Sunday, May 29, 2011

Vipassana - Rehab for Poor People Part 3

In the morning I woke up to the sound of the alarm, I turned my weary head to the right… NAKED TIGER BALM LADY, NAKED TIGER BALM LADY!!!! I ran into the bathroom and stayed there until she left for the hall, my eyes were scarred!
Every evening from 7.00- 8.30 pm we were required to watch a video explaining about what we had done that day and how we may be feeling. Goenka, the guy from Burma who has been spreading the word of the Vipassana was speaking in the video and he was hilarious! Although my bum would be killing me after a hard days work sitting on it, I used to laugh out loud and really look forward to his stories. The English speaking tape and Hindi speaking tape were played in separate rooms with the English tape finishing a good 15 minutes before the Hindi version. For this time we were exposed to the elements, being bitten to death my mosquitoes and left to fend for our selves in the darkness. As I left the hall I would always say hello to the Geko that lived near the light bulb, whom I fondly called Craig David, as at the time I first discovered him I had the song ‘I’m walking away’ (from the troubles in my life’- quite apt actually) in my head. I would then grab my torch and go for a nature ramble around the vegetable patches hoping and praying to see something interesting; I saw a cat, a dog and a Praying Mantis (a type of insect), not quite up to David Attenborough standards but I was pleased.

