Sunday, August 26, 2012

Why am I in Mysore?

Outside the old shala in Lakshmipurim, Mysore.

I just finished reading The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin, and one thing that struck me from her many insights was a really simple idea about identifying passions.

Think about what you enjoyed doing when you were 10 or 11 years old. That’s probably your passion.

This is not what your parents thought you should be doing, or what your friends did, but what you honestly liked spending your time on. For Gretchen, it was always writing and journaling, and though she spends her life as a professional writer now, it took some time for her to realize that her passion and her deepest joy is really in books and writing books.

I began to think about my passions and why I was really here in India. It’s harder than you might expect, because, as Gretchen points out in her book, a lot of our ideas about ourselves are actually things we think we should be doing. (ie: We think we should love listening to Jazz, art and fine dining, when what we are actually truly happy and passionate about is a little less exotic or classy sounding: staying home to read, 80’s pop music, cartoons.)

I thought about yoga, the practice to which I have devoted my life and the reason I’ve traveled to India twice in the past year, and wondered if the seeds of my practice were in fact planted long before I took my first class at age 16. Suddenly I was struck with memories of me as a child (something I don’t actually have much of)…

At age 10, I loved the idea of travel and I loved reading about different cultures. There was a period of time where I completely immersed myself in studying ancient Egypt. I had book after book on the subject, I would play outside in elaborate ancient Egyptian fantasies, I pretended to learn to write in hieroglyphics and I even dressed up as Cleopatra for Halloween (mom, let’s see if we can find a photo!)

I had the same deep interest in Japanese culture. I played in tea ceremonies, wore kimonos, almost perfected origami, and created homemade sushi with my dad (I think we still have the sushi roller).

Coming home after school around 3:00 or 4:00pm, I’d be thrilled that I’d just made it in time for my favorite TV show: Lonely Planet Globe Trekker. I was obsessed with that show. I soaked up any and every country the hosts (Ian and Justine were my favorites) traveled to: India, Greece, Australia, Cambodia, Thailand…I loved them all.

So I thought back to the original question: why I am here in Mysore? The answer for me, is seeped in my true passions, which are more complex than just ‘I like to travel.’ I’ve always longed for immersion into cultures other than my own. I longed to feel included in practices that are foreign to me. I love the idea of learning something from the masters.

A few years after I began practicing yoga, I realized I wanted to learn yoga from Indians. I wanted to understand the culture it comes from. I wanted to see India, to feel its pulse and to understand how this very Indian practice translates to me.

A lot of adults I know think that high school or college were the best years of their lives. I am shocked when I hear this. Being an adult has meant, for me, the beginning of the realization of my passions. My yoga practice is a mirror, a tool, I am using daily to connect with my passions, while creating stillness and stability in me at the same time.

And that’s why I’m in Mysore.

What’s your passion? 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Photo of the Day: Puppy

We found a mama and four baby puppies playing outside on an evening stroll through Gokulam!
It was hard to leave this little one :)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

India For the Five Senses

I asked a few of my fellow yoga practitioners/students back home at Land Yoga if they were interested in any specific details about my trip to India. I was delighted when their answers were overwhelmingly about the sensory experience of Mysore.

People want to know what it looks like, what the food tastes like, a musician wanted to know about the sounds of India, and a few actually wanted to know what it smells like here!

So here’s my collection of some of the most personally impactful sensory experiences…

Dana’s Top 50 Feast for the Senses: Mysore Edition!


 Hand rolled Sandalwood incense.

1.     I’m super comforted by the gentle, warm smell of burning almost-incense-but-maybe-trash, fire in the mornings.

2.     Incense from temples around the city, usually its sandalwood, something Mysore is quite known for, an earthy smell with a hint of sweet.

3.     Cow. All things cow. Except cow meat…you don’t smell that here.

4.     Spices are always cooking, the smell wafts through our open windows.

5.     There a dreamy, sticky-sweet, Jasmine-like smell from the white flowers sold on every street for offerings.

6.     The Shala sweat mixed with a clean comfort is actually a lovely smell to me...maybe that’s just me though…!

7.     Tire rubber from rickshaws, busses and scooters permeates the bigger roads.

8.     The perfume and essential oils sold in Devaraja Market: lotus, sandalwood, rosewater, frankincense, all in glass jars. The smell can be overwhelming if you’re shopping for a scent!

9.     In Gokulam, right now, there is a beautiful cool breeze that smells fresh. Almost clean…

10.  Monsoon rain. Though it’s been a scarily dry monsoon season here, when the rain does come, it’s cool and wipes the city clean.


