SUNAAD RAGHURAM writes from New York City: It’s the Big Apple, they say.
New York City.
Where buildings are spoken about in terms of how many thousand tons of steel and concrete have gone into them.
Where skyscrapers don’t scrape the sky but seem to take a peek at the stratosphere.
Where cars of all shapes and sizes buzz around like bees that have something monumental to achieve in ten minutes flat!
Where people run, almost, and not walk the sidewalks.
Where the colour and the glitz shows not just in the neon signs on buildings but also in the clothes that people wear. And in the languages they speak. And in the accents. Where dreams drive the human spirit and aspirations propel break neck action. Where tomorrow is there to be lived to the full and yesterday was just a trailer. As for today, who has the time to think of it!
New York, they say is the melting pot of the world. In fact home to small portions of the world itself.
From Mandya to Melbourne, from Spain to Port of Spain, from Wembley to Wollongong, you’ll find them all here. Immigrants who landed in the city that never sleeps. A city that is a testament to the combined spirit of enterprise of the citizens of the world who’ve made it their home. Some permanently and some others probably.
Sirens wail, bells clang, and the klaxon is sounded every now and then. A big red fire engine hurtles past the many blocks, to douse some fire, somewhere. But surely not the one that burns in the hearts of men and women who live here, feeding off its vibrancy and lending to it some of their own.
In the midst of the hubbub, the noise, the clatter, the rush and rhapsody, New York also hosts the Om!
Soothing, soulful, calm and clear.
A balm to the mind, a song to the soul, a pursuit of the infinite.
It’s an Indian export surely. One that came in much later than silk. But has stayed on and spread its poses, as it were. Yoga. Among the favoured pursuits of New York, not to speak of most other parts of the United States, it has its ardent believers, the unshakeable faithfuls.
Waking up at five in the morning. It doesn’t matter that the temperature outside is 27 degrees. Farhenheit! Marichasana on Madison Avenue! Trikonasana on 34th Street! There aren’t many streets, by the way, where you don’t find a sign that says, ‘yoga’.
It could be Bikram yoga or Ashtanga yoga of which Mysore’s own Pattabhi Jois is the beacon. Or BKS Iyengar’s. Different methods, different styles. They all have their aficionados.
An eclectic bunch of men and women who lead lives so different from the rest of New York. No Dunkin’ Donuts. So what if the ad says America runs on it. Not them for sure. Only the traditional nuts and fruits, not to forget lentils and cilantro will do. Coconut water instead of Carlsberg beer.
The pursuit of Adhyatma through many accents!
A display of amazing self-control in their lives for sure. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to do the same when they practice the many asanas definitely. A love of a concept, a method of living, a manner of being. Yoga that is practiced much more sincerely and studiously for sure than in any part of the country of its birth itself: India.
Frequent visits to India to learn from the great masters themselves. To Mysore especially, where the legendary nonagerian, Pattabhi Jois lives and teaches Ashtanga yoga. Conversations with his students here tell you that they know as much about Gokulam and Lakshmipuram and Nalpak and the Lakshmi Janardhana Iyengar’s bakery in Saraswathipuram as Broadway and Times Square and Central Park and the Chrysler building!
The world as someone said, is fast becoming a global village. Where would you find the pundits of both ‘papa’ and ‘punya’ than on the busy, bumpy, boisterous and at times, mean streets of New York.
Where for some, the day begins with Surya Namaskara, with a faint sun peeping out from between the 56th and the 69th floors of two behemoths on Fifth Avenue while for most others, it’s with Subway sandwiches with cold cuts and mayonnaise or bagels and coffee at Starbucks!