to the Golden Temple - a Tibetan Buddhist temple, and its surrounding grounds look like dormitories for the monks. Because this was the day of the Dalai Lama's big talk in Bangalore, we were hoping for it to be rather quiet here. Even though it definitely had a different, non-Indian feel to the place, the noise level of all the visitors definitely reminded you that Yup... You're still definitely in India!

The "Shoe Keeper" asked me something in a language I didn't understand. I said "HUH?" Again he rattled off something then said "You speak Hindi?" ...Erm... I haven't even mastered Sanskrit and he's asking if I speak Hindi?! ...I'm wondering if he thought I was Tibetan or something. That would be pretty cool. Heh.

It was pretty stunning, and I felt like I was on a movie set. I like how those boy-monks were also taking photos in there.

I love these random signs.

Everywhere we went, local guys kept asking Alice and Sonya if they could take pictures with them (as in: they wanted photos with the white people!! HAHAHA!) It got to the point where Alice was fed up and turned to one group and said "Picture? 10 rupees". HAHAHA! ...She never followed up though.

I was looking forward to the Tibetan Momos all day. They're vegetarian dumplings. Sadly, they were a little disappointing. These pictures look better than they tasted. Guess I'm used to delicate dumplings with thinner skin. These had really thick skin and were a pretty tasteless mix of cabbage and um... some mystery green veggie.

I'm not sure if it was worth the 2-hour drive there and another 2-hour drive back just for the half-hour wander around the grounds, though.

I forgot to mention that earlier that morning, I had gone over to my healer-friend's house for my very first neti-potting session. She has been giving me therapy sessions and it's hard to explain what she does except it can only be described as a mash-up of Indian-style Osteopathy mixed with Rolfing mixed with energy realignment mixed with Thai massage. It is AWESOME. But whenever she's had me laying down on my belly and my sinuses act up, she keeps saying I need to do neti. So she finally kicked my ass out of bed at 6am on our only rest day of the week, to do Neti with me at sunrise.

Neti is nothing like the waterboarding experience I imagined it would be. I had a SNOT-FEST of GROSS YUCKINESS that flowed out both sides. And I had NO IDEA my right nostril was completely blocked until I'd done this, along with the Kapalabhati breathing exercises you do before and after.

ANYWAYS... I felt great all of yesterday - my head felt light and clear, but halfway through at Bylakkupe, I had a gush of salt water exit my nose. Randomly, just like that. Oops. Guess I didn't Kapalabhati it out enough earlier that day. And then I started having cold symptoms that evening and went to bed at 7.30pm, the earliest I've slept since being here.

All of this morning, through the sun salutations, my nose was a dribble-fest on my mat, it was SO EMBARRASSING!! But... by the end of practice, I'd stopped blowing my nose and things felt clear again. I'm not sure what to make of this. Feel scared to do it again! It's supposed to clear your sinuses out! Why am I dribbling like there's no tomorrow?! I seriously felt like this chick on my mat this morning... like it was a continuation of my Neti experience. Minus her silly big smile.


Friday, January 28, 2011

More Orphanage Pix, Laundry in Action, Sanskrit vs Kannada Fonts

More awesome pictures of Wednesday's Dental Day at the orphanage, photos courtesy of my friend Roberto. :)

I love how at the end of every session, we all sit in a circle and sing the chant, umm... I think it's part of the Shanti mantra, taken from the Upanishads. The kids all know this by heart, and I love how whenever I walk past schools, I can hear them start a class by singing this. It seems everyone here knows this chant from memory!

Asato Ma Sat Gamaya | Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya | Mrityor Ma Amritam Gamaya
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti

Today, I went into town to the Rashinkar tailor AGAIN. Umm... I'm getting a bit fed up of this process. It seems like if you've got an existing piece of clothing, they can make a copy of it really well. HOWEVER... if you're making something from scratch, or even using a piece for reference and deviating from the design just a little bit, that's where problems start to happen. OK, so it's cheap and good to make clothes here, BUT... Just be prepared that it'll take you a few trips to finally get it to a place you want it. Or maybe you might just get fed up and accept the item as it is (and never wear it again!)

On our way back to town, I decided to video the outdoor laundromat. I posted photos of it in my first week here, but it's really quite a sight to see it happening in action as you're driving past! It's like the Valley of Laundry. Here goes:

And finally, the last of my Sanskrit Level 1 homework from last week. I got 7 out of 10 correct only. BOOOO!

I came across this menu in a restaurant, and really liked this Kannada font. See how it's totally different from Sanskrit? ...Oh, and I'm being a total juvenile here but it gives me a giggle coz the way they've written this script makes it look like boobs and bums on the menu. HAHAHAHA!

OK, today's post is totally random and disjointed. But I'm only posting a smidgen of everything that's been going on here, so take this as my Masala Blog Post of today (Masala = a mix of different spices). :)


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Orphanage Trip & Cooking Class

I'm done with Sanskrit classes! Whoop! Whoop! I could probably move onto the Level 2 Sanskrit class now, but since I've only got 1 week and 1 day left in Mysore (?!?!???), I figured I wasn't going to kill myself doing more (and harder) homework. I'd much rather take it a bit easier and let the last few weeks soak in a bit and run around town doing other stuff too. Other stuff like... Hanging out with the orphans again!