Om's om's everywhere! This is Rangoli...chalk art done outside most homes.

11.  Colors, colors, colors. Bright colors. Everywhere.

12.  Peeling paint and posters on buildings and bus stops…layers over layers and garbage on the streets (not unlike New York!)

13.   Huge signs of (usually unattractive) Indian politicians’ faces before elections, or to celebrate them for some reason or another…these are all over town.

14.  Silk saris in colors from the rainbow and beyond on beautiful women and in store windows.

15.  Dogs running the street. Cows ruling traffic. Goats eating the above mentioned peeling posters and garbage.

16.  The intense sky: Inky blue pre-sunrise. Monsoon clouds. Milky sunshine.

17.   The smile from a fellow international yoga student on the streets of Gokulam. And smiles and shy waves from local kids, curious about us foreigners.

18.  Rangoli (chalk drawings/symbols) on every Indian home’s doorstep, and small evil looking masks hung outside most homes to ward off evil.

19.  Om. On doorsteps, on cars…it’s the bumper sticker du jour!

20.  Scooters. Entire families on scooters. Yesterday I saw a family of five: mother, father, two kids and a baby on a scooter. None wearing or even wanting a helmet. The mother just grabs on to the baby tight and away they go!


It's a symphony of honking horns here.

21.  Horns are constantly honking. There’s a wide range of honks: cute cartoon-ish honks, long low, deep honks, sharp piercing honks, friendly honks, nerve-irritating honks. Plus Car motors, scooter motors, a rickshaw’s putting motor, stalling motors.

22. Sanskrit chanting in our classes at the shala. The polished sounds of a language perfected.

23.  Birds making a huge array of calls, sweet chirps, loud hoots, sing-song melodies…

24.  Crickets in the early morning hours when we wake for practice.

25.  The breeze in the palm tree leaves around our house.

26.  Men selling things on the streets. The walk around calling out their offers in Kanada, the language of Karnataka, in deep, bellowing bursts.

27.  The anticipatory silence outside the shala in the morning.

28.  “One more!” Sharath yells, beckoning the next yoga student to enter the practice room. “One more again!” he says when another space opens up.

29.  Bollywood music playing from an open rickshaw, or from a man’s cell phone.

30.   The hacking sound of a machete chopping open a coconut. Whack, whack whack!


Silk saris. These are raw silk which is thicker and 
feels somehow smooth and rough at the same time!

31.  The shala rugs feel thin with use, but sturdy in the way something feels that you can really count on. Not new, not too old, but used nonetheless.

32.  The indescribable feeling of safety from a drop-back at the Shala: Sharath’s hands holding you and binding your ankles (which are slick with sweat) so securely. It’s the touch of trust.

33.  Metal door handles, not round, but long and curved, cool to the touch.

34.  Smooth green skin of the tender coconuts.

35.  Silks in the shops downtown: I’ve learned to tell the difference between the slippery feeling of pure silk, to the thick crepe of raw silk, to the sturdy feel of cotton, and the soft warm hug of pashmina. 

36.  A sandalwood mala, smooth wooden beads.

37.  Warm glasses of chai.

38.  Food, sticky between your fingers as you learn to eat with hands instead of forks.

39.  Castor oil during an Ayurvedic massage, or a Saturday morning self oil bath. It’s thick and smooth, even when warmed up. Perfect for aching muscles and joints. It’s super thick though…it takes a special soap nut powder to get it all off!

40.  Hand-washed cloths. Sometimes stiff but fresh from drying on the roof in Indian sunshine.


A dosa with dipping sauce...delish!

41.  Spices: mustard, curry, cumin, turmeric, ginger…and how they really just form the most beautiful symphony of flavors when added to foods at the correct time.

42.  Fresh, perfect Coconut water…it’s just the most delicious, pure, refreshing thing I’ve ever tasted.

43.  Rice. Rice with curd. Rice with spices: Briyani. Delicious rice!

44.  Crispy butter dosa: rice flour made into some kind of pancake type shape…some are huge and some are small. Some are thicker, and some thin like a crispy crepe – these are my favorite.

45.  Fluffy white idly with dipping sauces and chutney.

46.  The grainy sweet chick-pea and ghee delight that is Mysore Pak.

47.  Ghee. Clarified butter. Considered a sattvic food, though I spread it on toast for a rich, thick, buttery comfort food.

