Although we have only been in India for a mere six weeks, with the guidance of new friends, and through our own keen observations, we have employed countless strategies to facilitate our immersion into the Mysorean way of life. Below captures a few of the more “effective” ones:
Strategy #1: Get off the tourist bus!
We believe that in order to fully initiate oneself into the local culture, one must get off the beaten tourist path. This means, seeking out destinations that you won’t find in The Rough Guide, Lonely Planet, or TripAdvisor. After some thoughtful consideration, and with the help of our local mentors, Manju and Geetha, we identified such a locale: the city hospital.
And the MRI says: Baker’s Cyst and ACL tear. Translation: Taylor cannot run. Translation: Taylor is losing his mind. Translation: Taylor has ants in his pants.
Strategy #2: When under pressure, find a way to cool down.
Despite our love of and appreciation for the culinary skills of our favorite local eateries and our new neighbors, we have become completely dependent.
“Ragi pancakes, comin’ up!” (We walk in; he knows our order. We probably need to branch out. Well, maybe not!)
Launching into the world of South Indian cooking has been gradual, stirring, and, at times, hazardous. We began this gastronomic endeavor with a trip to the Devaraja Market. Despite being met with puzzlement (and often laughter) by the vendors with our assiduous inquiries about names of food items and proper preparation methods, we left with copious amounts of spices, lentils, rice, and vegetables.
Our first dinner experiment of methi dahl, curd rice, and pumpkin erissery proved to be way too ambitious, particularly since we discovered that our kitchen is stocked with a set of severely dull knives and a terrifying hotplate.
First time using a pressure cooker. Turns out it’s important to release the pressure gradually. This may have happened twice. Okay, three times. We blame the hotplate. Completely.
Curd rice with mustard seeds, dried red chili, and curry.
Pumpkin erissery did not make a showing on night one. Four cuts (due to knife quality) and three days (due to patience level) later, we were able to feast!
Strategy #4: Be flexible.
Mysore is renowned for Ashtanga yoga, which is why foreigners from all over the world flock to the main Shala, Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois. While practicing with such a guru is probably transformative for many reasons, we opted for the lesser known (read: cheaper), more “local,” Yoga Bharata.
As a solo investigator, Tiffany discovered a class of serious and seasoned practitioners comprised of three children below the age of 10 and two women over the age of 70. The teacher immediately recognized Tiffany as a novice, so while the class gracefully and independently moved from one series to another, the teacher spent time thoroughly explaining (mostly in an amalgam of Sanskrit and Kannada) and properly modeling every posture for her. Perhaps with a few more classes under her belt, she’ll be able to hang with the crew?
Strategy #5: Say, “Yes.”
Last Saturday we received two phone calls, and from two different people, in one day.
The first came from a young man, Arjun, whom we met on the train from Mysore to Bangalore. Naturally, he extended an invitation to his business partner’s friend’s cousin’s wedding (for real). Only hiccup: The wedding was that evening in Bangalore, so sadly we had to decline the offer.
Just as we were lamenting this missed cultural opportunity, the phone rang again. This time, Anupuma – a sweet woman we met very briefly (i.e. we spoke with her for less than five minutes) at the DPS Bangalore North graduation (see post “There are Three Things…”)– was on the other line requesting our presence at her distant cousin’s wedding the next morning in Mysore. We graciously accepted.
Anupuma and her husband thoroughly explain every aspect of the ceremony.
Then, they take us onto the stage of the ceremony to offer our blessings. Before doing so, we were careful to review the procedure several times, and with several different people, as we waited. Nonetheless, Taylor almost pours the milk on heads of the bride and groom, rather than their hands; fortunately, Tiffany intersects mid tip-of-the-cup.
Strategy #6: Follow the lead.
If a crowd spontaneously forms, for what seems to be for no particular reason, stay put. Something BIG is about to happen.
Yep, that’s Raul Gandhi, poster boy for the Congress Party.
We know we have so much more to learn and so many more mistakes to make along the way.