alan little’s mysore diary – february 2002

Little has been written in Western continents about the strange life of these Yogis and even that little remains vague
Paul Brunton, A Search In Secret India

Mysore early morning light
Mysore morning light – going for coconuts after practice

Friday 1st February

My last month with Guruji! I go to conference at 5 o’clock to try to pay, but Guruji is away in Bangalore shopping for tiles for the new shala, and Sharath says to pay on Sunday.

Yesterday’s conference was great though. Somebody asked Pattabhi one of those questions he finds interesting: do you have to have to practice yama & niyama before you can do asana practice? Quite the contrary, says Pattabhi – you can’t practice yama & niyama without a strong mind, and most people have weak minds. Through asana practice you develop control of the body and through that, control of the mind. Can’t have a strong mind without a strong body. “Every day practice, practice, practice”. Then the other seven limbs of ashtanga yoga start to become possible. But even then it’s very hard and probably not achievable in a single lifetime. He says you shouldn’t try to practice pranayama until you have done Advanced A and B (third and fourth series) – somebody asks why and he says the ashtanga pranayama he teaches is very hard. I don’t follow all the technicalities but I think I catch a reference to five minute kumbaka (breath retention) in there somewhere. He seems to regard milder pranayama practices, as taught by other yoga teachers to less advanced students, as a bit of joke.

And now I have actually personally heard him say yoga is “99% practice, 1% theory”.

He also says that if you do Advanced A (third series) and Advanced B (fourth series), then Advanced C (fifth series) “automatically is coming”. There are only two other people in Mysore at the moment who might be qualified to have a dissenting opinion on that one, but Sharath is out of the room and Annie diplomatically stays quiet.

I’ve noticed the feeling of my last month looming for a few days now. When I got back from Kerala I still had two more weeks to practice in January, six weeks in total, and it still felt like forever. Now in my last month of practice I’m starting to think about going home – buying presents for people, looking forward to seeing my friends and family and to practicing in my teacher’s little shala in Munich. Thinking about the realities of having to earn a living again too – haven’t started contacting agencies and surfing job sites yet, but have started slowly reading my way back into tech industry news & gossip.

Saturday 2nd February

Today I actually did the getting up early on a non-practice day and driving out into the countryside at dawn thing – despite having been at Christophe’s party at Post Office House until ten o’clock last night. No pictures though. It was cloudy, so no lovely dawn light – just flat grey getting gradually lighter. Not even any mist. And I chose the Hunsur road, which turns out to be probably the only road out of Mysore without big spectacular avenues of ancient banyan trees. Plus, two hours on a scooter is majorly uncomfortable – I would have to get a proper motorbike if I was going to do a lot of this sort of thing. Nice to go for an early morning ride out in the clean air away from the Mysore pollution though.

I can always try again next Saturday, or a week on Tuesday at new moon, or the Saturday after … but I’m aware that I don’t have an unlimited number of other chances to do this. Yeah, definitely sensing the end of my time here.

Wednesday 6th February

Tiring week, not helped by staying up until (gasp!) TEN O’CLOCK at Luke’s going-away party on Monday night. It was worth it though – great company, great music *and* the version 0.1 experimental banana-and-date parathas were well received by the eating public.

An interesting and (I think) promising thing is happening, which is that my legs are sore all day from all the hip-opening work. Sore is good. Back in November when I “opened” my ankle my right leg was aching rather than sore – perhaps a sign of too much opening too quickly. Then for several weeks while I was stuck at badha konasana, there was nothing happening at all – no aching, no soreness, no opening. Just nothing moving in there. I take soreness as a sign that something in my hips that was completely blocked has now come un-blocked, and I’m into a game of business-as-usual stretching where I can just make slow & steady progress without any big dramas.

Supta padangusthasana today. But I think when Sharath told me to put my foot on the floor in the sideways version, and I just did it, he was (a) surprised and (b) possibly now thinks I’m deliberately not putting my head on the floor in badha konasana just to piss him off.

