I am writing through a coffee haze. I feel like I’m on drugs. My hands are trembling a bit, and this room I’m sitting in, with the open windows, and the long, flowered drapes feels like the Twilight Zone. Pornima is responsible for this. Well, Pornima’s coffee is responsible for this.
Pornima lives at the yoga center with me. Her room is across the garden, up the slippery moss steps, and through the green door with the white lotus flower painted on it. We met the first day and became instant friends. She is studying to be a yoga teacher, and is living and practicing here in Dharamkot for a year. Pornima is of Indian origin, but she grew up in Hawaii and California. Her cheeks are round, her teeth are white, and her eyes are soft. She is always smiling.
She invites me out for walks in the woods, and then rolls a joint and hands it to me. She tells me the best places to shop, how much I should really pay for produce, and how to tell Indian boys to fuck off when they’re staring. She sits me down in her kitchen and makes strong coffee with fresh milk and sugar, handing me a hot tin cup with a damp rag wrapped around it so I don’t burn my hands. She is like a sister I forgot I knew, or a best friend from across the ages. Pornima is a soul mate in baggy Indian pants and shiny black hair buns, laughing and singing and telling me stories.
Today we sat out on her porch with our coffee. The yoga studio is set in the most beautiful gardens, with spilling ivy, climbing roses, and four small ponds. The rain drips off the ferns, and the pathways are slick with moss. It is hemmed in on every side by tall conifers and fruit trees. We are on a mountain, in a valley, amongst the woods. At night, either Papoo or Bala stays on the grounds, so that we are not just women. Lila is the yoga teacher, Pornima is the “yoga scholar” and teacher-in-training, and I am just a student. But when night falls, the crickets chirp, and the stars come out in the sky, we do feel rather secluded at our enclave in the woods. I feel perfectly safe, but Sharat, the head teacher who is now away teaching in Europe, prefers to have a man on the grounds when he is not here to protect us ;)
So today Pornima and I swirled the thick milk into our black coffee, and laughed and talked about life. Across the garden, on the other side of the trees, the top of the neighboring green guesthouse could be seen. An older man walked out onto the roof and began hanging clothes to dry. When he saw Pornima, he broke out into a large smile. Even from that distance, I could see that despite his joy at seeing her, he began to get flustered. He put his hands in his pockets, then took them out. He adjusted the laundry on the line, and then re-adjusted it. He coughed, dropped his hands, and tried to look calm. Pornima has that effect on men. She is absolutely lovely.
“Hi, Shukla-ji!” she called across the garden, birds tweeting and sun shining. “How are you today?”
“I am fine, Pornima, just fine,” he answered. “Will you be coming over for lunch this afternoon?”
“Hmmm,” she said, thinking. Then she called out from her patio to his rooftop, “Yes, I think I will. Do you have eggs today?”
“Yes, eggs!” he called back. “Do you want an omelette?”
She thought about it and took a sip of her coffee. Then she called back, “Yes, how about an omelette and two aloo paranthas?”
He nodded his head, looking down. He seemed to be thinking about it. Then he looked back up. “Yes, okay, omelette and paranthas! See you in one hour?”
“Yes, one hour,” replied Pornima, giving me a wink and a smile. “I’ll be there.”
We returned to our coffee and gossip, watching the monsoon clouds roll in, feeling the haze as it began to envelop the mountain. Some time later, I collected my umbrella, and Pornima stood up to get dressed. She was heading over to Shukla-ji’s for her pre-ordered lunch. I love that you can call out an order from one patio to the neighboring rooftop. Sometimes India has my heart.
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