My second day in India - I napped the first day - and we were invited to a day of temple tours. How could I resist? I'm in the center of the Yoga Universe! Despite my intermittent sleep and lack of both shower and luggage I decided to bond with my fellow students and brave the streets of Indore, which is the largest city in the state of Madhya Pradesh.
Right after our morning yoga practice the director of the school gave us a brief "what to expect" talk. He said we'd tour some temples, eat a yummy asrama lunch, visit the Kṛṣṇa school, view the famous liquor-drinking rock-god and tour the meditation caves. He suggested that we take advantage of our time and meditate in the caves. He also, like many others before him, recommended we not drink the water.
The Indy 5,000,000 and a Pit Stop
Five of us - two California girls, a Canadian, an Italian and me - pile into a transport and dodge the craziest traffic I've ever seen. I've described India as Bali meets Tijuana. It's a crazy-dirty Hindu country, but really awesome in its own way.
We stop at an Indian rest stop which consists of roadside food vendors, motorbikes and plastic lawn furniture. My California compatriots are much braver than I and partook in the roadside cuisine. I chose to wait for the yoga food, although the samosas looked amazing and the corn-on-the-cob smelled divine.
To the Temples!
Our first stop was at a temple-asrama dedicated to the same Swami who hosts my new school. Our tour guide chatted us up about the various Kṛṣṇa stories and guided us through some very weird museum-esque Kṛṣṇa exhibits. Some of the characters in the exhibits were animated. Very creepy.
The food - delicious! We were led into a room with yogis and yogis-in-training circling the perimeter. Our seats were in the middle as if we were on display. Throughout the meal the boys chanted blessings very loudly - all, of course, in the spirit of adolescent boys. Then our hosts offered piles of curry, rice and yummy bread.
I refused nothing - including the weird white drink with floaty stuff. No way I could have guessed that drink would taste like it did. Milk + kombucha + taco seasoning = "yogi soda"? Weird, but yummy. If only I hadn't made the faux pas of eating with the wrong hand. It gave whole new meaning to the expression "stink eye". I wanted to swear to them I never use my left hand for that purpose. Never.
Am I an Offering?
At the next temple I got distracted taking a picture of my favorite icon - Ganesh - and the next thing I knew I was alone. I walked up to a platform that offered two passageways into the caves. I took door #2. There were people ahead of me, so I felt completely comfortable. As I made my way back through the tunnel I came upon a doorway where people were leaving. This man on the other side and I argued with hand gestures over who would go first, and he finally conceded. I almost wish he hadn't.
I rounded the corner and there was a man clad in a diaper sitting in front of a pile of ashes, incense burning, and he invited me to sit down. I crouched and he reached out to pinch my cheek. He then grabbed my head and pulled me in to kiss me!
I thought he was going to bite my cheek! Ack! I shoved him off and said: "Hey! That's not okay!" and he seemed sated. Lots of nodding followed.
Then he reacheed in again! The other cheek! Naively I assumed he got the message the first time and this was only going to be a peck, but he slurped me again. What an idiot I am! The he reached for my chest and said I was amazing.
At this point I was ready to kick his diaper-wearing ass! I figured I could take him since he's been sitting cross-legged for years. I shoved him and beat it out of there.
Pay Close Attention in India
After I had time to collect my thoughts and review the incident in my mind I tried to put myself in his callused "shoes". I mean really, the dude's down there meditating and a woman enters his space alone. Maybe he thought I was a gift? Weird, but more likely. That's not to say he wouldn't have gone "all the way" but his advances seemed almost childlike... Clumsy... Not aggressive. Very strange to me, but I was very strange to him, too. One thing I know now is that I won't be heading into dark corners alone anymore. Believe me. I'm paying attention now.