Monday, May 24, 2010

Crying etc.

Thank you Linda for visiting my blog. I started writing reply to Linda's comment about she crying every time when leaving India and it turned out to be so long that I made it into a new post.
I don't know about why I do not cry. I do not cry at the times when everyone cries. But my eyes are filled with tears at seemingly trivial things. Its not the big things but the little things that get to me :(
I remember the first death in the family. My paternal grand father passed away when I was in 12th grade. For the first time, I saw a dead person laying in front of me. A person I loved and deeply cared about. But there were no tears at all. I think there just was a lot of curiosity about the rituals, observing people who came to meet my grieving grandmother, things they said, my uncle shaving his head, my father choosing NOT to do that(which I was relieved about), seeing my father all sad and depressed for the first time. I even tried to force some tears out thinking that I ought to cry a little .
I remember all these little things surrounding the first death I closely witnessed but I do not recall tears at all. It happened on 6th of September, a day before my birthday. I knew there was not going to be any celebration and was not even expecting anyone to wish me the next day. But next morning while I was playing in the garden in front of my grand parents' house amongst trees with my cousins and my father came up to me and wished me happy birthday. I clearly remember the lump in the throat I felt at that moment. I feel the same lump right now as I type this.

Another time when my mother and my grand mother were bargaining with a hawker who was selling papaya in the street on a hot afternoon. I urged them not to haggle with the poor fellow but they wouldn't listen to me. I was so mad at them that I cried a river. Finally they got the papaya for the price they wanted. Both the ladies happily told me that if he did not afford to sell it at that price he would not have done it. I said to them that the papaya may be rotten from inside. And it was rotten. I smilingly turned to them and said "told you so!".

yet another occasion at which I let the flood gates open was my cousin sisters wedding. I may have been in 8th or 9th grade. After the wedding when she was all set to leave with her husbands' family, my aunt and uncle started crying parting with their daughter. Seeing them cry I started crying too. Now thinking back about it, I feel that it was super silly considering that my I wasn't even very emotionally close to my cousin nor did we spend a whole lot of time together. Me crying back then must have been a sheer show off.

May be I leave India from my in-laws place could be a reason that I do not cry leaving :) And they are very nice and loving people. But my heart is certainly heavy leaving my parents house.
India has changed so much since I came here. The India in my mind is frozen in 1998. It did not have the western influences so clearly visible in the forms of McDs, KFCs, Subways etc. it is annoying to see those places there. I hate it when friends offer to take the kids to MacDonalds. Their intention is sweet and they think they are doing something really cool for my kids but it is hard to say NO which I end up doing anyway and hur their feelings. I do not want to go to Pizza Hut when I go to eat out and people think I must be crazy to say no to that. I try to explain and get so upset over these things. Such little things add up and make me uneasy and restless. At the end of 6-7 weeks so many emotional things pile on top of each other, I am ready to come back. I even start thinking that there is a reason I live so far away from my homeland. May be I am supposed to preserve my heritage in this adopted land.
There is this constant tug of war going inside. Trying to soak the best from both the cultures and blending it in and passing it on to my kids. I am aware that its just what every first generation immigrant goes through.
I just need to take a few deep breaths right now and be ready for anything and everything.
I apologize for writing such big comment on your comment about crying. I admit it's very scattered and disjoint with respect your comment. Just try and understand that it is an outpouring of thoughts as they came to my mind.

Monday, May 17, 2010

I was browsing the templates for the blog. I was bored of looking at the same dark background of my blog and wanted a little color added to it. A little activity in other wise routine life. It's pathetic that something as trivial as changing a blog template could be my idea of making life interesting and could be highlight of my weekend.

Past couple of months have been like this. Real drag. I have been busy all along with kids activities, work, teaching yoga and everything else but doing it over and over and over day after day…well, you get the idea.

I have noticed that every couple of years this cycle repeats and then I realize that I have to make a trip back home to recharge my batteries.

