Thursday, November 29, 2007

Doctor, doctor

I've been spending an inordinate amount of time in hospitals, clinics and diagnostic centres lately. It started a couple of weeks ago when I accompanied Alex to Apollo Hospital for minor surgery. In India, like many places, you're expected to bring an "attendant" to help you out when you visit the hospital. I was there (minus a quick trip to the cafe across the street!) for a few hours. A week later, I returned to Apollo for a health check (four hours). For 1400 rupees, or US $35, I had full blood work, a sonogram of my abdominal organs, full gyno exam, chest x-ray, interviews with two doctors, and lunch. Then I again accompanied Alex when he went to pick up some x-rays. And I decided to see his osteopath, which led to x-rays of my own (and more blood work.) There was a problem with one of the prints, so I had to go back this morning. Tonight I'm going to see the doc again. Whew.

Most of my results have been ok. The sonogram showed "minorally enlarged liver with prominant hepatic veins and IVC," but the blood work was fine so no one is concerned as yet. I'll have another scan next week. More significant, I think, is that the x-rays showed that I seem to have broken my coccyx (that's the tailbone, dummy) and it is displaced anteriorly. The lab recommends it be treated "clinically". Looks like I may be in need of an attendant of my own. I'll let you know what the Dr. Shashi Kumar has to say tonight.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Busy, Busy

Saturday, in a burst of motivational activity, I purchased an assortment of rail and air tickets that will take me to Kathmandu, via Goa (?!) and Delhi, in time to celebrate Christmas in Nepal. By late January I hope to be in Rishikesh.

Why all this traveling, you may wonder. I'm not entirely sure myself ;-)

Today, after a quick run and late breakfast, I hopped on my scooter and spent a few hours trying to Take Care of Business. The yoga life is not all supta virasana and dosa, my friend. I had to see the tailor to have some pants made, recharge my mobile phone account, buy coffee beans (I am, I admit, an addict), shop for electronics... And now here I am, trying to get caught up with my Internet-ing.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Comments, Please

I just changed the settings on my blog to allow comments from Anyone (yes! this means you.) So please feel free to add your two cents.

Dosa Heaven

This morning (after a quick run) Alex and I finally went to Hotel Mylari for dosa. For those of you who are unfamilliar with dosa (and I do pity you!), it's most easily described as the South Indian version of the crepe. The batter is made from slightly fermented rice and urud dal, and it can be filled with aloo palya (a dry potato curry) to make the ever-popular masala dosa. Coat the inside with a bit of red garlic chutney, fold it into a triangle and you get the Mysore masala dosa. Paper dosa, set dosa, rava (semolina) dosa... there are, you see, several variations on this theme. Dosa is usually served with coconut chutney and sambar (though you get sagu with rava dosa.) They are remarkably consistant; no matter where you get them, they taste just about the same.

Hotel Mylari is, frankly, a bit of a dump. It's located on a narrow street just off the city center and has a very local feel. To get inside I had to circumvent a massive cow who was engaged in his morning purification (!). There are about 8 small booths, two of which are actually located inside the kitchen itself. They serve only two items, plain and masala dosa, and they do them extremely well. The dosa are soft and slightly spongy, not crispy, and melt in your mouth. Imagine something like an exceptionally delicious buttermilk pancake. The "masala" has a unique coconutty (dare I say Keralan*?) taste. They're served on stainless steel plates covered by bits of banana leaf, with a dollop of butter on top and ladles-ful of coconut chuttney dumped on the side.

Alex and I ate two masala dosa each, and he had a cup of chai. The bill came to 53 rupees, about $1.30.

* Surely Mylar is a place, but I've yet to discover where it is.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

At the Risk of Boring You to Death...

Mysteriously curvy tree at Mysore University

Some folks have mentioned that
they'd like to know more about my everyday life here in Mysore, so here it goes.

In many ways, my day is organised around my yoga practice. I get out of bed around 5:30, drink coffee and try to wake up. I want to be on the mat by 6:30 for about an hour of yoga therapy. I have some lower back issues I'm trying to work out. Some days I follow this up with a brisk walk or jog at the Mysore University athletic field. After a quick bucket-bath, I either make myself breakfast or head out in search of food. Breakfast at the local joints is absurdly cheap-- about twenty-five cents for two iddly and one wada, thirty-seven for a masala dosa, twelve for a small cup of chai (though at the chaiwala's it's only five or six.) Most days I buy a couple of newspapers, one for the news, the other for the "Chai Time" puzzle page (sudoku, crossword, crypto quip, etc.) Even though I read quite a lot, it's still something of a battle, trying to keep my brain from rotting completely. I'm not entirely sure how well I'm doing.

By the time I've read two papers and run my "little grey cells" through their exercises, it's time to start thinking about food again. Why so soon? you may wonder. Well, because I'm currently doing the 5:00pm asana practice at Sthalam8, and if I eat after 1pm I have a pretty rough time of it (I'll spare you the details.) Then there's usually laundry to deal with. I bucket wash everything by hand, so I really need to keep on top of it. And the usual household chores, all of which seem to take more time here.

