I did it! We’re back in Mysore and I registered at the KPJAYI shala today and met the main man, Sharath. Well, when I say ‘met’, it was more like being sent to see the headteacher…
It felt like being at school from the start, as we all huddled on the floor of the foyer passing round the prit-stick to glue our passport photos onto another application form that had materialised. Then suddenly a hush descended and I saw a pair of legs and a briefcase step through the crowd from my vantage point – Sharath, I guessed.
We were then ordered, by the very capable lady presiding over the chaos, to form an orderly queue up to Sharath’s office door in the main shala and somehow, through fortuitous prit-stick related timing of being close to the shala entrance, I found myself second in line. My heart started inexplicably hammering – was it nerves, excitement or flash-backs to school? A bit of all three I think. The shala was larger than I thought it would be and resembled a typical school hall, apart from the floor being covered in reed mats and the entire back wall housing an almost overwhelming giant shrine to all the past gurus – the photo of Pattabhi was just shy of a billboard. There was no whiff of soggy cabbage either – in fact it was surprisingly fresh in there given how much sweat must be engrained in its every surface.
The lady then ordered us all, in a voice that well knew the power it wielded, to sit down in our queue – and I’m pretty sure I’ve not been made to sit down in a line since school. My phone chose that moment to beep an incoming message and the girl in front of me flicked her head round and said in near panic, ‘Turn it off – he gets so angry if that happens in this office. It happened to me only once, and now I never bring my phone in.’ I gave her a grateful smile and whispered, ‘It’s my first time here,’ giggling nervously. Serious school-girl regression…
A male voice called out from the office.
A hush descended again and the first girl disappeared into the office. I wondered what was happening in there. Were they having polite chit-chat about the weather? Was he imparting sage guru advice? Was he answering a burning question she had about the practice? However, my musings were halted by the voice calling out again.
I guessed that meant it was my turn and, as I entered, heart still racing, I remembered what my exuberant NYC practice companion, Liron, had said about why he stopped practising at the main shala: “I was fed up of being called ‘one more’. I’m not ‘one more’. I’m Liron!” I saw his point.
So there I was, inside. And there he was, behind a big desk – the man whose feet some ashtangis like to kiss. He was slightly-built and had dark circles under his eyes. He looked tired, which isn’t surprising given his working day begins at 4:30am. I perched on the chair, awaiting with baited breath whatever was to come next. It went something like this:
He takes my application form, briefly scans it and types something quickly onto his computer.
Him: “First time?”
He reaches out for the fat wad of money I’m clutching and turns to put it through his money counting machine. Whirring ensues for a few seconds.
Him: “You owe 500 more for compulsory chanting.” (holds hand out)
Me: “Oh, sorry.” (scrabbles in wallet, blushing like I’ve been caught smoking behind the swimming pool)
He takes money and nods me towards the woman with the not-to-be-ignored voice, who gives me my new KPJAYI ID card (‘to be produced promptly on demand’, it says on the back) with the timings of my daily schedule.
And that was it! To be honest I didn’t really expect much more – he has a lot of people to get through and many, many thousands of rupees to count. But it did make me chuckle – all those nerves for such a brief encounter… 😉
But, still – the whole registration thing has generated high excitement in me and I’m really looking forward to practising in the shala; I know this is what yogis always say and other people roll their eyes, but… I even sensed its potent energy whilst sitting cross-legged in the line (there, I said it!).
I am relieved to be feeling excitment as, after a second bout of gasteroenteritis (caught off Chris – we did a rather horrific tag-team effort) and an extreme reluctance to leave lovely Gokarna, I’ve not really been feeling very up for it over the last few days – but then you don’t really feel up for anything when you’re tied to within a short radius of the toilet by an invisible rope of anxiety, huh?!
Anyway, I’ve rambled on enough. I start on Monday (6am led practice) and will keep you posted about how it goes… 🙂