There is a special thing about returning to a place. I love to travel to new places and see new countries and new faces and such... but it has been wonderful to return to Pune and feel like I am landing in familiar territory. So much has changed since I was here 3 years ago, and also much has stayed the same.
It's nice to know the neighborhood, and to see that my favorite newspaper stand is still in action... and my favorite fruit vendor too. Also, I've found that this sense of familiarity makes me feel a little more adventurous to explore beyond the areas I explored last time. What fun!
What's the same? What's changed?
1. Yoga: Well, the yoga is the same, and different. Last time we came, Mr. Iyengar's daughter Geeta taught most of our classes. She was a brilliant teacher - totally refined sequencing of postures and the most exquisite little details in every moment. On the other hand, she was sort of a tyrant. She ran a seriously Tight Ship - lots of yelling and everyone was constantly frenzied about not trying to set her off. This time around, she has retired. Mr. Iyengar's son teaches more of our classes (last time i think we only had 2 per week with him, now we have 6!). Also, 2 days a week we have classes taught by Mr. Iyengar's granddaughter, and by Mr. Iyengar himself!! What a joy! These classes are so interesting - Mr. Iyengar stays in the corner and sequences the class - observing and commenting, while Abhi teaches and demonstrates and tells us what he has to say. It's really an honor to learn from him and in his presence.
Also, last time we were here, we had 1 class per day (2 hours) + practice time (2-3 hours), 6 days a week. This time we have 3 days a week with two classes - plus the practice time. Somehow this ends up making our schedule feel a lot more full and we are doing a LOT of yoga! It's wonderful though, because that's why we're here - more time to study and learn and explore!
2. Dogs: You know I love dogs. What hasn't changed is tons of street dogs in the streets of Pune - beautiful and cute and many looking pretty much worse for the world. I try to pet them and give them a scritch whenever they'll let me (followed by a thorough round of hand sanitizer!). It drives me nuts that so many people in India (and around the world) buy purebred dogs when there are so many sweet and lonely souls right outside their doors.
3. Times of india: At home I get two newspapers and I love reading the paper. Last time I was here I developed a Times of India habit - and I was so happy to see that my newspaper guy from last time is still in business. Even though I don't understand all of the news being reported - and all the many Hindi words that end up in the "english edition" - I still love being a bit informed about what's going on in the place where I am.
4. Traffic & Air Quality. Last time we were here, I read an article in the Times of India that Pune was adding 400 new cars EACH DAY. Well, I believe it. Here's the thing: I have some sort of perverse love and joy for Indian traffic. I love the crazy mayhem of cars and motorbikes and rickshaws and pedestrians and animals - all on the "wrong side" of the road, going as fast as they want and dodging around each other like crazy. I love love love it. But, less lovable is the air quality. I didn't really think it could get worse, but it has. Many people tie scarves or bandanas around their faces - especially when they're out walking or on their motorbikes. The air is thick and smoky and smelly. I'm definitely looking forward to coming home and revelling the glorious clean air and sparkly blue skies of Santa Cruz!
5. Vendors & Wallas: I love the fruit vendors and veggie vendors on the streets here in India. Just today we bought fruits from a fruit cart, veggies from a veggie guy, more veggies from the veggie guy who comes through our neighborhood, a newspaper from the newspaper guy, and fresh chickpeas from a lady sitting on the corner selling chickpeas and flower garlands. Our apartment is in a great little neighborhood that we love. All day long there are vendors walking through the streets calling out (in Marathi) what they have to offer. We have to look out the window every time, since we don't understand Marathi. There's the guy with potted plants, a kid selling snack foods, fresh fruit guy, fresh veggies guys, and - joy of joys - the recycling guy! The other day we spotted him and ran down with our newspapers and plastic bottles and got 7 rupees back for our stuff! Most of all, we were so thrilled to not have to throw away something recyclable. Joy in our little hippy hearts.
6. The Park: Happily, the park is unchanged. Sadly, the mysterious hours of the park are also unchanged. Sorta kidding on that last one, but really - why close a PARK in the middle of the day!? It's open in the morning and again in the evening. It's right there near the studio, and has lots of trees, SO MANY birds, lots of friendly folks, a playground for kiddos, and a little path to do laps on. It's so nice to go for a walk together and chat and see the greenery and such. This morning we were out for a quiet Sunday morning walk in the park when we spotted Mr. Iyengar himself - having a photoshoot with some Chinese journalists! He was glowing in his white robes amidst the greenery. Of course, this was the first time on the whole trip that I had left home without my camera! Ha, isn't that how life works? But as we passed him on the path (after the photos had been taken), we saluted him and bowed and said "Good Morning, Guruji!" and he gave us the most luminous smile and said "Good Morning!" It was quite a delight to have such a sweet and simple little exchange with him.
7. Security: Since the Mumbai bombings, and in particular since the German Bakery was bombed here in Pune (maybe a year, year & a half ago?) - there is a lot of tight security. As you enter the yoga center, you have to sign in, and there is now a security guard. Malls and higher-end shops have metal detectors and look in your purse before you can go in. It's different, but as always, these matters of security always seem to be handled with grace and courtesy.
8.. The Winds of Progress! It really is AMAZING how rapidly certain aspects of India have changed since I first came here just 6-7 years ago. Girls in skinny jeans & tee-shirts, holding hands with their boyfriends, mega shopping malls - soy milk at the grocery store... it's downright amazing. The difference between the Delhi airport I saw the first time : a cavernous concrete building with stray cats and mosquitos - and the Delhi airport I saw this time: a glorious spectacle with duty free shops and a food court and beautiful public art and looking altogether 1000% nicer than JFK was totally mind-blowing. Mind. Blowing.
So those are my thoughts for now - I'm sorry for the lack of pictures. Another thing that's changed is that both my favorite internet places from last time are now closed. So we were forced to go a bit further afield to a different spot - which I have become quite fond of. FULL of boys and men, mostly playing video games with each other... nary a lady in sight! They're very friendly here. The computers here are much newer than at the places I went last time, but still not able to accept my card reader... so my posts will have to be picture-free for now. Speaking of security, I need to give them my ID every time I come. But they're so fun and friendly, I don't mind! :)