eating sushi in india :: day 15 :: happy pongol and makar sankranti!

I take same route back to the guesthouse after yoga. This morning walk is one of my favorite parts of the day - the air is still cool but the sun is shining, there’s little traffic and I get to say good morning a variety of cows, street dogs, monkeys and sheep.

January 3, 2019 - One of the neighborhood streets in Golukam, near the Jois shalas.

January 3, 2019 - One of the neighborhood streets in Golukam, near the Jois shalas.

Many of the houses have elaborate designs, drawn in chalk, on the pavement in front of their gates. Today was the first day I noticed a few women drawing fresh ones in front of the homes. Most of those mandalas drawn in white chalk, but this one clued me in on what made today different - it’s a holiday here in southern India. Happy Makar Sankranti. Or Happy Pongol, if you prefer. Either way, it’s the harvest festival and also a day to celebrate the fact that the days are now getting longer.

January 15, 2019 - Happy Pongol and Makara Sankranti

January 15, 2019 - Happy Pongol and Makara Sankranti

January 15, 2019 - The process looks like finger painting. She was mixing water in a bowl filled with something that looks like chalk dust, then using her thumb to draw on the pavement.

January 15, 2019 - The process looks like finger painting. She was mixing water in a bowl filled with something that looks like chalk dust, then using her thumb to draw on the pavement.

The other thing I noticed is that all the cows were neon…yellow. Even my buddy at Depth ‘n Green.

Favorite photo of the Day.  January 15, 2019 - Party Cow! The Depth ‘n Green cow, freshly bathed in turmeric and wearing a garland. Hey, girl. Moo.

Favorite photo of the Day. January 15, 2019 - Party Cow! The Depth ‘n Green cow, freshly bathed in turmeric and wearing a garland. Hey, girl. Moo.

This little guy making 1st Main Road his runway was my favorite.

Nothing to see here. Just taking my elaborately dressed cows out for a midday walk.

I’m no expert - what I learned about the festival comes from a fast Google search and a conversation with a rickshaw driver. But from what I can tell, today is the second day of the festival and this is the day to thank cattle for all their gifts to people: for milk and fertilizer (thanks for that poop, Bessie!), for plowing fields and moving heavy things, and ultimately (after dying of natural causes at the end of a long, happy life) leather.

Cows are bathed with turmeric water, and that’s what turns any while or light colored parts of the cow an intense shade of yellow. Sometimes their horns are painted bright colors (I didn’t see this), and some wear ribbons and garlands of flowers. Many people honored the cows either by stopping to briefly and reverently touch them, or by leaving bowls of cooked rice and jaggery (unrefined sugar) in front of their homes as an offering for cows passing by.

January 15, 2019 - Kids with their festival-ready cow near the Devaraja Market.

January 15, 2019 - Kids with their festival-ready cow near the Devaraja Market.

Sources:
Wikipedia covers the details and description here. There are some regional differences Scroll down to Karnataka to learn more about how the festival is celebrated here.

This Times of India article on Makar Sanskranti 2019 and this one with decorating inspiration for the holiday.

eating sushi in india :: day 14 :: skipping class, shopping and beer

The title pretty much sums up the day. I did go to yoga. I’m scheduled to start at 6am, which translates to 5:45am “shala time,” and actually means I start practicing sometime around 7am. During the wait, I listen to an audio book. Wearing headphones probably makes me seem unfriendly or unapproachable, but it makes the wait a lot more bearable. I might get a travel mug and start bringing hot tea or coffee, too.

My yoga practice is good. I’m still doing the primary series with dropbacks, with the occasional adjustment from one of the three or four assistants and usually one from Sharmila. Don’t let the word “primary” fool you. Just because it’s called the primary series, it is never easy. It is, after nearly 6 or so years of regular practice, pretty familiar to me, and that’s a big deal when practicing in an unfamiliar room, with new people in a new place. My favorite part is that I’m getting the chance to revisit dropbacks and work on them with a bit. Having a variety of new people help me do them keeps it different and interesting each day. It’s been fun. Most of the students getting direct instruction are beginners just learning the primary series; a few are getting lengthy lectures about doing the intermediate series far too soon, and about the importance of learning to practice safely.

