Saturday, September 23, 2006

Short notes from the trip

– At the Ananda gymnasium early one morning I attended a session called “Full Moon Stretches” wherein an instructor twisted my hands and feet into numerous outlandish positions until I couldn’t feel them anymore. The Beatles’ Abbey Road was playing throughout, and there were eerie parallels between the lyrics and our convoluted movements. For instance, just when we were doing one of the “active exercises” (where the instructor actively “helps” the victim – in this case, by placing his knee at the small of my back and then pulling the rest of me towards him), I could hear “Come Together” playing in the background and Lennon was going:
He got Ono sideboard he one spinal cracker
He got feet down below his knee
For the first time in dozens of hearings of this enigmatic song, the words began to make perfect sense to me. By the time Ringo started on the (much more straightforward) “Octopus’s Garden” I was feeling like one of those forlorn beasts of the sea, with too many limbs to reasonably deal with. And some time later the instructor was grunting away, trying in vain to get a very large woman to adopt postures nature had never intended her to be in, and right on cue there’s John warbling “She’s So Heavy”.

I wonder if it was all planned.

Hum Aapke Hain Kaun met Body Heat 2 in a surreal episode at one of the massage parlours, where a lady masseuse first performed an elaborate Aarti for me (because that’s how Ananda shows its guests they are special) and then proceeded to rub her hands all over my body for an hour. Needless to say, the Aarti was the embarrassing part. (It was done with one of those small plates with a diya and red powder on it, just like they show in the movies! I never thought such things could really happen. Am beginning to appreciate Vikram Chandra’s remark that even the most melodramatic Hindi films can reflect the realities of our lives.)

– Many quotable quotes were acquired in the course of my meetings with sadhus and gurus in Rishikesh, but one of my favourites came from this disgruntled teacher who admitted that he didn’t really care for most Yoga techniques despite actively practicing them. “See, the basic idea is to achieve Paramatman,” he said offhandedly, “and people can do this in many different ways. It’s the same thing as when a young boy wishes to achieve a young girl (sic). He tries various techniques: uses fragrant body powder, dresses up smartly, tries to leave a good impression by presenting a sensitive side of himself, says all the right things.”

“Likewise, the people here all try different techniques – bhakti yoga, asanas, pranayam, meditation – in order to achieve God. It’s exactly the same thing, really.”

(For a self-professed celibate, he certainly knew a lot.)

Later another Yoga teacher, an incongruously soft-spoken young chap originally from Hyderabad, showed me SMSes he’d received from a student who lives in Paris. Apparently, after she went back home they continued distance therapy – he’d allot a time at which they’d both get into “the zone”, and he’d solve her problems from thousands of miles away. The gratitude-filled SMSes ran along the following lines:

“Wow guruji, I totally felt the warm waves of sensation just now!”

(Not making this up. And I fear it can only partly be explained by the bad English of French people.)

– “Foreigners are an undisciplined lot,” explained the secretary at one of the ashrams that accepted only Indian students. “They believe in free sex and alcohol. They kiss as freely as we do namaskar,” he said, making a puckering motion with his lips and then putting his hands together reverentially, to demonstrate both actions. “Their women stand arms akimbo, tch tch.” (He placed his hands on his hips.) “No respect for elders.”


  1. I see, the trip didn't anything for your spiritual self-development. disappointing. :)

  2. Oh I'm already at the acme of spiritual self-development. Any more would cause my soul to implode.

  3. or, it is only when you're entirely self-realised that you can be as rude as you please. osho would approve. alok, take note.

  4. Am beginning to appreciate Vikram Chandra’s remark that even the most melodramatic Hindi films can reflect the realities of our lives.

    There's an O'Henry story based on that premiss.

    Just wondering: What does the word 'wotxan' (the word verfication code) mean to you, after this, erm, spiritual experience?

  5. uhh...just a clarification. O'Henry's story was about how melodrama in theatre reflects the realities of our lives. Specifically: moments of crisis.

  6. Full moon is normally associated with volatile mood swings.

    As for yoga,the bhagvag gita also says that "Yoga is dexterity in action" which implies Make your passion your profession
    My other blog is Stray thoughts

  7. Full moon is normally associated with volatile mood swings.

    But I already have those! Does this mean I can avoid the stretches?

  8. What asana goes with "You Never Give Me Your Money"? Just curious :)


  9. km says:
    What asana goes with "You Never Give Me Your Money"?

    try covermyarse-ana

    practiced regularly in most work places, followed by "They Never Give Me ANY Money"