Monday, November 17, 2008

Chennai Day Three


Dogs rumbling in the surf and fishing boats at Elliot's Beach in Chennai, above. Below, two calves at Kapalishvara Temple in Chennai. They were in a little pen to be admired and occasionally, to have worshippers reach over and touch them. Don't they look serene?
Closeup of some of the carvings on the temple. I wasn't there - these are photos from my husband's expeditions today - but I'm thinking It's a Small, Small World inspiration?
I woke up about 7 am today to drink coffee, have some cereal, and do my yoga practice. Then ironed my clothes for the day (Indians are very neat and believe in ironing, to the extent that there’s a small wooden cart that the vendor rolls down the street, stopping in front of houses to do their ironing, and this is a tropical climate – thus, I figured that perhaps I should press a few wrinkles out of my pantaloons), took a shower, and got dressed for the day.
Today we hired a driver for the day, mainly to take me to my job, so that I could center nervousness on any choice but the specter of hurtling across town in a rickshaw. What a difference. Deva, who was recommended by a colleague, was waiting outside by one of those old-fashioned, thirties-style sedans that you'd see in a movie with Barbara Stanwyck. He drove me to what I thought was the building, helped me find the actual building (I was one block away, and somehow, when you’re lost, all the buildings and gates and signs look identical), and then showed me how to open the gate (slidy metal thing at the top instead of a latch that flips in the center.)
My day went fine, and as expected, will be a lot of waiting in between people rushing toward me to say “Janet, go there to observe” or “Janet, please, a consultation.” Manners are impeccable: “please, sit” is the way that I’m told that it’s time to wait or “please, follow” when it’s time to move or “please, wait here” when we’re not quite sure what to do with me. I read a few chapters of a Peter Wimsey-Harriet Vane mystery but found it hard to concentrate, then spent time looking at the local paper, the Hindu, and then took out a sock to knit later in the afternoon. I’d been told that knitting is a lower class activity in India (yesterday I saw an ad promoting cross stitch lessons, ladies and children welcome, which I think means that cross stitch must be a form of work here and they were looking for men who needed work), so I’ve been unsure if it would seem inappropriate. But after waiting for much of the day and realizing how much knitting I could be getting done, I decided to jump in, and if the staff feels it’s not a good idea, I’m sure someone will let me know.
In between the waiting (which is actually a good test for me, because I am so not a patient person who enjoys waiting for unspecified lengths of time in unfamiliar places – I feel proud that I got through the day still Feeling Calm) I was able to observe three yoga therapy classes and a consultation, or first meeting, of a student with a teacher to do an intake and assessment. Each was different from the others, but there were some hallmarks that I noticed: the way that the teacher matched his or her approach to the student (quiet tone of voice with the very quiet student or a lighter, laughter-accented tone for the student whom the teacher has known and worked with over several years); that everyone needs to relax, relax, relax; that everyone needs to slow down; that chanting is a great way to have someone develop the length of his
breath and Americans should try it more often; and that cell phones, no matter what country they ring in, are an unnecessary interruption and should all be tossed in the river. Didn’t we all exist before being available every moment of our existence?
Tonight, we had the leftover lemon
rice from lunch (which also came with okra that was crunchy and wholly edible and far away from the stuff they served in the cafeteria at Duke University and some spicy potatoes and a dal of split peas and tomatoes and onions – so far, we’re sticking with the wimpy, unspicy level of heat in our food) with stir fried onions and carrots with some soy sauce (my husband’s expeditions today included a trip to the American supermarket, including replenishing the supply of TP and finding some cranberry juice and chocolate chip cookies) and cut-up cucumbers.
It’s only 9 p.m., but I’m just about ready for bed. There are no streetlights here, and once it gets dark (which happens much earlier that I would have expected – by 630 or 7 pm – but this is winter here – only in the 80s and humid instead of hot-box conditions, a la that scene from The Bridge over the River Kwai) it feels like it’s time to nod off. Tomorrow I’m supposed to have a fuller schedule, so maybe I’ll get a few rows of knitting done before going to sleep.





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