48.   Curries of every variety that just melt in your mouth. My favorites are palak paneer (spinach and cheese), gboi aloo (cauliflower and potato) and vegetable kofta (a sort of veggie ball within the curry).

49.  Papaya…it’s deep pink-ish orange and tastes strong and sweet.

50.  Chai from Amaruth’s tea stand. I am an official addict. It’s so sweet, rich, earthy and warming…a perfect mix of tea with milk and sugar. (Though I’m glad I can’t see how much sugar is actually in it…I’m sure it’s a LOT!)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Photo of the Day: Holy

Conference 8.19.12

Sharath started this conference with a call for questions, so we talked about quite a variety of things from mantras to led classes, gurus to breathing and even how yovic awareness relates to environmentalism!

The first student question was about the mantra Sharath says after we chant ours together. (If you’ve ever taken led class with him, you’ve heard him recite an additional little chant right after we’re finished repeating the classical opening mantra all together.) He explained that this is a personal mantra thanking all the teachers in the lineage. (He even said maybe he’d teach us later!)

The talk of chanting lead to a question about the importance of led classes in addition to self-practice. Why don't we just do self practice all the time? Sharath explained that these classes are very important to understanding the vinyasas, or breath counts. It’s may be easy for a student to learn the poses, but to learn the correct vinyasas takes a lot of control, attention and of course practice. He sees students from all over the world, with seemingly fine practices that, upon closer examination, are inhaling when they should be exhaling, and visa versa. With the two led classes he teaches a week (Friday Led Primary and Sunday Led Primary or Intermediate), he can make sure students understand the pace and exact placement of each breath.

Talk then turned, as it often does in conference, to the idea of a guru. A guru is more than just a teacher; the word literally means "darkness dispeller." A guru reveals jnana, or spiritual knowledge and brightness. As he put it, a teacher may tell you how to solve your problems, but a guru makes you feel it, shows you practically, and leads by example.

A student wondered how we might bring more harmony to the relationship between the inner guru (our own heart, beliefs) and outer guru (our teacher). Sharath explained that usually the inner guru isn’t polished, and that it’s very important not to let your ego become your master. He said that real yogis always listen, they don’t assume that they know everything, and that with careful attention, our heart can become pure. Then there is harmony between inner and outer!

Naturally, the question of how often we should visit Mysore, to see our teacher was raised. The woman who asked the question had been to Mysore before, two years ago. Sharath smartly asked her why she had come back to study again. “Because I felt the need,” she answered honestly. He smiled and told us that is the answer…we should come whenever we feel the need.

If we have families or work obligations that keep us from making this long journey to Mysore, he suggested displaying a picture of Guruji which we can use for inspiration while anywhere in the world.

Breathing and Bhandas are two of the key principles and focus points in our practice, and one student wanted to clarify where the breath should happen: in the chest or the belly? This is a really important topic, because breathing down in the belly for many years can cause hernias, Sharath warned. He said the breath should always be accompanied by bhandas, and he specifically mentioned the importance of engaging the lower abdomen, to make the belly stable. Then, we should breath in the lungs in chest, keeping the lower belly steady. There is no stability for the body in belly breathing, he warned!

Someone then asked a rather open question about awareness, which I must admit, I couldn’t hear very well…but nevertheless, Sharath had a great answer. He urged us to build up to a stage where yoga keeps happening even outside the shala, to a point where we become one with everything. He urged us to treat things like we treat ourselves.

He says people are running everywhere looking for yoga, chasing yoga, when yoga is inside of us and can be done right now…all the time. When our attention is constantly outside, we have no time to think or be or study inside of ourselves.

Sharath told us that awareness also means being very conscious of changes and what our actions do to our environment. We come from the earth, and go back to the earth, so, if we cut a tree, we cut ourselves! He told us that remembers having a special bond with trees as a child in Lakshmipurim…that nature is very important, and that we must have the attitude and awareness to live in harmony with nature, and not just focus on ourselves.

I really enjoyed that he seemed so passionate about the environment in this sense. It’s always been very important to me, and seems to make a lot of sense. Yoga is inside of us and helps us realize that we are one with everything!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Photo of the Day: Puja

A friend from Bangalore took us to a temple, in the Bandipur Region, two hours south of Mysore. 
Her family has been going to this temple for many years, and we were lucky enough to see the 
priests and swamis do a special puja with the offerings we brought.

Hospitality’s Served in Tin Cups

Hospitality's Served in Tin Cups

She’s on a side street of Lakshmipurim,
            here in India,
around the corner from chai wailing wallahs,
and down the street from men working hard as their mules.
Wedged, as India prefers, between rags and rituals;
Not too close to poor, but miles away from money.

