Hari the Guru

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February 7th 2012
Published: February 23rd 2012
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by Jan

On our over-night trip from Madurai to Varkala we had a chance to finally try out the Indian trains. India is covered with a gigantic network of train treks which employs 1.6 million people – more than the number of all employed people in Slovenia. Most people we met bought a ticket for an AC2 train – an air-conditioned sleeper – with an argument that in lower classes you don't even get a sheet and a pillow. Well, we spent a few nights on buses where you don't even get a bed so we opted for a Sleeper fan class.

When we entered the train and looked around we thought to ourselves “this isn't that bad” and it really wasn't. There are 72 beds in each carriage. Along the length of the train you have two seats which convert into a bed and over it is another fixed-in bed. On the other side you have two beds just above the floor (lower berths) which are used as seats during the day. The middle berth is used as a head rest but is lifted up and chained as a bed. And on the top, levelled with six fans
New favorite drink?New favorite drink?New favorite drink?

Lime and mint juice.
providing some freshness, is another bed – the upper berth. We were both on the upper berth on opposite sides and I think it is the best choice. It is there all the time (even during day time when people are seating), you don't really feel the wind from the fans (even fan trains are cold enough with all the windows open and being it night time) and nobody can get to you without climbing all the way up (making the girls safer from un-wanted touches from Indian men).

We climbed up to our beds, chained our backpacks to the pole holding the bed, lied down, threw our legs over them, our small bags became pillows and very soon we were in dream land.

We arrived at Varkala station on schedule a t 8am the next morning. The only reason we came to Varkala was for the Yoga – yes people Yoga 😊. The place we were off to was recommended to us but when we arrived we learned all the rooms were taken. But not to worry, we could still come to Yoga classes and there were rooms available at the hotel next door.

At 4 pm is was Yoga time, but before that there was the notorious (with global media coverage) affair of the Cookie Incident. You probably heard or read about it but let me share my view of it. Polona was starving and went out and bought a pack of cookies. The big one, not the small one – and they were chocolate chip cookies just to be precise. About two hours later she comes in the room and asks me where her cookies were. I had no idea but she insisted that she left them on the table on the balcony. After a nation wide search (nation being the lawn behind our room) I found an empty pack about 10 meters further down the lawn. Polona was puzzled but said it was probably the birds or some other animal that took them – this is now considered her official story. My guess is she just gobbled them all in one go and was shocked and disgusted with herself that she carried the empty pack as far away as she could (on a cookie full tummy) and tried to cover it all up. I would never say that in public or anything like that – it is just my guess.(I am sticking to my story of the weird disappearance of the cookie batch. I will admit, I am a self proclaimed cookie monster, but even I couldn't have gobbled down that many cookies in such a short period of time. So there...by Polona).

Moving on to the Yoga. The Sharangati Yoha Haus was run by, as you proabaly guessed, a German guy, in his 40s I would say, named Hari. He was, as all Yoga people, skinny as humanly possible but the man can stretch. I told him I have never done this before and he assured me it is not a problem, just to do as much as I can and not try to over-do-it.

And we began. The Yoga positions, or the different stuff you do are called asanas. The first one is a corpse asana – my favourite. You lie down on your back and you relax and breathe. With Hari's voice in the background telling you to relax and concentrate on your breath (not breathing, but breath). Then when we sat down Hari started chanting something, it took a while and everybody there was quiet and just breathing (as you should do) but then one or two of the “fake hippies” or “special wannabes”'😉 who believe Yoga is making them cool joined in for the last three words as loud as they could. The last three words are just “shanti, shanti, shanti” a phrase you hear all the time. If you know the chant then cooperate the whole way through or be quiet the whole time. It's just like only saying “Amen” at the end of a prayer and considering yourself to be pope-like.

The rest of the 1.5 hours Yoga session went all right for me. I actually thought it is going to be worse than it was – Hari found a few nice, encouraging words for me. I went one more time the next day, visiting the afternoon session one more time, while Polona attended 3 or 4 more sessions but she went for the 8 am morning session.

I found the whole Yoga thing really good, as I can see all the benefits of it. There was an old lady in one of the sessions and she was really flexible – which was just another motivator for me. For a short while I was even thinking about it that I could do it in the morning before cycling to work (once I am back) but enough time has passed since that moment and me writing this that I can now only laugh at the idea.

Polona, on the other side has been doing Yoga for ages now. Even on the trip I wake up some times just to see her ass appearing and disappearing on the side of the bed when she is performing “sun salutation” asana. So it is no surprise that she loved it all and loved Hari. I proclaimed Hari to be her guru and even now she still likes to share a few of his phrases with me. The top hits are: “your mind is a like a sewage”, “become best friends with your breath; speak to it, ask how it's doing”, “forget about your boring lives and focus on your breathe”.

After 4 days we were forced to leave our hotel as they had bookings and Hari closed his retreat for almost two weeks as he had a Yoga camp booked, with the same people that got our rooms. We decided to stay for one more day in a hotel just across the street, that we found. Well, that one day, turned into six days!

Varkala is just so easy, it is very tourist friendly. you actully get a knige and fork when you order food 😉. There are a few beaches and loads of shops and bars on the cliff overlooking the sea. It is a nice enough place to do nothing and that is what we pretty much did. With one exception, we tried the Ayurweda massage, for which India is famous for. We decided for one of many places, paid 300 Rp for an hour session and waited outside for the oil to be heated before entering the rooms. The rooms were horrible, they had brown smears on the walls, looked dirty and unkempt and in the corner there was a massage bed. The same room could be used for a brothel it was that bad. If somebody offered me that room to sleep in for free I doubt I would take it.

The massage itself was much different from the ones we tried in SE Asia as well. First of all, you have to get completely naked (boys and girls alike) and then you get warm oiled dropped (more spilled to be honest, it takes 15 seconds) all over you and the massage begins – first your back and then you front as well. One part of the front massage was a long stretch from your toes all the way to your armpits, passing the you know which area. I was happy to have tried it, but I don't think I want to try any more of it. You end up dirty as they massage your head and your hair as well and then continue to massage your chest after – with fingers full of oily hair that just left your scalp. Polona's reaction was just: she even massaged my boobs!!!

For the rest of our time in Varkala we just relaxed. We fell into a nice routine of going for breakfast to the same place every morning (they knew our order by heart after three days) and played Connect 4 (4 v vrsto) in which I triumphed and left Polona speechless. Then we read a bit, played some cards in which I triumphed and left Polona speechless again! 😊. We had our pancake break in the afternoon (mmmm, Nutella) and went for dinner in the late evening. I managed to catch some football for the first time in the year and Arsenal won 7:1 – haven't seen any since and it has been bad, really bad. I will make sure to watch the Spurs game this weekend.

So you would think we had it really easy? And you would be right, but the phrase “I want to go home” has been pooping up from both of us in the last few weeks. We have enough of it all, the moving, looking for restaurants, cold showers or no showers and so on. And I think Polona hit the nail on the head when she said “I am just tired of new impressions”. Well, very soon we will be home, and soon after that we will have to start our Monday – Friday jobs again and we will remember these moments and wish they would never end.

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