Since 2012 I have been staying in Gheeta’s house near the park, equidistant from Saraswati’s and the main shala here in Gokulam, Mysore, India. Over the years I have developed a friendship with her, her two young boys and her rest of her family, her parents, husband and her three pugs, Sheeba (the mama) and her puppies Siri, and Curry. Every year they feel more and more like family to me and much more like a guest than a tenant. This place is my home away from home, this year more than ever.
Geetha has three apartments that she rents and one room with a private bathroom inside her house. The guests this year are all women from varying places with our own stories and friends, but being among these women with Geetha at the helm makes this experience even more special. She is always feeding us and looking out for us. If we need anything she finds a way to provide it for us, and she never bothers us if we are sleeping, but always cares for us if we get sick. Her food is delicious and is one of the reasons I gain weight in this place, but I don’t mind because it is only on these trips to Mysore that I get to eat her food, which her mother also lovingly helps prepare. The vegetables are cut so specifically small, the chai is cloyingly sweet yet strong and the idlis and dosas perfectly prepared and ready to dip into the spicy chutneys I crave after I head home.
I occupy the ground floor apartment, and have for the past three trips. It’s small room with a queen sized bed, one burner, hot water boiler for teas, a large closet and a bathroom with western toilet and hot and cold water for a bucket bath. I like this room a lot. It has a big window and gets a lot of light and has a cool breeze running through it during the day. The ceiling fan is quiet and keeps me cool at night. The door to this apartment is adjacent to the window of the kitchen and all day I can smell the wondrous Indian meals being prepared for the day. If I am home and Geetha knows it, she shouts, “Maureena!” from the kitchen and hands me some food through the window. I never say no, even if I have eaten already.
On the top floor, where I stayed a in January 2012 is a woman named Sarah. She comes from Indiana and is staying 3 months. This is her first trip to Mysore. We have the same start times for classes in the morning, so we walk together. She decided on her second month to rent a scooter, but she’s still a little bit afraid of it I think, because it sits in the driveway and hasn’t moved since she picked it up. She said maybe by the third month she will actually use it to get around. Right now she just practices driving around the park, or so she says (I haven’t seen it move).
On the second floor is Anniela and she if from Norway. She’s tall and thin with dark hair and light eyes, this is her third trip to Mysore. She, Sarah and I have 4:30am led class time so we walked to and from class together this morning as to not be alone in the dark. Anniela is more seasoned than Sarah and got her scooter right away. I met her when she arrived early one morning and seemed a bit confused because no one in the house was awake yet except me. I went out, introduced myself and helped her find the keys to her apartment. After a few days I have come to realize that we have many friends in common as we seem to be crossing paths a lot since her arrival. She told me that she will be having a friend come stay with her in the apartment in March, adding to the number of women on site.
Staying inside the house is Esin from Turkey, living in London. This is her first trip to Mysore and and Geetha and her mother, I can tell, feel responsible for her. Esin is outgoing yet unsure of India. She said her family is worried about her traveling here alone, but staying in Geetha’s house has made her feel safe. She is getting married this year and is considering wearing a sari instead of a wedding dress. She went shopping with Geetha to look and see and brought me back three pairs of glass earrings, one green, one pink and one blue.
All of the energy here, all of the women and all of the puppies who run to greet us when we come home really make this place feel special, comfortable, like home. There are times in your life you look back on and remember more fondly than at the moment when they were happening, this may be one of those times, but I am not sure because I am really enjoying this moment right now, right here.