The rest of the day was pretty low key. I skipped chanting (again), and headed to Depth ‘N Green for chai and the most glorious egg and cheese sandwich. From there, I decided I was comfortable enough with the area to explore on foot, so I checked out one of the many shops selling oils, malas, scarves and other gifts. Ended up having a cup of saffron tea (amazing) and having a long, long chat with the shopkeeper. I bought a couple of sandalwood bracelets. Then I checked out Sayoga, a shop designed to cater to customers like, well, me: visiting Mysore to practice yoga, and maybe needed some stuff - mat, clothes, and that kind of thing. The way it was laid out reminded me a bit Anthropologie - cute, seemingly random things in random places but somehow felt cohesive and organized.

After that, I checked out the Pelican Pub and Grub House Restaurant. (Get the chili pork and cheese naan.) It was an odd place, for two reasons. First, the walls were covered in posters with inspirational quotes. Jack Handey quotes would’ve blended right in. Second, there’s a section for “mixed groups,” meaning women and any group with both men and women. (I guess there’s a section for men only. Or gents only, as it’s noted.) I had a beer and a read for a bit. (I’m currently reading American Sniper, by Chris Kyle.)

That was my Monday. Pretty low key, but still nice. I still have a lot I want to see.- the sandalwood oil factory, the silk factory, Chamundi Hill and the Nandi Temple.

I think I’ll start sharing my one favorite photo from each day, as a way to end each post.

Favorite photo of the day - January 14, 2019.  Mall beads at Sayoga. I’m such a magpie when I shop, making a beeline for the shiny, pretty things.

Favorite photo of the day - January 14, 2019. Mall beads at Sayoga. I’m such a magpie when I shop, making a beeline for the shiny, pretty things.

eating sushi in India - day 12 - on saturdays, we shop

Yesterday was Saturday, my one day off yoga class during the week. I celebrated by sleeping in, and having French toast with honey, bananas and cinnamon for breakfast. And coffee, always coffee. I know chai is the drink here, but I just can’t get into what is basically a tea latte: hot milk, tea, and spices. Hot milk…I just can’t. Sorry.

I’d originally planned to go to Chamundi Hill this morning, but changed my mind when I remember that a couple of guidebooks recommended going during the week, as weekends could get pretty crowded. I ended up doing some souvenir shopping and went out for dinner and drinks with a few of the people staying here.

I went to the Silver Nest to check out the jewelry and mala beads. The shop itself is interesting. It has a very small footprint - in fact, it’s a couple of rooms in a house, just off the dining room. One room has displays of beads, brass statues, and a few other things. The other room has a table with four chairs, where you can sit to browse through boxes and boxes and still more boxes of jewelry. The shop owner, Meena, will bring you a box full of bracelets, or pendants, or rings, or - as in my case - pretty much everything. I picked through boxes full of anklets, rings, earrings, pendants (there was an entire box of Ganesha pendants), and bracelets. My visit coincided with the family’s late afternoon lunch happening in the next room. I wasn’t entirely sure what to do - it seems rude to get up and leave, walking through the family dining room to exit. I might’ve felt more awkward about it if a few other shoppers hadn’t come in to shop just then, so I stayed and kept browsing through all the boxes full of pretty, shiny things.

Just two of the dozen or boxes I picked through.

Just two of the dozen or boxes I picked through.

I stayed so long that Meena brought me some lunch, which was amazing.

I stayed so long that Meena brought me some lunch, which was amazing.

View outside the window at Depth ‘n Green…

View outside the window at Depth ‘n Green…

I hadn’t expected to spend quite so long shopping, so I ended up hanging out at Depth ‘n Green for coffee and what I’m pretty sure was a vegan chocolate chip cookie. They look more tempting than they taste, but I guess I kind suspected that before I ordered it. I finished reading My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante - it was amazing. I’m regretting not having brought my Kindle; if I had, I’d have downloaded the other 3 books in the series.

