Mornings are easygoing.
I wake up at dawn, when the streetlamps are still shining orange; change into my yoga clothes (with little room for indecision between white t-shirts); walk a quiet two blocks to the yoga center, past neighbors picking up milk for that day’s chai; and sit under palms and the rapidly lightening sky until the students are beckoned inside.
Practice itself is silent and still, especially compared to the music-playing, fast-flowing yoga classes I am used to elsewhere. A sense of peace pervades my morning routine – but by the time I leave the shala after three hours of practice and study, it is almost eleven, and Mysore has woken up in my absence.
The sun scorches, the smells of spices waft from a nearby house, the construction workers shout over one another as they lay down bricks – and I struggle to retain that post-yoga calm as I weave through hurtling, honking scooters to cross the road.
In case my previous posts have left the impression that India is all flowers and lentils and temples… of course that is not always the case. Spending time here can be exhausting – sometimes I need to collapse on my bed after spending a just few hours outside, and other times I have cried in the shower for no reason at all, except being overwhelmed.
India is accurately described as an assault on the senses. It is loud, messy, dusty, and sometimes smelly – but, like my photos of Devaraja Market in Mysore, pictured here, it is also an incredibly colorful, culturally rich, and vibrantly alive place – probably the most of any I’ve ever had the privilege to visit.
Spending a month living here, however, presents challenges beyond the senses. Some are merely inconveniencing – having to wash my fruits and vegetables in bottled water, or power cuts that stretch throughout the day.
Others have left me wanting to tear my hair out in frustration.
Fortunately, just a handful, and learning experiences in the long run: like when I discovered some tiny but not-quite-microscopic worms at the bottom of my 20 liter drinking water tank. I could see worms squirming and sediment floating around this “reverse-osmosis” purified water I had been drinking for the last week. With no one there to calm me down, I freaked out and spent the afternoon alternately googling Giardia and cursing the entire subcontinent.
A few days later, I showed a doctor a video of the worms, and he said that if I did not get sick at all, just to complain and get a new water delivery company. At the end of the day, the freaking out was over nothing, and I likely have a stronger immune system now… or a slowly growing tapeworm.
For every challenge presented, there is often something to follow that takes my breath away.
Whether it is being dropped off at the wrong location by the rickshaw driver only to be greeted by a fiery sunset over the city, or finding out the laundry service had somehow lost track of my clothes – temporary, madam, your garments will be back soon – to be treated to a cup of coffee by the woman working there.
Before coming to India, I had heard from many travelers that it takes time to adjust, and that when you do finally adjust, you fall in love with the country. While I can’t claim to be well-adjusted (in any sense – ha), I really do appreciate it here, contradictions and challenges and all.
This has surely been said before, but, much like the ubiquitous head wobble, India can be mystifying, frustrating, and amusing at once. As a stranger in a strange land, the only thing I can do is take it in stride, and learn to smile along the way… and, I mean, isn’t that precisely why I study yoga in the first place?