Guruji has the cataract operation for his other eye (the left if I remember correctly) tomorrow. He seems to have recovered from the first one ok – the cool shades even came off briefly in class today. Hopefully he will take a sensible amount of rest again, and let Sharath take classes through until the moon day on Tuesday.

Thursday 7th February

Long, slow after-practice sit this morning, out in the sun drinking coconuts and chai. I just love this. There’s a whole crowd of people I like and enjoy talking to (and enjoy watching the morning light on their faces and visualising photographs), and as some leave others arrive. I could keep this up for hours. I remember saying back in November that I didn’t think I could learn to like chai even if I lived in India for a hundred years. I was certainly wrong about that. Sitting here in a teeshirt too, warmest morning for weeks – all through December and January it was sweaters, fleeces and/or shawls for sitting outside in the morning. Eventually home for a nap and then breakfast – home-made raisin bread, peanut butter from the organic market and coffee from Honey Valley – all very pleasant.

Acutely conscious that my time of continuing to have this experience is limited – only three more practice weeks with Guruji to go. But that’s probably making me all the more aware and appreciative of it. Time to soak up every moment of feeling like this, store the memory of it away somewhere deep down in my bones.

Quick statistical survey of “the typical Mysore yoga student”, as gathered at Beg’s coconut spot at one random moment in time: 6 Americans (3 Californians, 2 New Yorkers), 3 Canadians (all students and/or offspring of Joanne & Darby from Montreal), 2 Brits (including me, both expats), 1 Bosnian. 5 men, 7 women. 8 studying with Pattabhi Jois, 3 with Sheshadri, 1 with Sharath.

Friday 8th February

Marichy D left side today, for the first time since I not-injured my right ankle in this posture back in November. It’s been coming for a while. I’ve been going as far into it as I could ever since the "opening" happened, although for many weeks the ankle was complaining about being subjected to any pressure. Sharath tried to get me all the way in a month or so ago, just before I went for my little holiday in Kerala, but backed off when I looked too pained. Lino’s excellent assistant Elena had a go too when I was in Kovalam, and thought I was nearly there. The last couple of weeks I’ve been working closer and closer – arm well past the leg, feeling like I would get it by myself within a week or two. And sure enough, Sharath popped me into it pretty easily today. Better than it was before – he was getting me in there in November, but there was a lot of effort & struggling going on. Now after all the badha konasana work everything is much more open.

Saturday 9th February

Day trip to Srirangapatna. 20 kilometres there & back on the main Bangalore road by scooter isn’t completely un-scary, but it’s worth it. The Sri Ranganatha temple is *amazing* – a ninth-century inner sanctum with a fantastic old pillared courtyard in front of it, and gloomy passages around the sides that feel more like catacombs or the bowels of some ancient pyramid, than a building above the ground. Non-Hindu tourists are allowed right into the inner shrine, unlike in a lot of temples, but photography is banned :(

I try to take some pictures of kids playing cricket, but they stop as soon as they see the camera and all come crowding round – "School pen? Country coin?". I tell them I’m English and pick up a bat. Very bad move. I played very little cricket at school and was always completely hopeless at ballgames. Sure enough, the terrifying spectacle of a nine year old Indian child bearing down on me with a cricket ball completely turns my blood to water. He does some strange thing with his wrist at the last moment and I don’t even see the ball until it’s past me and hitting the wicket. Out in one, and I have betrayed my country – these kids will never be intimidated facing an English batsman again when they all grow up and play for India.

Lunch by the river and an afternoon coracle ride are rather more relaxing.