She’s just wave of the hand to catch a ride away –
from the marble
American dollar worship
in hotels.

            That hospitality can only open doors,
            he’s paralyzed without pay.

But she is served in small metal cups of rice pudding,
Lumpy but so kind, sugary milk, she welcomes us.

She is in her offering of blue plastic chairs (her finest).
She sits on the floor and smiles and stares
            she brings her family to watch too. So we’re sure they care.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Photo of the Day: Lake

Went for a brisk walk this morning around Kukkarahalli Lake.
 It's about 1.8 miles around, which makes for the perfect exercise for a Saturday rest day.

Photo of the Day: School

The KPJ Charitable Trust donates school bags to a local high school each year. Today we had the pleasure of attending the ceremony. Here's a picture of international yoga students along with students from the school doing a Surya Namaskar demonstration, led by Sharath! Full post to come...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy Independence Day, India!

India is the cradle of the human race, 
the birthplace of human speech, 
the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, 
and the great grand mother of tradition. 

-Mark Twain

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Conference 8.12.12

 On opening and closing: Surya Namaskar and Sirsasana

I think Sharath did a great job of discussing both our asana practice and the deeper philosophical and energetic questions of yoga practice in Sunday’s conference…

He began by explaining that there are two purposes served by opening the series with sun salutations: To pray and give thanks to the sun god and to promote good health and create heat in the body to prepare it for other asanas. 

In Indian culture and traditions, the sun god gives health and prosperity. Indians pray to the sun god using the Aditya Hrudaya mantra and other elaborate rituals for all sorts of things. It’s important that if you do these rituals, you are trained in them and adhere to the strict formulas and procedures. But because these aren’t avalible to everyone, Guruji created these versions of sun salutations so that anyone could do a ritual for the sun. Each one is a mini ritual in itself!

As he mentioned last week, there are quite a few obstacles to yoga practice. In addition to these, there are also the classical challenges of pride, jelousy, etc… called the enemies of yoga (which the prayers and rituals to the sun god help free us from). We must develop spiritual qualities to get rid of these enemies. Spirituality, in turn, gives us greater clarity and a greater understanding of “why am I here?”

To just go on living is ok, Sharath reminds us, but we are blessed with this human life. We can do anything with it…why not use it to work towards becoming enlightened? In the Bhagavad Gita kishna asks a similar question: why waste time? The universe has given us time, and now it is possible to realize and understand the supreme soul…so, why waste time?

I find that the complexity of this explanation mirrors the yoga practice in general…there’s never one answer, never one reason we do something…it’s a constant push and pull of opposing forces, and in yoga we’re seeking a balance. We must do our asanas yes, but in doing them we should bring the other limbs of yoga into our daily life. Just getting a bendy body does not make us peaceful, fully realized yoga practitioners!

Sharath then moved on from the opening of our practice to discuss one of our closing postures, sirsasana, headstand. He says he sees quite a few students practicing it incorrectly, and wants to make sure we don’t hurt ourselves, and can fully reap the benefits from this pose.

We should set it up correctly, interlacing the fingers but not making a fist, so that we can wrap the palms around the head. All of the weight is in the tripod of the two elbows/forearms and the interlaced fingers…no weight is in the head. 

He really encouraged us to slow down when lifting up and coming down from the posture. This pose can be held for a long time if done correctly, and one of the benefits is that it helps us store Amrita Bindu, the drops of nectar that collect back in the head when upside-down. Amrita Bindu diminishes as we age, so doing inversions is a good way to store it.

This asana, like all, should be stable (sthira) and comfortable (sukha), which takes a lot of practice ("sthira sukham asanam"). Gurruji said that an asana must be done 1000 times for it to be mastered, and Sharath wanted to make sure we know that it’s ok if we fall…that’s how we learn. To gain an in-depth understanding, we really must research ourselves in each asana.

Conference ended with an inspiring sentiment: Sharath, prompted by a question from a student, told us that anyone could become a “successor” of Pattabhi Jois. If we lean the method correctly and show dedication, we are all eligible to carry on his lineage. So go, practice headstand, and carry on this beautiful tradition!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Wandering Towards Gratitude

I was lying there on the upper floor of the dressing room, finally in rest after Mysore practice the other morning, when my mind began to wander. 

