Sunday, April 16, 2017

Beginning of a new Circle

After Guruji's passing in 2014 my journey of yoga on this blog abruptly came to an end. I left yoga (at least physically) and due to cervical spine surgery I receded from regular practice..The fear and lethargy took over. While it wasn't a logical reason, that journey of my life was concluding and a new one was beginning (We will get to that eventually). I had no idea what I had written in all these years but a chapter got closed and I closed the book and moved on...till today. Someone had been quietly reading the 169 posts I had written in a span of 5 years and I had no idea I had written that much and that some day someone would remind me of what I had written.

So much has happened in the quiet of these last three years. My life has been propelled in a new direction, a direction I feel is far more meaningful. My munchkins have grown up into loving, confident and beautiful young women.  The pain has transcended into fulfillment of my time with them. There is contentment and I learned to enjoy every bit of the time I have with them and despite my limited time with them I  know these two young women will carry on into amazing lives. It made all the pain worthwhile.

So one of these munchkins has been reading my blogs and today inspired me to re-open
the book and write a new page (I will let you ponder, wonder and guess which one). While I may have temporarily left yoga, yoga never left me.. I am crawling back Nuvana... be patient!!!


The Yogi

The Yoga of Chai!

For many of us caffiene crazed yogis, Starbucks is a daily jaunt for a morning, post lunch or post dinner caffiene kick. Yes folks, I am a Starbucks addict and have provided my share of financial support for this company since the day it landed into downtown Portland. Wish I had put the same amount of money in its stock. All for the joy of a great "experience" -- yes that is why we started paying $1.20 for a cup of coffee. Starbucks became an experience versus a daily Folgers kick to wake you up from bed.

I must say it got really terrible when I spent a year in Seattle in 1993, because there was a Starbucks in my office building in downtown. You could barely turn a corner in Seattle and not see a Starbucks or an SBC or some knock off of it. A TNF (Tall Non Fat Latte) was $1.20 and barely a pinch. Now its $2.45!!! I recall they used to have loose leafe teas as well, such as Irish Breakfast and then the horrible chai masala tea bags. Occasionally I would try it, but TNF seemed always more appealing, despite its obnxious taste. Terrafizione was so much better, but then it got gobbled up by SB and put to rest. I guess the chai taste was worse. Chai at Starbucks never caught on with me till they bought Tazo Tea and started selling "Chai Latte", a horrible concoction of sugar, honey, vanilla, mixed dried herbs and spices. But then you don't have much choices if you are attempting to get off bad coffee. Especially when my 5 year old tells me "DADDY NO MORE LATTES, ONLY CHAI". I have to pay attention to that or I am in deep trouble.

Now you must know, I come from a culture of "teas" and a large variety of them. There must be at least 10 flavors of Darjeeling Tea (Lopchu, Orange Pekoe, Green .. yada yada.. yada). Chai became a forgotten vernacular in my vocabulary since I moved to North America. I was introduced to hot black freshly brewed folgers. Growing up in India I only tasted instant coffee and that too only with milk and iced. I stopped caring about the boiled black tea with an overdose of fatty milk and sugar.. I prefered our more popular Lipton "Bland" tea bags with a drop of cream and no sugar and tepid water (why couldn't they heat up the water as much as the coffee pot next to it). I was "canadianized and then americanized" as far as tea was concerned and the chai at even the best at the run-of-the-mill india restaurants was disgustingly strong and unrefreshing. No one really paid much attention to flavor, quality or anything else for the matter as far as "chai" was concerned.

That was till I ran into "Oregon Chai" mix at one of those of corner neighborhood coffee shops in 1994 and had my first taste and was repulsed even further. All I could taste was the sugar and cinammon. Where was the "chai" and no this is not how chai was made in the Himalayas. And calling it "Chai tea" was such an oxymoron. Chai is "tea", so what does "chai tea" mean... "TT". . What a bunch of "crock" if there was one! But this is America and we are known for our ability to improvise and extend a tradition from afar to suit our taste, just like those amazing forms of yoga we can experience on late night informercials.