Sunday 10th February

I’ve had a couple of conversations in the last few days with people who arrived about when I did in October/November – old friends by Mysore standards – about what a culture shock all the new faces are this last couple of weeks, and how great it was a few weeks ago when it was quiet and we all knew everybody. (Whereas then, as I recall, I was a little bored and looking forward to a bit more life & activity). The second of these conversations takes place this morning whilst riding home from the organic market at the Green Hotel, and is stimulated by the sight of a western woman we don’t recognise walking through the university. In the city centre non-yoga-student tourists are a fairly common sight, but what is one doing out here on *our turf*? Outrageous.

link to Mysore yoga photos
waiting on the stairs

So many people come and go. The shala is probably about as busy now as it was before Christmas, maybe not quite; but before I came I expected it to just get steadily busier up to a peak in February and that didn’t happen. From Christmas through to the end of January was very quiet, about 40 students max. Looks like the February rush will be shortlived too, quite a lot of people are only here for a month.

There’s a lot of complaining about long wait times at Guruji’s – more on the internet than by people who are actually here – but the fact is, long waits are easy to avoid. The busy times seem to be predictable and short – just before Christmas, and February. If you’re serious about your yoga and want to get an early practice slot and/or a short wait, simply stay for more than a month(*), and/or do a bit of basic research and plan your trip to arrive at a time when the shala is quiet rather than during the best weather for a pleasant holiday in India. It’s all going to be different anyway when the new shala opens.

(*) I’m well aware that there are people who are "serious about their yoga" but have commitments that make it hard or impossible for them to spend more than a month away from home. In which case option (2) applies.

Tuesday 12th February

New Moon Day. I went out on my scooter with a camera and a bag of film, thinking of heading for Somnathpur to meet up with some of my neighbours downstairs (Sankalp Apartments are really filling up with yoga students these days) who had gone there. Didn’t make it all the way there though, found too many great photo-ops along the way: temples and markets on the outskirts of Mysore; country roads lined with big old banyan trees; and a place called T Narsipur where another big river flows into the Cauvery, with old temples and ghats on both banks. Spent a couple of hours there – an hour waiting for the schoolboys to get bored and go away, then an hour actually taking pictures. (No, I’m not always totally bitter and grumpy to everybody I meet when I’m taking photographs. I did take some pictures of the kids, and got the address of their school so I can send some copies, and let them look through my telephoto lens. *Then* wished they would go away). The morning was cool and cloudy, but then in the afternoon it got really hot and I was riding along on my scooter with no sunscreen. Got very burnt. Still a good day out.

Had an interesting experience at one of the temples I stopped at. I was talking to a stone-carver who had his workshop in the courtyard. Big Ganeshas, Nandi bulls. Asked him who his customers were and he said mainly temples. His work was good and he seemed like a nice guy, so I asked him about a pet idea I’ve had for a few weeks – getting a few Hoysala-style (Somnathpur, Belur, Halebid style) elephants made and shipped home as presents for people. But he said no, he doesn’t do Hoysala style, his work is Chalyuka style which is quite different. I said what, not even if I give you some photographs to work from? No, sorry sir, I can’t do that style. It’s a very refreshing and different experience to get a direct, honest “no” from an Indian craftsman when he can’t do something. Normally people here seem to think it’s either hideously rude, or bad business practice, to actually directly say “no” to a prospective customer about anything – with the result that people will appear to commit to things they actually have no intention of doing, resulting in far more stress and hassle all round in the long run. Anyway, this guy does good work and is honest, so if you think you might have room in your suitcase for a three foot stone Ganesha, Mr Nagalingesh, at the Sri Jagadguru Shiva temple on Ramanuja Road, is your man.

He has the usual dodgy Hindu views on Muslims though. I ask him about the various different images and deities in the temple. “All gods are one”. What about Islam? “Pakistanis are bastards”. Oh. What, all of them? Does he think there will be a war? “Kashmir is part of India”. But doesn’t it have a majority Muslim population? What if there was a referendum and they wanted to be in Pakistan? “Kashmir is part of India. Pakistanis are bastards”. I lived in a country that was subject to Irish terrorist attacks for a quarter of a century, but didn’t end up hating all Irish people as a result. I think I’m going to stop having this particular conversation with otherwise perfectly pleasant and decent people, it’s just too depressing.

