January 2009. One afternoon in Mysore, whilst riding back with Ganesh from a lunch gathering, we collided with another motorcycle whose trajectory intersected with ours and had us displaced to the ground. The incident brought about a few stitches on the knee for a lifetime memory and blistered hands that disabled asana practice for 10 restless days. On informing Guruji, he raised a curious eyebrow at the event of two students, being timely out of routine with similar injuries. Every practice day missed at the shala was a misfortune but that was how fate brought us together.
Two years and a half later, we returned to Mysore with Big A in tow. This time, Guruji had two eyebrows raised, accompanied by a generous ear-to-ear smile. He has a soft touch for little humans and was delighted to see an addition to the practice. Bringing up little humans is without debate, the best accessory to elevate a yoga practice manifolds.
January 2015. Fast forward four years, Little A entered our realm. As soon as he could walk, we whizzed him along with Big A for another long-awaited Mysore adventure. Four pairs of feet shuffled into the shala to greet Guruji and Saraswati. With twinkles in their eyes, they chuckled, embraced the boys and were always accommodating toward them, making way for Ganesh and me to take turns practising. Looking back, their compassion, their silent composure and human-ness were all that was needed to fuel our journey through, what proved to be the most challenging trip, unknowingly at that time.
The disruptive logistics and division of energy resources with two tireless boys in the equation were constantly depleting into the negative. It was weeks of physical and mental exhaustion, aches and soreness, and just having to live through the moment, day by day. Every moment spent in the shala was precious, always, but this time I felt I had to give everything, and more, just to get to shavasana, and just to be able to walk out of the shala, often empty and devoid like a chargeless battery. The practice didn’t feel beautiful anymore. I felt like a sack of potatoes struggling to stay afloat in muddy water. Unlike in the pre-parent era, there was always a desire for wanting to absorb more and practice more. Instead, the practice began to manifest in hurt, anxiety, confusion and fear of judgement from others. For the first time, I wanted less, a lot less. But Guruji pushed the boundaries even more. Almost as if he knew. When I was at my most vulnerable state of being. Week after week, he gave me another and another. Sometimes I was screaming in my insides. Asking why I was not given more when I had an abundance of energy in my earlier years and why now when I had none? Looking back, it felt like it was all in Guruji’s game plan. There is always the larger scheme of things and oftentimes when in stormy weather, it is easy to be tied down into the microscopic-ness. There were hundreds of us practising in the shala but he had an eye of a hawk and knew where each of us had to be at, at that time in our unique journey. It was a journey not for weeks, nor months, nor years. We keep coming back to it decade after decade. Perhaps even lifetime after lifetime. The practice brought about a commitment so gruelling in its execution yet so subtle and beautifully quiet in its realization. Every cell and muscle remembers its place once the mat is rolled out; even after a couple of pregnancies and a sprinkle of short or monumental hiatus. More importantly, I was learning to operate from a place that I did not know could exist within me. The ashtanga yoga practice is a rigorous discipline and an incredible tool that inevitably seeps and feeds into other areas of life.
January 2020. We left Kuala Lumpur to live a Himalayan experience – to build our new home and a yoga shala in a small village on the hills of Annapurna. Plans were drawn up with the intention to tread the earth sensitively, hence rammed earth was our choice of construction. Foundation work started for both the house and shala and with that, our lives, including the boys, have never been the same. Big A is convinced he has mad parents. Lost their marbles through and through. To take leave from a comfortable urban life for a basic rural life that promises no return.
January 2021. Ganesh and Little A celebrate their birth days in Astam village with a ‘do-what-you-can-for-a-cake’, whilst Big A attempts to levitate himself back to where he came from.
Ganesh has actively taken a full-time role on-site with his brother Ram – to manage and execute the completion of the family house and yoga shala. A completely new set of skills they had to grasp very quickly in order to keep the wheels moving with the project. With a troubled and sluggish year from the disruption of an unforeseen and invisible force, a virus of a kind that has somehow disabled the lives of humankind, it has inevitably paved an incredible transformation of a chilled-out yoga teacher and a travel agent to becoming full-fledged site contractors. Sprouted from the frustration of the absence of a team that was employed to manage the project, there was little choice but to proceed with the project ourselves. In the making, we are witnessing a yoga teacher who has to materialize his own shala from what used to be a paddy terrace, to expand his role as someone who had to know every truss that supports the roof, every grain of earth, sand and gravel that makes up the walls, every reinforced rebar that holds up the structure, every count of brick and cement bag that strengthens the 70 thousand litre water tank adjacent to it and every one of the 17 workers that live on site. And with that, we see threads of silver from their locks of hair and beard, the rough tough hands of a builder and the questioning tired look in their eyes: why did we ever choose to do this?
Ganesh and Ram, arm in arm, although with contrasting abilities and skills seem to complement the team having come this far. Whatever competence and experience they lack is hugely compensated by their personalities and sense of inclusiveness. Their natural flair to carve a human connection with all involved, their spirit of light-heartedness and humour which brings about ease seems to make a difference.
Rammed earth yoga shala walls in their rawness, are dwarfed by the Himalayan range. Annapurna 2 and Annapurna 4 give the eastern view a staggering perspective.
When the sun sets, Big A and Papa G often share memories of the good old days in Kuala Lumpur where dahl baht did not exist then.