But how long could that suffering last. In 1997 one of my first software hires from from India who so seredipitously lived in Pune asked what I would like from India and I replied "some good darjeeling tea". He brought me a box of "Lopchu" and it changed my life. From then on never did I ever touch the lipton tea bag unless of course I had no choice -- such as a bumpy ride on an airplane or being held ransom at some gas station in a boon-dock location off a national highway where the coffee or the "espresso" was worse than a sip of motor oil.

I was rejuvenated with loose leaf darjeeling tea (ala Iyengar Yoga -- you see the similarity). It was rediscovery of my culture, my roots, something I had put behind me years ago as I blended into the north american culture with a burger, fries, milk shakes and yummy donuts. No one else in my house-hold cared for it. Only I and just I deserved the pleasure of this amazing tea, but only at home. All the darjeeling tea in grocery stores was not the real thing and speciality tea caffes had not yet hit our culture. I dreamed of starting a "chai house" some day. Well it is still just a dream!

The 'tea' from India became a requirement for any employee that was hired and yes we would hire them in "six packs". Six at a time. So every time a six pack arrived, I would get build a nice inventory of darjeeling tea, never ever to be repleted. I went from Lopchu to Orange Pekoe, to Assam and yes a new branded box of tea called "Roopak's" from a specialty grocery store in Karol Bagh in New Delhi. So no other tea but Roopak's for several years. Karol Bagh for any of you who have ever stepped into Delhi is an epicenter of craziness, traffic, pollution, an incredible culmination of man, animal, waste and machinery for the sheer joy of shopping and that too INCREDIBLE SHOPPING! Only next to Chandni Chowk and Old Delhi and yes some day I will write about my yogic experiences in those parts of Delhi. All my trips to India after 1998 included a trip to Roopak's in Delhi, if I was in Delhi to accumulate its tea, as much as I could carry.

So re-aligning myself back with "chai" -- in 2005 I had a chance to to visit Haridwar, India in cold January. Haridwar is a holy city on the banks of Ganges, the holiest river at the foothills of the Himalayas. It is where most Hindus, after they pass on and are cremated, like to have their ashes merged into the holy waters of the river. It is where they can trace back to their past generations as every death in their family is recorded. I traced back mine to the 17th century -- a HUGE discovery for me. It is also where I discovered the REAL CHAI, which forever awakened me to the power of chai! Ironically only an hour away was the holy city of Rishikesh, the yoga capital of the world!

Chai tea has now become a Global Vernacular...

PS. This blog was sitting in my draft folder from 2009

Whats your happiness quotient?

" Remember love conquers all" is what a stranger who became an instant friend said to me over a steaming dosa and coffee in Pune last week. It was a eureka moment. I have some far and few and so this came bang on my face, in a great way, like whiff of fresh air or the cool Pune breeze in the midst of monsoon rains.

It got the frown line on my forehead intense, and I transformed instantly to a scowl face, one that projects the repelling side of an otherwise somewhat magnetic personality. The words registered somewhere deep inside. I didn't want to analyse it further as I had just finished 2.5 hours of yoga at Abhay's who had been diligently working on my back and neck with Iyengar Yoga therapy. I was just too relaxed to think about it any further.

The day before I had taken his "Sports class" an hour of intense fast yoga poses with a group of noisy yoga students, who he calls his friends. There were jokes, laughing, grunts and crackling all over. I must say this was the most fun I had in a yoga class except, I was breathless half way. So those who think yoga is not cardio, eat your heart out and those of you who think yoga has to be some silent inward practice, devoid of expression, joy, laughter - eat your heart out further...Abhay's class defied all logic.

I had been attending yoga with Abhay from 7:45 am every morning. I had walked in with serious backache and neck and shoulder ache. He just had to look at me and he knew. I asked him and his father "How do you know? How does Guruji knows". Both raise their hands up and say "It comes from God!!!". Despite myself I am now starting to believe it as every day there was progress from the series of pain reversing posses he put me through. I asked is there any way to avoid all this. Out came the next set of profound comments "You need to fight as you know you cannot avoid it".... more frown lines..

Revisiting my frown line - both these comments from Abhay and my stranger turned friend were profound. We know how powerful love is, but do we really understand what it means. We know Guruji talks about salvation lying in the pain, but avoidance seems to be the easy way out.


PS. This blogpost was in my draft folder since 2009.. Finally taking light...