Wednesday 13th February

The yoga book I’m reading at the moment is A Search In Secret India by Paul Brunton. I had never heard of Paul Brunton until I found a couple of his books on the shelf at the Three Sisters – he seems to be one of these western spiritual writers who are more famous and popular in India than they are in the west. (Richard Bach being another example – ok, everybody in the west has heard of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, but every single English-language bookstore in India has loads of books by him, including some good ones that are out of print or difficult to get hold of in the west). Brunton was an English journalist with an interest in Indian mysticism and spirituality, who travelled to India in the early 1930s to see if he could track down any genuine spiritual masters. He was very aware that modern India was full of spiritual fakes and charlatans, but also determined to see if he could track down the real thing – and to find out if the "real thing" would be convincing to his sceptical, materialistic western mind. His open-mindedness and his obvious deep respect for the people he is dealing with are impressive – particularly for an Englishman writing in the 1930s, in the twilight of the Empire when British arrogance and delusions of racial superiority were at their worst.

I haven’t finished the book yet, but one of the early chapters is very interesting, where Brunton meets a tantra yogi in Chennai (Madras) and spends some time hearing what asana practice is about. It’s quite striking that what the yogi has to say is very much like the way hatha and ashtanga yoga are still explained by modern teachers – after all, the early 30s is also when the great renaissance of ashtanga yoga in its current form was underway, when Pattabhi Jois and BKS Iyengar were both studying with Krishnamacharya in Mysore. Brunton, with no background of yoga practice and only a very short acquaintance with this teacher, seems to understand pretty well what it is all about and to expound it quite clearly for an audience who had virtually no acquaintance with any kind of serious yoga practice. Here he is quoting his teacher, Brama:

… the concentration of attention and will power upon the chosen posture is so intense – if success is to be gained – that sleeping forces awaken within the yogi. … they are seldom fully aroused until our breathing exercises are also practiced, for the breath possesses deep powers. Though the awakening of such forces is our real aim, no less than a score of our exercises are capable of being used for benefiting one’s health or removing certain diseases; while others will drive impurities out of the body. … Still other of our postures are intended to assist our efforts to get control over mind and soul for it is a truth that the body influences thought no less than thought influences the body. In the advanced stages of yoga, when we may be plunged for hours in meditation, the proper posture of the body not only enables the mind to remain undistracted in its efforts, but actually assists its purpose. Add to all these things the tremendous gain in will power which comes to the man who perseveres in these difficult exercises.

… the conquest of the body was to be looked upon as a step towards the conquest of the mind, and this again as a way to becoming spiritually perfect. So you see that our system deals with the body, but only as an indirect means of penetrating to the spirit. … Remember that a body which is mastered ceases to distract the mind; only a few can plunge straight into the path of holding the thoughts.

Brunton takes the view that advanced asana practice is all very well for Indian yoga students, who never sit on chairs and start intensive practice while they are still young, but would be much harder for westerners starting as adults:

I do not doubt Brama’s assertion that anyone may master these exercises by persistent practice, only the slow breaking-in of limbs, joints and muscles to the novel positions into which they are introduced must necessarily be such a dilatory process as to embrace the years. He has the advantage of beginning these postures when hardly out of his ’teens, and the value of this early beginning cannot be over-estimated. … it is obvious that successful yogis of the school of Body Control must start their training before the growing period ends; say before twenty-five. I certainly do not know how it is possible for any adult European to adventure with the scores of intricate postures which comprise most of their system … he agrees that Europeans may have a harder task.

"We Orientals have the advantage of having learned to sit with folded legs from childhood. Can a European bend his legs and sit steadily for two hours without pain?"

What westerner has the patience to go through all these complicated exercises and master them?

