Who is pushier in a crowd? A Chinese Auntie or an Indian Auntie. A question I’ve never thought to asked myself till yesterday as I was snapped out of my orderly Singapore mindset attempting to file myself into the baggage security check line in Delhi Airport. I took it personally five years ago when I was here — Do they not respect me enough to even wait their turn? Is it because I am white? Is it because I am a woman?
No Lisa, it’s because you are not asserting yourself in the queue. So now I know that there is no need to literally throw elbows but get them up and crowd up to the person in front of you. Stand your ground. Laugh at the situation because this is exactly the same as that mighty old Chinese lady who was trying to forcefully push into your spot at Chinese New Year parade in Kowloon with a small child being squashed between you.
By today, as I maneuvered my way through a densely thick crowd on a side street to Laxmi Road in Pune, I had my wits about me and I was able to more fully open my eyes to the beauty of India. I didn’t realize how much I’ve changed and how much I’ve learned traveling in Asia. I won’t just manage these first ten days on my own, I am gonna thrive! In addition to a little shopping where I got myself a nice new kurta and pair of leather huaraches which will become a solid go-to shoe for travel I tucked into two temples in my wanderings. The first one I came upon was a small Lakshmi Temple. Lakshmi is the Goddess of Love, Fertility, and Wealth — a Hindu Aphrodite if you will. She is often depicted in a sparkling silk sari with lotus’ surrounding her and golden coins falling from her palms. She is sometimes flanked by two trumpeting elephants sprouting water, which symbolizes the free flowing abundance that she represents. The temple itself was humble and unassuming.
I walked around the quiet temple barefoot observing both the stone sculptures of deities and the people who have come to worship here. I watched an old man dressed sharply in a pure white lungi and pressed white linen shirt make his way up to each platform with the help of his cane and was happy when he offered an accepting smile to me. I gave a few rupees to the donation box as well as the begging woman at the entrance.
Each city in India has a God that watches over it. Mysore has Durga in the form of Chamundi, Varanasi appropriately has Shiva, and in Vrindavin they worship Krishna. I asked the driver that picked me up from the airport which God looks over Pune and he replied Ganapati, Ganesha. A large Ganapati Temple stands near Laxmi Road and this was the other temple I went to today. Son of Shiva and Parvati, this elephant-headed God is remover of obstacles and lord of auspicious beginnings. Certainly worth a visit on the first full day of a three week journey throughout India.
A weaving queue keeps visitors cycling through this popular temple quickly and efficiently. Devotees make offerings to the Brahman Priests who then place plates of flowers, coconuts, and sweets at the feet of a large golden Ganesh statue while a security guard next to the statue loudly encourages people to keep moving. Upon exiting the temple, I purchased a small Ganesha murti which now sits surrounded by a string of fresh jasmine in my hotel room and was given sweet prasad by two smiling women.
Outside the temple people take turns whispering prayers into the ear of a large bronze statue of Ganesha’s devoted mouse. One at a time they would cover the opposite ear as if to capture the rodents full attention, close there eyes with a slight squint of their brow, ask for what they wished. This seemed to be where the real magic was happening at this temple.
From here I headed over to the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI). A big OM adorns the gate that brings you into the encapsulated grounds of the yoga shala. The pale yellow walls of the building are adorned with white carvings of BKS Iyengar in a variety of Yoga postures alternated with black statues of Patañjali, Shiva, and other Gods. Many people are expected to attend this 10-day Intensive with Geeta Iyengar and the team that is facilitating the event are well organized. Here I completed my registration, got my ID card, picked up my kit of yoga props, and paid for lunch for the remainder of my time in Pune.
Joyfully I ran into two teachers from the Iyengar Yoga Centre of Hong Kong and was pleased to see familiar faces in a foreign land. Having not brought enough cash with me to pay for the shuttle to and from the event venue I swung back to the hotel, dropped off my big bag of props, and returned to the shala once again. This time, taking the opportunity to leisurely explore the library of overflowing books in the basement. Everything from Grey’s Anatomy to books on Vedanta. I smiled when I saw Bobby Clennell’s children’s yoga book standing upright nearby Guruji’s old desk. Walking back upstairs I examined the many photos that covered the walls of the center. So many lives have been touched by the Iyengars.
Walking through the courtyard once again I hear my name called and who stands before me but one of my teachers from New York who I was just thinking about down in the library, Bobby Clennell! We embrace and share our equal surprise at seeing each other. The remainder of the evening has been quiet and contemplative. I am so happy to be in India and excited for the next ten days of yoga ahead of me. So, who is pushier? They are equal, but Chinese elbows are pointier.