This is #5 in my series on India. If you are new to this series and would like to start at the beginning, just follow the link below.
Morning yoga practice was again designed to ground any fired-up pittas among us. We held strong poses for too long, including downward dog where my left shoulder ached from an old injury sustained during intensive vinyasa yoga training a year ago. But in savasana, a peacock serenaded us and we felt pretty special. He sang “e-ow! e-ow! e-ow!” to his lady friends (and us).
After breakfast, I walked through the orchard where four kinds of mango trees provide cool shade, yet are not currently in fruiting season. I was headed to the boulders beyond which sit at the foot of the steep cliffs of the Anamalai Hills. With book in hand, I sat atop a boulder to enjoy the view of four tall gum trees nestled amongst the plantation of Indian natives. Immediately recognisable by their bark and pale colouring, I was pleased to see something from home.
Marcus, the Italian expat owner here, joined us on a garden tour in the hour before dusk. Dressed in white and yellow dhoti, he entered a forest of fuchsia-pink bougainvillea and returned with neem branches he’d collected for us to inspect. Our Indian guide and local gardener explained in heavily accented English the names and properties of many medicinal flora species planted with vashtu principles in mind and bordered with sophisticated irrigation. “French Penny” (frangipani) is planted beside homes for a specific reason I didn’t quite hear and neems and ficas are located upwind from residences for their CO2 cleaning properties.
On my rock today I read from ‘A Passage to India’ by E.M. Forster and was pleased that the plot is finally beginning to take off after several attempts. A cow herder then brought his gentle bovines into the area and I slid gingerly off my rock. With a whack, my feet hit the grass and I startled a placid black cow in her munching. Poor old girl. On my way back to be reluctantly milked again, I petted two calves who weren’t at all interested in a food-less person and I collected two little peacock feathers to send home tucked naughtily inside letters to friends.
From the market man today, I purchased a jade green kurti embroidered with fuchsia threads that are already unraveling and a saffron pashmina (“Made from only the finest beard of a goat, madam”). I probably spent too many rupees, but at least I will use them and I have had my first introduction to pushy salesmen. How to proceed next time? Be insistent, be patient with their sales pitch, laugh and smile before asking direct questions, offer a very low sum and keep my cash hidden away until payment is agreed upon. Be prepared to say no. Allow myself to be rude in the pursuit of good shopping.
I’ve noticed today a reduction in my hunger. I didn’t wake up ravenous and wasn’t desperate for breakfast or lunch. This is a much more comfortable way to live. I think the anxiety-reducing herbal medicine is working, along with the solitude. I feel tired enough to fall asleep in any of the one hour gaps in the schedule here. Before my final milk treatment today, I put my legs up the wall before promptly falling asleep. Startled awake, I laughed at the realisation that my legs had turned to marshmallows and fallen on me.
Hopefully, I’ll have a different treatment for the last few days here. Others have spoken about a terrifying practice of being slapped across their whole bodies with oiled, heated poultices (this is how you wake up a lethargic kapha dosha, apparently). Others rave about the sensation of warmed oil trailing back and forth across their foreheads whilst laying half asleep on their backs. I want that one.
Savasana – ‘corpse’ pose, cued at the end of a yoga class to symbolise the ‘death’ of the practice. Laying supine, with palms facing up by your sides, let your feet turn out. Rest.
Dhoti – traditional garment for Hindu men – basically a really nice but plain sarong with a yarn-dyed, fancy border in a medium-weight woven fabric.
Vashtu – sacred geometry. A bit like feng shui, there is a lot of focus on compass points and proper alignment.
Neem – a tree in the mahogany family. Considered to be nature’s wonder product; anti viral, anti inflammatory, anti fungal and fights malaria, cancer, diabetes. Also commonly used for hair, skin, teeth/gums products. Terribly bitter to taste, but a lovely tree to look at.
Ficas – fig trees
Kurti -hip length shirt, traditional-looking and modest.
Kapha – the dosha associated with the elements on earth and water. Means you’re either a very down to earth individual or you feel like mud all the time.
“Kapha types have a strong build and excellent stamina. But when Kapha builds to excess, then weight gain, fluid retention, and allergies manifest in the body. When they’re out of balance, Kapha types may become overweight, sleep excessively, and become lethargic. They are naturally calm, thoughtful, and warm. When in balance, Kaphas are strong, loyal, patient, steady, and supportive. People with an excess of Kapha tend to hold on to things, jobs, and relationships long after they are no longer nourishing or necessary. Excess Kapha in the mind manifests as resistance to change and stubbornness.” -The Chopra Centre
8. India: Saree