Clean and Elegant

Clean and Elegant

Friday, 8 January 2016

Who's Standing On Your Financial Hose?

In Auroville, I am about to move all my shit to the room around the corner from me. Instead of tiles on the floor, there is cement. I will switch from a double to a single bed. And the neutral odour in my current place will morph into the faint smell of mildew.  In all, I will save 150 rupees per night. After two nights, this means 300 rupees. So like just over 6 bucks Canadian. Do I feel smug? A little bit. And also maybe pathetically frugal. 

Internet in Auroville has demonstrated selective fatigue and is unfortunately unable to upload photos of my mildewed and un-mildewed room. And so instead, here is Matrimindir, Auroville's pride and Golden Ball. Rather a symbol of Wealth...
Amazingly quickly, I have adapted to thinking in Indian currency. The other day I was considering buying some guava fruit from a fruit lady.

“Oh no, too expensive,” I said, learning that two small pieces cost 30 rupees. At the time, it seemed scandalizing to pay more than 20 rupees for two larger ones. I walked away. In India, the Canadian dollar gets you about 48 rupees. For my daily budget, I aim for 1500 rupees or less. Accommodation and most often transportation included. This works out to around 1000 Canadian dollars per month. You’d be hard pressed to live so cheaply in Canada, even in Montreal. I hate doing this, but for the month of December, I kept track of all the money I spent. It was a total pain in the ass; however, I was able to observe that most days I spent less than 1000 rupees, and some days my total was as low as 297, 400 and 430. Yay me.

Oh money. What a relationship. I have always had a sort of superstitious view of money. Like you shouldn’t worry too much about it, or you’ll go broke. And I am afraid to look at how much I actually have, or how much I’m spending, for fear I’ll discover I’ve totally fucked up. And yet, the reality is, I am exceptionally responsible and resourceful when it comes to money. Having just inched across the poverty line, these days, I am set up so that I can live in India with minimal income until around April. And although I am not being super proactive about getting translation and writing contracts, most likely something will come my way. Despite all my doubts and fretting, I will almost certainly be okay.

“Always pay your credit card bill on time.” My father once told me this. It was the only financial advice he ever gave me. And except for during a year of poverty post-university, I have always paid my bills in full, usually weeks in advance. I’ve had the good fortune of being on the receiving end of generosity. To help me out while I was starving after graduation, a dear friend gave me a gift of 2000 dollars. Soon afterwards, I met the Boatman and he invited me to live in his home rent free for more than a year. Sometimes this is kind of embarrassing to admit. Like I am a charity case and can’t pull off shit on my own. And well, I really truly hope I can pay forward all this kindness someday soon.

Which brings me to the 300 rupees I am about to save. Back in Delhi, I found a financial book in my friend Fern’s fancy apartment. A small bright pink paperback, it was called, “The Naked Accountant Asks, Who’s Standing on Your Financial Hose?” The Naked Accountant’s name is Jean Backus. Like the title, the book is somewhat abominably written, although it begins with an interesting story about a car accident. The book costs about 13 dollars but once you are done with it, you are encouraged to pass it on, which I imagine decreases the overall profits.
Who's Standing On Your Financial Hose?
My self-help book only costs $2.99, including the excellent pictures. So far, Amazon hasn’t given me any money for it since I haven’t hit 100 bucks in royalties. I wonder how much money Amazon is banking from aspiring authors who earn nineteen dollars each. Oh well. Perhaps it is my act of generosity. To Amazon, and to the Universe.
Naked Accountant Jean Backus compares the journey towards financial freedom to a road trip from Austin, Texas to Boulder, Colorado. Creative analogy. She recommends replacing the Scared Small Fretting Child and Ego Bully into the respective Wonder Child and Co-Creator. The Small Fretting Child and the Ego Bully have deep and paralyzing doubts about their ability to thrive financially. They are afraid they will never have enough and constantly criticize your higher and/or deeper self for your seemingly poor financial choices. Unlike the Small Fretting Child and Ego Bully, the Wonder Child and Co-Creator view the universe as an abundant place of great wealth. (It seems they have never been to India…) They approach the world with awe, and are committed to figuring out exciting solutions to all your financial issues.  I’m afraid I may not have the concepts or terminology exactly right since I left my copy of Who’s Standing on Your Financial Hose in Rishakesh, in a dusty, mildewed room that cost 200 rupees per night.

