There was the most unusual sound as I lay in bed a few nights ago contemplating my 5 am start in the morning and unable to fall asleep. It is so hot now during the day that there is usually a bit of a lull in activity around midday / early afternoon, only for this to start to start up again with a vengeance at around 5pm. Consequently there is a random soundscape of building / roadworks / the vegetable seller calling out his wares, dogs, numerous rickshaws and motorbikes driving past and all manner of music (from drumming to Bollywood hits to Justin Bieber on a loop coming from the dance school in the basement below us. This continues until well into the evening. I have decided that the locals don’t actually sleep. Anyway, the sound which I heard last night was none of the above it was the sound of rain, and heavy rain at that. Now I know that that you’ve all had far more rain than you would have liked for the last couple of months, but it was actually so lovely to hear and the early morning cycle ride to the Shala for practice the next day was wonderful as the air smelt so fresh (for a change), with the faint scent of blossom from the trees that the rain had somehow emphasised.
My lovely sanskrit teacher Lakshmish had predicted that we might have some rain as he said we would have ‘ one, maybe two drops of rain … ‘ and I think we had rather more than two drops.
Anyway, this turned out to be not just an isolated shower as two days later, after I had spent a couple of hours late in the afternoon with the girls from Odanadi and the guys from my permiculture group planting out some more trees and bananas in their garden there, we had more rain.
This time it was a pretty heavy monsoon rain which lasted a few hours and resulted in a very wet rickshaw ride home and the inevitable power cuts that night. The whole thing was then repeated last night with the most fantastic tropical storm … thunder, lightning, monsoon rain and quite a few palm trees blown down … and of course, power cuts! I can’t say I love sleeping without a ceiling fan in this heat but I did feel very pleased with myself that I had packed torches and spare batteries for this trip! There was an even greater level of chaos the next day as people in my neighbourhood went about clearing up after the storm and I saw one tiny elderly lady dressed in her sari, barefoot, carrying the most enormous palm tree branch on her head, along with several large bags of rubbish. It must have been 15′ long and quite heavy and she was half my size … the women here are extraordinary!
The amazing thing was that the rain felt like quite a blessing as we had just planted the trees at Odanadi and water is such a scarcity there. The ground is uncultivated and so is like hard orange concrete. We have to use pick axes to break up the soil and it can take an hour to dig a hole big enough for each little tree so how brilliant to have everything watered like this each evening!
My regular morning practice time is slowly getting earlier and I now start at 7.30 am shala time with Friday and Sunday led classes at 4.30 am. The shala is so hot now that I am in danger of melting one of these days but there has been a subtle change in my practice and it feels like such a deep meditation every day. I definitely think it takes most of the first month here to adjust not only to the place but also to the practice and it can feel really quite difficult at first. Then suddenly you notice that your body, breath, mind state, everything in fact has shifted. It is subtle but really powerful work. Practising at the earlier time in the week though is good and makes more sense of the day, giving me time to get out and about a bit before going to Odanadi to help with the gardening late afternoon (it is way too hot to dig before 4pm). Last week I ventured out to the outskirts of Mysore city to a beautiful old building, now a hotel, called the Lalitha Mahal. It was like stepping back in time again onto an old Bollywood movie film set, with sweeping marble staircases everywhere and long light filled corridors with gorgeous carved hard wooden doors and shutters and screens everywhere. I sat in the garden listening to the birds for a while and drinking my sweet lime soda (I am quite addicted to these now). Then I spent ages wandering around and taking lots of photographs. I feel really at home in these old buildings … I wonder if I was a Maharini in another life ?
On Friday evening I had the best time ever as I went (with Sophie, Jenny and Andy) to the famous ‘Rashinkas’ tailor shop and emporium in a very busy old part of central Mysore called Ghandi circus. This is three floors of fabric, gorgeous silk saris, scarves and, thanks to the popularity of yoga here, all manner of yoga mats and bags etc. I spent ages picking out some lovely woven cotton mats for the new space in Studland which I can bring home with me (must check how much luggage allowance I have) and then treated myself to a beautiful silk sari, something I’ve always wanted. We then all went for a drink on a rooftop restaurant before heading to the gorgeous Metropole hotel for dinner. Fridays have become ‘Metropole Fridays’ now because we have Saturdays off and after a week of early nights, early starts and not eating too much, it is such a treat to eat the delicious south Indian food there in the beautiful courtyard. I am really going to miss all the amazing food that there is on offer here when I leave, from little cafes and thali restaurants to the fruit and vegetable markets everywhere .. and it is so cheap. The average price for lunch or dinner is between £2 and £3 so I’m not sure how easy it will be to adapt back to the cost of a supermarket shop back in the UK. I will just have to make the most of it whilst I’m here.