I ruined my life by going to India.
Studying yoga in India was a drastic mistake. I had been practicing yoga since 1981 and heard about Ashtanga Yoga when i read Tim Miller's article in the Yoga Journal in 1989. I knew then that it was the style of yoga I was looking for from how he talked about it synchronizing breath with movement. I wanted to go to Mysore then but knew I would not fit in the macho scene.
When I read about Guruji's wife dying in December of 1997, I decided I had better go so I could meet Guruji before he died. In the spring of 1998 a yoga teacher from Mill Valley invited me to come stay at her house for the weekend and attend a workshop by Tim Miller. Again I did not want to go because I knew I would not fit into the scene. But she kept calling me trying to convince me to come until I finally caved. She had come to Missoula a couple of summers for week long workshops and that is how she knew me.
I flew into San Francisco and caught a bus to Mill Valley and got off at a super market and she came and picked me up. I am a complete recluse but the social interaction of the weekend was intoxicating. I loved the scene and got to actually meet Tim Miller besides take his workshop as he was also staying at the house.
I slept in a tent in the backyard and they had a party Saturday evening for all those attending the workshop. I asked Tim if I would be able to go to Mysore and he said sure. I felt I could do what Tim was doing. That fall I booked myself a flight to Mysore on Malaysia Airlines at the beginning of December to Chennai. Originally a woman who was a devotee of Ammachi's was going to meet me at Amma's Ashram in Kerala. She was not able to get a flight until December 31st and I had already booked my flight. I felt like I was jumping off a cliff into an abyss.
When I arrived in Chennai in the middle of the night I had no room booked or a car to meet me. I went to a pay phone and started calling lodgings listed in the Lonely Planet. They would ask if there were any Indians in my party and when I told them no they said they did not have a room. Finally a driver in the airport approached me and told me he would take me to the Windsor Hotel. I was reluctant to go with him but I had to do something, so we loaded my bags in his Ambassador Cab.
The route he took was through slums and felt like I had finally arrived home as we dodged cows that were wandering through the streets eating garbage. At one point the police pulled us over and asked what we were doing out there in the middle of the night. He told me to stay in the car and he got out and talked to them and we continued on. This was my first brush with Indian police. I paid the driver and booked a room on the second floor and went up and took a shower and went to bed. The room was actually quite nice.
The next morning when I got up I went out into the hall and there was a window looking out on the street and it looked like all of humanity was flowing by. There were oxcarts and auto rickshaws, people on bicycles with chickens, trucks and buses and they were all honking there horns and shouting at one another. I was very reluctant to leave the safety of the Hotel and go out into the mille. I got up my courage and went downstairs to the restaurant and had breakfast. I stayed a couple of nights and it was the best food I had in all my travels to India. There was a pool in the yard and I swam during the afternoon. It was perfect for healing my jet lag.
I decided that since my friend was not going to meet me at Ammachi's Ashram I was going to go straight to Mysore and meet Guruji. I needed to get from Chennai to Mysore somehow so I went down to the desk in the lobby and they said there would be a travel agent there that afternoon. When I went back down their was a chubby gentleman sitting at a table covered in brochures.
He told me he could book me a ticket on the Shatabdi Express and that I could give him the money and he would get the ticket for me. I gave him the money and asked for a receipt and he said, "just trust". That became my MO for India. When I met him again in the lobby that evening he said that he would book an auto rickshaw to take me to the train station in the morning. He assured me he would go with me and make sure I got on the proper carriage.
When I got down to the lobby in the early morning he was nowhere to be found but a rickshaw driver approached me and told me he would take me to the station. It was still early enough that there was not much traffic but when we got to the station the entrance was covered by what looked like all of Chennai sleeping on the steps. I retrieved my bags and proceeded to climb over the bodies into the station. Once inside I went to the platform and waited with the rest of humanity for the train.
I have ridden trains all my life in the states and when I got on it felt very familiar. Once I got to Bangalore I needed to change trains to continue to Mysore. I decided to spend the night in Bangalore and continue on the next day. I got another room in a Hotel that was also called the Windsor. It was older than the one in Chennai and located at the end of an alley. I had my first thali in their restaurant and it was the best. There were men and boys going around with buckets of food making sure you got all the food you wanted.
I went back to the station and caught the train to Mysore. When I arrived in Mysore I had no idea where I was going. Again I had a book on the Ashrams of India and it said that everyone practicing with Guruji stayed at the Kaveri Hotel in Lakshmipuram. A young man who spoke very good English convinced me to come with him. He had a van and wanted to take me to a different hotel but I persuaded him to take me to the Kaveri.