Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mysore, procrastinating about buying airline tickets, going to Singapore angst

On Monday, my India visa arrived in the mail along with my passport. For those of you who have never applied for a visa before, you have to send your passport along with your visa application over to the consulate of the country from which you are applying for a visa (in this case, India). And then the people at the consulate look over your application and passport. And if they decide you are not somebody who is likely to be dangerous to their country, they approve your application, and stick your visa into a page in your passport. And you're good to go.

So I'm pretty much good to go, as far as India is concerned. The only thing I need to do is to purchase the airline tickets to Singapore and India, pack, get my ass on the plane, and I'll be in Mysore in no time, right? So what am I waiting for? you may be wondering. Why am I procrastinating about purchasing the airline tickets?

Well... here's why. Due to my current immigration status in this country, I actually have to go to Singapore (where I'm from) first before I go to India: Unless I go through an interview with the U.S. Consulate in Singapore and have the guys there process the relevant immigration paperwork, I won't be able to re-enter this country after I am done with Mysore. Which means that I have to physically be in Singapore. Which means that going to Singapore is a necessary evil that has to be endured, a Dragon Gate that the carp (i.e. me) has to pass through in order to become a dragon, if you will pardon the rather self-aggrandizing metaphor here...

Oh wait! If you are not Chinese, this whole carp/dragon metaphor will most likely be lost on you, and you will probably be reading this and scratching your head right about now. My apologies. Well, let me briefly explain. In Chinese mythology, there is this magical waterfall somewhere in which many carps live. At the top of the waterfall is a magical gate named the Dragon Gate; it is so named because if a carp succeeds in swimming against the current to the top of the waterfall and going through the gate, it turns into a dragon. And a dragon is a symbol of power and good fortune in Chinese mythology. So all carps want to become dragons. But only a very small number succeed in actually reaching the top of the waterfall and passing through the Dragon Gate.

An artist's depiction of the carp reaching the Dragon Gate
[Image taken from here]
So yeah, as I was saying, going to Singapore is a necessary evil that has to be endured if I am to cross the "Dragon Gate" and make it to Mysore. At this point, I'll imagine that you are probably both scratching your head and smirking in disdain at this metaphor. First, you are probably wondering: Why would returning to Singapore, the place where you were born and grew up, be a necessary evil? And then you are probably also smirking and shaking your head in disdain/disbelief, and thinking, "I can't believe he thinks he's going to become a Dragon in Mysore! I mean, gosh, this is only his first trip to Mysore... what does he think he's gonna do, bowl Sharath over with his super-powerful and super-beautiful practice, and what, get authorized on the spot? What a big ego the man has!"

Well, I don't deny I have a big ego. Guilty as charged. Totally. I won't even bother to defend myself. But even I know better than to have unrealistic expectations of my first trip to Mysore. If all the Mysore experiences I have read so far are any indication, I'll probably spend the first two weeks in Mysore just barely making it through primary (if Sharath even lets me get that far), and I'll probably spend my non-practicing hours wondering the streets of Mysore as a super-jet-lagged zombie-fied shell of my former, ahem, glorious self. And then, before I know it, it'll be time to pack up and leave. So yeah, even though I have a big ego, I think I still know a little better than to have unrealistic expectations.

Okay, but what about the Singapore part? Why is going to the place where you were born and grew up a necessary evil? I suspect that a proper answer to this question will take a few blog posts, which I am not in the mood to write right now. Suffice it to say that, given that I haven't been back there in years (I'm not going to tell you how many), I'm going to be encountering family and friends whom I haven't seen in as many years (and with whom I haven't done a very good job of staying in touch with), and who will now probably be pointing their mental (and maybe even physical) fingers at this ungrateful asshole who is now finally, after all these years, returning for a couple of weeks just so he can go on to this wonderful yoga vacation in India.