Rather more than Paul Brunton ever imagined, as it turns out. But then, general levels of fitness, body awareness and physical activity are probably higher in the west now than they were in his day. He’s still right – to a degree that a lot of Indian yoga teachers possibly still don’t really understand – about how much harder and more dangerous basic sitting asanas are for western adults than for Indian teenagers. I remember Godfrey Devereux at a workshop referring to the famous film of BKS Iyengar doing an ashtanga vinyasa yoga demonstration in 1938, saying that as western students we might as well just forget any idea of learning to fold the legs into lotus *whilst* jumping up into handstand as Mr Iyengar apparently does in the film (which I haven’t seen). He reckons you simply can’t learn to do this if you spent your youth sitting in chairs, no matter how hard and how long you practice.

In another chapter, Brunton describes his teacher demonstrating how he can voluntarily suspend breathing for long periods of time, or even stop his heartbeat. Pattabhi Jois says Krishmacharya demonstrated the same thing to a German researcher in the 1930s. Doesn’t say that he, Pattabhi, actually witnessed it; also doesn’t suggest that he can or ever could do it himself.

Thursday 14th February

Power cut in the shala yesterday morning. Strange and horrible things revealed in the shadows whilst practicing by candlelight. Horrible: the huge gap between my armpit and my leg in marichy b. Strange: the shadow of an arm on the wall just by my head, pointing to the ceiling. Just for a moment I’m not sure if it’s mine. I don’t think so, but I have to do a quick mental crosscheck just to be sure. No, I still only have two and neither of them is, or should be, up there just now.

Friday 15th February

Guruji has switched back to Fridays-only conference, which I think is a very good idea. When it was every day, often neither he nor the students had much energy or enthusiasm for it. Now the place is packed and he is on fine form giving out words of wisdom. We spend the first half hour admiring pictures of Sharath’s daughter – and making fun of Sharath’s attempt at a smouldering film star look in the ones that he is in. Then Guruji goes into question-and-answer/lecture mode. It’s actually quite hard to hear everything he says: the room is very full, his English isn’t that loud or distinct, and a fair amount of what he says tends to be in sanskrit (usually followed up with a translation).

One bit that I do catch, which is interesting, is when somebody asks him if doing asana practice is tapas. Yes, he says, tapas is anything where the mind is focused on one activity (something like that, I didn’t get the exact words). I like that definition because it implies that anything done with full mental focus can be a meditative/yogic activity. So even those of us with feeble, easily-distracted asana practices might be able to pursue tapas by things like (to pick a few random examples) writing, taking photographs or cooking – provided that we can at least sometimes get absorbed in the activity for its own sake, goal-lessly, not worrying about what other people will think of the results. Which is difficult – surely we have to care about doing an activity "well" in some sense in order to care enough about it to get absorbed in doing it. So where do we drawn the line between that and being externally focused, speculating/worrying about other peoples’ judgements?

I like the Pattabhi Jois definition a lot more than BKS Iyengar’s:

Tapas is the inner himsa (violence) by which we create the possibility of outer ahimsa. … it is a burning inner zeal and austerity, a sort of unflagging hardness of attitude towards oneself which makes possible compassion and forgiveness towards others.
(Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, II.43)

I think we manage to be disciplined and work hard at our yoga here in Mysore, and Guruji manages to motivate us, without an unflagging attitude of burning hardness. He does it by smiling, laughing and being somebody it’s fun to be around.

He also says doing asana practice correctly is hard because it involves focus on three things simultaneously – body position, breathing and gaze. By learning to control the body we learn to control the mind.

Sunday 17th February

Went with Janice to take pictures of the palace lights in the evening. I wish I had done this ages ago – it’s a really nice atmosphere, totally relaxed, lots of families sitting out on the grass enjoying the occasion. Auntie has accused me of lacking interest in Indian culture because I haven’t been round the interior of the palace, which I think is a bit unfair – I get up before dawn every day and do yoga, I do sanskrit classes, I do cookery classes, I spend half my weekends visiting temples. I even watch cricket regularly – on her TV! But if it will make Auntie happy, then I probably should add "visit the palace" to my list of Things To Do Before I Leave Mysore. Mysore folks are very fond and proud of their former royal family.

