Posted in the summer of 2017.
Spoiler Alert :
Don’t read this anecdote for a love, light and peace vibe.
Almost half a decade ago, when I was in the early stages of my midlife crisis cum health reboot, I attended a weekend workshop on Ayurveda.
The presenter, a high-strung type with a hysterical laugh, had a string of yoga and naturopathy degrees attached to his name. He was an Indian guy, settled in California. I had started a serious and rigorous self program in yoga studies at the time, so I wasn’t the usual candidate who turns up at these kinds of workshops. In other words, I wasn’t a rich housewife slash socialite looking for detox tips to make her skin glow. But the workshop had been recommended by a friend, and so there I was, in the host’s rather posh South Delhi apartment, ever willing to learn as always.
The workshop, even though overpriced, wasn’t bad. The dude was organized about his sattvic/rajasic/tamasic food groups and pretty good at identifying dosha (in my case, predominantly pitta, and that means my intellect – for whatever it’s worth – is not to be messed with, nor my temper). I didn’t care for Dr California’s faux desi-American accent, well, I guess there were things he didn’t like about me either. But I’ll come to that later.
As the workshop came to an end, Dr C made a big fuss over small things. He was offered a glass of kale juice by the very dignified woman who did the domestic work at the studio, and he made a huge show of doing a fancy bow and Namaste to her. She was kind of embarrassed, because all he had to do was say a polite thank you for her kindness instead of doing all this (ridiculously patronizing) drama. But the society ladies giggled and thought Doc was super cute and so “down to earth”.
After talking a lot about open-mindedness, self enquiry and humility, Dr C launched into a long spiel about quality of life – the kind of life you can have only if you’re an organic farmer in the south of France or a wealthy hippie in Bali. After the usual expounding on chakra “alignment” and veganism (which is anyway lost on vegetarians in India, like me, who do and should take some amount of wheat and dairy, like roti and curd), he joked about how if you can’t give up a splash of milk in your coffee, then better to milk a live cow yourself than use shop-bought skimmed. Only, Dr C wasn’t joking, since he apparently has two cows on his lush Californian estate, and gets up at dawn to milk them. I live in a modest apartment in Mumbai and cannot keep a cow in it, leave alone two, nor can I get up at 6 am to milk cows per se, since I have, like, a real job to attend to the rest of the day.
By now I was totally sick of all this pretension so when Dr C threw open the room for questions, I said I had a question about Dualism vs Non-Dualism, or dvaita/advaita as it is known in Hindu philosophy. My question was specific but sincere, as I had started reading a bit and wanted some insight via an academic’s opinion on the subject. Dr C was stumped, or maybe he just didn’t want to get into a knowledge-based conversation when making dumb jokes around adoring women was a lot easier. I don’t know. Whatever. Doc California lost his aura of sunshine and growled darkly at me. Why was I asking about things that were too advanced for my comprehension? Shouldn’t I better just do my “usual yoga practice” every day and shut up? Then Dr C glared at me one last time as if to say, quit being oversmart, I don’t like you.
So much for all the introductory faff about open-mindedness, self enquiry and humility.
I thanked Dr California for an awesome workshop and walked out, even though they were about to serve green tea. No loss for me. I can’t stand green tea anyway. I prefer strong south Indian filter coffee, with a bit of skimmed milk, and my deepest gratitude goes to whoever does the great job of milking the cow so that I don’t have to.