Our last few moments in India. It's been amazing but we are feeling the effects of foreign travel. Emily is pretty sick right now so she is in bed resting for the 25 hours of travel we have ahead of us. We are waiting for the shuttle to come pick us up and then it's off the airport, luckily Emily has written up our day yesterday so here it is:
Another packed day today! Today was designated for center visits, so I could visit the different SIP centers in the area and see how the classes are run. Bharathi and Nirmala picked us up around 9 am with the same car and driver as yesterday. I loved seeing all the centers! So fun to see the kids wearing the same SIP shirts we have in the US. They were all so cute. Most of them were really shy and sweet. We sat in a few different classes, and met all the different teachers. It was so helpful for me to see all their marketing material like fliers and advertisements and posters for the kids. I got some good ideas to take back! I took so many pictures and videos all day. Bharathi had brought her camera as well so we posed for tons of pictures. Everyone at the centers were so kind and welcoming. In between center visits we stopped at some site seeing places as well. We went to a poet’s memorial, shaped like a ginormous stone chariot and took some pics.
We went to Bharathi’s own center, where her daughter and brother work. Her daughter was so sweet! She got me a jewelry box as a welcome gift, and had a sign on the whiteboard that said “Welcome Mr. and Mrs. Matthew” So sweet! The kids there were all really excited to meet us. I loved watching them work and I took a lot more videos and pictures. After we visited Bharathi’s center, she took us to a clothes shop across the hall and I bought a shirt thing (I still can’t remember what it’s called, it’s like a caftan kind of). She is having it tailored for me and delivering it tomorrow. Bharathi told me her sister is famous locally for her yoga center, and does a local morning yoga program on tv. She took us to her yoga studio which is attached to her home. They are really serious about their yoga here. It is much more about the mind than the body, so they do a lot of breathing, meditation, mud baths, banana leaf therapy. People seem very concerned for our health and ask us how often we meditate, and tell us we need to spend more time honoring the divinity in ourselves. Bharathi’s brother in law greeted us in his home. He asked me if I do any yoga, and I told him I go to a pilates class at the gym sometimes. After that, people referred to me as “studying pilates” eh.. I don’t really know if I would call it that haha. Nobody knew what pilates was. Halfway through the conversation, he mentioned that he sees some American celebrities doing Yoga, like J-Lo who does “pilots” It then occurred to me that pilots and pilates was probably the same thing, I explained that pilots is actually pronounces pilates, and then they all understood hahah. He said pilates is more focused on the body than the mind, but it is more artistic as well because it allows for some personal expression. Hm never thought of it that way. They tried to make us some tea, but I explained that we actually don’t drink tea or coffee or alcohol as part of our religion. They all understood immediately and said “oh yes, that is good to keep your body pure and clean” On the way out, Bharathi’s brother in law said “don’t feed them too much spicy food at lunch. From what I know they are pure clean people so don’t spoil them with spicy food” I had never thought of spicy food as being bad for me before, but the people here seem to view spicy food as a kind of vice- they love it, but they know it’s better for them in moderation.
We went out to lunch at a place called Blue Diamond. They tried to take us somewhere else, but when we got there they found out it was closed down. They were really concerned about wanting to take us to a nice restaurant so we wouldn’t get sick. The food was really good!! It was my favorite meal. Matt and I shared butter chicken masala, more naan, some Chinese noodles, and veg clear soup. They show serving food as a sign of respect, so Nirmala and Bharathi each insisted on spooning the food on to our plates (especially on Matt’s plate I noticed). After lunch, Nirmala had to go for some social work training she is involved with, so Bharathi took us to one more center, just outside of Chennai. It was a really nice center, and once again we were greeted with snacks and drinks. Everywhere we go people insist we have drinks! Usually warm orange juice or water, since we don’t drink the coffee or tea. After the last center visit, Bharathi took us to her favorite saree shop, called Sundari Silks. it was nice! It was like the Nordstrom of saree shops. She knows the owner, so she wanted to introduce us. He was really funny and friendly. He (also) seemed concerned about our spiritual and mental well being, so he started giving us some marriage advice, went away for a minute, then came back with a book to give to Matt. It is called “The Divine Romance” and it is by the founder of Yoga. He said it is the best book you will ever read, it has the answers for any problem in your life. Bharathi said it is her favorite book and she can’t go to sleep without reading it. He said you will find miracles in the book. Matt started flipping through the book while I was shopping for saree fabric, and the very first line in the book was about a man the author had met in Salt Lake City!! Really, what are the chances. Even Matt and I thought that was pretty coincidental. Bharati just shrugged her shoulders and said “you see! The first of many miracles.”
Bharathi helped me pick out a saree for myself. She explained that the first saree you buy cannot have black or dark colors, because of tradition. She said because I am young, it is best for me to wear floral patterns, and because I am white, I should wear lighter colors. I love the one I got! Unfortunately, the tailors are closed on Sundays, and since we were shopping on Saturday night, I wouldn’t have time to have the blouse (the little half shirt that goes under the saree) made. I still got the fabric though.
Bharathi was happy she could introduce us to her friend that owned the shop and said “he is so successful but still so funny like a clown, even though he is a millionaire.” What is crazy to think about is that a million rupees is equivalent to about 20,000 dollars. We are so rich here! We love being able to hand out 10 or 50 rupees to people we meet on the streets, or over pay by 100 rupees. It makes somebody’s day, and it’s really only a few cents or a couple dollars to us. When we were out with Neha the day before she kept shaking her head and saying “no you are paying too much! These people are glad to earn 100 rupees in a whole day!” That’s what makes it fun though! Back at home, if you tip a few bucks it’s just expected, but here if you tip a few bucks you probably just made their week. People here in general just seem very humble and grateful. I will really miss the people here, even though I can’t understand them 80% of the time.