Mysore palace lights

Monday 18th February

I dreamt last night that I was being abducted into an underground cave/city by intelligent flesh-eating dinosaurs. Then woke up and reality was even worse – it was 4 o’clock in the morning and time to drag myself out of bed to go and do yoga. Again. It isn’t getting any easier, which I suppose is probably one of those all important meta-lessons. I hope the dinosaur dream isn’t my subconscious registering its vote on the subject of going back to Europe.

Wednesday 20th February

I took a picture a few weeks ago of some kids in the street near the Kavery Lodge. It was quite good, so I thought I’d get a big print of it done – chance to play with scanning and digital printing at Prabhu’s in Bangalore – and give it to the family. It turns out that their father is a well-known choreographer who does lots of work on fashion shows, films & suchlike. He has a big show coming up and would like to invite me as a guest, but it’s after I leave Mysore. Why do you always meet interesting people in a place just before you leave?

Thursday 21st February

YES! YES! Today I finished primary series. Thought I might pass out back-bending; and according to people who were watching from the stairs, Sharath wasn’t having such an easy time of it either. But done is done.

The celebratory breakfast managed to extend over four hours and three venues – Beg’s for coconuts & chai, Mandala for actual breakfast then 3 Sisters for a lassi. Was at Beg’s for exactly the length of time it took the person after me to finish her practice – she was leaving the shala just as I walked by afterwards – but there were extenuating circumstances. Firstly, several people leaving today who I had to say goodbye to; then it took ages to get a photo of Beg looking approximately natural instead of grinning self-consciously at the camera whilst almost cutting his own hand off because he wasn’t looking at what he was doing.

link to Mysore yoga photos

Friday 22nd February

Another power outage in the shala this morning – on my second-ever day of dropbacks. Wonderful. I can’t see my mat at all, just have to plunge backwards into the gloom on the assumption that it must be down there somewhere. It’s just as well I have total faith in Sharath. (Power outages in the morning aren’t actually very common – this is only the third since I’ve been here)

I am finally practicing in the 4:30 group – but not at all in the circumstances I would have wanted. I sort-of “should” be in it – there are only about 7 or 8 students now who have been in Mysore on the current stint longer than I have, plus a couple of long term regulars like Annie. But I had let a couple of my friends go ahead of me, because they’re staying longer and I didn’t see much point in changing my entire morning routine just for the sake a week or two in the early group.

That all changed yesterday, unfortunately, when one of the current 4:30 guys had a motorbike accident. Not a serious one, but enough to put him out of action for a few weeks. Shankar is the son of Joanne & Darby from Montreal, and features in a legendary photo of Joanne doing kapotasana three days before he was born. That was 21 years ago; now he has been here studying with Guruji and Sharath since about last May. He had done about a year before that with his dad, and now he’s more than halfway through second series. Clearly a combination of pre-birth training, youth, the right genes and superb tuition.

The first I knew of the accident was when I was on my way to go shopping, and saw Joanne in the street with two policemen. She was looking about as relaxed as a mother who knows her child has been hurt, but doesn’t know how badly or where he is, so I thought I’d better stop and find out what was going on. There followed a big scooter chase around every clinic anywhere near Lakshmipuram, at the end of which Shankar turned up at home having been discharged from hospital with some stitches in one foot and a burn on his leg.

Despite the circumstances, practicing in the early group is a nice feeling, and in years to come I’ll enjoy being able to say I did it.

