London: civilization as I know it

I love London! On my first day, I was in fantasy land. How can streets and sidewalks be this clean? Where’s the garbage, poop, and unidentifiable muck? Why are cars stopping for pedestrians? Tap water is drinkable and power outages rare? In India I spent my final week in Mumbai. This city is incomparably larger than Pune–and urban life is amplified and multiplied. The noise, the air, the population, the traffic, the rain and wind and humidity! Since I stay with a friend, however, I was generally shielded from the struggles of daily life. Take food. I’ve raved about the cooking of Abelin, my friend’s wonderful housekeeper. She’s … Continue reading London: civilization as I know it

Odissi, Ganesh, and complexity of Indian culture

India has long intrigued the Western imagination. Ancient, colorful, and intense, it is a beacon to those seeking a place unlike anywhere else. People often rave about the country’s “exotic” culture and downplay its negatives, such as rampant corruption and abysmal infrastructure. But even the culture, as practiced today, is thorny. Here are two examples. First, on Ganesh Chaturthi, I was treated to a wonderful impromptu Odissi dance done for me. In Mumbai, Hemali Talsania, the Bravo Bombay tour guide I met in July, invited me to her home south of Crawford Market. Amid narrow, bustling lanes that confused even my cab driver, her house is an old, … Continue reading Odissi, Ganesh, and complexity of Indian culture

10 tips for touring Pune

During the first three weeks of August, I rarely ventured beyond the neighborhood around RIMYI. In the past week, I’ve gone shopping and sightseeing with Nana, a favored rickshaw driver who became my informal tour guide, insider source, and translator. Going around Pune, I noticed a few things (including this orange billboard featuring Mr Iyengar). 1. Large chain stores come with a price Large-scale retailers, such as The Bombay Company, are spacious, clean, and luxuriously air conditioned. Bear in mind, however, that you might pay higher prices and you cannot return or exchange purchases. (At Fabindia I was surprised that I … Continue reading 10 tips for touring Pune

What to do, where to go: further “adjusting” in India

RIMYI is closed until September. No more classes for us August students. Suddenly, the purpose of my trip, yoga, was gone–at least in the way I’d expected. At first I agreed to join my Canadian colleagues on a three-night trip to Ellora and Ajanta. That wasn’t my first inclination. I wanted still to practice daily, to be solitary, to go inward. I didn’t feel like embarking on a five-hour road trip twice in three days. I also wanted to head to Mumbai sooner, definitely before Ganesh Chaturthi. Still, I figured that I “should” go and see the caves. On second thought, however, … Continue reading What to do, where to go: further “adjusting” in India

Acquiring a taste for Indian food

In the past three weeks, I’ve eaten more Indian food than ever in my life. Truth be told, Indan was never among my favorite cuisines. Perhaps because I grew up eating Japanese food, I prefer lighter preparations, vegetables that resemble their original form, translucent sauces, and plain rice. Folks seem to gravitate toward unfamiliar cuisines just because they’re “different,” but to me that’s not enough. Then, in Mumbai, I was fortunate to stay with my friend Phiroze, whose housekeeper, Abelin, is a fantastic cook. Suddenly I liked Indian food–or, perhaps, homemade Indian food. Perhaps this conclusion would apply to any cuisine. Whether Chinese, Greek, Italian, Japanese, or Indian, native … Continue reading Acquiring a taste for Indian food

Glimpses of Mr Iyengar

In August 2012, I was chatting with a few friends about travel. Where are we going? Where do we want to go? I mentioned that I hope to go to India while BKS Iyengar is still alive. “How old is he?” Doug asked. “Ninety-four in December,” I said. When I explained the application process, which entails a waiting time of up to two years, Doug said, “Shouldn’t you be applying now?” His mom is elderly, and he knew I had no time to spare. Two years later, I finally made it here. And I might be unlucky in my timing. Mr … Continue reading Glimpses of Mr Iyengar

Animals in the city

One day, walking home from shopping, I saw an ox in the middle of a busy road. He stood still and calm, engulfed by endless cars, auto-rickshaws, and motorbikes. He was unperturbed by the loud honking, directed less at him than at other drivers. I was amazed that he wasn’t hit. A couple of shopkeepers were watching with amusement. I joined them, waiting for an owner to appear. A man, braving the traffic, handed the ox something to eat, but he was only crossing the street. The cow chewed the food. Eventually I left, walking away with a backward glance. I wanted closure; I wanted a … Continue reading Animals in the city

Getting around in Pune

The day I arrived in Pune, I made two trips by auto-rickshaw. That night, my throat hurt. I didn’t notice the bad air in Mumbai. For one thing, rickshaws aren’t permitted in South Mumbai, city center. For another, I was staying with a friend who has a driver on retainer. As his guest, I myself suddenly had a driver, who deftly transport me in a comfortable, air-conditioned car. Here, three-wheeled, diesel-burning rickshaws are the primary mode of transport if car-less. So, getting around means breathing a strong brew of exhaust from these three-wheelers. (See the video above for an informative primer on Pune’s rickshaw culture.) I chose to … Continue reading Getting around in Pune

Rx for India

Every morning I take Florastor, a probiotic, and Malarone, an anti-malaria drug, with my breakfast. I don’t know anyone else taking an anti-malarial. In fact, I debated about filling the prescription for Malarone, which cost more than CA$200 for a 40-day supply. But I decided to err on the safe side. Three or four months before I left, I visited Vancouver Coastal Heath Travel Clinic. I opted to get boosters for all recommended vaccines: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, typhoid. My prior vaccinations for hepatitis A and B, polio, measles, mumps, and rubella didn’t need boosters. In addition, to counter gastrointestinal trouble, I took Dukoral, a two-dose … Continue reading Rx for India

Early morning classes with Prashant

Students seem either to be enthralled by Prashant Iyengar‘s manner of teaching–or not to relate to it. Either way, his classes are memorable because they are unique. After four classes with Prashant in one week, I’ve found them both compelling and frustrating. I’m compelled by his attempt to go beyond asana: Prashant is trying to teach us why we do yoga, not how to do asana. A charismatic speaker, he has an impressive facility with the English language. To make a point, he uses imagery, analogy, simile, or metaphor. He can speak intelligently, off the top of his head, for hours (literally). He often wraps up his … Continue reading Early morning classes with Prashant