Sonia thoughts: Jan 30

I’m 100% better at crossing the streets in India. If you’ve read earlier, you’ll know that when I first got here, I literally had to be dragged across with my eyes shut. Now I’ve figured it out. The trick is to keep your eyes open wide and flow with the traffic. The road will never be clear, ever. But there are gaps of safety that quickly open up. So you walk in the rhythm of these packets of safety. Move too fast or too slow, you’re road kill.

Gaps. Yes. That is how to best describe the India I am experiencing in Pune.

Examples:

HALF the people I meet work IT jobs, yet no business has a working website. Or if it’s working, the information is super outdated. I had to stifle a laugh when I gave my email address to a man at the yoga competition, and he said, “Oh, great! Is this your Indian line?”:)

TRUST seems to rarely begin a relationship and takes a long time to build here. No one will smile and give you the benefit of the doubt on first meeting. Yet when there is trust, there is lifetime loyalty. My grandparents have been going to the same chemist, same milkman, same tailor, same grocer, for over 20 years. And they refuse to go elsewhere because they receive such great service.

THE RICH people over-eat and complain about how fat they are. The poor people are thin but can’t get enough of anything. It’s like a sea of round people and tinnnnnnny stick people.

EVERYONE HAS A CELL PHONE, and it’s like their life depends on it. People answer calls while teaching yoga classes (but not in my class!), doctors while examining a patient, while riding on their motor bikes in the middle of traffic, while squatting on the ground to use the toilet. And if they miss the call, they will immediately call back within 5 minutes guaranteed. It’s like phone anxiety. My dance teacher was shocked when I let my phone ring because I wasn’t in mood to talk to that person.

LOTS of materialism and disagreement exists among the middle and upper classes. Fights and arguments, on tv, in the middle of the road, at the shop. Yet the brotherhood that exists among the lower classes is unbeatable compared to any culture I’ve seen. These yoga champion boys that I’ve become friends with have no money, no real homes, clothes, or enough food. But they are the most genuine people I’ve ever met. There are about 30 of them and they look after each other so well. The big boys keep the little ones out of trouble. So happy, so hardworking, so caring for others. They run to practice right after school in their uniforms. No water, no green smoothies in the Vitamix, no produce (as that is most expensive). Incredible. I was touched by how well they took care of me. They are teaching me so much and I want to help them.

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Anyways, such is life. I’ve just never seen such drastic differences before.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about yoga. India is the breeding ground of yoga – Patanjali’s yoga sutras, pranayama, ashtanga rituals, kriyas, sattva, chanting, meditation. Yoga is something that is not for ego or exercise, but for healing the vehicle/body that will advance your soul to samadhi – no stress on the body at all.

Then you have Indian Yoga Competitions, where people perform their postures for an audience. Ego driven. Stamina. Judged. All of these athletes have started training their bodies everyday from ages 5-7 to be flexible and nimble, pushing through the pain until they can do it painlessly. Pain is beauty. And they are really incredible at the practice! The big gurus like Iyengar, Bikram, Jois, most likely trained like this. I’m not saying that these people don’t follow yogic principles, but it just seems a bit contradictory to India’s foundation of yoga.

I also must to share about the “fat loss” yoga here in India, where they make you do a gazillion suryanamaskars in a rapid rhythm (the instructor is not doing it with you because they can’t keep up). Too funny. Ineffective. Try running.

So what is yoga then really? What does it mean to “advance” in my practice? What should I teach my students? Hmm.

I’m excited to see what I discover.

So Friday is my first class with Iyengar!! Cannot wait. I made friends with this auto-rickshaw driver, Shankur, and he will drive me there at 6am. Woohoo! And you know how we became buds? Because he was the first kind soul who started with trust. While in his auto one morning, I had no change, only big bills to pay with. He had no change either, as I was his first customer, so he said kul me dedo “give me tomorrow”. I was shocked, as this guy didn’t even know me and whether I would find him tomorrow. It reminded me of the people in Goa. Everyone else I had encountered here in Pune was all about the money. And so that began our friendship. Every morning when he sees me, he quickly fires up his auto. I introduced him to Granny and she had a word with him. He has a bright smile and gives off good vibrations, so she approved. Hurray!

What else…

Because I’m the youngest person in the house, my title in conversation is “baby”. For example, “baby made this today, or baby is going to the store, or baby’s not home now.” Haha. Oh baby.

I’m going to kill the Reliance phone company. Every week they charge me 30 rupees for a service that I didn’t sign up for. And every week I have to go put on my grumpy face until they give me my money back. Monish Uncle, who is the head of Vodaphone, started laughing at me when I was complaining. He said all phone companies do this. Then 1/3 of the people complain and get their money back. The rest are too lazy or don’t know how to fix it, and lose their money. Ridiculous!

I visited Kaliyani, Granny’s best friend in the complex. She’s a wise, clever, loving Bengali lady. She’s going to teach me how to buy fish from the fish guys.

I bought some beautiful fabrics from Granny’s fabric shop, Kohinoor. I want to make some shirts, a dress, and a caftan. Two funny surdarji brothers own the shop – their names are Money and Goldy. Their crazy parents! Goldy told me that the more money I spend, the more I will receive. Haha. Then we talked yoga, as Goldy has a bad varicose vein problem. I liked them a lot. I will be back for more.

The internet broke yesterday, and it was such a blessing. I actually did some reading. Then I learned how to make homemade paneer and peanut brittle – so easy, so tasty, so good.

  • Paneer: heat milk until it starts to boil. Then drop a chunk of yogurt into the milk and stir quickly! The milk curdles and separates into paneer (cottage cheese) and whey (liquid residue) You can also hang yogurt in a cheese cloth and wait for 24 hours, but this way is much quicker. Don’t toss out the whey, as this is a magic food! It has all sorts of benefits for helping the immune system, providing protein, improving skin, and so much more! Google it if you are curious.
  • Peanut brittle: Melt jaggery or sugar in a saucepan on medium flame. Keep stirring so that the sugar stays soft. Once the sugar is liquidy, quickly add peanuts and stir. Coat them well. Remove from flame and spread the mixture out on a flat pan – you can crush the peanuts a bit while doing this. Sprinkle some sea salt on top. Let it cool. Then break off a piece and enjoy! Grandpa peanut brittle bohuth pasand hei.

So leg waxing is painful. I had no idea. I kind of died at the salon. But I figured, its better for your skin and costs only $4 by skilled Tibetan immigrants. A good ladies razor costs more in India. But ouch! Pain is beauty. And I’ll leave it at that.

Much love,
More later,

SONIA

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