Daily Archives: June 18, 2009

Remember the Benefit

I have signed up for daily 6:00 am yoga. Really, I have signed up for 5:45 yoga, because it takes some time to bike to the university yoga center, and when you break it down I have mostly committed to 5:30 am yoga because leggings present certain coordination and balance obstacles when you are attempting to put them on int a state not unlike a blind baby mouse, and I can say with confidence that I’m certainly signed on for 5:15 yoga, because the incubuses of my morning motivation need some time to bicker amongst themselves as the best way to get my body out of sweet, sweet repose so early.

I should mention that I hate yoga. I have tried it multiple times in multiple locations, all the while fuming slowly like the positions I am supposed to be mastering because I am failing at stretching. My whole life I have participated in sports involving quick spurts of activity that let you convince yourself that you aren’t really exercising: gymnastic, softball, racquetball. By nature I am not a very still or calculated person. These are traits I have always been determined to change about myself but easily forfeit to defeat. My dedication to yoga probably generates from some deep, vain desire to edify this self-loathing, to wallow in my own umlimber soul. Clearly a straight path to nirvana.

The yoga center is a large but unassuming building a mile away from our hostel. The mint green walls and yellow window frames distract it from considering itself a warehouse. Bright woven wool blankets and crayon-colored yoga mats enliven the metal roof and the concrete floor. Every morning when I retrieve mine from the dark room where they are kept, I am reminded of the musty, wooden smell of then nearly abandoned treehouse at my grandparent’s house in Michigan.

Our regular instructor is just as you might imagine – a short, compact bald man of indistinguishable age. He even speaks in compact sentences. No excessive words. A short, “You…hello, you!” to correct someone’s pose, usually mine. Then, “Get back” to indicate the end of a pose. Without fail every time, I time my breaths to the rhythm of the Beatles song by the same name.

When he learns my name, he pronounces it “Kather-reen.” I think he prefers using “Hello…You.”

The first week he asked me where all my other friends were, the ones who signed up eagerly the first day during our campus tour. Knowing that no one else in the group has any intention of getting up this early or coming to yoga, I make light of our lack of commitment. “We are doing a graded exposure system,” I quip. “Bringing one per day!” Okay, he just nods his head. I haven’t made the joke again. I leave the sarcasm with my shoes at the door, and attempt to get into the meditative state, but mostly swat at flies secretly.

One day a new instructor took over the exercise. I was relaxing in meditation already and was starting to feel as I always do – like I had truncated my sleep in bed just to come sleep in more uncomfortable position among strangers – when I heard a booming voice echo throughout the hall. In my enlightened state, I honestly thought the voice of God had descended to tell me, “Stretch! Higher! Yes! Lift your buttocks!”

When I opened my eyes, I saw the voice belonged to a rotund thick man white white hair pacing through the still bodies, his eyes closed too. We go through the opening ommmms and prayer. I know none of the words I repeat, but I have adopted them to mean “Please for the love of whatever God do not let me pull muscles I don’t know I have.”

The man continued to speak in stern yet encouraging phrases. “Very good!” he says genuinely when I somehow managed to reach my head to my feet while arching my back. “Dream on!” Right when we bigan holding the maximum stretchs in excruciating pain, he launches into long, detailed narratives about what part of the body should be hurting, what physical ailment it will alleviate, and what the medical etiology of its good name means.

“Remember the benefit!” he says when he can tell we are failing at a pose, which is most. So I try. I think about Thanatopsis. I think of the particles of my body dispering up and outwards, becoming a part of the world around it. I think of my mortality, my stiff bones popping as I move, my calves shaking just from standing on my tip-toes, the small energy capsule that is my body. Then, I know the benefit is for the person next to me, who is surely laughing internally at my red, grimacing, inverted face.

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The first metaphor lesson I received discussed houses. They come to represent their inhabitants, I learned, their architecture and mood reflections of the individual, internal dramas of the characters. At this time I was reading a lot of Dark Romantics ,though, so there were a lot of internal dramas and excessive number of people to be prone to them. These things just tend to happen when you marry your cousin and you are a bastard child and you also contract TB.

But if I myself was ever suffering the torment of buildings, it was upon my arrival in Hyderabad. I experienced a very negative, visceral reaction to this place once we slept off the fatigues. We are cloistered here in this university, away from main campus and even further from the city. I hadn’t come to like this city yet because I hadn’t had the opportunity to hate it. I am not fond of it in the way I am fond of Delhi, and I am only fond of Delhi because I survived it. I hated the raw sores of human suffering that it exposed to me, but I don’t regret my time there.  Hyderabad, however, felt like a wasteland for new reasons, and just like camp.

Our hostel is the newest building in a future student housing complex. It contains all the passivity of a place not taken in any memories. The road in front is unpaved.  Outside no foliage yet adorns the natural red rock and dirt, except one median of electric green grass. In the middle a small sapling reigns with its diminutive shadow. I imagine this is maintained with a kind of insane maintenance.


Inside, generic thin-framed drawings slouch on the wall. The recreation room has the charm of a dentist’s waiting room – full of singular chairs and an end table I use as a footrest. I pad down the slate grey concrete tiles in the middle of the night to use the restroom, where I wash with usually cold bucket water in the mornings.

