December 7, 2012: Friday
Many things changed here at AYV since my last visit 2 years ago. At first I only saw the physical things like the new wall by the front gate, a pharmacy dispensary in the main building, mosquito nets over the bed in every room, a collection of yoga and Ayurveda related reference books, a new consultation room, etc. Now that I’ve been here for close to 2 weeks I am also noticing some other changes. There are generally more people, both working and living here now- three full time physicians not including the senior physician Dr. Vipin, three new yoga teachers (I understand that the previous yoga master has found a new post and will be leaving), there are holy men in white on the premises, kalari instructors (kalari is a form of martial arts in Kerala), and apprentice therapists (there was a young woman observing my therapy session yesterday). We’ve had local tribal dancers give performances on two separate occasions, there is a morning and evening pooja everyday, and the bi-weekly bhajan feels like a bigger and longer event than before. And the name of the facility has changed from Ayurveda Yoga Villa to Ayuvedia Yoga Villa Holistic Research Center.
Ajit, the owner, has big things planned for the future. He is building a 100-cottage Ayurvedic spa facility on the beaches of Goa in addition to the mountain retreat where some of the current guests at AYV have gone. They are developing skincare products and treatments to be used in the Goan spa right now here in Wayanad – I get this incredible facial mask everyday during my treatment and I told Dr. Abhijith how they should bottle that stuff. Apparently they are doing just that for Goa. If they keep true to the care, quality, and the level of commitment they show here at AYV in the other projects, I am sure people will come.
One example of the details they pay attention to can be found in the milk they use here. After having to drink 3 liters of the stuff for Vamana I’m glad to note that it didn’t just come from some grocery store in town. I’m not certain whether this was being done two years ago but I recently learned from Ajit where the milk comes from. He was proud to tell me all about it and even offered to take me to see the herd of special cows he keeps not too far. The cows were brought here from Gujarat (in North India) and are free to graze on natural grass and given Ayurvedic herbs that we typically take during our time of rejuvenation. Dr. Abhijith told me during my consultation the other day that they are smaller in size than those found in the South and yield only about 2-4 liters of milk which are of very high quality. They milk them each morning and the milk is used fresh, unpasteurized, that day. I don’t usually drink cow’s milk but this milk I find, is very good. Maybe that’s why I like the porridge here so much.
Some things have not changed at all, of course. The one computer in the main building is as slow as ever (I think it’s slower now than before as if that was possible), the cottages are still very dark inside even with all the lights on, the river still flows steadily (there was a crocodile sighting just a few days back) and you can hear the children playing in the water on Sundays. But what has also not changed are the people here who are as kind, generous, caring, and loving as I remember them. They work so hard to keep us all in good health and spirits, all done with a smile. Dr. Abhijith said it would be better if I took freshly made medicine each day rather than the bottled Ayurvedic medication, so every morning at 8AM and in the evening at 6PM a therapist appears at my doorstep with a dark, hot decoction for me to take. I really would love to return here every year for a week or two…
December 8, 2012: Saturday
It’s my fifth day of rest before my next Panchakarma step. Eating three Ayurvedic vegetarian meals a day has restored my body to its regular healthy state. I feel great. Now that I’ve gotten comfortable with my routine, diet, and energy level I think I can increase my level of physical activity. I’ve been doing my asana practice twice a day with some pranayama and medication, and walk for an hour in the morning. I will tackle the bit hill leading out of the compound this afternoon and next week I’ll start going to kalari as well.
Personally I really enjoy the food served at AYV but some of the guests who have been here a bit longer are ready to return back home to their favorite foods. The two Australians told me last night that they can’t wait for a piece of toast and some Vegemite. L-H is looking forward to some chicken with chilies, garlic, onions, and a cold beer. I guess it would be nice to eat something spicy but I haven’t really had any cravings. As we’re in the Indian state named coconut (Kerala in Malayalam), there are endless varieties of coconut based items in our diet. Just this morning I had a dosa served with coconut chutney, a bit of steamed plantain, and shaved coconut mixture with jaggery and raisins. We get to drink fresh coconut water at least once or twice a week, and noodles and rice are often sprinkled with grated coconut. Dr. Abhijith told me yesterday that the base oil for our Ayurvedic head and face massages are from coconuts (the oils used for body treatments are sesame).
Kerala is a wealthy state and Keralites live well compared to the rest of the country. The literacy rate in Kerala is close to 100% and they are a major producer of rubber, coconuts, coffee, and tea. Dr. Abhijith told me that rice production has fallen off in recent years and now Kerala imports its rice from the neighboring states. Since my treatments are going well and I don’t have any serious ailments Dr. Abhijith and I have come to discuss various topics during my consultation time besides Ayurveda and healthcare. I think he probably finds me a little odd and perhaps a bit amusing as most Indians do. It’s rare to see a single female travelers, especially one this old (ha!). Bijina, my lovely therapist is 22 years old and when I asked her whether I’d see her for the third time if I returned next year she said maybe not. She may be married and could be pregnant by then. I knew the answer to my next question but I asked her anyway if she’d continue working after she got married. She replied without hesitating for a moment. “No, it’s not good working after marriage.” Like most Indians Bijina also looked at me with incredulous eyes when I told her I’ve never been married. Why, she asked. Why?
I think it’s time for me to walk up that hill and meditate on that.
December 9, 2012: Sunday
Dinner was late last night because of bhajan, but that afforded me an opportunity to take in the night sky and appreciate all the stars. They were shining so bright and beautiful that I almost wished I could sleep outside. Even with the late end to my day I had my mind set on going to the early morning pooja and woke up before my alarm went off at 5AM. It was very dark and all was still when I tiptoed out and over to the pooja hall. It was just four of us this morning, S, L, and E, and the priest of course.
I thought we’d just be watching the morning prayers. So I was surprised to hear the priest say a few words during the ceremony in English and also guide us for a brief meditation at the end. He had a deep and soothing voice, and it was wonderfully calming to hear his chanting. I felt as if I was half dreaming as I sat there staring at the fire. Sanskrit mantras, both familiar and foreign drifted over the roosters calling out to bring everyone out from their slumber. I reminded myself that I was awake. This is India. I am awake.
I prayed, drank the holy water, and received my blessing. I felt at peace. I chose once again to practice in my room rather than joining the yoga class at 6:30. I stretched my practice out until 8 and then went out for a walk before breakfast. I did conquer the hill yesterday and did as Dr. Abhijith told me and turned left at the top of the hill; he warned me that if I went right at the top of the hill I might run into elephants. Seriously. There are wild elephants roaming around these parts and I heard that earlier this year there was a tiger attack. Seriously.
I went to the evening pooja today as well to make the day complete. There is a big group of guests leaving this week, starting with the charming C tomorrow morning. It would have been a big farewell dinner to just to say goodbye to her but we had a birthday to celebrate (one of the German girls) so we had a very festive evening. There was cake (non-Ayurvedic cake with real sugar, gasp!), balloons, candles, music, lots of photos, and even some dancing. I left before things got too rowdy, preferring to stare up at the night sky and trying to make out a handful of constellations I recognize.
Tomorrow E and A are moving up to the mountain retreat, and I’m sure we’ll have a new guest or two joining us. Twelve more days to go and still three more cleansing steps left for me to do. Yieep!