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

On the home front

Booking an apartment was my top priority. I was late to start, especially since regulars book their places a year or two in advance. I ended up choosing a new, untested listing in Bobby Clennell’s guide. The owner was prompt and articulate in his email messages, and it had the makings of a match: single apartment across the park, 200m from RIMYI. At first glance, it seemed old and lived-in, but comfortable. Once a family home, it was vacant for years; now the eldest son was renting out a bedroom and adjoined bathroom, a living area, and a kitchenette (another bedroom and the kitchen are off-limits). Then I noticed the quirks: … Continue reading On the home front

Mumbai to Pune by bus

To get from Mumbai to Pune, I made a last-minute decision to ride a bus. I’d already booked a train ticket. Trains are the iconic mode of travel in India (think The Darjeeling Limited) and I figured that the three-and-a-half-hour journey would be a good initiation. But my host friend’s housekeeper strongly recommended the Shivneri Volvo bus service as faster, safer, and definitely better. Also, my train would depart from Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (better known as Victoria Terminus or simply VT), which would mean driving south from Mahalaxmi and backtracking north, away from Mumbai. The train ticket cost 333 rupees; the … Continue reading Mumbai to Pune by bus

A class with Amrish Mody

I was curious to attend a class at the Iyengar Yogashraya in Lower Parel, Mumbai. So I ventured there last Monday for the 10:30am class. I had no idea who the teacher would be. (The webpage is spartan, with no teachers, levels, or prices listed.) Located on a busy street, the place is old and unfancy, but fully equipped, typical of an Iyengar studio. The teacher was Amrish Mody, a middle-aged man with upright posture, fatherly authority, and a round belly. Students lined up along the two rope walls, some arriving well after class started and filling the gaps. There were 21 women and five men, … Continue reading A class with Amrish Mody

Bombay in a day

With only three nights in Bombay, I decided to hire a tour guide on Sunday. This is not a city easily navigable for foreigners. Destinations are far flung, transport is daunting, and the flooding downpours are dismal. Further, while many residents speak English, “many” is a relative concept in a city of more than 18 million. I found a bunch of well-reviewed tour companies and chose Hemali Talsania’s Bravo Bombay. She turned out to be an excellent fit. For one thing, she does yoga and was familiar with the Iyengar studios in Lower Parel and in Gamdevi. We drove to a bunch of sights, some which I’d … Continue reading Bombay in a day

Reading list: India

In late February, I got the green light to go to Pune in August. (Among Iyengar yogis, “going to Pune” means going to study at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute.) Five months to prepare. To me, this meant buying Lonely Planet India, finding an apartment in Pune, booking flights, getting vaccinations, avoiding injury, and reading up on India. Five months is enough time to do it all–except the reading. While I’m going to Pune primarily for yoga, I have a hunch that the Pune experience encompasses more than classes at the institute. I’ve never traveled to India, and I suspect that my yogic challenges will go beyond … Continue reading Reading list: India

Have you ever cried in yoga class?

“I couldn’t stop crying in Savasana,” my friend Elaine once told me. She was struggling through a bad time and finally, in yoga class, she felt at ease. It was such a relief that she broke down. Yoga can catalyze emotions in people. I’ve witnessed spontaneous crying, during or after asana, most likely at all-day workshops. The hours and hours of yoga, the divergence from routine, somehow trigger emotional release. I myself can’t recall ever crying in class. For me, yoga has the opposite benefit. Asana (even a strenuous session) calms my mood swings. If I’m on the verge of losing it, yoga steers me to a … Continue reading Have you ever cried in yoga class?