Thanks for all the good wishes – and Karmic advice alike! – about my Macbook – it’s back! I must say I’m pretty thrilled with Apple’s tech support and warranty. All I had to do was call their India customer service, carry the laptop to a local authorised service station, and two days later, with a replaced logic board, it was back up and running. I suppose this is one of the upsides of living in an “IT city” or “tech city” or whatever corny journalese name that my hometown Pune now goes by. So what if this tech boom means rampant congestion, severe pressure on infrastructure, and hideous blue glass and concrete software gothic* office buildings and malls – it has the exalted status of having an authorised Apple service center. I’m never one to not count my blessings, what? And I’m totally buying another Macbook after this one is fully and truly dead. So there, you PC naysayers! And whoever just thought to themselves – haha, what’s she going to do if it starts randomly shutting down again? – don’t make me curse you, okay? Allow me to point out, instead, that my warranty is valid a while longer.
But thrilled as I am, I don’t have anything particular to blog about just yet, because I’ve been madly working at a talk I have to give this weekend, and have had absolutely no time to do anything else. (Will blog about the talk, but later). So let me introduce you instead to my newest friend. This is a stray that inhabits our housing colony, and has determinedly enslaved me. She is possibly the most ill-tempered and angry cat I have ever met; she has not a kind word or look for anybody. Naturally, I am becoming quite fond of her. She used to break in through the kitchen window and try to steal milk at night, and earned my mum’s ire. I decided to pre-empt that by leaving a bowl out on the window-sill twice a day. Since then, Her Highness has abandoned burglary, and commands the bowl at the window by meowing like there’s no tomorrow. She didn’t touch the catfood I got her from a pet store. All she wants is milk.
The other day she actually grazed against my legs a few times, and I seriously wondered if something was wrong. I would like to have her inoculated and spayed (she recently gave birth to a litter, but I haven’t been able to locate it), but she won’t even allow anyone to touch her (plus the little bastards who live in the colony like to harass her and she’s generally very scared and wary of people, I think), and this much friendliness is about all my pet-phobic parents are willing to take. Even though they too trot out like clockwork to feed her now and, gasp, talk to her! I’ve been thinking about giving her a name, but I have a feeling she would disapprove.
*If you’re reading this, A, thanks for the felicitous phrase!
It is hard to feed your online addiction when you have a lot of power cuts. Even harder when your beloved laptop goes belly-up on you, after a sudden, but probably severe illness. It is hardest when you can hear your old and wizened PC snigger as you type.
So, things will be quiet chez Desiknitter for a bit, while we wait to see if the folks at Apple, with their much vaunted global warranty, work a miracle on my Macbook and bring it back to life.
Been a while since we had some yarn pr0n, no? Here’s some New England highland worsted.
Some of you boiling over in August heat probably don’t want to look at a gorgeous, rough, red tweedy wool right now. But the weather here is gorgeous – windy, wet and cool. After a worrying dry spell in June, we’ve been having a lot of rain all last month, and hopefully things will continue like this till September. My plan is to whip up this yarn, before the October heat sets in, into the Tweedy Aran Cardigan. The pattern, signature Norah Gaughan, is beautiful and deceptively simple; I like the waist shaping and the jacket-y look with the collar. Since it’s worsted, it should go fast. But I have been stuck at a few inches for the last week, tweedy-ling my thumbs about the sizing.
Someone on Ravelry suggested that the sweater on this model has a lot of ease (the size shown is 42.5″). I usually like my cardigans with a couple of inches of ease – say, 40″-41″ – but I quite liked the slouchy-but-shapely look at first and opted for this size (the next one down is 38″, which means zero ease for me). But now as I get increasingly irritated and indecisive about which size to make for myself, she is looking more and more like a convalescing character in an early twentieth century English novel to me, with her sweaters getting too big for her.
Also, the stated gauge is 4.5 spi for stockinette on size 7. Usually this means I have to go down two sizes to get this gauge – but for the first time ever, my swatch on size 7s showed 4 spi at some parts and 4.5 at others. Aaaaaargh! Swatch with size 6 gave me 5 spi. More aaaargh! I finally started the 42.5 size with the left front with a size 7, thinking a bit more ease would yield e a nice, loose outdoorsy jacket, of sorts. I’m still inclined to continue this size, but all the neatly fitted cardigans on Ravelry are making me dither a bit. With such heavy detailing, it’s difficult to just do some arithmetic and figure out the final size with all the different gauges. What should I do?
I know, I know, knitting the whole left front will give me a sense of the finished dimensions and fit, and I just have to suck it up and knit it to be sure, yes? That way I won’t have to rip out the whole thing, no?
So, a high point of the last two months has been the neighbourhood yoga class I found. 5 days a week every morning for 75 minutes. Soon after getting here, I went to inquire at a nearby gym about their rates and hours. While a really portly instructor tried to sell me their “figure control” package (talk about bad advertising!), one of its members quietly slipped me the info about the cool yoga class next door. I did not stop to wonder about why she was still suffering there, and hotfooted it next door. The class takes place in a ramshackle hall adjoining a local temple, and the space is shared with everything from dance classes to lectures to thread ceremonies.
