I am in pain today. Apart from my mural painting class (where I am learning to draw Indian jewelry, what I think are peacock feathers, and stylized hands and animals, all painstakingly technically) I had an Indian dance class and a martial arts class, both of which involve a lot of foot-stamping and squatting.
The mural-painting teacher is pretty quiet: he gives me things to copy then intercedes every now and then to show me the best place to start on a complicated pattern. I’ve never before done such technical drawings without a straight-edge and triangle; it takes a phenomenal amount of focus to make all the squiggles the same size, to draw curving parallel lines, and to keep the lines clean.
The dance class did not start well. I think the teacher was suspicious of me, and in between bouts of stamping she gave me a few long lectures about respect for teachers and elders and how God will take care of everything. It may have something to do with how severely my face is constructed; I feel I have to grin like a monkey at all times in order to make people who don’t know me understand that I’m not going to hurt them. At any rate it was much better today. She said halfway through she had thought yesterday that I wasn’t interested, but now she thinks I am. I don’t know what changed her mind but we were both a lot happier. She loved my sari and I think was impressed with the fact that I had put it on myself, but chastised me for how informal my bun was. When wearing a nice sari it is apparently imperative to wear jewelry and do your hair well. From observation and other comments I am beginning to understand that in Indian culture the way you present yourself can be about giving visual pleasure to others.
I was tasked with the homework of practicing moving my eyes around while smiling and keeping my eyebrows raised. It’s harder than it sounds.
By the way, forget what I said about South Indian veg food: the food at the center is delicious. I’ve always had Indian friends tell me that the food they get at home is different from what you eat in restaurants, but I never believed that the difference would be so great. Fresh fruit and vegetables, light soups, four different kinds of curries at each meal and a beautiful ice cream to finish it off. I’m definitely having to restrain myself, but two hours of good exercise (three tomorrow as we’ve got yoga in the morning) should keep me in line.