Foreigners go sightseeing
We splashed out and decided to hire a taxi for this day of sightseeing. Glad we did as we did have an idea to walk to the first destination… It was hot, it’s always hot!
Chamundi Hill, it is a hill with two temples and a bull, not really very high at all, but it is a long way and up a winding road, we didn’t see anyone walking it and the approach road was pretty quiet. Once we arrived at the top it was packed, although I didn’t spot any other Westerners there were plenty of monkeys, our driver pointed us in the direction of where we should go. The surrounding area reminded me of the funfairs we used to go to when young, lots of colourful stalls selling tat and lots of people. We picked our way through the crowds, I was trying very hard not to loose Glen, and when you aren’t allowed to hold hands this is very difficult. A very helpful man told us to only pay Rs30 entrance not the Rs100 foreigner rate, and where to leave our shoes, this very helpful man helped us circumnavigate queues and get into the temple pdq and gave us the required flowers, red powder and mini seed statues. Before we knew it another lovely young man took us into the temple and we made an offering to be with the gods (Rs100) in return he blobbed some red on our forehead and gave us a garland of flowers round our necks (which attracted persistent wasps). We were ushered to look upon a golden idol, a white blob then joined the red one. We were shown the best spots for photos, another older temple and were out of there, having paid the lovely young men Rs200 each for the services of Temple Guide and Supplier of things needed. Neither of us are Hindu and we had no intention of doing Puja’s and if we had been asked would have both politely declined, more interested in the buildings and the history [the temples like a giant cupcake (no offence meant) the main room is in the basement and the fancy topping is just that nothing inside], that said because of the crowds and their intentions you cant really stand there and admire the architecture … As we left the same people were still queuing and didn’t seem irritated at having foreigners ‘push in’.
BTW pushing in is acceptable if you only have one or two things at the supermarket queue, you can end up going backwards for the number of people going ahead of you.
At this point I was a little worried about our budget for the day, we aren’t here on a shoestring but are working towards a budget that will get us through the next two years and maybe even longer, on the agenda was a further temple at Sri Rangapatna, would this also have a temple guide and flower man?
Mysore Palace was second on the agenda, Rs200 foreigner rate, this was more a lesson in how Indians visit places of interest rather than about the building and location. Externally it was very grand and there were some lovely walls, arches and gates. No one was looking at these but snaking their way through the buildings rooms as fast as the crowds and their little legs could carry them. There were opportunity for overtakes as most of the young men stopped at mirrors to smooth their hair. It was overall very British, painted ceilings, walls and pillars but nothing much to look at the building itself was finished in 1912 and feels modern in comparison with the buildings we can visit in London. Again we had to surrender our shoes and it was at the point of sitting to put then back on that the request for photographs began. I have experienced this in India before, when I was about 20 years old and somehow I thought that now I am respectfully called ‘Auntie’ it may no longer be an issue. That said every young man wanted to sit with us and have his photo taken, small children were pushed towards me to hold hands, in fact not just the young. Quite different to the children in Mysore who just want what is in your supermarket bag, I of course refer to the children living in the Slum. The children look well fed and have lots of energy to play, I don’t think they are hungry, that said children are always hungry!
On a sad note they have Temple/Palace Elephants which were doing rides around the grounds, they didn’t look like they were having much fun. We saw Indian children take their shoes off and go stamping on the tops of their dung, is this just for fun or is there a reason, google cant tell me?
Siddharta’s Hotel was the recommendation for lunch and we had very nice South Indian Thali for Rs90 each, we decided over lunch that we couldn’t face another temple, plus it was by now very hot and humid so we chose to skip Sri Rangapatna.
On to Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, the promise of a boat ride and crocodiles. Rs300 each, foreigner rate. Most of the Sanctuary is on an island, it was a nice small shady walk on the main land with some benches for courting and watching the bird life, mainly Herons and Storks. The highlight, fruit bats and a kingfisher. We didn’t take the boat, I don’t think there would have been anything more to see. It was shady and we sat long enough for our driver to fall into a deep slumber which after a little giggling Glen woke him from.