My mat was slick with sweat, and I’d used one end of my towel to cover my eyes. I was perfectly still. I’m sure I looked serene. But, let’s be honest, my thoughts had been wandering all morning. Though I find the exquisite power of dristie to be an incredibly useful tool to keep overall concentration in check, that unsettled mind of mine has some pretty elusive tricks.

But instead of scolding myself into a forced, shallow ‘meditation,’ I began to follow my mind. To watch it wander. And to play a sort of game: what could I unearth in the layers of my mind?

I followed my mind as it thought about food, what would be for breakfast, omelette or porridge? And then I said to myself: “Yes. Nice. You’re hungry, and food will come. And what’s beyond your hunger?”

I dug past the dull pain in my lower back, and left knee. Again: “Ok, and what’s beyond your aches and pains?”

I dug a little further and missed my boyfriend and my family. “Yes, valid. You will be reunited and separated many times in this life. And then what’s underneath that short-term longing?”

I played this game, allowing my mind to ramble through every distraction it wanted. I meandered around all of these temporary diversions and continued to pose myself this question: “but what’s underneath that? What are you left with if you take that away?”

And, as I alluded in the title, I was left with gratitude. 

It was as if I’d sifted through the mud and been left with a shimmering piece of gold. Thankfulness. I wrote about gratitude last year, when I was here in Mysore on Thanksgiving, but this fell a bit different. This didn’t feel forced, it felt unearthed. It didn’t feel circumstantial, it felt all-encompassing…

I smiled, and allowed myself to sink a little deeper into gratitude. 

What are you left with?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Conference 8.5.12

As my first week wore on, I was really looking forward to Sunday and the first conference I would get to attend while in Mysore. As Sharath sat down on the stage to speak, the buzzing conversation in the shala fizzled expectedly. We were ready to hear what advice and insights he had this time.

But his delightful son, Sambav had other ideas. I’m not sure how old he is, because he’s pretty small, but it’s clear that he absolutely idolizes his father and relishes in the attention he gets from being adorable. For at least ten minutes Sharath sat patiently while the little one literally climbed all over him. Sharath laughed, and funnily enough, eventually began to talk about the obstacles we face in our yoga practice.

According to Sharath there are several obstacles or distractions (no, adorable children aren't officially one of them ;) in fact, family is something that this tradition really values) we face as we embark on our yogic path:


Sickness is the first obstacle to tackle, and the reason we begin our yogic journey by doing asanas. Asanas heal the body and make it sable and strong so that we can sit comfortably and concentrate.


Doubt is an extremely important factor in our practice. If we constantly doubt the practice or the teacher, the teachings can never really sink in. Any yogic journey requires surrender. Practice is dangerous if done with misgiving and disbelief.


Carelessness leads to injury and is dangerous for the practice, Sharath warned. If we lack attention it’s possible that the body will be here doing asana, and the mind will be somewhere else. This is when injury occurs most often. Beware!


Sharath didn’t elaborate too much about sloth or laziness, which is probably the most difficult obstacle for me. “Only lazy people cannot practice yoga,” as Guruji said…so get off your couch and get to practice!

Lack of Determination

Your determination must be stronger than your distractions. Yoga practitioners need a lot of determination, especially because this is a lifelong practice, which can often feel slow and long. It becomes difficult to concentrate when we see distractions, but determination gets us through the years.


One topic I hear Sharath talk about quite often is confusion. It’s a big problem with modern yoga practitioners, he says. Because yoga is becoming more and more commercial and body-centric there are a plethora of teachers with their own rules, style, system and philosophy. Too many teachers and options confuse students. It’s important that we know where our practice comes from and should stick to one method. He quoted Guruji: “Two gurus, one student is dead!”

Improper Grounding in the Practice

The foundations of our yoga practice are really the most important part. The basics, the introduction, the initiation. If these are strong, everything else can safely grow from there. We should want to become a student first, and then perhaps...once the foundation is strong and we are grounded, a teacher.

Lack of Concentration

Modern technology is distracting. Facebook, blogs (!), twitter, and ipads distract us. It’s not that they’re evil; they should just be a secondary, occasional concern. Sharath said we have to work to develop concentration and that focus improves our ability to take knowledge in and learn daily.

Being here in India, studying yoga at the source makes these distractions easier for me to deal with. I’m here to focus and devote myself to the practice for a period of time. It’s when I get back into the bustle of daily life that I really need to cultivate the determination, focus, motivation and concentration to support my practice. On another note...if anyone has the Sanskrit names for these obstacles, I'd really like to know them and add them to the post. He mentioned all of them but I wasn't quick enough!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

“Chasing Flavors” from New York to Mysore is delicious...