Only a week to go in Mysore now (three weeks in India – am going travelling again for a couple of weeks before I go home) and probably only three more practice days. Guruji is going to Bangalore at the weekend and not teaching on Sunday (possibly Sharath will take the class, but I’ve heard it’s cancelled) – so then Monday, Tuesday, full moon so no practice Wednesday, and Thursday is my last day! I’m actually pretty much mentally ready for going back to Europe and earning a living again, and have been starting to think about things I’m looking forward to:

I’ll definitely be coming back to Mysore to study with Guruji and Sharath again – but, of course, I want it to be exactly the same when I come back and it won’t be. It wouldn’t anyway, but the new shala will make it even more different. I hope I’ll see some of the same people here again. I’m sad that I’ll never sit on the stairs, or practice on the lumpy carpets in that old room, again. I’ll never walk round the corner in the morning sun for coconuts at Beg’s again. I’m very glad I made it here in time to one day be able to say I was there at the end of the old days.

Monday 25th February

Well into my last week now, my leaving party is tomorrow. Busy preparing, but preparation includes surfing for recipes and thus also ten minutes for a quick diary update.


Today’s unexpectedly interesting encounter comes with the stonecarver I met a couple of weeks ago. I called round to drop off some prints of the pictures I took of him – which were very good – and this time he had a bit more time to talk as he wasn’t busy doing morning puja. He *was* doing a blessing ceremony for three sculptures that were being collected by customers, but was happy to sit and talk afterwards. Told us there are five brothers who work there, the temple-cum-workshop is 300 years old and the family have been stonecarvers for 700 years(*). They are not only known all over India, but also have had work commissioned by an art school in Chicago; and one of the brothers turned down the offer of three years as artist-in-residence at the same school. My friend Randy came with me on the basis that “hey, Randy, do you want a lift home, but I just have to stop on the way and drop off some pics for a guy at a temple, it’ll only take five minutes”. There is no such thing as a five minute visit in India. About an hour of looking at carvings, chatting and taking pictures later, I can tell that Randy is starting to see a future for himself as a trainee stone-carver. Then the guys explain that the minimum apprenticeship is three years full time, and Randy realises that his wife and family back in the States might not like that.

This sort of thing is so not-unusual, not just for me but for lots of other yoga students I talk to, that I almost wonder if there is *anybody* in this city who isn’t some kind of nationally/internationally known artist, craftsman or scholar. That’s just one of the things that makes yoga student life here so appealing. Another is what happened to me yesterday afternoon – a typical Lakshmipuram attempt to walk a hundred yards round the corner for a quick coconut, that ended up taking about half an hour with three stops for conversations with passing friends. This is how life should be.

(*) This “700 years” is strikingly similar to “25 generations”, which is how long massage therapy genius Vijay in Kovalam told me his family had been practicing their craft. I take it to mean "for a very long time, much longer than anybody can actually remember", rather than “since 1302”.

Wednesday 27th February

the last mysore diary entry

I leave Mysore tomorrow, which means I only have to get up at 4 in the morning one more time. (Hurrah!). Not much more to say that I haven’t already said over the last four months – particularly as I don’t feel totally great today, which could be due to full moon partying & dancing until midnight last night, or to having started taking anti-malarials this morning.

I don’t actually fly back to Europe until the 15th of March – I may or may not keep up “Indian Diary” entries until then, depending largely on whether or not they have cyber-cafes in the north Karnataka outback. [I did – see March] If not, then things will be quiet around here until I get home and start editing & scanning my pictures – 65 rolls shot so far and I haven’t finished yet. Plan is to get the night bus tomorrow up to Gokarna, on the coast just south of Goa – my Sanskrit teacher Lakshmish comes from near there and has invited me to stay with his family for a couple of days. Then I want to go to Hampi, then back here for a day or two to pick up luggage, then home. It’s tempting to try to be in Gokarna – the biggest Shiva pilgrimage site in south India – for the Shivaratri festival on the 12th; but I think it would be just too tight to then make it to Bangalore for a flight on the 15th, so I might just have to keep up my track record of managing to narrowly avoid all major festivals everywhere I go.


all text and images © 2002 Alan Little

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