Saturday, December 3, 2011

Adjusting: Housing realities


I was happy for the bucket bath the day I arrived in India, the hotel room clean, basic, with a good supply of hot water. Today at the cavernous, all-but-completely unfurnished house into which I placed my bags, luggage, guitar and food, I was less enamored.
“It will take a bit to feel comfortable,” a friend opined. A bit meant a decent bed, kitchenware, and a dining room table. Granted the dollar is fairly strong against the rupee at the moment...but how much furniture did I want to buy for a two-month stay? Still, I’d found a place in the heart of Gokulam in the middle of a crowded yoga-study season. Most of the furnished apartments and homes were reserved a year in advance. I’d known planning in advance, or keeping a place year round, was a good idea when I left in February, but while I’d stored a trunk full of things, I wasn’t really sure how soon I’d return. I knowingly took my chances on what I’d find.
The water was hot at the house, and overall it’s not a bad place by any means. I’ve got nice housemates, a terrace off my room and a 3-minute walk to the shala. But for the first time all week I was beset by doubts. Homesick. Missing my boyfriend. Fighting an urge to call the airline. I’m not comfortable. This of course means I’ll probably learn something new.
In general, however, it’s relatively comfortable living here. And given it’s a fourth trip, a lot of basics of Indian lifestyle differences don’t phase me.  I’ve been most struck, even more than past years, by how we Westerners seem to take the relative ease for granted, perched on this part of the country, running to and fro in designer sunglasses and flip-flops, or roaring about on rented Royal Enfields. Another Westerner walked past me on an otherwise empty street in dark glasses, large earphones without acknowledging me. We could have been on a sidewalk in New York or riding BART in San Francisco.
Earlier in the day, I met another student who’d first come to Mysore 10 years ago, when Guruji was still alive and teaching at his original studio. She hadn’t been back until now. She was gracious but somewhat taken aback at the crowds and how people didn’t readily speak to one another. ‘It was more intimate,” she said. That was pre-Internet in every house, pre-refurbished apartments with washing machines, pre clean water. Who was I, I realized, to complain about a too-empty house?

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