Monday, January 5, 2009

My Polyester Taj Mahal

My personal Taj Mahal is the mosquito net hung above the bed. It sweeps around me in ivory folds which I carefully part to slip out of bed directly into my yellow flip flops. (I am taking the commitment to not go barefoot here somewhat seriously.) Last night each of the students of the Pranayama course were given a lei of flowers. The teacher draped mine across my shoulders and the lovely perfume inspired the first deep breath of the course. I have placed the flower strand on the apex of the net; my dreams last night were scented with its fragrance.

Does it make sense to love a place like this? Noises bombard the streets from low flying jumbo jet blasts and high pitched motor-ped squeals. In a fit of independence, I crossed the busy 3 Cross Road by myself for the first time tonight. This involved looking both ways about two dozen times, remembering they drive on not the wrong side of the road, exactly, but on all sides of the road, and saying a little chant to Ganesh before slipping across. I am either developing paranoia or safe water habits each time I wash anything, be it dish, hand or shirt. I have covered my nose from the fetid air on the walk to the yoga mandiram, successfully avoided insect bites, and seen a golden aura around my chanting teacher, Radha, who welcomed me with bright eyes and a hug. I have acquired the skill of looking anywhere but into the faces of the people, mostly men, as I stroll the few blocks to the school, but the smiles from a lovely teenage girl in pigtails today was worth a thousand lascivious stares. And, yet, I think I love this place. It feels old to me, like I've been gone from it a while, but it has been waiting, like the Taj Mahal for the beloved, like the net for the mosquito, like the orchid for honey bee.

Our classes are held in a room constructed on the roof of the building that houses the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram(KYM). The walls are partially concrete and mostly woven thatch that braids itself over us above the fans set to a constant whirl. The floor is covered with brightly striped carpets and the 17 of us sit on yoga mats and pillows in long rows facing the teachers.

As the first class began promptly at 7:30am, I felt a capital "YES" pervade my being when we took our first breaths together. Breathing together, inhaling and exhaling in time with others, is sacred to me. We honor both the fundamental and the vast potential of Who we are; we keep it simple while brushing against the profound. My body welcomed the asana practice, given in simple moves coordinated with the breath. Mind started to watch and to notice the fits and starts, the pauses and is-ness of itself.

We are to enjoy the most senior teachers from the KYM, as this is the first time the Pranayama Intensive is being offered. Mr. Desikachar presented our first philosophy class, threading Patanjali’s yoga sutras into an introduction to the practices we will experience. At the end of our time with him, he led us in a breath practice while chanting the first two yoga sutras. His voice was just like the breath, a fundamental brush with eternity.

I've made arrangements for private chanting and philosophy studies. I'll be engaged in my studies Monday through Saturday. Other goals this week include learning how to take a rickshaw and taking my clean laundry to the folks on the corner who do ironing. The colorful outfits I purchased upon arrival are comfortable and light cotton that keeps me cool in the heat and covered as per cultural dictate.

Tonight, I hope to sleep past 2am, the infamous hour that haunts the jet lagged. I have taken off the second watch and feel cozy under the protection of my net, where I stretch out naked with no shoes on, feeling quite the queen as I inhale the fragrant crown from atop my polyester Taj Mahal.

1 comment:

  1. Makes me want to quote Pink Floyd, all the breathing going on in this post! I'm enjoying seeing India through your eyes.

    Glad things are going well!