Last visit of the day was to Brindavan Gardens, Rs15 each Rs50 for the camera. The Gardens are very formal with fountains and to the side of an impressive Dam, we weren’t expecting much but this was the nicest visit. It was quiet, the fountains and gardens were pretty and we whiled away some time just admiring the view and letting the day’s adventures and experiences sink in before our journey home.
We did blow the budget but have recouped and are back on track.
I think the most entertaining aspect of the day for me was that the two of us seemed to be the star attraction no matter where we were. It seems that everyone wanted their picture taken with us and in some cases were just trying to sneak a sly shot in while pretending to photograph something else.
Chamundi Hill was fun, even for this staunch atheist. I find the fanatical believers of any faith fascinating (and disturbing in the sense that they’ll one day bring about the end of all humanity in the name of….). And the fact that such a simple pilgrimage could enrich the believer’s life so greatly makes absolutely no sense to me but hey, I’m just along for the ride.
I wouldn’t add Mysore’s sites to the wonders of the world (but we’re here and it would be a shame not to take a peak) and in fact felt the most photogenic scenery was the lush green country side of rice fields littered with clusters of coconut palms and banana’s that we encountered in between the sites we visited. Sadly I don’t think the locals see the natural beauty in these spaces (maybe they’re just places where peasants work)
We finished with Saraswathi on the 14th of May and are back with Jai at Mystic Yoga School. Jai gives some great assists and although we miss the early start and the atmosphere of the Shala. Jai is a great teacher and the small class means we get lots of lovely assists and alignments, and we get to practice with some friendly people.
I felt a little sad to finish up with Saraswathi. After all we’d spent 10 weeks practicing with her and have learned and progressed so much. But I think one of the things I’ll miss the most is the behaviour of the other students. There was one guy in particular who when I entered the changing room, looked him in the eyes, smiled and said “good morning”, looked the other way and ignored me. Well we were never gonna be friends after that. This particular guy liked to sit in the exact same spot every day. And when someone got to his spot every other day before him he would walk past and tut while I revelled in his displeasure. I had a pet name for this bloke – C**t.
In fact I have pet names for most people. Only they’re not all so offensive. We were also practicing in the shala with Genghis Khan (splitting image), Fraulein (a very lovely German lady – at least we think she was German), Superman (a young Mexican kid who looked like he was trying to fly all the time and very rarely on his own mat – he actually looked more like The Greatest American Hero if you remember that but wore a Superman shirt so he got upgraded), The Cookie Monster (he was a dead ringer). You get the idea.
Now you may ask why I give pet names to all these people. Well the fact is (and this is by far the most negative experience I’ve had in the world of yoga), since practicing at KPJAYI we have found 95% of the other students just ignore your hello’s and attempts at conversation. The snobbery we have encountered here is second to none. Therefore if you don’t know someone’s name, just make one up. Even in the street other westerners just ignore your hello’s and your attempts to help them when they are clearly lost. Seems Google Maps know better these days.
One other negative experience I didn’t want to mention but will is that I also had money taken from my bag in the changing room. I came out the shala one day and headed off for a coconut and when I checked, I had a feeling some money was gone. Now we all know what that feeling is like when you’re absolutely sure but can’t be certain. So next day I put a certain amount of notes and denominations in then lo and behold, money missing. You wouldn’t think this would happen among yogi’s but it did. So my advice is tuck it under your mat. Just goes to show though, that there are pieces of shit people in the yoga world too.
But not wanting to leave the KPJAYI experience on a negative note. I would have to say it's been one of the most fulfilling and challenging things I've done. And if any lesson has been learned it is acceptance. Accept where you are with your practice as the more you progress the more there is to learn, so what's the hurry? Take your time and enjoy the ride!
And now we move on to new pastures and are practicing once again with Jai at Mystic School. As Sherren says, he is a fantastic teacher and a lot will be learned from him. In a weeks time we both start our Teachers Training Course with Jai and can’t wait. Our reasoning behind the TTC? Well, for the next 2 years we will be on the move exploring various remote parts of the world and will have no-one but each other to seek advice, alignment adjustment and assists from. And who knows, if we pick up enough experience on the way you never know……………..
