First Impressions

November 11, 2012 § 11 Comments


Early morning chai pit-stop en route to Mysore.

It’s been three days since I arrived in Mysore and it’s slowly beginning to sink in that I’m here. Like I tell friends back home: it’s as if I’m waiting for my mind to catch up with the body in time and space, which seems to exist on a whole other continuum when you’re in India. Since my practice has been delayed for a few more days I thought I’d start with some initial observations which will hopefully help me process this place:

1. Everything here simply takes longer than you expect it to be, from recharging your phone’s SIM card to withdrawing money from the ATM. People who arrive after you at a shop may – and probably will be – attended to before you. It is just how it works and if you observe carefully, you’ll find that this is probably derived from the shopkeeper’s drive for efficiency, attending to quick and easy requests before tackling ones that require a smidge more focus.

2. There are no rules of the road, and every split-second decision made while you’re on the street is an act of faith. I’ve crossed streets in Vietnam, notorious enough for their heart-stopping road-crossing moments, but it wasn’t enough to prepare me for an Indian intersection. Or maybe I’m just out of practice.

3. There is a palpable atmosphere of sincerity and kindness here. I don’t know if it’s the effect of having a concentration of yoga students, or because I’m a foreigner, but the hospitality here is earnest and everyone seems always ready with a smile. People are curious, and they stare. But when you catch their eye and smile, the chances are pretty high that they return the gesture. Before I left a friend told me to “go with no fear and love and all will be ok”. I’ve found that to ring true so far.

4. Security guards take their jobs pretty seriously. I visited the Jaganmohan palace in Mysore today, which is essentially an art gallery housed in the old palace. Apart from a couple of gems from Indian artists (like B.C. Gue and Gaganendranath Tagore), the selection of artifacts is a little eclectic (paintings, furniture, wall brackets, ornaments, etc), and after the first of two floors, you’re ready to head for the exit. But no. There’s a guard there to instruct errant tourists to head upstairs before leaving. And another at the final exit telling you to retrace your steps, so that you can appreciate the marble replica of the Mysore palace, before taking that definitive step out the door.

5. From the moment I wrote about my intention for this trip, everything has fallen into place in a way that I couldn’t have anticipated. Whether it’s a confluence of coincidences or some higher power at work, I’ll let you choose, but for me, I’ve started to realize (albeit a little late) that this journey has a life all of its own and that I’m just in it for the ride.

“No fear and love, and all will be ok”


There’s always time for chai. Deveraja market, Mysore.


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