Mysore currently has FOUR Cafe Coffee Days (India's answer to Starbuck's,) and if I am so inclined I can easily kill a couple of hours there with a book. A cappucino costs seventy-five cents (compare that to a 5-6 cent filter coffee at your local chaiwala's, and you'll see that there are two parallel economies operating in India,) a brownie a bit more.

Now that the Southwest monsoon has retreated, I occasionally spend a few hours by the pool at the Hotel Regaalis (formerely The Southern Star.) Mysore is fairly quiet for the time being, but that will change once high season hits in a couple of weeks. Until then, The Regaalis is bearable.

I return home from yoga around 7pm. I don't usually have much appetite at this point, so often I just eat fruit and yoghurt at home for dinner. Another bucket, and it's nearly time to get in my half hour of reading before bed. If I have time, I'll watch an episode or two of The Simpson's or Blackadder. Admittedly I'm not doing everything on my own all the time, but more about that another time.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Lumbini, birthplace of the historical Buddha

This is the Peace Pagoda reflected in a lotus pond.

Did I mention the Jomsom-Pokhara flight? What had taken us an hour in a car plus 5-1/2 days of walking was over in 20 minutes in a tiny plane. Unbelievable. The views from the plane were spectacular-- we could recognize most of the terraine below, and we wove our way between the mountains, never even making it close to the height of the highest snowcapped peaks.

We reached Pokhara on the 19th, and during the morning looked into our options for moving on. No flights were available to the border near Darjeeling (in fact, no flights were available anywhere within the country due to the holidays,) so we could either make our way to Kathmandu and hope to find a way to break up the 18 hour bus journey to the border or we could make a trip to Lumbini and then decide what to do. The bus to Lumbini departed at 6:30am and would take 5 hours, we were told.

Up early the following day, we checked out and took a cab to the bus stand, reaching with time to spare. The enterprising chaiwala sold us huge teas and a not-half-bad cinnamon croissant for too much money. It was just as well that we ate something.The bus was already full when it arrived (on time!) and locals were shuffled around to give seats to those of us who'd reserved. Besides us, there were 7 foreigners on board: three Israeli-looking French guys; a dreadlocked blond guy we'd seen walking barefoot in Pokhara the previous day; a solo French dude, who ended up on the roof for several hours after the child sitting next to him vomited; a Japanese guy with big owlish horn rims, who looked utterly clueless after being put on the bus by his Nepali handler; and a forty-something English woman who chain smoked greedily at every opportunity.

The ride began well enough as we made our way across the plains. Soon, however, we were winding up into the lush green mountains. The scenery was very beautiful, very Himachal Pradesh. For a while I was distracted by this, but eventually my defective inner ear caught up with me and I became quite nauseous. Thankfully, we stopped at a bend in the road around 10:30. The three Frenchies went into the "restaurant" along with a few of the locals and messily ate dal bath with their hands (V was impressed by this.) The rest of us paced back and forth in front of the several stalls and ate salty packaged snacks.

I'd thought that after our break we'd be pretty much through the mountains, but it wasn't so. We still had a range to cross (though I didn't get quite so ill,) then rather a lot of easy driving until we were let out at a chaotic bus stand at a town near Lumbini around 3:00. The dusty plains were a lot more India (read "insane") than the laid-back mountain regions Nepal. From there we had to cyclo it to another bus stand. The dreadlocked guy (Austrian, we learned,) and chain-smoking woman too were headed to Lumbini. V, the Austrian and I climbed up top with the luggage. My first ride on top of a bus! Exciting, though I must admit that it was a pretty pussy ride. The road was flat and straight, and we never managed to get going very fast. Our Austrian friend didn't even bother to hang on most of the time. At last we rolled into Lumbini around 4:30-- a five hour journey that lasted ten.After checking into a lodge, we quickly rented decrepit bicycles and made use of the last hour or so of daylight to have a look around the site.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Sthalam8 and some new photos

My teacher here, Ajay, moved to a new yoga shala back in August. Now he's got a new website as well.

I've also uploaded some Nepal photos here

Posting, 1, 2, 3...

I'm at my local Internet cafe, working on a computer that has surely been in use for close to a decade. Fortunately it appears to have been blessed in recent times as it still bears marks of sandalwood paste and kum-kum, so I shant fear crashes. A couple of weeks back there was a holiday where everyone performs puja (prayers) for the items they use everyday. The drivers really do up their buses and auto rikshaws with flower garlands and banana leaves-- it's quite a sight. Presumably someone took care of this computer as well.

More than a week back in Mysore, and I'm feeling quite settled. I've got a place to stay which is only a 5 minute walk from the yoga shala, and with the exception of an extremely tight right hamstring, my practice is going well.

My next move is to write a bit about what happened to me after the trek, my visit to Lumbini, how I ended up in Goa, and so on. Should get to that tomorrow. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy that photo of sheep. Any Murakami fans out there?