So anyone wanting some lessons as we pass through. Just let us know.
Food and Dead people
We have had some great meals out, once a week Glen gets a break from the stove, On the way to Rasa Dhatu we came across a funeral procession, it took a while to work out what we were seeing as neither of us had seen this celebration/procession before. The deceased was rope tied into full lotus sat on a pedestal being carried to his resting place, the drummers drumming the way and followed by many people.
Q; Will I ever be comfortable in full lotus?
A; Practice and all is coming!
7 days a week Sherren makes breakfast. The staples are fruit, oats with coconut cream and raisins or banana pancakes made with besan flour served with fruit and you guessed it, coconut cream. These two breakfasts are my top 2 and as a result have not bothered to expand the menu.
We buy our fruit from the street cart opposite the Ganesh Temple. This guy gives us a great price and usually has a decent range. Got 12 bananas, 1 watermelon, 2 pomegranate, 2 mango and 4 avocado for £2 (Rs200) today. We actually went back to the stall beside the Honda bike shop that ripped us off so long ago and guess what? He ripped us off again. So will never go back there (thus far he is the only person to overcharge us anywhere in India)
Next to the rip off merchant is a little shop that does all sorts of snack foods and in the evening little stand up meals. We found this place while looking for somewhere to get banana chips and have been regularly coming back for our junk food fix since. We usually get salted banana chips, salted potato chips, Bombay mix and in the evening they do fantastic vegetable samosa’s. Warning to anyone thinking of indulging. The gasses produced after ingesting the Bombay mix have the potential to kill an elephant.
6 days a week, I make lunch and one day a week we eat out. Thus far the restaurants we’ve eaten at are:
Anu's – World famous among yogi’s and in no need of rating as number 1 on trip advisor.
Tina's – A popular place, and frequented often by ourselves. Order and pay at the counter you’ll be hard pressed to spend Rs100 each. Even if you’re famished.
Sixth Main – Good Thali and cheap.
Jwala – I didn’t like this place. Service was awful and food was average and overpriced but have heard good reviews.
Green Hotel – Expensive (by Indian standards) and you can get a beer or wine (we didn’t), decent food more like what you’d expect in a UK curry house. Awesome salad.
Green Leaf – Good Thali and cheap. Big menu too.
Anima – The firm favorite and number one spot in my eyes. Cheap fantastic set lunches and amazing dosa in the evening.
Mystic Café – Average at best by me, giving them the benefit of the doubt we were the only ones eating and out of season. Hoping it improves as the food will be part of our TTC package.
Rasa Dhatu – Vegan and Sherren’s favorite. Expensive (by Indian standards), great salads.
Hotel Siddharta – Good Thali and cheap, in the heart of Mysore.
Sri Druga Hotel – A stand up café where they have tables and you sit down. Small wholesome meals for about Rs25 to Rs35, which is ridiculously cheap.
I guess some may be wondering at this point if coming to Mysore and specifically the Institute to study yoga is worth it. We are here out of season, and perhaps through the English winter when it is busier people have a different experience. That said we are already talking about coming back! Despite what may appear to be negative experiences there are also many positives not least local people particularly shop keepers, and residents who are more than happy to chat being very kind and helpful. Of course if you wish to be accredited by Sharath Jois you have no option but to come and keep coming. On the other hand there are amazing Ashtanga teachers all over India and the rest of the world and so much to learn from each of them, I would say if you are not interested in accreditation, look around. If you can have the best of both worlds and do both KPJAYI and study with others then do, if not and you have to choose one or the other I don’t think there is any clear advantage of practicing at KPJAYI. More important that you practice daily and have a teacher who can guide and encourage you whoever that/those may be. If on the other hand you are just establishing a daily practice or are even completely new come to Mysore and KPJAYI as the experience is total emersion, there is nothing else to do to distract you and you can practice and rest.
Does anyone else see a chicken?