Vijaya Rao, a professor at CAVA, kindly offered to take me to Tupa Sultan Summer Palace, xxx and three rivers. Vijaya, a soft spoken sculptor, was a thorough and knowledgeable guide.
We drove and drove through rural villages, passing many farmers walking slowing along. I think people here are so graceful in their bodies, slender and agile. The Tupa Sultan Palace, our first stop, is a lovely wooden building carved and painted on every surface with lovely, water based patterns. We only had access to the first floor, but just that was a plethora of murals depicting victorious Sultan’s battles. Vijaya explained how the paintings were executed on dry plaster and then coated with linseed oil, giving them a soft sheen.
Our second stop was a ghat, a sacred place where three rivers meet, Sangama, lovely and open, with huge, gnarled old trees and clusters of little shops, with bored vendors who made very half hearted attempts to sell to me. The sell is much less hard when I am in the company of Indian friends, thankfully. It’s still a challenge for me how to respond, as I feel rude according to my standards. Pretending they don’t exist is seems to work best. We sat down for tea at one of the shops, run by a teenage boy. Vijaya carefully explained that I wanted “black tea” but when it was handed to me, it still was milky, and then Vijaya made him wash out the pots, and the second cup, flavored with masala, was delicious. Vijaya laughs easily and it was fun to joke about things both American (his wife and son are respectively working and studying in the US) and Indian with him.
It’s really not possible to know how it will feel to be in a place despite seeing pictures and hearing descriptions. I spent Sunday mostly fretting about how I would visit Belur, Halebid and Svrananabelagola the following day. I scoured online sources, which all pointed to KSTRC, the Indian government bus tour system, but none of the listed phone numbers worked, except one office, where the phone rang and rang but appeared to be closed on Sunday. I tried Vijaya Rao, a professor at CAVA who had been my guide the day before. But nothing was available except Bhagya arranging for a driver through their Mysore hospital. She also arranged for two students to accompany me, Anande and Naveem.
Anande and Naveem Dejeuner Sur L'herbe
Later that day, Bhagya, Ajai and I drove to the twins’ dance teacher’s home where he was conducting a long rehearsal for the following Sunday performance that none of us could attend since we would all be in Delhi. Outside his home, a two-storied, airy building of recent construction in a middle class neighborhood, lay a sea of sandals. There were over a hundred girls and a handful of boys dressed in their dance school uniforms, and various parents. The dance teacher is tall and broad with a booming voice and malleable face, and wide eyes which flash a parade of expressions. Charismatic and radiating energy, he commands the full attention of the room.
Asmitha's yoga asana
Aagnika (left) performing
It was great to watch them rehearse the various dances, some more classical hindi dance and others like musical numbers. The young men dance robustly, flinging themselves, stomping and catapulting, mustering vigor and drama. Agnika danced effortlessly, with grace and poise, completely assured and at ease.
After the rehearsal, which lasted a few hours after we arrived (and we arrived hours later than starting time), we were invited upstairs into the dance teacher’s home, where he lives with his wife, mother and two children and served tea and snacks, including fresh popcorn. As the dance teacher speaks little English, a long conversation took place in Kanada, an experience I am now used to, as most seem to forget that I don’t understand and fall into speaking their natural language, without the effort of English. But then his wife spoke English to me, and I immediately wanted to know her better. A former professional classical singer, her voice was full of warmth. She went to fetch a painting she had made to show me, a very fine and precise watercolor she had painted during a time she was unable to talk, suffering from a polyp on her vocal chord. The experience left her without the ability to sing the full range required for classical singing, so she now teaches. I admired how she relayed this story simply, without self-pity or regret.