Then calling up a few travel agents and shopping around for tickets starts. As soon as tickets are purchased the mind gets busy planning finer details. How many days at in-laws place and how many days with parents. The same negotiations year after year. I will always feel that I did not get enough time with my family. There is not point in even trying to find any solution for this problem.

The way my vacation is spent is also very set in its ways.

Go meet all relatives and extended family and have small talk.

Try to get out of a few such if possible. Eat lunches and dinners with them. (These are the times I secretly feel happy to be living thousands of miles away. Not having to attend baby showers, naming ceremonies, threading ceremonies, wedding showers, weddings seems priceless)

Take the same old gifts for everyone.

Shop for sarees, fabric and get the salwar suits stitched and buy a couple of readymade clothes.

Visit the same old food joints and restaurants.

Visit book stores and stock up on books.

Catch a movie or two in the multiplexes.

Squeeze some time in to meet friends from school, college, my first job. There is a certain satisfaction (ok call me sadist now) when I come to know that even my close friends who live in the same town hardly meet each other. I feel better thinking I am not missing out on much.

So, this time around we decided to change things a little. We are going to visit Himachal Pradesh and enjoy some sight seeing. Hopefully we will do this on all our trips in future.

Before I know it, it is time to come back to my adopted homeland.

I never shed tears leaving India for some reason. I am always ready to come back. I feel great when I come back to my cocooned life "here" after the sensory overload "there".

The huge and clean bathrooms, electricity that hardly ever goes out, maids that do show up on scheduled time (even though it is not a daily luxury that I can afford), the artificially heated or cooled air, uninterrupted high speed internet connection; I drown in such little pleasures of American life for next couple of year until those very comforts start to make me feel miserable and my heart starts to ache for India trip.

Some things never change. I think I am absolutely ready for a change or am I?

Every India trip I see a lot of changes there. New big malls, subway, McDonalds, KFCs popping up everywhere. That bothers me a LOT. I am not ready for that kind of change. More about that may be when I come back from India.

In the mean while let me know if Gandhi said anything about the change the change that you do not want to see in the world!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Q and A

Now attempting to answer Amanda's questions

Disclosure: Amanda, I am neither a yoga scholar nor a religion scholar. I am answering these questions as per my own thinking/opinions and and trying to be 100% honest with myself and trying to find my true self while answering these.

Do you see yoga (the entire system of practices, philosophy and teachings) as inherently religious? If so, why?

Ans:Yes and NO. I believe yogasana(asana,pranayama, meditation,bandha included under that umbrella) can be practiced without bringing up outwardly religious aspects like practicing in front of Ganesha/Krishna/devi idols or lit up incense sticks, wearing japa malas etc. When I see these things included in yoga studios and/or workshops , I of course feel happy to see my religious symbols and a little amused as well as curious to know if these are little too much for people who practice some other religion. I personally avoid talking about Hindu deities in class because I want people to follow their own path. I do feel that all religions are basically spiritual paths leading to the divine but over years the ideas are taken over by rigid rituals. I hope I am able to put my thoughts across . It is difficult to separate yoga and hindu(sanatana Dharma) philosophy as they are so intertwined ( to me anyway)

What do you see as the religious aspects of yoga? Everything about it or some parts more than others?

Ans:The things mentioned above could be religious aspects IMO. Idols, japa/rudraksha malas , incense sticks, the sound of bell metal kartals/hand cymbals or even the kirtans/bhajans too. All these things to me are hindu(sanatana Dharma) way of worship.

The very things that health club yoga classes avoid and yoga studios/workshops include to make it more authentic perhaps…

Do you think that to practice yoga asana without religion is an issue?

Ans:NOT AT ALL. I do think yoga is a great practice for ALL. More power to all those who want to practice.

Or do you think that it's a good entry point into understanding, learning and practicing other aspects of yoga?