I arrived to Mysore in the early morning hours of August first and promptly took myself around the corner for a hot cup of chai. Some of my most vivid memories of this city are its flavors: the afore mentioned sweet chai at Amaruth’s, fresh coconut water and the crispiness of a masala dosa. And in some small way, south Indian food reminds me vaguely of the American soul food we get back in Harlem. The spices in each culture come together to create a community feeling around a dish…as if it’s saying: this food is for family.

Back in New York, Land Yoga (the fantastic little shala in Harlem where I practice and teach) had the opportunity to be a part of Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s community book launch for his memoir Yes, Chef. Chef Marcus is the owner and executive chef at Red Rooster on Lenox Ave in Harlem.

The Land team with Chef Marcus Samuelsson.

I just finished reading the book we were celebrating that day back in June. Yes, Chef was an incredibly inspiring read…just what I need for my first few days abroad. Marcus is leading the kind of international life I’ve always been interested in. 

He’s concerned with blending cultures and cuisines while feeding people and passions. His hard work as a chef took him from Sweden to Austria, across the globe on a cruise ship, from New York to Paris and finally, back to the country of his birth, Ethiopia. In all of his successful (and some honestly not successful) ventures as a chef, he describes his driving force to be the chasing of flavors. He’s interested in blending traditional with non-traditional, African with Swedish, street food with fine dining, and quite simply, I think that’s awesome. 

In a continuation of the cooking theme, I took myself over to Anu’s kitchen yesterday for my first Indian cooking class. If you’ve been to Mysore, you surely know the lovely Anu and Ganesh. They run a little restaurant, cooking classes and arrange taxis and apartments for us needing yoga students. I’ve eaten Anu’s delicious food many times before, but this was the first time I’ve taken her class. With the words of Yes, Chef still ringing in my ears, I was really ready to roll up my sleeves and get creative with some Indian ingredients!

     We spent the day making three dishes:

Vegetable Khichri

Baingan Bharta

Stuffed Parathas

Anu is creative, kind and conscious in her cooking. Everything is fresh, healthy and organic when possible. She started the lesson with a peek inside her masala box, a metal spice box filled with the staples of Indian cooking.

We learned about mustard seeds (added to hot oil, they supposedly reduce free radicals), fennel (good for digestion), asafotida (a sattvic garlic substitute) and turmeric (with its myriad of health benefits from anti-inflammation to skin antiseptic). I learned that a lot of the flavor of Indian cooking comes from adding the spices to the oil or ghee before cooking. (PS - Allison, all the dishes are gluten free, except the parathas!)

In the kitchen we blended ghee with spices and then added cauliflower, peas and spinach. The dal (lentils) and rice joined them to simmer in the pot for this really simple, flavorful dish: Vegetable Khichri. 
Veggies getting all spiced up!

She showed us how to roast and peel an eggplant on the open flame of a gas burner (!) and sauté it with tomatoes to make the Baingan Bharata.

Peeling the eggplant.

But my favorite part was rolling out the parathas. Parathas are basically an oily, stuffed chapatti (bread, like a tortilla). We made dough from whole-wheat flower, water and a little salt. The filling was potato, cheese and grated cauliflower rolled into golf ball sized balls. We then wrapped the dough around the filling, molding it like pottery, and rolled them carefully out to be fried.

Stuffing parathas.

Rolling out dough.

Sitting down to eat our feast, she made sure to encourage us to work with what we have back home. If we can’t get our hands on traditional Indian spices or ingredients, make these recipes with something else. Don’t have ajwain? Try oregano! Perhaps we could try the Baingan Bharta sauce over pasta in a kind of India meets Italy medely. There are no rules with her recipes. Chase interesting flavors. Maybe, she says, you’ll come up with something more delicious! That’s certainly what Marcus’s Red Rooster is doing in Harlem, and that’s what I’ve become inspired to do here in India, and as I continue my adventures next month in Paris. Bon appetite!

The feast! Clockwise from the right: stuffed parata, green coconut chutney, 
beets, cucumber salad, vegetable khichri, baingan baratha.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Mysore Mornings

The sun smiles, creased eyes aglow,
as she pours her
buttered ghee light across
our hungry earth.

In these hours after daybreak
nature respects her generosity.
We’re famished,
just practiced.
“Eat ghee. Good. No problem,” she says, our Indian mother,
her glowing hands dip ladles
of coconut oiled sunshine
towards our mouths.

They’re agape
with the same obedience
of the earth
when receiving light.