Days 21/22 August 9/10

Saturday/Sunday  –  Some of us gone to the beach, but some of us…..

All is well at the beach according to Tessa and Sunil – the owner of the hotel.  Ya Gotta Believe!  Meanwhile….back here in Mysore some tourism abounds.  Sam/Noniko/Merilynne and I went to the Royal Orchid Metropol for lunch.  Very very fancy.  The favorites? Unbelievably enough….Cauliflower Au Gratin and Ice Cream. It turns out the simple things are the ones that really do matter.  All that glamor for Cauliflower? yes.  In the afternoon our wonderful co-director here, Sindhu Suresh, gave us an amazing tour of the town’s most rare temples (some of which she hadn’t seen herself!).  We did puja at two of them ….including a very very old Shiva temple and a very old Indra temple (I’ve never seen an Indra Temple…quite amazing).  We all had some sort of out-of-body experiences at these temples, to be sure.  We got back INTO our bodies at one of the best Dhosa places in town.  Having a Masala Dhosa in Mysore? pure heaven.

We came up on Annick and Andrew coming back from “More” (basically the supermarket) with a few staples – as we rickshawed back to the hostel.  Soon we were greeted by many happy stories of the beach trip, including an amazing trip to a Temple that morning – complete with Male Bharata Natyam Dancing in the temple! A VERY rare treat!  More treats? Yes…Friendship Day (sort of…it is “brother day”) where we tied “Raksha’s” onto each others right arms, then ate an incredible toffee/chocolate cake mercifully provided by Merilynne!  The fun never really stops here…as you can clearly see.

Day 20-  August 8

Friday  –  Off to beautiful Kannur – and Lakshmi Puja

Today is an act of trust – sending 7 students off to a resort on a beach in India.  It’s gorgeous, I’m in phone contact for emergencies (dear God!), and they SHOULD be having a blast.  Let’s hope…and we’ll know soon.

Meanwhile….it’s Lakshmi Puja day, and our good friend Chandrakala (the assistant to Sindhu- our ground co-ordinator here in India and the director of VIIS) invited us to her home to celebrate Lakshmi puja.  Lakshmi – the goddess of wealth.  As luck would have it, I had two pieces ready to sing – and nothing weirder than a big white professor from the USA singing Kannada Kritis (classical S. Indian music) in your living room in India – believe me.  Me as exotic.  How does that fit – as a “WASP” – it is rare to feel exotic…certainly in the US.  Here…I’m really an oddity.  Chanrakala’s family was there, her son Hashah and her husband who’s name I never quite could say (sorry!).  And her mother was there too, horridly ill, but graceful and sweet nonetheless.  On we went, chanting mantras, eating many, many sweets (including sweet chapati and ghee, yummy, think glazed donuts, sort of….or Sopapillas?).  The entire neighborhood packed in to do puja there in “Chandi’s” living room – and to see me sing.  They sang along with the locally written, and locally languaged (Kannada) “Bhaghada Lakshmi” (think how popular “Fur Elise” is in the States/Europe and you have a good idea how well-known this tune is).  It’s written by Purandarasa (15thc. composer from this state-Karnatika), and in Kannada (Local language), and FOR the Lakshmi Puja.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  I’ve never done anything more appropriate liturgically…with maybe one weird exception- Cage’s 4’33” for Good Friday (the service requires intense silence for the Postlude).  There you have it…possibly the most surreal blog ever, but welcome to India – the invention of Surrealism must have happened here – long long long before Celine and Salvador Dali.

Was finally able to upload these, but no idea why some are sideways and upside down.  My mom suggested that maybe it’s because we are on the other side of the world and we are feeling a little topsy-turvy?

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Neighbors at Lakshmi Puja listening to the Kriti

Neighbors at Lakshmi Puja listening to the Kriti

Kala's famiy

I've seen families of 4 or 5 on a scooter, but this is a first.

I’ve seen families of 4 or 5 on a scooter, but this is a first.

I really enjoyed the big birds this time.

I really enjoyed the big birds this time.

And of course the orangutan put on a show for us!

And of course the orangutan put on a show for us!

With Sindhu Suresh, the VIIS director.

With Sindhu Suresh, the VIIS director.

Lakshmi Puja, done only by women, with Chandrakala

Lakshmi Puja, done only by women, with Chandrakala

Chandrakala's family and her Puja room

Chandrakala’s family and her Puja room

 


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