Ans:Yoga is a path to reach the destination, one of the many prescribed in Sanatana Dharma. And all indeed take you there.

Do you have an issue with asana being advertised and taught as yoga? (Bearing in mind, many yoga asana teachers also teach meditation, pranayama, mudra and bandha as a part of their classes.)

Ans:Asana is a very important part of yoga. The physical practice of asana, pranayam, bandha and mudras create a strong foundation for meditation which is the next step in Ashtanga yoga path with 8 limbs. Asana is yoga and so are other 7 limbs.

Do you see this as de-linking yoga (the overall system) from Hinduism? If so, why?

Ans:I see it being done to take yoga more main stream. That is why yoga in health club won’t let you chant OM since it has religious undertones. When I teach a class I always tell people to skip it if they do not feel comfortable chanting OM. But, on the other side, I do see symbols and things that I mentioned above in studios in order to may be give it an authentic flare without calling it Hindu. They even have yoga jewelry. I never grew up wearing OM pendants/ganesha /Laxmi idol as pendants. So, I say that’s a very American touch :)

My 2 cents

This all started when I read the link posted on metta yoga's page on face book.

"Shukla responds, April 28 : Dr. Chopra, honor thy heritage"

I agree fully with what Mr.Shukla writes in this particular response. I simply can not divide the philosophy/science of yoga with hindu way of living. They are so closely intertwined. Implying that Mr. Shukla has fundamentalist agenda is a huge accusation and to me it did not seem that way at all.

Yoga indeed is for All of the humanity people from all religions. Having said that it does not hurt to acknowledge its origins.

I grew up in India, I never saw my grand mothers practice physical yoga postures at all but they always talked about reincarnation, karma and attaining moksha. To me these are concepts in sanatana dharma. I know that the great seers/sages/rishis in India did not coin the term Hindu but the way of life they prescribed and what was passed down in vedas/upanishads/Geeta/puranas are the roots of yoga philosophy AND that is the path / life style adopted by people who later came to be known as Hindus. They are very Hindu scriptures IMO.

The sages did not claim yoga to be Hindu because it was for all who wanted to practice it.Those seers were not so narrow minded. I can not separate it from teachings that were imbibed in me.

Five thousand years ago, when nationalism did not even exist as a concept, Indian Thought talked of Universalism that transcended all boundaries:

“Ayam nijah paroveti ganana laghuchetasam

Udaracharitanam tu vasudhaiva kutumbakam”

“This is my countryman; that is a foreigner—such a view is entertained only by small-minded people; but to the broad, noble-minded, the whole world is one family

"Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam" (The whole universe is my home) OR the prayer that I grew up with

“Sarve Bhavantu Sukhina ,

Sarve Santu Niramaya

Sarve Bhadrani Pashyantu ,

Maa Kaschit Dukha Bhagh Bhavet”

May all be happy;

May all be without disease;

May all have well-being;

May none have misery of any sort.

(you all know this one in the yoga world)"

are considered hindu prayers BUT do they ask happiness for the followers of this path alone? Hell NO.It is a prayer for entire spectrum of living beings not just humans. Something that is and was intended for the universe can't be and should not be tied down to any religion. But, be grateful to where it came from.

Indian govt.has not patented yoga postures in the past but now I hear that they are going to do it. I think they have no choice but to do it . They are driven to that action. Good for them I say.

I remember growing up, reading about some US based company trying to patent turmeric and India won that case in international court. For centuries billions of people are using turmeric in daily cooking knowing its health benefits and then why should they let some foreign company own the knowledge?

I am only thrilled to see so many westerners practicing yoga and reading about it and writing books on yoga. I am trilled because it is a part of my upbringing and heritage. I don't need any royalty from anyone. I just want people to enjoy its abundant benefits without copy writing or trademarking. The knowledge and wisdom in vedas, upanishadas, Geeta is for ALL of us but please dont deny its roots in sanatana dharma.