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There are only 16 of us in the whole big marrow of this place. When it rains, the roof leaks near the staircase, and the locks of doors rattle when you walk past. “It is like a mental hospital!” Anne said the first evening right before we turned out the light to go to bed.

We put up mosquito nets the second night after a rainstorm ushered in insects of every shape, size, color, and crunch into the hostel. They covered the walls and floor of the lobby. In the morning, thousands of insect corpses littered the floor having died from their brief lifespans or in a blazing glory encounter with the Pest-o-Matic in the corner.

We saw one lone mosquito in our room the whole night, but we have kept the nets up anyway. The gauzy divide provides false fortification. Siphoning off personal space in a building full of it seems foolish, reclusive. Yet, it etches relief out of the biting solitude of this huge building – this space is mine, my retreat, a self-imposed confine.


On my provided bulletin board I have tacked the only three reminders of home I managed to shove in my backpack that weren’t prevention for tropical diseases. They’re all short notes, one placed surreptitiously in my journal by my mom, two given to me by my friends Brenna and Paul. My computer troubles cut me off regularly form the people who could give me the most reassurance in my homesickness. The monsoon rains cut us all off completely with the power. In the still nights without A/C I sweat sleeping fitfully, pushing off the covers, tangling myself in the mosquito net.

In the first days, I took bike-rides to quell the restless deracination. I rented a bike from the hostel for 1000 rupees. Mine is a brambling oleo of parts attempting to hide it behind an absurdly cursive script on the side that says Miss India Emerald. It has no gears, barely brakes, and the tires are bound to blow before I leave. But, it gets me to and from campus with a little breeze and little effort.


Eventually, my indirection transformed from distraction to a deflated false solitude. As punctuation, when I rode back up the desreted hill in the pregnant twilight on evening, I saw bats as huge as a hawk twirling through the sky as if tethered to steady pendulums. C’mon metaphor, I thought. Really, now? The giant terrors swooped so low I seriously thought one might carry me off, which is premium motivation to pedal faster, even if it is back to an empty, dark concrete block resisting attachment.


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I know I have been getting some quiet chastisment from everyone for not updating in a while, but I should explain that my hard drive crashed the second day I arrived here. I have been wandering around a bit lost, reading books, attempting to write out full descriptions in my journal but failing, scribbling “blog post?” next to certain incomplete phrases, for later times. I am thinking of you, just unable to type.

My laptop feels nearly like an organ. I am used to the warm drone on my legs as I sit ankle-crossed or Indian-style on my bed, writing. Peeling its slightly sticky bottom from my legs always signals the end of time spent typing a paper or an e-mail or looking at things other than the papers and e-mails I should be typing. My thoughts didn’t flow succinctly from my brain to the clunky hostel computers I have been using;  my neurons have fettered my thoughts to the synapses of my fingers and my keyboard. This organic disruption troubles me some, but I am also a fast typer and I like to watching Arrested Development online too much to give the idea much weight.

The thing is as disposable as a kidney but retains all my inherent flaws. My folder files are disorganized, my keyboard lacks two keys I never bothered to replace, and the hinge of the screen wobbles. I failed to love it in the way I fail to love everything with any working order. By all means I had this coming, but the separation disoriented me even more than expected. I have spent most of the last two weeks biking into main campus to use the phone, which allows me to interact with call center employees who are well-intentioned but unable to understand me when I say, “I don’t know the service tag. Doesn’t the thing run on fairy dust?” My abhorrent lack of knowledge about this machine that I rely on for everything isn’t new or unrealized before, but now an added level of mistranslation. In some ways my computer couldn’t have crashed in a better location. It’s a homecoming, really, as I am sure many of these parts were manufactured here. I just don’t want it to become a buriel.

In yoga I am learning about muscles I didn’t even know my body had, and when the Dell repair man came he unscrewed and etherized parts of my computer that I weren’t aware unscrewed and separated in less time than it took me to say hello to him. Within five minutes, I had a new hard drive and he was gone.

But my computer was still by all means a corpse, which is how I ended up sitting the tiny windowless room of the campus IT office all afternoon yesterday. The place had a total of three outlets and above me, a fan spun with such devotion that I feared it would unbridle itself from the ceiling at any moment. I listened as three busybodies around me chat in Hindi or maybe Telegu. Their lilt of language was wired with some generic, technical terms that I recognized by ear but were just as meaningless – ram,driver, cd.

They had given me a harsh once-over when I burst into the room asking if they could upload Windows XP to my brand new hard drive, sweating and exasperated from my bike ride there and the situation in general. But tenacity and a sheer doe-eyed look of desperation does pay off. “You will have to wait three hours” turned into “Come back in an hour” and then “we can do it now that you sat across the hall and  realized we were done eating lunch but not telling you that.”  And within the two hours comprising the uploading process, “Find internet drivers yourself” transformed into “Come back tomorrow when we have finished downloading this for you!”

So now I am sitting in the familiar position on my bed, trying to regraft this cold metal device back to my life, but something is askance. The screen resolution isn’t just so. I don’t have any music or photos identifying this hunk of wires and boards as my own web of needs.  I need to re-invent it, re-format it to the circumstances, and decide how much of my old self I am willing to include in this blank, foreign existence.

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