Friday, February 20, 2009

LD turns 50!

I wake up to the buzz and flash of my mobile phone with that feeling of excitement that often comes for me when waking before dawn. Six am is medicine time and the recommended rising time for patients at the Poonthottam Ayurvedic Asram. I am about 5 days into a special treatment called a Panchakama that I have treated myself to as my 50th birthday present.

I light a couple of candles which I had been burning the night before and then add a few more for good birthday measure. The lights work fine but it feels nice to forgo the harshness of the electric light for the warm glow of the candles. By the time I have finished my yoga the sun will have risen in any case.

I drink my medicine (not pleasant but not disgusting) and roll out my yoga mat. I have already established a gentle morning routine of a few sun salutations and a series of asana that the book my neighbour lent me suggested were particularly supportive to the Panchakama process. I finish with some pranayama and a short meditation and wander onto my veranda to absorb the morning.

The view from my cottage is delicious - a huge variety of greens in a base of creamy brown ochre. The six cottages are on a terrace overlooking a little valley with several separate areas of plantings. Some of the hospital’s vege and herb gardens are to the right, a ploughed area that probably grows rice in the wet season straight ahead and bananas to the left. Across the valley are more bananas, coconuts and other trees rising up to the skyline. The first morning as I sat and marveled at the peace and beauty of it, the landscape that had seemed to me quite unpopulated, suddenly started to come alive. First two ochre dogs exactly the same colour as the soil materialized out of it and started bounding around the paddy field. Then a man with a water buffalo emerged out of the trees and then I realized there were several more people in the forest cutting down coconuts.

And then there are the birds – brilliant blue and vivid yellow, tiny dainty little birds that dart and flutter in the bushes, huge eagles soaring high in the blue sky and glorious peacocks strutting and pecking in the gardens. Between them they make a positive symphony of sound – especially at dawn!

After a suitable time congratulating myself on arranging such a great environment for my birthday morning, I put a light jacket over my singlet - sleeveless and therefore somewhat immodest by Keralan standards - in order to wander up the hill and seek out the yoga teacher that I had been told offered classes to those that wished. Dr Ravi had pronounced my desire to do yoga during my treatment a ‘very wise move’ but so far the yoga teacher had not made it down to my cottage to talk to me about classes. I thought I’d take matters into my own hands.

There is a steep staircase leading up from the cottage area to the main hospital and a longer route that winds through the trees. Mindful of the frequent instructions to avoid exertion and ‘take rest’ whenever possible I meander up the longer route admiring more of the unfamiliar vegetation. There are quite a number of trees along the path that have been scored in a spiral and have coconut shell cups attached at the base of the trunk to collect the sap. I have a tentative sniff at the white gooey stuff collected but it had no smell that I could identify. I decided not to risk tasting it! I must ask someone what it is.

The yoga hall cum temple cum theatre cum library is a large building with and impressive entrance – a wide staircase leading up to huge carved wooden doors. I leave my sandals at the bottom of the stairs where a small collection of other footwear suggested that that was the thing to do and made my way up. Peeking inside the doors I see a yoga class in progress so I wait and watch to see what was happening. Before long the teacher sees me and beckons me inside and invites me to join. It seems churlish to say “I’ve already done mine” so I find a mat and join in with the rest of the class. His yoga involves a great deal more exertion than mine had done but I have since checked with the doctors and yoga exertion is considered perfectly kosha during treatment – or would it be halal!?

After (second) yoga I cruise back down the hill to the canteen that sits on another terrace above the cottages. The canteen is a buzz of breakfast time activity with head cook presiding over the making of today’s dosas. Breakfast varies each day and dosas are my favourite. These yummy crispy pancakes are made from a mix of rice and black dahl, ground to a paste and fermented overnight. For breakfast they are served with a liquid coconut paste. Actually dosas are the bigger flat type and today we had a smaller concave kind which may be called something quite different. Just as yummy though!

After breakfast I have a quick check of my emails to see if there are any birthday wishes waiting. Phew – there are! And alas some work related things that need sorting. They don’t take long though and my good mood it too good to be dented by working on my birthday.

Back at my cabin I have a shower - Indian style which means filling a big bucket with warm water and pouring jugs full over myself with gay abandon. Then I dress myself to greet the day and my second half-century on this glorious planet.

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