Again, guilty as charged. Again, I won't even bother to defend myself. But let me just make this little observation: Why do so many people in this world assume that there is some special significance in the geographical location in which you happen to have been born and grew up? Okay, perhaps there are many people in this world who were born and grew up in one place, and then go on to live quite happy lives in that same place till the day they die. I have no quarrel with that. If this rocks their boat, more power to them. But sometimes I think that these people assume that just because this experience applies to them, it must apply to everybody else, and that there is therefore something "wrong" with somebody who has chosen to live his life in a place that is not the place where he was born and grew up. I honestly do not understand this mentality at all. And since I don't understand it, I guess I won't bother to critique it either: Why criticize something you don't understand?

But anyway, to cut a very long story short, this is why I have been procrastinating the past few days about purchasing my airline tickets to Singapore and India: I seriously, seriously dread going to Singapore. There, I said it. Going to Singapore is, for me, the spiritual and emotional equivalent of having my wisdom teeth pulled (except I probably won't derive any wisdom here, only a lot of unnecessary anger and mental and possibly physical finger pointing, which is all very very bad for my drishti... have you ever wondered why there is no yoga pose which involves pointing your index finger and looking at it?).

Of course, if I were more spiritually evolved than I am right now, all of this would be a piece of cake. Just go to Singapore, breathe deeply the whole freaking time, and smile or be totally indifferent to any unappealing/insulting things directed at me... after all, doesn't Yoga Sutra 1.33 talk about being indifferent towards the wicked? Okay, I wouldn't go so far as to call my well-meaning friends and family "wicked", but I think you get the idea...

The trouble, of course, is that I am not half as spiritually evolved as I sometimes pretend to be on this blog (like you didn't already know this, anyway...). I get super-mad and worked up over things that totally are not worth getting super-mad and worked up about; if you knew about the things that I get super-mad and worked-up over in my everyday life, you'll laugh your ass off ("What?! This guy actually does yoga a couple of hours every morning and writes a yoga blog? Impossible!"). So knowing myself (and unless I happen to be dead wrong about my "wicked" family and friends), I will probably be a quivering mess of super-mad energy during the two weeks I am in Singapore. And then when I arrive in Mysore, my hips will be all tight from all this super-madness. And then Sharath and his assistants will have a field day adjusting me all over the place.

Oh well. But I guess I'll get over this procrastination soon, and get those airline tickets already. After all, what are my options? Not go to Mysore? After all the crazy shit that I went through over the last couple of months on account of this? No way, no way. But it feels good to bitch about things now and again. After all, what good is a blog if you can't throw a little pity party on it every now and again, right? But hey, thanks for reading this and putting up with this pity party. At least you know I don't do this too often. Yoga in the Dragon's Den will (hopefully) presently resume its usual friendly, non-threatening, non-pity-partying tone of voice. Thanks for reading, as always.    


  1. I totally get this. I have monthly "discussions" with my husband & daughter about my not missing my home town or wanting to visit. To them the place sounds eccentric and exotic. To me it is eccentric and psychotic. How long does the US Embassy appointment take? Can you make it in advance? Or do you have the kind of family obligations where you will pay dearly if you don't stay a few days? I feel your pain...

    1. Yeah, you know, I hate to say this, but it seems that many Americans are funny like that: They seem to suffer from Anything-place-foreign-must-be-exotic-and-therefore-wonderful Syndrome. Which may be true for them, since they will always be tourists there. But this is also why many of my friends in this country can't wrap their heads around why I don't seem to be burning with a desire to go to Singapore more often.

      From what I know, the US Embassy appointment only takes a couple of hours. However, they have this crazy protocol where they have to mail me my passport with the visa stamp about a week after my appointment, because they need time to process my application. Personally, I don't understand why US immigration laws have to be so complicated, but what do I know? I don't run this country. So anyway, long story short, in order to get my immigration papers in order, I basically have to stay in Singapore for at least two weeks, which is precisely how long I am staying :-) As for my family and friends, I'm guessing they would ideally prefer for me to stay for at least a month, but I think you know where I stand on this matter...

