Lakshmipuram Organic Market
From Gokulam, we scooter through the Mysore University grounds on our way to Lakshmipuram. Tara wears the baby in a frontal sling. Rowan is a tiny pushpin in a fluorescent Styrofoam helmet that engulfs her baby head. The helmet slips down over her eyes, so she uses her delicate baby hands to hold it up so she can survey the scenery. Andrew pilots the other scooter, Allison on back, blonde hair trailing in the wind. We’re an eye-catching bunch.
The intensity ratchets upwards during the drive. Lakshmipuram is more compact, tighter, louder, more intense than Gokulam. It’s more concentrated India.
Andrew has found the new location of the organic market he frequented on his first trip in 2001. It’s now in a rundown, mould-covered house, in which the “market” takes up one walk-in closet-sized room. Weevils sit in sacks of dal and spiders leap from underneath bunches of bananas. Andrew buys organic mung dal, liquid jaggery, organic coffee, some honey. Allison stocks up on greens.
Tara and I take baby out front. Her blonde hair and translucent skin are an instant hit with the Indian men sitting around the entrance. One man is an endless fount of folk medicine: One drop of honey on the baby’s tongue per morning, he says, will make her learn to talk better, faster. For teething pain, rub sugar on her gums.
We show baby Rowan to the cow grazing across the street. “Woof, woof,” says Rowan; it’s what she now says when she sees any animal. A two-foot piece of rope ties the cow’s neck collar to its front foreleg. It can’t raise its head more than two feet from the ground.
The folk-medicine man tells us the cow is so dumb that it will walk into and through cars, people, and glass windows. Therefore its gaze is roped down. Somehow it seems cruel. I’d never seen a live farm animal until India, though, so I’m very much out of my depth.
Andrew and Allison finish shopping, and we scooter back to Gokulam. Later, Andrew uses his new coffee in my stovetop espresso maker. When it begins hissing, Andrew lifts the lid. “Look,” he says, “it’s boiling out like cream!” And it’s true: the organic coffee is foaming through the slit like cream.
Andrew bought two Apple iSight cameras prior to coming to India, one for my Mac, one for his wife’s Mac; he would be able to see and talk to her and his 2-year-old son.
We fished two Internet contact names from the Internet place around the corner and called them. “No connection is possible in your neighborhood,” the first place told us.
We met with a representative from the second place. They wanted a 10,000 Rupee deposit. They had hooked up broadband for a Western yoga student before and the student had made 30,000 Rupees-worth of long-distance calls before vanishing back to the West.
Our landlady’s son intervened. They are putting the connection in their name---no deposit, no installation fee.
We returned from yoga practice one day last week to find an amorphous swarm of workers, numbering not less than eight and not more than 11, chopping up the street to lay the cable for our Internet connection.
On our way to breakfast, in front of the house, and in front of the line of workers, I loaned Andrew 100 Rupees, separating the bill from the others in my wallet, realizing too late I had flippantly flashed a week’s wages to the dark, sun-creased, squat men pick-axing the dirt.
The small army worked for four or five hours, then vanished as they’d appeared.
The cable is laid, but the Internet is still not functioning as we’re now circumnavigating the language barrier and Byzantine Indian business practices to have the wires connected.
The shala numbers dwindle; perhaps 20 people waited out front last Thursday? Tara and I have been leaving Rowan with Nirmala, our landlady, who has agreed to watch Rowan six days a week, two hours a day, for 1,000 Rupees a month. Guruji has told us to arrive at 5:30, and the last week-and-a-half we’ve entered the studio to an ever-increasing number of floor vacancies.
The density in my back and shoulders, which accreted during six weeks of crisscrossing the U.S. via planes, trains and automobiles, has started to melt. My body unkinked from the flight sometime last week. I had been having strong, light practices, and then one day I felt grounded, strong and light.
Guruji is 90 and fiery. He pads about the room, squat and powerful, shouting, eyes twinkling. Last week he suffered from a deep, wet cough, but it seems to have cleared.
Tara, Andrew and I (and Rowan) registered together, and Guruji demanded to know when our teacher Tim would be arriving, to which I lamely replied, “December?” It seemed a fair guess.
Guruji shuffled our stacks of money into his latest accessory, an electronic money counter, which immediately conjured images of the last few places I’d seen the device, namely at the homes of my drug-dealer acquaintances and in the movie “Scarface.” The machine whirred and beeped when it had processed our 54 500-Rupee notes. Gangster!
What else? Show up early, breathe, move. There are moments of an emptiness so full, a silence so loud I only notice them when they’ve passed.
I did not bow my head to Guruji’s feet on my last trip. Not once. This time it is different. There is a swelling, expansive, sternum-cracking gratitude that puts tears in my eyes---how fortunate I am to inhabit this body! To have found this practice!---and Guruji laughs and says, “Tankew, tankew,” as though I’m doing him a favor.
Fever and Slapstick
The baby today shed the last vestiges of a two-day fever; in June she was much, much more sick---wan and listless, shrouded on our bed, chest fluttering like a baby-bird---but it was still nerve-wracking.
I slipped on a throw rug in our living room and sprained my wrist pursuing a mosquito. Ha! I’ve been performing vinyasa on fists and fingertips.