Two toe rings, coconut water, yoga before the cock crows, cattle traffic jams, flowing pants and skirts… below the knees of course, scandalous shoulders, bindis (as on the beautiful little girls below), and magically delightful people. Rich in culture, but chillingly destitute. The picture of the old woman sitting outside her home is a common scene throughout the streets and alleys here. I’ve been in India for 2 weeks now and can understand why this is the type of country that people just can’t help but return to. It gets under you skin in the most unexpected ways. As I walk to yoga every morning, sun still hiding off the horizon, I meander, trying to avoid cow poop and the skeptical eyes of salty stray dogs who have made the asphalt their bed. The smell of random trash piles and reddish clay dirt, that unforgivingly always finds its way into your shoes cannot be escaped. Nor can the mosquitos and ants that don’t even bother asking for permission to become your new roommates. Even the incessant “BEEP BEEP” of impatient scooters becomes a sweet melody. It may not be love at FIRST sight, but India has a steady and slow burn that quickly leaves its mark, whether you realize it or not.
I arrived in India in the dead of night, and as the cab weaved between auto rickshaws, scooters, cows, horses, and ox drawn carts, I realized we were on the so called “highway”. My girlfriend Simone and I met in Delhi where we spent several days acting like naive tourists trying to find the “nice” part of town, only to realize there really was no “nice” part of Delhi! We did stumble upon a few temples and mausoleums including this tiny one called the Taj Mahal in Agra. A monument of enduring love. I wish I had words for its beauty, but the only way to describe it within my limited ability, to to liken it to the enchantment of fire and water. That feeling of sitting on the banks of a winding river captivated by its violent rage for hours on end. Or better yet, sitting by a homemade campfire, mesmerized by the dancing flame in the darkness until it begins to die into quiet crackling embers. You simply can’t withdraw your gaze. I could have stared at it’s glow from dawn to dusk. The colors of it’s white marble constantly change throughout the day, due to the inlaid precious stones, from pinkish at sunrise, to pearly white in the afternoon, to finally a golden hue in the full moonlight. Look closely into the sunglass picture. I thought it was amusing to note these changes were to mimic the changing moods of women by the architect. Genius.
Now, I’ve landed my walkabout butt in Mysore, the land of milk and honey in southern India. Well not really but compared to most towns in India, this place is an oasis of traveling yogis, vegan pancakes with ghee, and Ayurvedic doctors ready to prescribe you the perfect diet of coconut water and nothing else! Hmm, and you wonder why people lose weight, it must be a miracle. 😉 But seriously, Mysore is a beautiful town, with plenty of culture, art, friendly people, and markets galore. It’s even cooler in temperature than its northern Delhi friend. Palm trees span the sides of the road and since monsoon season just ended, a cool breeze sometimes wakes you up in the morning…4:30 to be exact. It’s even worse than the military because if you’re late, there’s no screaming commander to answer to, just this sweet little 70 year old Indian woman named Saraswathi (my teacher as well as Guruji’s daughter) who says “where you be? you no late tomorrow” and you feel absolutely awful!
My life so far in Mysore has been somewhat pampered. I even rented a scooter for the month and got my first ticket from the local cops ;). Some things never change. I cruise vigilantly though the streets trying to perfect my technique of cutting off huge buses to avoid their exhaust, joining and departing intimidating round-a-bout traffic (trying to not get stuck going round the circle more than once… I looked like an amateur), honking to scare cows to move out of my way hoping not to piss them off instead, and just truly immersing myself in the chaos of India that actually seems to work perfectly. If you’re looking for any pointers, here’s a good one. Don’t look anyone in the eye as you approach an intersection. Just close your eyes and hit the gas until you make it to the other side. I’ve realized if you pretend not to see anyone to your right or left, they’ll avoid YOU. 🙂 Of course, this advice may change if my pointer backfires while I’m here. It also helps to have a seasoned professional as your passenger (my girl Simone) who just keeps her eyes closed for most of the trip. She’s the one on the left in the last picture, along with myself and our sassy Cuban girlfriend Franceska overlooking Mysore in the background.
I heard a wonderful quote today over my ragi “eggless” pancake breakfast (they’re still not as good as bisquick 😉 and wanted to pass it forward.
“If you make fear your friend the world becomes much smaller”
the walkabout continues…