Dirgha Kala

November 29, 2012 § 11 Comments

“Dirgha = long, Kala = time”

Thank you all for your well wishes from the last post – I am feeling much better after almost of week of 9-hour sleeps. Coughing during practice is happening less and less, so that bodes well. I’ve moved out of my previous place and am now in a significantly quieter part of town. Note that ‘significantly quieter’ really means an absence of the honking and sounds of the street. There are still dogs, screeching squirrels and firecrackers, which you will get everywhere in India.

I haven’t been in the mood to write much because I am all too aware that my current experience is far removed from your average, trip-hop happy Mysore blog report. It’s something I struggle with: between feeling the need to be honest and the need to meet expectations about what a particular experience is supposed to be like. Mysore is such a mecca for Ashtangis, that coming here almost feels as if you’re setting off for the “Promised Land”. It’s spoken about with such reverence, that a line is drawn in the sand between those who’ve gone and those who haven’t. As if making the journey itself bestows some elusive blessing on the traveller – which, it doesn’t, by the way. Any fruits of this trip are the product of your own labors.

After almost three weeks here, I can tell you that – for me, at least – there is no romance about being here at all. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Asia that what would appear exotic and new to the Western eye is par for the course for me, but the truth is, being here is hard. Not in the sense of being deprived of basic amenities, no, but in terms of being constantly confronted by moments that ask you to step out of your comfort zone, and stay there.

The heat is relentless, even for a season that’s supposed to be cooler than other times of year. The food is exciting at first, but having spices in every meal starts to take its toll after a while. Plus, there’s also the issue of getting enough nutrition for an omnivore – plant-based proteins here mean dahl, dahl and more dahl. You go sightseeing to places like Chamundi Hill in Mysore, the temples of Belur and Hallebeedu, the Golden Temple in Bylakuppe, etc, only to realize that you should have read about these places before visiting because there are no signs in English explaining the history and significance of these sites. And then there’s the part about missing the husband – who’s stuck with his job and life back home while I get to explore a new place.

So yes. It’s hard. And yet, I think I will come back again, simply because this is the one place where I can really delve deep and take a long hard look at things I’ve been avoiding. Confronting my inner demons. Fear. Ego. Impatience. Self-Esteem. Negativity. Past hurts. Take them all out and sit with them, one by one, sometimes all at once at a particularly fruitful practice. Somedays there is bliss, depth of focus, ease, smiles. Other days there are smelly practice neighbors, bumping of heads and doing chaturanga an inch from someone else’s feet, all of which conspire to knock your driste around. The only constant in all this is the practice. Abhyasa. Do it over and over again, with love, for a really long time, and someday, I might actually succeed at not letting the stresses of my environment get the better of me. Someday.

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§ 11 Responses to Dirgha Kala

  • mariavlong says:

    I am quoting what another blogger’s sibling said during his first practice at her studio; for the second time today: “This sh*t is no joke!” Particularly in the lands of un-retouched chaos….

  • Anne Bain says:

    Tough to read this post. You didn’t sugar-coat the situation, it’s dead accurate, and I really respect you for posting the truth.

    From many thousand miles away, I’m trying to send you a wee bit of encouragement.

    Confession: I, too, hit the wall with Indian food. The chocolate man up the street from the Shala sells Barilla pasta (ok, at a ridiculous price), and the local markets have everything for a good marinara sauce. I made an Italian meal, and my Danish room mate and I ate like starved wolves. I used so much garlic and onions, I thought the entire Brahmin neighborhood would smell it and storm our apartment in protest. It was a huge emotional boost.

    It’s something small but it might help. Hang in there!

    • D says:

      Encouragement received 🙂

      I hit my food wall last week when I caved in and cooked up a batch of farfalle with tomato sauce, tore a handful of basil leaves and generously topped it with ghee (in the absence of parmesan). SO. GOOD. My current apartment is a little lacking in the kitchen tools department so I’m cooking a lot less, but fortunately I’ve discovered Cafe Pascucci….a little haven of Italy with pastas, pizzas and salads. Bellissimo!

  • Nobel says:

    From one fellow Asian to another, I can say that I totally empathize with and understand when you say that “what would appear exotic and new to the Western eye is par for the course”. In fact, when I read one of your resent posts about the heat and noise and dust, I got the impression that Singapore is basically “India lite”. It is (or was, I don’t know for sure, I haven’t been there for so long) probably just as hot and noisy as India, but the presence of technological comforts like a/c everywhere helps to cushion some of this, thus making it India lite. Is this an accurate description?

    Thanks for sharing your experiences in such an honest way. I’m sure you will come out of all this so much the richer. And no, you haven’t discouraged me from wanting to go to Mysore; I kind of expect all this anyway; hopefully, when I make it there, I will still have the “third-world stomach” that is able to digest and process the ahem, interesting food in Mysore after having lived in the States for so long 🙂

    • D says:

      Oh Nobel, Singapore is not just India lite – it’s Asia lite!! I was wondering the other day about how I used to handle this heat in Singapore when it struck me how integral air-conditioning is to our lives there. Seriously, I bet the country wouldn’t be half as successful as it is now if it weren’t for this appliance.

      To prepare your gut for the food/water here, I suggest doing a light detox of some sort before you come that cleanses and strengthens your gut. And take travelling probiotics with you to help fight against any potential bugs. I have more tips for when you finally go 🙂

  • I have heard both sides of the Mysore experience, those who love it and those who had a less pleasant time. I don’t think hearing the negatives has disuaded me in my desire to go. It’s good to have realistic expectations and hear multiple perspectives. I’m glad you’re seeing the potential for growth through the whole experience.

  • Flo says:

    I loved this post. I read so much about India and dream of traveling there. But it is nice to know the reality of it. That it is a test of all things we might not be prepared for. It is a good reminder for me, as we tend to get so lost in the beauty of it and the “grass is greener” but what I loved most of this post is that you bring it back to the truth of why you traveled there. The practice. But, having a husband I always wondered how it would be to leave him for a month. I really respect this post. So Thank you. Just things to take into consideration.

    • D says:

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, I’m glad you found it helpful. It is hard to leave your partner/family/life behind to come here for a fairly long period of time. But that in itself is part of the journey too – to gain something you need to give up something, if only for a time – that’s life’s bargain.

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