First Things • 18 March 2009

Night without qualities, every aspect so suave it feels empty. It is that good, a thick futon in a clean sanctuary of a 2nd floor room, tiny warm breeze, bugless except for the fearful slow mantis daring me not to brush her from the sheets, pitch dark night after I blew out the Monte Cristo candelabra, and a toilet that trickles like a 90s zen serenity fountain.

Mantis confrontation

The only mild disturbance a bit of evening traffic, more horn-sounds than engine bluster; even here in the Brentwood of Mysore there’s a honk if you’re sentient policy on the road, with most trucks blazing cartoon avatars on their lowhanging, testicular back axles and “PLEASE HONK” across a back metal bumper.

It’s 3 am now. I slept five hours thank god, though at first I didn’t know if that was going to work out. My solar plexus was pulsing as if a spaceballs alien would burst forth from my gut and when I twitched the hands lying on the crests of my hips would fly off and snap the mattress to jolt me back abuzz.

Poor taste to go manic in Mecca, though. I dialed it down with limited skill I guess the yoga has given… I’d rather sleep more and be calmer than I am now, but am getting there. The last real manic episode was a week long, three years ago, and the penultimate lasted 10 days, three years before that. No sleeping, complete loss of appetite, spitfire wits, blurring of the boundaries of self, and overwhelming, inspecific feelings of love that move both inward and outward. The chemicals that make this happen… I appreciate them and there’s nothing false about the being they make me in to, any more than other personalities are false. And nurture’s involved since I create the baseline for these experiences myself, by steadily reinforcing the gratitude-gestalt. Still, not here. Too easy to go native inside the Mysore bubble; too easy to attribute it to the not-quite-contact high—some PJ shakti cocktail—in a way that keeps me from feeling what’s really going on here energetically.

Thank god it’s at least late in the season—the parties and hookups are on the ebb and those who are here are not quite so eager to start new relationships because they’re re-entering their home’s mental space. There were still a lot of introductions yesterday though, though maybe self-protectively, or maybe just because I was delirious, I don’t remember a single new name. Not one.

Arriving around 8, driven by a man named Ramesh beneath the gorgeous stories-high aqueduct that has no end or beginning and looks to me like a concrete interpretation of the Seattle monorail, I landed and then spent the day circling inside Gokulam in an enlarging spiral out from the center stage of the coconut stand and the slightly less interesting but still bustling main intersection it overlooks.

Ramesh the driver, by the way, waited outside the airport with all the other sign-bearing drivers. His sign was block-lettered in my name and the name of my guest house, and my brother was right: I have always wanted to be one of those people with their own sign. But it’s just a nostalgic imperial style-cue here: Ramesh knew me on sight since he’d image-searched me on the drive in. But he was determined to establish a hierarchy: wouldn't sit with me for coffee or call me anything but Ma'am, scolded me for trying to carry my own bags, made me fill in a questionnaire that confirmed he had not harassed me sexually or asked me for money. Astutely service-class (a modern subaltern proletariat–talk about latent power). That quick, determined professionalism may quickly eclipse the lingering dominion of my dollars, Irish visage and SoCal English. Me the dissolute envoy from a declining empire, him the quick smart economic-subversive with a plan.

The airport is new this year and the land around smells like Montanan industrial agriculture and is staked off with telecommunications and YOUR AD HERE billboards like giant croquet hoops. I did finally begin to lose my mind those last four hours of driving with Ramesh. The sun came up on my lucidity’s retreat. We’ll see how many new sunups are required for some kind of recalibration.


  • Posted 18 March 2009 at 7:03 pm | #

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Is there Guinness in India?

  • Posted 18 March 2009 at 7:29 pm | #

    “Me the dissolute envoy from a declining empire, him the quick smart economic-subversive with a plan.”
    Love that line, say it again, say it again!
    Loved too the young postulant on your bed, could watch them for hours. Like watching grass grow…“move dammit!”

    Do you know Ogden’s mantis poem?

    From whence arrived the praying mantis?
    From outer space, or lost Atlantis?
    glimpse the grin, green metal mug
    at masks the pseudo-saintly bug,
    Orthopterous, also carnivorous,
    And faintly whisper, Lord deliver us.

  • V
    Posted 18 March 2009 at 8:57 pm | #

    I like Ramesh. Not so long ago, a friend of mine watched her driver masturbate on the 5 hours drive to Mysore.

  • Posted 18 March 2009 at 9:48 pm | #

    5 hours! Now THAT’S stamina!!

  • meniscusmerangue
    Posted 18 March 2009 at 10:49 pm | #

    let’s have fun before the last legions leave…

  • Posted 19 March 2009 at 7:05 am | #

    This is ENORMOUS! I’d like to wring it out and drink it down with my orange juice. I’m with Grimmly—say it again!

  • tova
    Posted 19 March 2009 at 11:55 am | #


  • Posted 19 March 2009 at 12:19 pm | #

    hi (0v0), enjoying your beautiful word constructs, as always. i found the blog of a yoga practicing Chinese lady who lives in Golukum and her observations of life there remind me of your observations from as sociologist’s perspective. she talked about class structure in India. i hope your yoga experiences are meaningful to you. oh, and i like the mantis picture.

  • Posted 19 March 2009 at 1:06 pm | #

    The cultivation of calm. Lovely. Go, Owl!

  • Posted 19 March 2009 at 1:42 pm | #

    It’s like reading Hanif Kureishi where “shakti cocktail” replaces Ecstasy 🙂

  • katie
    Posted 19 March 2009 at 9:59 pm | #


  • Posted 20 March 2009 at 1:37 am | #

    Kingfisher 🙂 I knew you’d love her, K.

    About class structure, interesting.

    I am shocked and disturbed that the million ashtangis who come here a year aren’t a little more self-aware and uneasy about the stark hierarchies they have instituted in Gokulam. It’s in every micro-intreaction, some of the most severe domination I’ve seen in a functioning society. And I’ve lived in Latin America.

    Ashtangis rule here, with the dollar, with the freedom of time and movement and self-expression, and with the word. In this neighborhood, your livelihood is hinged to your English language facility… that even goes for the kids who beg for coins.

    It’s pretty precious to hear talk of karma yoga at a table of people dominating the local society.

    That said, some ashtangis here do have a heart of service. You can have any experience you want to here… and some are totally unplugged from the scene and out working in orphanages. Legit.

    And the dog in my house is trained to bark at Indians only. I thought dogs didn’t have a cognitive category for race.

  • Posted 20 March 2009 at 2:52 am | #

    I’m guessing you never saw the Curb Your Enthusiasm episode where Larry adopts the racist dog?

  • Posted 22 March 2009 at 1:59 pm | #

    Oh god. I feel bad saying it because she’s only picking up on what humans have taught her, but she’s definitely racist. Doesn’t like dark-skinned men hanging around white girls, for example. Ugh.

  • Posted 23 March 2009 at 4:05 am | #

    I like dark men hanging around white girls…
    hee hee hee!
    The photo is brilliant.
    Have you talked to any other ashtangis about their feelings on class structure or do you keep that convo to yourself? That stuff makes me feel sad and sick to my stomach. And helpless.

  • Posted 23 March 2009 at 12:25 pm | #

    I’m waiting to see if it’ll come up.

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