A Canadian's Experience in India
Dear lovely global souls near and far,
Life from the yoga mat is an array of movement. Every cell fluctuates as
that which was fades and that which is becomes. I am forever changing and
changed. Constance is but a pattern of this evolution not a guarantee.
Everyday is a discovery of this new inner world of Em. From the gross to
the subtle forms of this human body I dwell in, new nooks and crannies
With our eyes we see the world. Externally we observe our
environment down to the minutest detail, yet what do we really see? The eye
is the gateway to the soul but can it see itself? These past two months
have taught me to close the lids and gaze inside. View the regions of space
previously ignored. A star trek type journey to boldly go where no Em has
gone before. What lurks in the fibres that have threaded together my
earthly existence? Who is the tailor and what is being sewn?
Like the eye the mind tries to understand things externally. It
analyses information brought thru our five senses assessing our likes and
dislikes. Desiring this, attached to that it moves seeking new stimuli to
distract it from the silence of calm. The balance found between mind, body
and breath is yoga. Within that deep quiet there is only you! All paths
lead us to this common goal.which is a way to find harmony in nothing more
then ones self and happiness in each moment.
It's a scary step to dust off the mirror and ask who am I? What
defines the woman reflected in the glass? How did I come to be and why am I
here? Know thyself and too thy own self be true. I have been exploring my
truth here in Rishekish delving deep into self study 101. Some days the
questions loom large and others the answers seem obvious. It is a life long
process to understand the talk and then walk the walk. Yoga is the trail
and by focusing on each asana the climb begins...
However all work and no play makes Em a dull girl and I shudder at
the thought of my gypsy ramblings steering in that too serious sort of tone
for long. I scheduled a much needed class outing for bevvies and banoffee.
Saturday night fever hit and after 48.5hrs of classes/week it was time to
cut loose and get the hell out of dodge(or in this case the ashram). Our
eta at moonlight café was arranged for 7pm so the Nepalese cooks were
prepared that twenty starving yogis and yoginis were rocking up. Taking cow
patty lane (aptly named) we wound along the Ganga banks as the rose
coloured sky turned to dusk.
We took over the second floor venue ordering vegetarian
cuisine from around the world. Momos (spicy Tibetan dumplings) was my
appetizer followed by paneer butter marsala(cheese cubes in a fiery thick
tomato curry)and garlic brushed naan bread for dipping all washed down with
a banana lassi(curd drink with rose water). My taste buds were doing
cartwheels as each complex blend of spices and textures danced across my
palette. Not that bland lentil dishes, the overuse of potatoes or the utter
lack of garlic and onion in the ashram fare was a problem. This however was
a much deserved change after weeks of the simple yoga diet. After Tracy
Chatmans cd repeatedly belted out beautiful lyrics for the third time it
was time to move a few doors down to Cnaan.
The icing on the cake of our excursion was dessert in the form
of banofee pie. Cnaan had an open air rooftop lounge where you could sprawl
out on tattered mattresses and cushions casually sipping chai as time
slipped away. There usual clientele were packs of Israelis on bikes with
chillum pipes and hash in hand. The high calorie sweet menu seemed to go
hand in hand with the munchie cravings of mull smoking tourists or in this
case abdominal twisting yoga teacher wannabes. We flaked out in various
lizard postures waiting for the heaping plates of banoffee to arrive. For
those poor unfortunate souls who have never had the pleasure of India's
answer to the westerner dessert demand then let me elaborate. banoffee
begins with a crushed nut pie crust then layered with bananas and toffee
flavoured custard and crowned with a generous inch thick portion of vanilla
ice cream it is served icy cold in more than ample size slices.
We decided to share the spoils ordering five and waited to see
how we managed. Like a pack of wolves descending on a bloody carcass we
relished each mouthful and licked the plates clean. Spoons in hand we
chatted waiting for round two. As the plate rounded the circle and fell in
my grasp Karen's yoga instructions flashed into my mind. After having them
drilled daily in countless repetitions they had taken over a vast portion
of my vocabulary. I combined the familiar phrases and applied then to our
dessert starting the first of many banoffee yoga classes. Mimicking it went
something like this, "turn your spoon to the right, align it perpendicular
to the plate, tighten your grip, with an exhalation move your right arm
down to the pie, twist from the lower torso of the spoon, lift the scoop of
the spoon towards the ceiling, don't forget to breath, gaze is soft, hold
it, now inhale your arm up back to centre..gulp mmm, now lets take it to
the second side!" We were all in stitches as everyone had a crack at
banoffee yoga imitating our beautiful instructor perfectly. With bursting
bellies we giggled our way under the starlit path back to the ashram
narrowly making the 10pm lockout curfew.