After that, I headed back to the guesthouse planning to call it a day, but the guesthouse owner and a few of his friends and other guests were headed out to The Barge for dinner.

That’s it…another day in India, wrapped. I can’t believe I’m nearly halfway through my time here.

eating sushi in India :: day 3 :: the barge

I’m traveling alone, and while I do quite a bit by myself I’m not lonely. In fact, I’ve not been solitary for too long since I arrived. The small guesthouse where I’m staying has been quite friendly. Last night a small group of us headed out to a farewell dinner for a Belgian couple that was leaving the next morning. We went to The Barge, Mysuru’s first microbrewery.

The building is constructed from recycled (up cycled?) shipping containers.

The building is constructed from recycled (up cycled?) shipping containers.

 

I wouldn’t have guessed in a million years that my third day in India would take me to a brew pub, but there you go. The space is a combination of shipping containers and outdoor courtyards and a hell of a lot of twinkle lights. It was a small miracle that I didn’t trip over the lip of the containers as I walked through the place. The beer wasn’t the worst I’ve ever had (Avalon Brewing Company, I’m looking at you), and the food was easy - nothing too adventurous or risky. (Some people like risky. I’m not one of them.)

According to the owner of the guesthouse, it’s a popular spot on the weekends for young professionals and even families with kids, which sounds like a lot of the breweries I know and have seen back in New England.

There was a bunch of outdoor seating, and cool booths inside the converted shipping containers.

There was a bunch of outdoor seating, and cool booths inside the converted shipping containers.

Super cute, right?

Super cute, right?

It was not at all something I expected to see while in India, and I’d definitely go back.

eating sushi in India :: day 1 :: happy new year!

I’m spending the month of January in India. 2019 is starting with quite a few firsts: first time in Asia, first time doing some personal travel alone, and first day of the year in a completely unfamiliar place.

You might be thinking “You aren’t really eating sushi there, are you?” Nope. Over the holidays, we had a good laugh when Rich’s dad, who spent quite a bit of time working in India years ago, told him about about his colleague who did try the sushi… only to have a hearty helping of regret for dessert.

There are probably many wannabe Anthony Bourdains, adventurously eating my way around the world, but I’m not one of them. I’m not an aspiring travel writer, either, but I do want to record the everyday details - where I went, what I saw and what it feels like to do everyday things in a place completely foreign to me.

Today started early, around 5am. I’m practicing yoga while I’m here (at KPJAYI with Saraswati).

The yoga ID card that stays tucked under the upper right corner of my yoga mat while I practice.

The yoga ID card that stays tucked under the upper right corner of my yoga mat while I practice.

Quite a few people already in the queue to practice by 5:45am. Happy New Year!

Quite a few people already in the queue to practice by 5:45am. Happy New Year!

I was done by 8am or so, and walked back to the guesthouse where I’m staying. This looks a bit different than my walk to and from North End Yoga at home.

Later, the owner of the guesthouse invited me to join him on some errands at the main market. I experience traffic on the back of a scooter, see the fruit and flower market, and got a first hand look at what it takes to buy a toaster. Shopping here is a pretty social experience. You don’t browse alone. There’s always someone to help you find what you are looking for. A stop at a stationery store included chatting with the owner and his son over coffee.

flowers at the market

flowers at the market

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Later, I headed out alone for lunch at a place called Depth ‘n Green. Lonely Planet’s review nails it: “Wildly popular with local yogis, this buzzing healthy cafe offers a menu of satisfying Indian and Western dishes, including great salads, served up on tree trunk tables.” I’ll definitely be back, although if I’m being honest, I’ll probably avoid the groups of yoga students talked about which pose they struggled with or nailed that particular day.

the view from my corner tree trunk table

the view from my corner tree trunk table

this place is super cute

this place is super cute

I purchased some bug spray (first shopping experience of the trip) and then headed back to the guesthouse for a bit. I’m definitely not in sync with the time difference, and I gave into a pretty long nap this afternoon. (I’m a big fan of the 3:30 nap, I must say.)

So far, so good!