Monday, January 23, 2012

Gong Xi Fa ‘Chai’

 … an appropriate Chinese New Year greeting from India, where Chai is a staple.

Chinese New Year has never been a big event for my family (for us it’s Christmas) and I have never been a fan of the noisy red&gold celebrations and goodies .  No pineapple tarts, cookies or BBQ pork for me although I do eat a lot of kua ji (pumpkin seeds), mandarin oranges and Yu Shang (the traditional New Year tossed salad).

I did have a wonderful New Year’s eve party hosted by a KL girl.  She and another Malaysian girl made an amazing Yu Shang, adjusting perfectly to the lack of the proper ingredients.  There was pomegranate, red peppers, crushed crispy roti (instead of crackers) and a sweet sauce made from apricot jam, plum juice and honey.  It was very yummy!!  The highlight of the evening was a fireworks displayed which was a treat for me ( I’m deprived of any firework memories since they are banned in Singapore).  It was an awesome display of flashing coloured sparks, lots of noise although the falling shrapnel  had people running for cover.  The next neighbour complained immediately even though it was only 730pm and the noise lasted a short 5 minutes.  She ‘’didn’t care’’ that it was a Chinese New Year celebration.  Obviously there are some double standards being applied since Diwali firework noise last about 2 weeks!

2 other exciting things happened in my usual uneventful Mysore life this past week:
One was my first visit to a dentist here.  The privately-run Vikram group of hospitals operate Vikram Perfect – Shape, Skin and Smile ie body and face asthetics plus dental care.  I had heard positive reports about the modern and clean dental facilities, plus how cheap it is compared to the West so I figured I’d check a filling that was causing me some discomfort and get a cleaning at the same time.

I was impressed by the service of the staff there – the welcome, registration process as well as the attention from the doctors and nurses.  The equipment was indeed clean and modern-looking but it felt primitive compared to what Singapore offers nowadays – it was similar to what I experienced when I was in school.  The doctors had lovely bedside manner, “Madam, if you experience any sensitivity during the cleaning, please raise your left hand and I will stop”, “Madam, would you like me to stop for you to take a rest” (ie do you want to close your mouth for a while).  The nurse diligently held the tube sucking out the saliva from my mouth and dabbed at the water spraying all over my face but neglected to see how the water dribbled down both sides of my neck, leaving my collar soaked by the end of the session.  The doctor also raised the back of the chair so I could rinse my mouth but didn’t lower the leg part so I had to do a sit-up in order to sit upright.

All in all, it was a pleasant experience and definitely easier on the pocket (consultation, scaling and polishing only cost S$24).

The second event was Guru’s coconut stand being taken.  For those who don't know, this entry describes my relationship with Guru, my coconut man
This is what it used to look like, from the side - take note of the trees providing shade

After having my usual 2 coconuts at Guru’s after practice one morning, I was amazed to see (on Facebook, none the less) pictures of the coconut stand being dismantled.  We drove by later in the afternoon to see that Guru’s little stand had been moved back away from the junction and the 2 trees providing shade had been chopped down.  I have heard different reasons for why this happened.  One was safety reasons as the stand was too close to the junction and customers parking their bikes obstructed traffic turning.  Another was that other locals were jealous of Guru’s booming business and complained to the Police.

Regardless of the reasons, we were just happy to see that he was continuing business.  By the next day, he had a canopy erected for shade.  I was also there when he was overseeing a group of young boys and men moving a big concrete slab to create a bridge over the drain and moving earth to level off the ground.

So hot without the trees

Guru's little shack - he has a burner inside to make his chai .. would definitely  fail any fire safety standards!

The new location - lots of space in front.  Looks ugly without the trees though

 So, it’s been an exciting week in Mysore.  Here are some pictures:
Yu Sheng - Mysore-style

Take cover , these are Chinese fireworks

Cows coloured for a harvest festival

Friday, January 13, 2012

Mysore 2011 Part 2 – The Return of the Jedi

For the first time in my 6 trips to Mysore, I broke my trip into 2 parts.  After 2 months, I went home for a 12-day Xmas break and then returned to Mysore Dec28 for another 2 month stint.

The title ‘Return of the Jedi’ just popped into my head.  I’m sure spending time with my nephews in Toys R Us before Christmas (the Star Wars section of course) and seeing their excitement over their Star Wars toys, decals for their room etc influenced me.  It could also have been the black strips of Physio tape on my shoulder and arm (my right shoulder’s not very happy with me at the moment), which made me look like a Darth Vadar’s droid who failed the factory inspection test.

‘’The Empire Strikes back’’ did strike me as a possible title but that had an ominous overtone to it.   I’d like to think of myself as a returning ‘good’ warrior rather than someone out to do battle with Sharath or worse, vice versa.

Having a break in the practice was an interesting experience.  For me, it takes about a month after arriving in Mysore to get my practice up to a steady level.  Then it progresses slowly from the 2nd month onwards.  So, taking a break from practice in the shala to a comparatively hectic life of catching up with family and friends in Singapore (with lots of rain and ‘ponding’) was terrible from a practice-perspective.  Plus, I was teaching a few classes as well.  I hardly practiced ; a combination of a sore shoulder, not enough sleep, too much food and wanting to spend time with my nieces and nephews.  It was tough to see my practice plummet to such depths of pathetic-ness but I had no regrets – it was great to be home for the holidays.

It was also an interesting experiment to see if Rest would help my shoulder.  My conclusion – No, not for me.  Not practicing made me feel stiff and my shoulder felt frozen.  Once I started practicing in the shala though, it’s been getting better each day although I’m not back to normal yet.

When I arrived back in Mysore, it was after the coldest week where temperatures hit 7 degrees one night (the coldest in 118 years, so my landlord said).  My teeth were chattering as I stood in front of the Immigration officer that night (16 degrees I think it was).  Winter is now over apparently and it’s now going to get progressively hotter, starting to be unbearable from March.  For now, it’s perfect … cool in the mornings and evenings and warm in the day, minus the heavy humidity of Singapore.

Another first this year … I’d never been in Mysore in January or February before so it’s a different set of regulars.  I am also finding myself in the position of saying Good-bye as people leave.  I felt homesick for the first time as a lot of my ‘gang’ is leaving this coming week and I got a sms from my sister saying that it had been a tough day with the boys.  For a minute I wished I was home helping her out.

Although this is ‘peak’ season, there are so many people this year that the last practitioners are finishing after 12pm!  People who have registered to practice with Sharath have been asked if they would consider practicing with his mum, Saraswati, instead.  Sharath is saying No to anyone asking to extend their stay.  In fact, when my friend told him she was leaving early, he said Thank You.  Another friend from Mumbai was asked to go home and come back in July.  A new rule has also just been posted that the maximum stay is now 3 months (it used to be 6).

I also have no more stockings to occupy me so my current indulgent past-time is watching movies on my laptop.  I know it was what I was doing before but now I can fully concentrate on them without using them as an accompliment for something else.  I am glad I didn’t bring that unfinished cross-stich with me :o)

So, I have realised that coming back after a break isn’t just picking up where I left it.  It’s almost like a whole new trip.  Yet, some things stay the same – getting up every morning, walking to the shala, doing my practice, getting my 2 coconuts from Guru, then walking home to clean-up.  It’s a routine that keeps me stable through the variable elements in the environment around me.  I am very lucky to be here again for another 2 months.  Hhmm .. maybe I should change the title to the first Star Wars movie which is …  A New Hope.

Some interesting photos:
The light-up of the Club behind my house for New Year's Eve

Food coma after a Maney lunch

A very inconsiderate thing to order ... Paper Dosa.
My poor friend has no space for his food