I think it was a holiday yesterday (Republic Day? ...I have no idea. I am really living in a bubble right now!) so all the orphans were dressed up to the nines in fancy outfits. One of the yoga students is an Oral Hygienist and she wanted to check all the kids' teeth, so the plan was to stay in the orphanage and play with the kids on the roof while the dental check went on downstairs.

Here's the line of boys waiting their turn:

The rest of us had fun playing with the kids again. It was a little more contained than running around in a park.

Someone brought a guitar and was singing. One of the kids started dancing along. Too cute!

Some of the other kids were drawing or playing with Barbie (she's universal).

My friend Rob has much cooler pictures posted on his FB page. Will post them once I get his permission to use his pix.

Today, Alice, Sonya and I decided to do a cooking class at Anu's. On the menu: Palak Paneer (including how to make your own paneer), and a variety of eggplant dishes. I had no intention of learning how to make paneer since I don't eat that stuff, but I sure as hell LOVE Palak! (spinach)

Anu's is a little home kitchen that usually serves home-cooked food to the yoga students, buffet-style. It's much lighter, less greasy and spicy than all the other restaurants in town. On her days off, she gives these cooking classes.

Excuse the green tint in some of the shots. Where the spice talk was given was under a green perspex roof and I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to change the colour temperature correctly.

What she calls her "masala spice box" - a box with all the spices she uses frequently, including Cardamom, Fennel, Black Pepper, Tumeric, Ajwain, Mustard seeds and Fenugreek. She also showed us other good stuff like curry leaves, coriander (aka cilantro) and coriander seeds.

If you're looking to elimnate onions and garlic from your diet... Y'know... following an Ayurvedically Saatvic diet, then a good substitute is something called Asafoetida. I have NEVER, EVER heard of this. Anu says explicitly that this is NOT MSG, as some people believe. It's some kind of resin taken from a plant. Google it. We saw it in small, blocky form and also as a powder. Just a sniff of this is enough to pack a punch up your nostrils (apparently you can cook this with onion if you want, just not with garlic coz it'll be too pungent a combo).

The Making of Paneer.
Step 1: Bring milk to a boil.

Step 2: Add lemon juice. As much as you need to separate the... er... milk from the whey. Basically the milk should separate into a white solid block and a clear liquid.

Like this:

Step 3:
Strain it so only the milk solids are left.

When it's in the strainer, you can run more water through it to take away the lemon juice.

Step 4:
Put the solids in a cheese cloth and SQUEEEEEEEEEZE the hell out of it. To get a solid block, you should really put this cheese cloth between 2 towels and put something heavy on top of it and leave it overnight.

Step 5:
Ta dah! That's IT. Done.

Anu says they only buy their milk from a local farmer's co-op. :) So I figured it'd be OK to try a tiny bit of the paneer. It um... tasted like solid milk. HAHAHA.

Then came the aubergine dishes. Grilling the aubergine first always add a bit more flavour to the dish, even if you're cooking it in something else later. If you don't have an oven or a barbeque, here's a tip: You can grill the aubergine over the stove. Fer reals. It gets EXTREMELY messy towards the end when it gets juicy, but it works if you want char-grilled eggplant. Check out the process of grilling over the stove:

Because the outside's kinda charred, here's Anu's assistant scraping away the charred bits (while she's talking about something else).

Into the wok it goes, with the rest of the spices.

Anu was also explaining to us how you would fry the mustard seeds in oil first - and showed us how the seeds pop up when they're cooking (you can see her flipping the aubergine on the other stove towards the end).

More eggplant dishes. And cooking the Palak. Actual spinach isn't as green as the stuff you see in supermarkets. Anu says if the spinach is too green, she won't buy it as it means the farmer has added too much fertilizer. (!)

I take way too many pictures. I need to learn how to cull them down even more!!

More aubergine overload... She sliced some others to dip in a chilli/ tumeric paste to pan-fry. Her tip to get stuff to stick to the eggplant? Making little cut marks in them like this.

Of course, we all got to sit down and feast over Anu's hard work (apologies for the greenness, we were under the green roof again!)
P.S. Spot Alice & Sonya!

The cooking class was an AMAZING experience. Anu is like a tour guide to Indian culture, giving us information from medicinal properties of each spice, to cows and their importance/ significance to Indian culture, to the "typical" Indian way of living outside of the major cities (since as she says, the majority of Indians still live in poor villages and have a very different way of life to what we are exposed to here in Mysore).

She has written a book but hasn't published it yet - still waiting for the food photographs to be done up. All of us would have bought her book on the spot since her food is delicious and she was such a charming host! A+!

PS. Backbend update: Stood up again from the last backbend from the floor today. Take that, you backbend-sucker! ;p

Related Posts with Thumbnails