And it feels very good.
My room is rudimentary but luxurious compared to the places I've lived in before. I have a table and a chair to study, I have my computer and an internet connection 10 metres down the road, and even a small speaker-box for my MP3 player that allows me to play music in my room. I have a balcony that helps me go through power-cuts. I have good hanging space for my clothes and enough shelves to store all my stuff. I have a one-metre square kitchen space, which must sound ridiculous to my occidental readers, but that I have come to appreciate and enjoy completely. It has a shelf with all the things I need, including a non-stick frying pan and a kit to steam vegetables and enough cookery and a fresh water supply and even a filter water supply. And muesli! I have no fridge of course, but I enjoy buying my ingredients day to day from the small shops or stands down the road. There are fruits and vegetables including fun, exotic ones, Indian cheese (paneer) which keeps about 5 hours, dahi (yoghurt) which will keep for a day and a half, and milk which they sell morning and evening that I'd have to boil three times a day to keep fresh. I don't like to buy milk because of the hassle, so I only buy it if I'll make pancakes straight away. Paneer and dahi are lovely. And in the heat, I can only buy a small loaf of brown bread that I'll use for two breakfasts; after longer it starts to mould; then I have muesli. Proper muesli with a lot of fresh fruits and yoghurt! There are many small shop down the street from me, including the tiny, friendly organic shop that sells filtered water and brown bread and tahini and brown or red rice and many more organic/healthy produces; and soon it will even be the season for tofu. It is extraordinary to have such an health food shop so close-by, for they are extremely rare treats in India! I am very grateful for it indeed.
And I've been taking supplements, too. I take kala namak (black salt), as it is full of minerals and iron and it compensates for all the sweating. It's even good for digestion they say, so I'm having it! I also take a protein supplement (also enriched in vitamines and calcium that just tastes like hot chocolate (cold and with water instead of milk, but you learn to be tolerant in India so it's nice!) because the protein intake in Indian cooking is pretty low and of course I do not eat meat. I feel a lot better than when I arrived; it must all this homely goodness! It is a less hot, it's true, around 30-35 degrees, but we still sweat like pig-dogs due to the humidity. When it was 48 degrees, back in May-June, it felt so hot on your skin, but you'd sweat a lot less – meaning it's a lot harsher on your body (and my digestion was clearly affected) but now, it really doesn't feel so hot yet we sweat and sweat and sweat... It makes me wonder whether it is sweat, or humidity deposited onto the skin from the atmosphere (!?!)
But it is getting cooler anyway. There is clearly drought, the Ganges is low and it's supposed to rain heavily right now and it does not... but it does rain from time to time, and then the freshness is bliss. (And I noticed after writing this entry that the Ganga waters have risen considerably by at least one metre! Yay!)
And so, the healthy diet and supplements must work, for I have a lot of energy and feeling very good. I am constantly doing something, Hindi homework, or violin, or cleaning, or doing my laundry, or cooking, or tidying, or writing, or going to university or to Sukhdev's, or meeting people, and I am not too tired by sleep time. I really enjoy going to sleep in India somehow though – is it just those hard beds? I have also started a new pranayama (breathing exercise) routine, taught to me by my yoga teacher of a neighbour (he's been a teacher for over ten years – how handy!!) and it feels great! I had always been interested in learning more about pranayama, but it is difficult to find one's right thing, and my training has been very sketchy with bits irregularily learnt here and there, sometimes from a teacher sometimes from a book. Putting them into practice had scared me because one ought to be careful and vigilant with pranayama, so I had always kept to the basics, and even then not with much regularity or conviction at all! But my neighbour, just one week after moving in, taught me a complete routine connected to all the chakras, which seems to make sense to me . I have practised this one everyday since, and I find it suitable for me, a lot more than other meditation practises I learnt elsewhere that I had not found very convincing. So... let us see where that will lead me...
And university! I have completed the first week. It is clearly more slack that in Europe and I must be prepared to accept that; THIS IS INDIA! But most of my teachers have been attending class and according to my senior students, I must have been lucky so far. The best bit, clearly, is that I am alone in my class, so I'll be able to learn at my own (fast) pace, without being slowed down by other classmates. I can bombard the teachers with questions, too, and if I always prepare my texts in advance I'll be able to speed up the pace even more... Interestingly, dixit my senior students, the teachers will be more likely to show up if they know I am dedicated...(?) and they are aware of my dedication already. Most of the teaching is based on texts and stories (well-chosen and interesting ones) – plenty of new explanations and reading and writing, which I clearly need. So far, the level is not too easy nor too tough, just comfortable and fun... I am happy.
And violin! Sukhdev is away for ten days, so he asked me to help a new student of his, who only started learning violin last week. She is coming every two days for practice in my room, and it is a lot of fun to be helping her. It makes me feel that I am very good at violin (haha!), which is very pleasant indeed! It also teaches me to go back to the basics and to be observant.
And there are the people I meet. They are mostly long-term in Varanasi, most whom students. It is a little like a community of fellow foreigners, and in an otherwise Indian environment meeting them is quick. I have good company around me. Below my own roof, my floormates, as I initially felt, are lovely and helpful too...