My undergarments smell like roses. The sari I am sitting in smells like roses. My pants, my sweaters, my socks all smell like roses.
I did not accidentally fall into a prickly perfumed bush of flowers with soft petals. Rather, an innovative laundry wallah down the alley from my guest house, washes clothes and then presses them with rose water from the roses surrounding Pushkar. How decadent I know. A small luxury in the midst of a 30 hour dance week.
Odissi. Pushkar. A new love and a familiar friend.
How to describe the brimming excitement in my stomach, in my chest, in my throat as I walk into Shakti School of Dance for the first time. Trepidation. Unbridled hope. A healthy dose of adrenaline.
I was met with “Kenni!” and an enthusiastic and warm hug from Rakhi the Kalbeliya teacher. I gratefully returned the hug with a small round ‘o’ of surprise on my lips. I studied briefly with Rakhi the last time I was here, almost 3 years ago. She wasn’t my main Kalbeliya teacher, but she was a friend of my friend Carrie and therefore I automatically became a sister.
It has only continued to get better from there.
On Jan 6th at 9am I attended my first Odissi dance stepping class. I had moments of utter bliss, feeling like this is what my body has been craving for years, and moments of “What the hell have I gotten myself into??!” In developmental psychological terms, I find myself on the edge of the Zone of Proximal Development (delineated by a Czech man with a complicated name consisting of an absurd number of consonants). ZPD is a fancy way of saying that I’m on the edge of my comfort zone, perfectly poised to absorb what I will now be learning. Not quite out of my depth, but close. At the end of that first class I was challenged, I was exhausted, but most of all I was blindingly happy. Happy in a way that puts into perspective how unhappy I have been for a very long time. The sun has burst through the clouds and not even a pair of 200rps fake designer sunglasses can block the rays of penetrating light.
It has only continued to get better from there.
Each day has been physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausting and still I fall into bed each day with a smile on my face. (If not in actuality, then most definitely in my mind’s eye). I continually fall in love. Excuse the expression, ‘I get my ass handed to me each day.’ I am beyond grateful for the years I played competitive sports, because I know physically and mentally my body can take the beating. This is the most grounded, balanced physical, psychic, spiritual training I could ever imagine. After 9 brilliantly intense days I can feel my body getting stronger. I am being shaped for Odissi. My thighs are being chiseled from the choka and tripungi stances. My hands and fingers are becoming more nimble from mudras. My core is becoming strong from targeted exercises. My upper back is becoming sculpted from supporting my arm and chest movements. My brain is being challenged by cross lateral movements. And most of all, my heart is overflowing with love for the dance.
There is so much to share from these first two weeks of training. Sharing the lovingly dubbed “girls dorm” with Melea and Shawna complete with matching bedspreads. Fugitively watching from an internet cafe the Kalbeliya gypsy girls I studied with before as they sat in the market with new babies. Debating whether I was ready to approach them yet. Watching them stride off down the market street with new flint in their gazes which pained my heart. The food. Oh India and your delectable street treats liberally dappling the market streets. The chaotic cacophony of motorcycle horns and “Excuse me Madam. Beautiful things my shop. Come. Only looking.” Our Super Ganesh shirt wearing, illiterate, cow raising, sweatshirt turban wrapped, infectious laughing, campfire stoking, oddly god-fearing landlord. Not enough said. More to come on the hilarious happenings of Sai Baba guesthouse.
There is so much and so few words to paint the landscape of life here in Pushkar. There are things I take for granted. Such as the imperceptible step I take to the left miliseconds before the motorcycle passes me from behind. The obligatory limp handshakes and chai consumption following my reacquaintance with Gita, Raju, and Raihka. The kites in the sky flown by children and adults alike. The sudden flight of thousands of pigeons from the temple just feet over my head as I wait for class to begin on the rooftop. The quiet peace of the holy Pushkar lake on a Sunday morning stroll once past the harassment of pushy Pushkar passport ‘priests.’ The moment when the sun peaks above the horizon and the monkeys on the rooftops pause motionless like energizer bunnies with their batteries removed. The bubbling airy happiness in my heart.
So much to share.
I have two and a half more months to share my Pushkar Odyssey. This is just the first taste. The first whiff of Puskar rose scented laundry. The beginning of a love story.