Indira S. Somani, journalist, PhD

Ashram, Commercial Street and “Mere Brother ki Dulhan”

Friday, my weekend started with a visit to the Atma Darshan Yoga Ashram in Kumaraswamy Layout in Bangalore.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to go, because I recently visited an apartment with guests singing bhajans held in my housing complex.  After the brief singing, the swami started reading from the Bhagavad Gita, but stopped when his cellphone rang.  He didn’t just turn off the phone, he paused to see who called and check the messages on his smart phone before he continued.  (I was told this weekend that “only in India” would a swami actually stop to check his messages if his phone rang during his sermon).  I was really annoyed with this experience and did not want to attend another spiritual event after that.  But the masi I’m staying with agreed to go to the Yoga Ashram with me Friday night, and I knew if I didn’t go I would wonder about it.  Plus after I rsvp’d last week, I got a response email that said,  “Look forward to meeting you, I’m the tall, female, foreign swami, you won’t miss me :).”  It started on time, 6:30pm, but of course we were late and got there at 6:50pm.  The event was packed with Bangaloreans.  When we arrived the swami was talking in English about the five Kleshas (ignorance, egoism, attachment, aversion, and fear of death), and how stress in our mind is born through the Kleshas.  She then moved on to the four types of yoga:   Karma yoga: the yoga of selfless action, Bhakti yoga: the yoga of devotion, Jnana yoga: the yoga of knowledge and Raja yoga, the yoga of physical exercise and meditation to control the mind.  The bottom line (from this talk with the swami) — stress has to be dealt with through a higher level.  One should direct his/her mind to something that will uplift him/her and raise awareness to a higher force.  Many of these things I already learned with my own yoga training at the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Ranch in Woodbourne, NY in 2008.  However, I must say it’s not always easy to put it into practice if you work full-time.  I thought I would be disappointed with this event, but I was pleasantly surprised, especially after my previous spiritual encounter.

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Saturday– Commercial Street – one of Bangalore’s main shopping areas was hustling and bustling with locals and tourists on Saturday.  After walking the entire stretch to a get an overview of the shops, I could see that some were so packed it would have been too difficult to even enter.  I was told to go to Fab India, Mysore Saree Udyog, among other stores, to shop for saris, salwar kameezes and kurtis (short kurtas).  But I ended up buying my own salwar kameez from Soch, a store with more trendy styles, fixed prices, so haggling was involved.  However, I did manage to haggle down the price of socks and slippers I bought earlier in the day.
The evening was spent at IT Anjali’s family friend’s home.  The host, Rangeeta, is a chef, who runs restaurants in Bangalore, Coimbatore and Hyderabad, and needless to say she prepared an excellent meal.  A beautiful selection of flowers and candles both inside and to the entrance of her home gave it a desi decor.

Sunday–Anjali and I started the day by going to Garuda mall to watch a Hindi movie called, “Mere Brother ki Dulhan” (translation: “My brother’s bride”) at 10:15am.  I have to admit I don’t normally see movies at 10:15 in the morning, but if I had the time in the U.S. I would see movies at all hours.  Besides we were not the only people in the theater itching to start their day with mindless entertainment.  The film was another Bollywood love story with song and dance, introducing me to Imran Khan, one of Bollywood’s younger actors, newly married, and sources tells me he’s very “down to earth.”  The best part about watching this movie was that I actually understood most of the film.  You see, I’m used to watching Bollywood movies with English subtitles as I’m not fluent in any Indian language.  My parents spoke English at home, since mom is Bengali and dad was Marwardi, English was the only common language between them.  Therefore I did not grow up hearing an Indian language at home except English.  But I’ve managed to learn small phrases each time I visit India.   As a result I could understand this film– good thing it was your basic Bollywood story– nothing to complicated.   The film also included Pakistani actor, Ali Zafar, and British-Indian actress, Katrina Kaif, who was in “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.”  Lunch was at the Thai restaurant, Benjarong, hosted by a woman sitting at the entrance carving flowers out of vegetables.  This was my first time eating Thai food in India as well as another opportunity to let go of my fears and try new things.