Chennai

Last week, I was in Chennai visiting the meditation ashram. My dad and his boss were both there conducting a session for the spiritual mission with the ashram leaders. So for four days, I meditated A LOT, helped out with the sessions, made some friends, learned some good stuff…

Chennai is so rich in culture. Everyone dresses super conservatively despite the hot weather, where as in Pune, most people wear American clothes. There are also tons of spiritual places in the city it seems. If you need spirituality, come here and you will find SOMETHING.

I had doubts about going to Chennai, because ashram life is not exactly luxury, and my mom and Granny were telling me all sorts of things I would have to face there, like extreme heat, mosquito central, dirty bathrooms, and bad food.

But of course, things never turn out the way I expect them to. I get there, and my dad is staying in this super beautiful apartment that someone has yet to move into. It’s a palace. Lucky me.

I got 4 mosquito bites. Not too bad.

Food was a different story. It wasn’t necessarily bad food, just heavy and in excess and at times I was forced to eat when I wasn’t hungry…

In India, food is so intensely tied to love/affection, respect, and even judgement. In Pune, my Granny was most happy when she saw everyone eating – me bohuth kush (I’m so happy) she would say with a smile.

But it’s not at all only portrayed by the feminine part of the culture. Here in Chennai, all of the people in the session were male, but I felt the same vibe. When you go to dinner at someone’s house, they watch you like a hawk. They know exactly what you have eaten, what you have not yet tried, when you are about to finish your roti so that they can toss another one on your plate before you can say no, and so on. Even when the maids serve you, they insist and ARGUE on giving you more, even if you say no! At first, I thought this was a bit rude, but then I realized that it’s rude if they don’t act in this way.

It’s like so much drama that it’s easier to keep your mouth shut (or I guess open) and keep eating.

And THEN the other conflict is that waste is also frowned upon. So you are served a heaping amount of food and your plate never empties unless you hide under the table, and you must eat everything. All this is only done to people they love and care about. Sheesh. I really miss ek-Thor, my vitamix in moments like these.

After meeting so many older people, I’m finally getting my story down about how I left New York and came to India. It’s so funny because in the USA, I got lots of concerned questions about my decision. But here, everyone is commending me with praise. I think it’s because in India, family is put first, over money/status/success. Most Indian households have the kids and parents living together even when everyone is all grown up. So older folk are thrilled at the fact that I have “come back to my roots”. Interesting.

Had tea with the neighbors, and they brought up the possibility of me teaching in Chennai at the ashram school, as they are badly in need of teachers. Hmmmm. They said I could easily pick up scooter riding which sounds good to me!

The last night I was there, my day’s company was holding a book launch session for entrepreneurs and Indian CEOs. I had nothing to wear so Sujata, a lady at the ashram, took me shopping. Everyone kept complimenting me on my clothes, probably because they hadn’t ever seen me in a kurthi before. It took me awhile to get used to it, but I now feel pretty in these clothes. The cuts are conservative with high necklines and quarter sleeves, but the patterns are vibrant. I feel like I can dance and float in an outfit like this. So comfy.

I’m really glad I went to Chennai because suddenly I have so many friends, so many loving people all over India who are opening up their homes for me to come stay.

However, I really CANNOT wait for some yoga. I’ve been doing lots of raja yoga (meditation) but not much physical asanas besides suryanamasmars in the morning. My body is so ready to move.

More later,
Much love,

SONIA

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