Back to Anantha • 20 January 2010

Returned today to see the professor-yogi, M.A. Narasimhan. Office hours this season are 11-1ish (and more like 2), so I’ll make the 15-minute rickshaw or scooter ride across town a couple of days a week.

Today we did an hour of Q&A on creatively east/west topics. For example: the physics of karma, comparative analysis of Freudian and Hindu maps of self, yoga as a process of becoming an unmoved mover.

Then, to my dismay, Narasimhan’s sister Dr. Jayashree came in and for a half hour we chanted the Samadhi pada. Noooo!!! From the wafts of her voice in neighboring rooms on my previous visits to Narasimhan, and the recordings I’ve accidentally heard in woo-woo bookshops and studios around the world, I knew this woman had my siren song. But there I was, sitting in the front corner of the room and unable to get out at all politely. Trapped in a tight lotus with the MB up to 11 to contain the Delhi belly.

Oh god. You guys, she is beautiful. I can’t even tell you. There she is, a foot from me, swaying as she leads a bunch of talentless, tone-deaf foreign aspirants. Nevermind her generosity, the gift of perfect pronunciation, and the genius of the way she teaches…

Her voice is killer. There are no words. I wonder if the inner experience of asana could ever be so blissful as what she feels when she turns in to that sound.

So it’s a problem. I have intended to focus on the practices I already have – asana, pranayama, meditation. None of this language and singing stuff, which is like crack cocaine to my little hyperverbal, hyperauditory mind. But… now that I’ve had a taste of her, I probably won’t be able to stay away. There is this empty space inside my head, between the ears and the pituitary gland, that aches for her voice. My toungue curls up in my throat trying to taste it. My Q-tip fetish is getting worse. Nothing but hearing her in person will satisfy.

And once I start going in for the bliss of her wail, it’s just a matter of time before I’m compelled to understand the nonsense itself. The few Sutras I do know are a nasty hook. I’m telling myself that this Sanskrit stuff is dead language. A language which has own ridiculously illegible script: a script which ought to remain illegible! Learning Sanskrit is not morally important. Not useful. Not informative. But… sooo beautifullll….

Anyway, phew! After a half hour of the chanting, my guy Narasimhan went back to doing his thing. If he were a character in Autobiography of a Yogi, they’d have called him the Professor-Saint. I didn’t take any notes, but hours later when I sat down to write about his talk, I found myself drawing it in symbols and pictures. There was a garden gnome to recall his discussion of Noam Chomsky’s early work, a sun shining on the gnome to remind me of R. Crumb’s representation of the Abrahamic god, a balloon in the sky to denote Narasimhan’s hand motions when he talks about the ego inflating and deflating, an infinity sign floating in the sky to remind me of the number 8, a cat on the ground under a basket to recall a funny story, etc. etc. etc.

Oddly, what had seemed like random Q & A was all connected—graphically and narratively—in my mind, waiting to be made in to working knowledge. Why haven’t all the other professors in my life inspired me to catalogue them with a variety of senses, not just the critical mind?

From last year, posts on Narasimhan: one, two, three.