The next day I donned a pair of white baggy trousers, I felt extremely summery, as if I should be holidaying in the Costa del Sol, I was so happy with my choice. As I was hurrying back to my room, to rest my derriere after a particularly tiring session, the assistant teacher intercepted me. ‘I’ve been meaning to tell you something’ she said in broken English, ‘Okayyyy’ I replied. ‘Your trousers are transparent’ she continued! I looked down and so they were, my blue thongs were clearly visible and the fact I had been sweating hadn’t helped matters, it looked like a Wet T-Shirt competition down there, mortified I replied ‘So they are I’ll change right away’. But what I couldn’t get my head around was how she knew the word ‘transparent’ but when I asked her where I could get a glass of water from a few days earlier she looked at me as if I was insane? I discovered (all on my own) that you could get water from a tin dispenser outside the hall, no bottles were available just metal cups which everyone shared, I know it sounds disgusting but you would pour the water into your mouth, it was a skill, one that I did not possess, I would always spill it down me, but it was a refreshing relief from the heat inside the hall. As well as the heat, another problem we had was flies, Moses would have felt right at home, it was like a plague had been sent! Hundreds of annoying buzzing flies would swarm outside the kitchen and make their way into the hall, every time they landed on me I would flick them off making it very difficult for me to concentrate. Another noise issue, as well as the construction site, was the happy hardcore music which was often played in the evenings in one of the surrounding fields, again it was one of things you eventually got used to and secretly enjoyed.
By the seventh day I was getting really annoyed that I couldn’t keep still for the whole hour in the hall so I made a bet with myself – Paul will buy you (as in me) a pair of Christian Louboutin Pigelle nude colored shoes if you sit the whole hour without moving, I know I shouldn’t have bribed myself on behalf of Paul to do it but it worked! On the 7th day between the hours of 6.00 and 7.00 pm I sat cross-legged, completely still with my eyes closed for one whole hour, I didn’t even let the flies bother me! Rather than rushing out the hall as I normally would after meditation, I stayed a few minutes and congratulated myself. As I stepped outside the atmosphere was tense, everyone was staring at an area just by the water machine… it was the moment everyone had been dreading - it was a snake! A brightly colored, no doubt deadly snake! Everyone was trying to edge closer to have a look, one girl got dangerously close and suddenly screamed, I thought she had been bitten (now that would have been a blog post) but it had turned back on its self and was slithering in the direction of two Indian ladies, I was worried for them, luckily they jumped into the bushes to safety in true comedy fashion, I’d never seen anything move so fast! It was the most exciting thing that had happened all week and I found it hard to concentrate for the rest of the evening.
On the 8th day I was told to stay behind at last session of the day and speak to the teacher, he wanted to know how I was getting on without my phone, it was apparent he couldn’t understand a word I was saying so after a few minutes of nodding I made my way back alone to my room. On this particular evening I had forgotten my torch but although it was only a 5 minute walk I had watched the Blair Witch Project only a few days previously so was very apprehensive, I kept looking behind me incase something was following me, there wasn’t (I don't think). I arrived at my room to the oh so distinctive smell of Tiger Balm Lady (TBL) and the sound of buzzing. I looked up at the light and the biggest wasp I had ever seen in my life was buzzing around it, TBL gestured at me as if to say ‘It’s your turn, I got the mosquitoes last time!’ I felt this was totally inappropriate, I didn’t ask her to kill the mosquitoes and this was a different kettle of fish, it had a sting and it was a giant of the species! It was clear she had no intention of doing it, so I manned up. I went into the bathroom and grabbed an empty toilet roll tube and placed it over the wasp, I forgot that it didn’t have a cover on the end and could see the wasp making its way up the tube towards my face, I started screaming, loudly, TBL then tapped me, I screamed again, she gave me her scarf and gestured to me to cover the top of the tube, I did but I could still feel the wasp trying to get out. I then started to drag the tube down the wall, I saw a couple of its legs come off on the way but it was still very much alive, when I got to the bottom I started screaming again, TBL then gestured that I should flip the roll over, now this was the scary part it could easily fly out, it had wings godammit!! After another massive scream I did it! I ran out side and threw everything including her scarf on the ground, after a big breath I looked up and noticed we had attracted a crowd of intrigued students, I bowed and made my way back into the bedroom where Tiger Balm Lady was sitting on her bed laughing her little grey haired head off, I joined in and we laughed ourselves to sleep.
By the 9th day I had the hang of the meditation and the Vipassana technique, I could keep still for the full hour sessions and could concentrate on the sensations happening in my body. I’m not a person who has deep-rooted issues, but I can imagine if I did the course would have really helped. I genuinely felt happier, calmer, that when I got home I would think before I spoke and argue less, I’d even warmed to Tiger Balm Lady and felt compassion for Burptrude! But despite all the good feelings I couldn’t help thinking about how unhappy I was living in India, I missed having a job, my own friends and not having yellow water, when I returned the husband and I were going to have words and sort this out once and for all!
I had a love hate relationship with the 10th day, I hated it because I thought we could home in the afternoon but home time wasn’t until the following day, but loved it because the noble silence ended at 10.00am so we could speak! Hoorah!!  I made a b-line for group of girls who sat in the English speaking video tape session, the first thing they asked me was why I had been screaming the other night and why did I smell like Tiger Balm?!  Mortified that they had basically thought I had stunk for the last 10 days, I went on to tell them of my Tiger Balm Lady adventures, which they found very amusing. I even spoke to Tiger Balm Lady who made me promise her I would come to her house for 10 minutes (yes just 10 minutes??) after the course, help her carry her bag and sit next to her on the bus, I was too scared not to agree.
On the final day after another sleepless night thanks to TBL and her ‘Parle, Parle Parle’ chanting, it was time to leave. At 6.30am Ramesh arrived, I’d never been so pleased to see his little moustached face! After saying my goodbyes I got into the car with a girl I was giving a lift to and headed back to Bombay. We talked and talked and talked for the whole 4 hours and came to the conclusion that Vipassana was like fat camp, alcoholics anonymous, rehab and counseling all rolled into one and would definitely recommend it.
My experience had been a crazy one, I had missed Paul more than I ever thought I could, I had lived with a psychopath in the dingiest of rooms, bathed in a bucket, ate foods I would never have even tried, been in complete silence, deprived of all communication devices and not only had I gone the whole 10 days without crying, I had gone the whole 10 days without crying with PMS (this is another story but Paul’s friends are reading) I think sometimes in life you need to do something like this to put things in perspective and I am so proud of myself for doing it.


  1. Way to go! I'm so proud of you too. That was completely stepping out of your comfort zone. I can't wait for the epilogue and what you're going to do about India! ;-) From my experience, the people with serious issues had a meltdown and fled halfway through.... two of them when I did it, and my ex as well (but that's another story). You didn't mention Goenka's wife and how, from memory, she sits there so demurely along side him in those videos. All so entertaining. lol.

  2. Arrr thanks Sharell. There are loads of other amusing things that happened but theres only so much you can put in a blog. What made me laugh about Goenka's wife is that she actually looks like him- they were like twins! funny! Yes we'll see what happens in terms of me and India... x

  3. Oh I hope you don't leave India! I am planning a trip to visit husband in Sept or Oct and I totally want you to take me out in Mumbai! I need to meet such a funny girl! ;)

  4. Arrr DGD, thats sweet, but i'm not sure if this place is for me!! x

  5. Its been two weeks, and while I haven't blogged, you haven't either! lol! Does this mean you're packing up and leaving India?

  6. Hey, Andrea I've been back to the UK for a few weeks. How r u, i tried to get on to you blog but it says you have to be invited? invite me please : )


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