It was a great day today, I feel like I am finally settled in. We’ve met some new friends at the Institute, a sweet young couple, Tess and Kevin, plus a couple of other women from California and a couple of women from Italy. We met up with them tonight at The Marriott to celebrate Tessa’s 31st birthday. The Marriott has a penthouse restaurant and bar on the 24th floor that opens to the sky with a spectacular 360 degree view of Pune. It’s actually a very large city with over 5 million people, the view spreads out in every direction twinkling and sparkling with life.
The walk there was a twenty-five minute workout requiring concentration and vigilance to avoid potentially devastating pitfalls, like being hit by a car or motor bike. You’re familiar by now with what we’re trying to do in yoga, moving from the surface to the core, making asana a meditation in action, well the walk to The Marriott takes it to a whole new level, your concentration has to be precise from the moment you close the gate at home until you press the elevator button to the penthouse. Literally, by the time we arrived I felt like I’d walked on a treadmill for an hour through rush hour traffic. I was hot, sweaty and out of breath. At home, when I’d finish a long bike ride I’d always have a moment of gratitude for my safe return since there are so many things that can go wrong on a bike, but I think this is even riskier because here some people choose not to use headlights. It is difficult to see the cars at night when they don’t have lights, I think that’s why headlights were invented. It’s insane.
I went to the ATM today after class. On the way I passed several people whom I knew from the Institute or recognized from previous walks. It had a very homey-feel, when I finished at the bank and started back, I glanced at my watch and thought “I have time, I’ll go get some flowers,” and with that I was running an errand! I turned on my heels and wove back in the direction of the flower guy. Crossing at “intersection from hell” where three streets converge into a pattern something like a clover-leaf where no one has the right of way, I was forced back into human-shield mode. I walked just ahead of a guy with chutzpah who moved decidedly out into the midst of the clover and began moving through the traffic like Jesus, almost daring cars to hit him. It was all going well when a rickshaw suddenly moved between us, separating me from my hero. Left in the middle of the clover alone and abandoned, I did what the dogs do and dodged to the nearest curb. By now the flower-guy recognizes me as an easy sale, and when I make my purchase we part mutually satisfied. On the street I see a woman from the Institute sitting on a stoop eating something interesting, she nods as I pass and for a moment, it almost feels like home, full of the adrenaline buzz of a productive day, and empty of my longing for something more.
Whenever you travel to a foreign country there are always things that are lost in translation. It’s so amusing at the Institute right now, there is a large contingent from China in our class, most of whom speak rudimentary English and they have their own interpreter, a delightfully intense young woman who does an amazing job. In class she keeps pace with Abhijata or Prashant and delivers a stacatto-style translation in perfect timing with their heavily accented English. I love it because it keeps the teacher from talking too fast and gives me time to digest what they said. Sometimes Prashant will make up a word, like breath-a-size, and the interpreter will pause with a puzzled look, turn and mouth the questionable word and Prashant , seeming almost indignant, will say louder, “ You know, breathasize! Breathasize!” She’ll recover and move on, who knows what she says to her group. It makes us all laugh. Yesterday the class was like a three-ring circus, Abhijata was with the Chinese students and the interpreter, the menstruating women were somewhere in back, and we were being taught by one of the assistants when suddenly Abhijata returned to our group and started to demo something. She started talking, paused, looked up at us and laughed, I was waiting for the interpreter, she said. It’s all very crazy and fun.
I find that signs are some of the funniest things I see and I often take pictures of them. On our trip to China last year, there was a sign on the wall at airport that said, This is a civilized airport. Okay. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I was glad we lucked out and didn’t get the uncivilized one that I assume existed. On the trip to Pune from Mumbai (Bombay as its called here) I saw several amusing billboards. In an interesting take on the “Life Is Good” campaign from home, I saw : Life Ok. You’ve got to admit there’s no oversell in that one, simply put it, it’s honest. Along those lines, yesterday we passed a crudely made sign in English that said, Decent Hairdresser. Hum, my first thought was that sign does not give me confidence to try a “new look”, then while turning the word decent in my mind, I was reminded of the “Asian Massage” where I was given tiny paper panties to wear. Far and away, my favorite is a billboard on the highway that says, “Most Safe and Secure High Yield Investment Schemes”. Even I know to watch out for that one and I can’t even convert dollars to rupees. All this leads me to believe that Marketing is not a sought-after degree here.
Tomorrow we are taking a little adventure from this adventure and traveling to the Ajanta and Ellora Caves some five hours away. We have heard that the caves are stunning, described as temples and monasteries carved into rocks that house Buddhist, Hindu and Jain art dating from 800 AD. There will be six of us going together in an SUV. At one point there was a possible seventh person but we were told that the SUV isn’t allowed more that six. I found this hysterical as there are no other rules here with regard to safety on the road, not to mention requiring frivolous items like seat belts. Between Karen and I we’ve now seen the following on a motorbike: two men with a small refrigerator; two men with a ladder; a man, woman and numerous children; and the coup de gras, two men back to back, with the one in the back holding the handles of a wheel barrow that sped along behind them! Maybe we should go by motorbike?
The funniest moment ever happened a few days after we arrived, during the Ganasha celebrations. We had been in the apartment when a ruckus began down on the street, going out onto the deck for a better look we observed a large truck pull up and some 10-15 young people get out and start dancing and shouting in the street. Karen ran for her phone and shot a quick video. A few days later we finally pulled it up on the computer to see how it looked and low and behold what we see is a bird’s eye view of one young men running toward us, dropping his pants, and taking a leak. Of course, we hadn’t even noticed him when we were watching but it looked like he was the reason for the video.
The following sign, posted on the gate leading to Ghandi’s tomb says it all. What good medicine is laughter!