  2. Oh dear, do I know what you are talking about and can relate, get it every time I go to South America. Then again, I love the metaphor of reaching the dragons. I wonder if you could look at it differently. I wonder if you could look at it as "what is" and become completely present with whatever comes and "transparent" to the thoughts your mind is sending about it right now. Then once in Singapour, that is another story, but right now, there is no need to worry... If anything gratitude for the opportunity of preparing a trip to Mysore could be more helpful, or not... sorry if I am saying something that is totally out of line, I sometimes do...

    1. Don't worry, Claudia, you are not saying anything out of line. I really appreciate your support here. I suppose you are right that at least for now, it serves no purpose to worry more than I have to. I'll try to be present with what is. Although this probably also means that when I arrive in Singapore, I will also be a present quivering mess of angry energy. But, well, it is what it is, right? Or is this Bad Advaita? :-)

    2. Yes, it is what it is, and you know about the "how to deal with crappy people of 1.33", so you are prepared, you are a lot more aware than the last time you visited. Just to give you an example, I actually had to stop talking to my sister. Dont know when I will be able to talk to her again, I seem to push buttons on her just by my presence, and she pushes buttons on me. So it is not healthy for either of us... Sometimes the lines need to be very clear, especially with family, so nobody gets hurt! -

      The being full of anger is dangerous, it is what I call the "Hulk" taking over, which Eckart Tolle calls the "pain body"... The only way to deal with it is to observe it as it arises (which it might) and be conscious, rather than explote in unconcsious reactions. This pain body FEEDS on negativity. Wants to survive through us by making us mad and miserable. Just being aware of it coming, living through us and leaving us is enough to shine the light of consciousness into it... it will begin to dissolve.

      But, and this is a BIG BUT. Family is graduate work!, that is why it is better to start with small situations... and use the trip as a field study... but not expect that much...

    3. Yes, I totally relate to the pushing buttons thing. Not an easy issue to deal with.

      'The being full of anger is dangerous, it is what I call the "Hulk" taking over'

      So I guess the key is to be a "Conscious Hulk" rather than an "Unconscious Hulk"? Well, if all else fails, I'll at least be a super-hero :-)

  3. Oh Nobel!!! I TOTALLY understand the angst you're going through. It's at the back of my mind too as I make plans to visit Mysore later this year. A week ago I (rather unwisely perhaps) told my mother of my plans: 4-5 weeks in India, with a week in Singapore at the start and at the end of that journey. I got a "What??? It should be the other way around!!", along with the usual biases that our fellow countrymen have about India. Sigh.

    It's been 1.5 years since I last visited and seriously, if it weren't for its geographical convenience as a pit-stop to acclimatize to southeast asia, I would skip it entirely. I know what you mean about meeting up with old friends and family....that's when Claudia's advice really resonates. Also bear in mind that the stories and encounters you're currently anticipating are based on people that you last met with so many years ago. They are different people now, as are you, even if you don't share the same worldview. It might not (it usually isn't) turn out as bad as your fears lead you to believe.

    By the way, have you been following the 'outrage' over the Facebook co-founder's decision to give up US citizenship for Singapore citizenship? Classic example of a pragmatist who doesn't place as much significance on one's place of birth/childhood. Makes him the perfect Singaporean, don't you think? ;)

    1. Oh no, please don't remind me of the biases that our beloved (mostly Chinese) countrymen have about India. Darn! One more thing to have to face...

      Then again, perhaps things won't be as bad as I imagine. Well... there's ultimately only one way to find out, right? :-)

      As for Saverin... what can I say... a shrewd businessman's got to do what a shrewd businessman's got to do, right? I'm sure Singaporeans of all the peoples of the world should be able to appreciate this, right? Or maybe not, because we are too stuck in our neo-Confucian indoctrination, and will most likely criticize him as a disloyal opportunist? I don't know...

  4. I'm sorry you get so anxious about heading home. Perhaps after so many years things might be a little different (hopefully in a positive way). Perhaps you can do a mini-trip to Malaysia if things get really bad at home? :P I too have trouble dealing with my angers around family members. Best of luck!

    1. Yes, escaping to Malaysia is starting to look more and more tempting as a possibility, the more I think about it... ;-)