One thing I do remember is the importance of envisioning your chequing account as a living, breathing organism. I have been giving this a try.

“Chequing account,” I say. “You Are Alive.” So far I have made 400 bucks.

In any case, it is time for me to switch over to my cheap and mildewed room. I wonder what exciting thing I will do with the extra 300 rupees.

If you would like to hire me for exceptional financial advice, do let me know. Naked or not, I would love to discover who’s  standing on your financial hose.

The End.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

You No Look Back: Farewell to 2015.

On Sunday, January 4, 2015, infused with alcohol, my ex-ex boyfriend Simon Girard climbed from his eighth floor apartment all the way up to the 23rd. From there, he made his way to the rooftop, walked to the north-east corner of the building and without pausing, threw himself into the air. Since he was eight years old, he had imagined throwing himself from a great height. I think of him whenever I stand before a vast cliff, or waterfall, or building. His suicide has permeated my mind and my writing. But he got he wanted, and it’s time to move on.

Other things that died this year: my romantic relationship with the Boatman, which I thought was supposed to last forever. My life in Halifax, which had been a strain for some time. My Ashtanga Yoga Practice, something else that despite long-term arthritic like symptoms in my joints, I believed I’d be best to continue for my whole life. Likely losing my legs or breaking my spine, or pushing one to three small humans out of my vagina would have been more disruptive than 2015’s series of events. Still, I feel it has been a pretty thorough ride.

“You no look back, you look future.”

On a trip to Udaipur, India, I ended up at a cooking class, despite the fact that I have absolutely no desire to improve my pitifully minimalist culinary skills. To my surprise, it turned out to be a major highlight. The teacher was a gem of a woman named Shashi.
“My English, no perfect,” she told us as she passed out a 12-page hand-out of recipes that some Australians had helped her put together. Even so, she candidly told us her story. When she was 32 years old, her husband died. She didn’t tell us how, but it seemed like it was sudden. Because she belonged to the Brahman caste, Shashi was sentenced to being a widow for the rest of her life. In accordance with the traditional grieving process, for 45 days, she wasn’t allowed to leave the house. With her face covered, she had to sit in the corner of her living room.

“All day, people coming. People going. Crying, crying. Me no talking,” she said. At five o’clock, she was finally allowed to take off her veil and cook. But she was still all alone. For an entire year afterwards, whenever she left the house, she had to cover her face. 32 years old. No husband, no money, and it seemed, no future. Many years later, when her son was closer to college age, he would bring his friends home from school to study. Shashi decided to cook for them.

“Chapathi, paratha, dahl, gobi masala…” As it turned out, her food was quite delicious. One of her son’s friends suggested she start cooking classes for tourists. The only problem was she only spoke Rajasthani. “No English speaking.” This however, did not kill the idea, and Shashi took enough classes to learn the basics. Before long, it was time for her first cooking class.

“Big shaky, big, nervous,” she said as she described standing in front of the table of tourists for the first time. Now Shashi has been giving classes for over six years. Her classes are so outstanding that she made it into the Lonely Planet.  With no skipped beats, she instructed us on how to prepare an unthinkable number of tantalizing dishes. Chai, pakora, chapathi, nan, three kinds of paratha, how to make paneer, how to use it in two different curries, dahl, gobi masala, rice pulao… As she guided us from dish to dish, it seemed like she had her entire handout memorized.  What was also  impressive and very touching was her ability to translate many of the ingredients and recipe terms into other languages.