I last did yoga here when I was in school, so it’s fun getting back into it here again after so long. Apart from the tremendous energy and lightness it brings for the rest of the day, I’m having quite a good time thinking about its similarities with, and differences from, my classes back in Berkeley – both in terms of the actual exercises, and its social world. In terms of the actual asanas, I guess it broadly follows the Iyengar tradition, but it’s really just a garden variety yoga class without any interest in branding itself or defining an “approach”. Ever so often, however, the power cuts unwittingly turn it into a Bikram class! This is the daily schedule:
1) A 15 minute pranayama session, doing about 5 different ones every day interspersed with neck and eye exercises.
2) A 10 minute general warm up as you’d do in the gym.
3) A couple of prayers, followed by eight brisk surya namaskaars (sun salutations).
4) Then, what in inimitable Marathinglish, the teacher calls spiDche vyaayaam (speed exercises) – that remind me of those Canadian Air Force exercise plans we used to do in college.
5) Then a spate of standing/sitting asanas – every day is different. I now know that if we’re doing vrukshaasana (Tree Pose), it must be Wednesday. But these are not in a flow. You do each one, stop, shake out, then do the next.
6) Then, on-the-floor asanas – sarvaangaasana (Full Body); halaasana (Plow); dhanuraasana (Bow); etc. – that we do every single day, mixed with basic calisthenics and ab work that are a lot like a pilates workout. Here we are in sarpaasana (Snake Pose, similar to Cobra):
My teacher, Mrs. Adkar, is a 4-time national yoga champion, who, as she tells it, wandered into a class one morning in her late 40s to see if it would help her with her weight, never having moved a limb before to do any exercise. A year later she was participating in local competitions, and finally went all the way to the nationals in her age group. She’s quite wonderful, and does a great job of egging us on. She is still not that happy with my headstand, because while I can do it without a wall or someone’s support now, I still cannot get ramrod straight. But I am working on it…
I like that she’s not at all obsessed with some kind of authenticity or purity of the yoga practice, and freely mixes it with other kinds of exercises. That way, it’s a lot like those “yogalates” classes, except it isn’t called that. But she gives a lot of importance to alignment and holding poses – again, like in Iyengar. I also like the extended pranaayama, which I’ve hardly ever seen in any of my classes back there. It’s not really spiritually focused – more of a nuts-and-bolts health-benefits approach. I believe there are classes in town with way more chanting than stretching; I’m glad I’m in this one!
One big difference that struck me right away is that there’s no emphasis on Downward Dog, which I’m sure we could call the iconic yoga pose in the US, no? It’s part of the sun salutations, and that’s it. Also, every lunge is runner’s lunge. For the first week I was all, like, WTF, what about the downward dog?? Also, no shavaasana everyday. Everyone just sort of rushes off to go to work. On Friday, before the weekend, though, she talks us through a long 15 minute yoga nidraa (sleep) which is fantastic for improving your concentration on your breathing.
You can probably tell from the photos that it’s also not a place where Lululemon Athletica would find many customers. No mats, blocks, blankets, no “yoga pants.” The class costs me Rs.150 for 20-odd sessions, a total of about $3.75 for the whole month (yes, you read that right) at the current exchange rate. The difference in cost is enormous; there are many fancy-ass yoga classes in posh areas, but this is mercifully very basic, lower-middle-class and uncommercialised. And it kicks ASS! Most women wear kurtas and slacks, some t-shirts and slacks, and there’s one thin linoleum mat for all. My first day – an older woman came a bit late, in a saree. I was a bit startled, and worried about how she was going to do a Plow or Warrior in it. Then, she shocked me even more by furiously disrobing in full view of the class. Like Draupadi, though, all was well – she had a t-shirt and slacks underneath. Like many women of my mum’s generation, she will not be seen outside in anything other than a saree, and this is her comfortable way to walk to the class and back home.
It’s the social atmosphere that is so different. For one, it’s not as solemn. No ritual namaste (which is anyway just ‘hi!’ in many Indian languages, namaskaar in Marathi); no invitation to center and ground yourself before the class, no getting in touch with your breathing. Interspersed with Mrs. Adkar’s instructions is continuous conversation during the asana sessions – recipes, speculation about why some folks have bunked the class for several days in a row, bitching about the power and water crises, anything. A couple of women just won’t shut up the whole time. The sheer unstructured informality was a bit unnerving at first for me, but now that I’ve made a couple of friends there it’s more fun also.
So some of us went last week to cheer two of our star classmates who had entered a local tournament and to just see folks of different ages strut their stuff. Some of the kids were truly, truly amazing. This whole world of yoga competitions is still a mystery to me, but it is clearly a well-oiled and diverse national network; I imagine it’s connected to certification processes and such. I’ve made a mosaic below of some of the tiny pretzels in action – there were many more who really inspired me to reach, reach and hold for just a few seconds longer.
Finally, thanks so much for all the wishes on the tenure news, everyone – I’ve had a really good time celebrating with family and friends, and it was very nice to be able to share it with all of you!
Earlier in this series: Twists.