I feel like I have landed in an Edward Lear story. I have never heard of a ‘chaste’ tree…somehow I never expected trees to be rampant sexually or priapic (apart from in appearance). Anyway this tree is apparently Vitex Agnus Castus – which in its homeopathic form takes away any sexual desire – its an anaphrodisiac. Laughingly it is also prescribed to menopausal women…like we need anything to persuade us against sex at this time. The drongo is a big black fork tailed bird with a lovely song. Named by a ‘drongeur’ – of course the word has different pejorative meanings especially in Australia.
I am sorry I haven’t been posting but weirdly I have been busy. I know that sounds odd especially as I am at a clinic doing mild yoga and having treatments but it really has been time consuming.
Arriving here was very funny. We were met off the plane by 4 young men, each immaculately turned out with pomaded hair and clean pressed shirts and ties, proudly sporting lanyards. It seems nowadays that you aren’t anyone unless you have a lanyard. I see people wearing them on the tube as if to say ‘yes I have a job that needs a lanyard’…I would rather die than wear a lanyard outside of conferences/film festivals where it was mandatory. But back to our welcoming party. They were as keen as mustard and reminded me of the students I see on ‘University Challenge’ here in India. Its a hugely popular show and the students wear ties and take it very very seriously.
Having picked up our bags we emerged into the cold foggy Bangalore early morning when I young lady rushed at us with a bunch of red roses. Poor E I thought, even here she can’t just blend in…but as it turned out they were for me. So there I am in my wheelchair with 4 attendants and a posy on my lap having my photo taken. I felt very strange.
Soukya is on the edge of Bangalore, the fastest growing city in India. It wasn’t on the edge of the city when Dr Mathai established it 15 years ago. Then it was surrounded by fields and farms. Now everyday the city is creeping closer. There’s a railway line that runs along the compound. When they started building the clinic there was a freight train every other day and the odd passenger train. Now the trains clatter past at all hours of the day (and night), hooting their horns vigorously. At first I thought it might be to put two fingers up to the pampered rich folk in the clinic who are supposedly observing silence in meditative states but actually it is because people walk along the train tracks and also sleep on them. The hooting is to wake them up! It certainly wakes me up. At first it felt like the trains were about to come hurtling through my room and my dreams were of ‘Eraserhead’, but now I am getting very fond of them.
The actual compound is an oasis of tranquility and beauty and is full of birds and exquisite flowers. There are also animals and all the vegetables cooked here are grown here. It is really very paradisal (or maybe slightly cultish as the patients walk around in cream silk pjs for yoga???).
On our second day a baby goat was born. I saw it minutes after it was born still covered in goo. A couple of hours later I took E to see it and it was still covered in goo and by itself in the pen. All the grown up goats had been taken out for grazing. In typical Western (urbanised) way both E and I were appalled and rushed to reception to complain about animal cruelty. To say that the receptionist was gobsmacked by our demands that the farmer return the mother immediately, would be an understatement. We definitely looked like two hysterical middle aged “Hyacinth Bouquets” (reference to a TV show about a middle aged fuss pot). A few hours later the farmer looking rather non plussed showed us the baby goat clean and happy…phew.
However a short while later I was walking past and the baby seemed immobile and I rushed at the farmer again…but it was only asleep. So henceforth the goat born on day 2 here has been called Lazarus.
Later that same day E and I were walking the compound when we came across a bird caught in the netting for the grapes. We came back to the room and grabbed nail scissors (and rather inexplicably also tweezers, what was I going to do pluck it free?) and also gloves. E pointedly out rather sadly that the gloves were less than useless against the bird’s sharp beak and claws. Funnily enough I had not packed gardening gloves or my Hawking leather ones!!! We managed to cut her free and she limped off. She was a magnificent raptor called a Koel. So even though we had been stupid about the goat we could congratulate ourselves on the bird rescue.
Apart from wildlife duties – which include me feeding the squirrels and the birds and also hiding from large snakes- most of the day is taken up with treatments. This is my first experience of Ayurveda. ‘Ayur’ means life and ‘veda’ means science and it is quite literally that ‘the science or knowledge of life’. It has been practiced in India and especially in the south for 4000 years. Of course the British Raj banned it along with naturopathy, homeopathy and anything that smelt vaguely unscientific to them. But actually it is scientific and taken very seriously. The Drs here have formal medical qualifications and are constantly doing research into different aspects of it. So this is not just massage with some weird smelling oils (although it does rather boil down to that in the end).
The basic idea is that in order to heal we need to detoxify and purify (its called Panchakarma – pancha means five and karma means therapeutic.) The massages, enemas and other purgations including washing out the nose and eyes are part of that process. Because I am rather broken and also taking chemo and morphine the detoxification process has mainly been hands on massages. I don’t have to do daily enemas. Phew.
Once the body is detoxified it is ready to heal emotionally and physically. According to ayurveda everyone is made up of energies or doshas. When they are out of alignment we get sick. There are three doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha and they have to be in harmonious balance for us to be fit and well. They correspond to body type as well as mental strengths etc. I am Vata-Pitta which is normal for a middle aged woman. So all the treatments given and the herbs used correspond to re calibrating the balance of the doshas (which my spell check wants to put as dossiers!).
As well as the treatments we are expected to practice yoga and especially yogic breathing and meditation. The Dr who teaches yoga has a very sing song voice and asks us to feel the ‘wibrations’ so I have nicknamed him Brian (after the Beach Boys of course). The Dr in charge of Ayurveda has a wonderful way of shortening syllables and ends every sentence with ‘correct’ but not as 2 syllables – it’s just one ‘crrect’. I like Dr Correct and he spends his consultation time with me telling me to be patient.
I have to go off now for more treatment but will continue blog later.