Another culinary adventure had me partaking in a vegetarian
ayurvedic cooking lesson. Prem the owner of a local restaurant offered this
lovely Indian food class for 5hrs. I brought four other gals from the
ashram keen to create some local fare and of course sample the spoils at
the end of our labours. First step was to familiarize ourselves with the
healing herbs and spices used in self doctoring by diet. Two real gems are
asafoetida which has a similar flavour to garlic and onion(lots of yogis
supplement this for the original due to their sexual and lethargic inducing
qualities) and black salt(which has a distinct egg flavour allowing you to
enjoy knowing no chicken's child was killed in the making of this dish).
We began with aloo parantha (potato stuffed flat bread) the
secret being within the rolling technique. After years of practice on the
pie shell kitchen production line I breezed on to chapattis. A little
dusting with flour a spin of the rolling pin and it was time to take the
backseat. By attempt three, everyone else was preparing sorta circular
shapes slightly lopsided but would pass in a push. Dish two was vegetable
pakora which basically was chickpea flour, battered blobs of mixed rabbit
food, deep fried to golden brown then plopped in a rich brown curry similar
to dumplings but the taste was tres bonne!
Samosas were up next. I won't describe these tasty triangular pouches but I
will say you lead a sheltered life in the world of international cuisine if
you haven't tried 'em. Saddle up your taste buds and head to your nearest
Indian restaurant for new flavour sensations. They are magical with
tropical fruit chutney! The final entrée was a version of channi marsala
with a fiery ginger/ chili twist cooled by the freshly chopped coriander
garnish. The dessert was last but certainly not least. I'll call it red
carrot pudding as the Hindi name escapes me. These Himalayan bugs bunny
treats had a natural sweetness with a parsnip carrot type hybrid too
delicious a main ingredient. Cooked in milk with green cardamom, cinnamon,
raisons, cashew nuts and dried coconut served warm with vanilla ice cream
and voila a feast fit for the Maharajah's table.
Since we're talking about tables I can't resist slipping a
paragraph on taboo topics discussed over meals. First of all there are
none! Open your liberated ears and hold back the gag reflex as you picture
a motley crew of seasoned travelers sipping chai chatting in detail on
menstruation, enemas, anal mudras(a clenching action used in advanced
breathing), groin opening techniques, sexual chakra and energy flow,
tantric practices, induced vomiting with a ghee herb mix or salt water,
stool(i.e. colour, texture, consistency and sure fire remedies for
diarrhea), parasites and the old school Indian version of prevention..a
coke a day keeps the doctor away, ayervedic medicines, leprosy volunteer
work, most revolting toilet tales(the pig snout reaching up thru the wooden
floorboard hole nosing your arse while gulping the recycled meal your
providing oinking merrily takes the cake!) and finally shivambu.
This last one shivambu or urine therapy turned into a
lengthy debate as the question was put out there has anyone read the book
the golden fountain? Note that I didn't say the golden shower although
bathing with four day old urine is said to be the cure to old age. Before
you go trying to convince your partner to piss on instead of off you need
to know that it only works with your own (or a member of the same sex's
urine)! Immediate responses from several different mates confirmed that they
not only had read the book but were presently applying the outlined techniques.
Without batting an eye questions were fired and advice offered.
Most drank a cup of their golden nectar from the mineral rich
first plumbing release. Be careful to take the more beneficial mid-flow
juice. Others swore that a daily scrub with aged urine made their face as
soft as a baby's bum (which suggests in it's self that this works naturally
using daily diaper compresses). One girl healed a serious back country
wound by bandaging it with urine soaked strips and hardly a scar remains.
I was intrigued by all the chatter. However my mind questioned,
wasn't this a waste product that the body was expelling for a reason?
Apparently not but still my scientific mind wanted more concrete proof. I
decided to do some research first reading the book, talking to ayurvedic
doctors and then ask who else but your mother (mine being a nurse). The
book was encouraging outlining the actual content of one's urine as 90%
water, 2% urea (surprisingly a much used ingredient in beauty care products
like moisturizers and make-up) and 8% minerals and nutrients. Didn't sound
like too offense a concoction other then getting over the mental block that
this is piss. The doctors confirmed that it was an ancient technique used
widely to cure everything from eczema to old age. My mum was horrified at
the idea her western medical background eliminating even the possibility
that urine had any curative properties.
Two out of three seemed good enough to at least give it a try.
The next morning with my warm metal cup in hand I sat on the dunny sipping
with my mums words, 'if this is the sort of crazy things that your doing in
Indian you better get home soon before you lose the rest of your mind!'
ringing in my ears. Nose plugged I swallowed the last swig thinking that it
tasted heaps better then cheap tequila. As my one month trial of this
ancient therapy is tested I'll leave you with this finally toast, 'our
bodies are a marvelous medicine chest, drink to your health!'
Smiles from this crazy yoga gypsy more weird and wonderful stuff soon!