“Mélangez!” she told my Quebecois buddy Hugo, who stood before the magic masala sauce with a wooden spoon. She knew all the words for the vegetables in French. I found this to be both lovely and inspiring. So much can be gained when you open yourself up to learning something new, without the fear of not being perfect. 
Hugo stunningly stirs. Perhaps next I could use a photography course!
“You no look back, you look future,” Shashi said as she reflected on how her life had changed since her husband had died. Surely, as a young woman, Shashi would never have imagined that she’d become a widow and wind up teaching world famous cooking classes to foreigners. But that is how her life turned out. You no look back.

Although I will probably never become an excellent cook, Shashi was an excellent teacher. Her words and presence and spirit will remain with me a long time. A year ago, I would never have imagined that I’d have given up Ashtanga Yoga, that I’d have become single and nomadic and taken to prancing around India with no real itinerary. And yet, this is my life right now.

Having always struggled with making decisions and with changes in routine, I have been amazed at my ability to be adaptable and somewhat chill.  To bathe, I squat under faucets of cold water and to shit, over holes in the ground. I have also had to observe myself through periods during which I am rather embarrassingly shrill and obnoxious. As though my intense preferences might possess the capacity to change some of India’s most frustrating attributes. And perhaps the most amazing part is my body’s ability to shit liquid for such an extended period of time. Luckily, things have solidified since I arrived further south. Oh Varanasi, I will never ever forget you…

Varanasi, The Land of Limitless Boatmen and Liquid Shits.
I fluctuate between viewing myself and my life as a hopeless disaster and then realizing that I might be on the verge of becoming super strong.

After bailing on Day Two of a Ten-day vipassana meditation retreat, I found myself in Pondicherry for New Year’s Eve.  Though aimless, I was craving some sort of symbolic ritual that would help me move on from this crazy year. Pondicherry was noisier than I’d imagined, and my travelling companions were somewhat into beer and cigarettes. As midnight approached, I could feel myself becoming disappointed and angsty. Surrounded by smelly hungover boys, I would wake up in 2016 and everything would be messy and the same. Well, isn’t that always the case.  Every morning, still Erica.

But beer and cigarettes don’t always rule out depth. An Australian friend shared his family’s New Year’s custom. On one piece of paper, you were supposed to write down something from the year before that you wanted to let go of. On the other, you wrote something you wanted to chase after. Right around midnight, you were supposed to burn the paper with the thing you wanted to let go of, and let the other paper fly into the wind.

Without overthinking it, I picked WORRY for the thing to burn. The beach was windy and crowded. I had to get some Indian dudes to help light my worries with matches.

“It is taking too long to burn all your worry,” one dude said. Luckily, it all burned away. At midnight, everyone wanted a Happy New Year selfie. It seemed like Happy New Year in India was an occasion for handshakes and hugs. I started to decline after someone tried to grope my now devastatingly tiny eternal right tit. The scene reminded me of New Year’s 2011 in Montreal. Simon and I walked down Prince Arthur Street towards the building that Simon would one day jump off. Both of us drunk, but Simon, drunker than I, insisted on shaking everyone’s hand. “Happy New Year!” he’d wish to everyone, almost compulsively. I remember feeling super embarrassed as everyone looked at him weirdly. Too bad we hadn’t been in Pondicherry. Simon would have fit right in.
For the thing to chase after in 2016, I picked Self-Love. As I threw the paper out into the wind, I knew I would have to chase after it fast.
But you no look back.



One Morning in Rishakesh

The End.

Happy New Year to All. Much love.  
Whatever your struggle, you are not alone.

Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook: I've been posting a bunch of photos and updates there! We'll see about more blogging... I may need some coaxing from my fan club!

Twitter: @mypelvicfloor ...

More On Shashi's Cooking Classes. Come one! Come all! Highly recommended.

Most viewed new post of 2015: The Where is Emma Fillipoff Series And we still don't know where she is.

Some of my favourite posts of the year:

The Benefits of an Ashtanga Yoga Practice, Part Two
Guillaume, Part Two (Asking People About Their Lives)
Why You Are a Hermaphrodite (Asking People About Their Lives)
What a Beautiful Face
Not Separate From All That Is
How I am violent, by Erica J. Schmidt