Wednesday, July 26, 2006

five blocks from a beach i do not visit

For the first solid month of my time in Visakhapatnam, I have done virtually nothing but Sanskrit. Once I have had breakfast at the hostel, I go straight to my teacher’s house and begin the day of studying. He has given me the use of one room in his house that has a separate entrance. I arrive and begin translating what we have read the previous day until he arrives and we begin to read more. Lunch is served at noon, and we usually wrap up the morning reading at about 1 pm. I cross the street to the hostel where meals are served, and hope there are still vegetables left. Lunch is unvaryingly rice, dal, rasam, some vegetable dish and yogurt. If I arrive too late, I may miss the vegetable dish. After lunch there is a break which I use to write up the morning translation, and to rest.

By late afternoon, we are back at it. Before we move on to a new section of the text, I am required to read aloud the Sanskrit that we have just read together, indicating with my inflection that I have understood the meaning, and being prepared to identify any forms and vocabulary as Shastry Garu chooses to grill me on. There are breaks for coffee and for Shastry Garu to collect the fresh drinking water that is pumped by the municipality only for an hour in the evenings. At about 10:30 in the evening, we wind down. When we read much later than that, as we often do, my teacher will walk me back the two blocks to where I am staying, for safety. Shastry Garu is 70 years old, and I can only hope to have that sort of stamina when I reach his age. And the extraordinary generosity with my time.

Days pass like this, then a week, then a month. We have not taken a single day off. The house I am staying in is five blocks from the beach, a long sandy stretch on the Bay of Bengal. Though this is just an easy five minutes’ walk away, and I know a little physical walking exercise would do me good, I have not seen the sea even once during this month. After the two months of enforced leisure time in Pune, the time Shastry Garu offers is far too precious for me to even think of a stroll on the beach.

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