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Bring the Kids to Mysore
By Paul Dallaghan

Sometimes it's called Seventh Series—even Eighth, depending on how many kids you have—but for those of us gifted with moving on in practice to include wee ones, it is in every way a gift and a bonus in life that is pure yoga. In my own experience, the practice has even gotten deeper, though the extra activities get curtailed and even dropped. This is how it is in Mysore with the family. Those single carefree days of just getting up and practicing and seeing how the day evolves definitely have been transformed. Those little ones need full attention all day. For me as a father, it has become a great opportunity to spend all day with them, whereas the work schedule back home has hindered this. So for me, the time in Mysore for practice has become a great time for parent-child bonding.

While assuming the parenting role, one must also settle into it within the Indian context. If you have been to Mysore before, it is really a simple affair. You know the setup, and it is just getting used to managing a family in that environment. For those going to Mysore for the first time with children, Mysore is one of the best ways to ease into the Indian experience.

The stores in Mysore sell all the typical baby supplies you would be accustomed to at home: baby wipes, diapers, etc. There is daycare, kindergarten, parks, pediatricians and chemists. The main thing is to keep your apartment clean, make the children wear shoes outside, leave your footwear outside the house and try to cook for them yourself. Restaurant food will more likely send them into a tumble. But then there are a number of great ladies cooking wholesome food each day in both Gokulam and elsewhere in Mysore. All in all, it is a fairly straightforward affair with nothing to worry about, but still something to prepare for. Our son is just over two years old at the time of this writing, and he has made three trips already to Mysore—at 6 months, one year combining his birthday with Guruji, and then most recently at 22 months. He will be back at almost three years old, too. And by then we will have Number Two along, who will only be three months old. So our experience is positive. Just be strong together as a family, enjoy the family time, and all works well. Guruji, Saraswathi and Sharath love the children and give them special treatment. Watch out for the chocolate! My son was bouncing around for a few hours after his first chocolate gift from Guruji. Consider it Prasad. And we did eventually sleep!

Now for some specific points to help in your planning and decision-making:

Getting to Mysore and Travel Tips
When your child is under two years of age, you pay a minimum child fare, so this is one bonus. And, you get to skip the queue legitimately on to that plane or through immigration! Do bring a baby stroller, which is invaluable on the streets of Mysore. Have a taxi booked to meet you at the airport or book one of the government prepaid taxis when you land. Book something the size of a Toyota Qualis to accommodate all of you, including baggage and strollers. The best option is to book Murthy to pick you up. He runs the shop at the AYRI shala and services for students. He is a lovely guy and totally reliable. Getting from the airport to Gokulam is probably the biggest challenge, so with that handled, you're plain sailing. With the stroller you can walk comfortably around Gokulam. You can try rickshaws to go together to places, though we never use them. We are used to driving there and have a motorbike and hire a self-drive car. You can also book a driver for any of your longer distance needs. Again, check with Murthy at the shala and he will hook you up. Our policy is just to pay that little bit extra to have the better service, car, driver, etc. I can't give any comment on the bus as we never use it, and I think life is simpler that way. But you are welcome to try, though not on our recommendation list here.

Minimum Recommended Age for Travel
Our son first went to Mysore at six months, but he had already traveled around Asia and the U.S. at the age of three months. That age is one of the easiest times to travel as they cannot crawl all over the plane and usually sleep or eat. We intend to go to Mysore next when our second child will be between two and three months. Once the neck is strong enough that they can hold their head up, it's easy enough. The only thing to pay attention to is their sensitivity to air and atmosphere. With so many vehicles on the road these days in Mysore, pollution has increased.

Recommended Vaccinations
Vaccinations are the parents' personal decision. We, ourselves, have never done any and have in no way given any to our child, and everything has been healthy and strong. We did, however, visit a very good homeopathic doctor in Bangalore for this other form of "vaccination," which is administering certain homeopathic remedies that strengthen the young child's immunity. Everything worked very well for us. Julie and Vivek, who run the Green Market, put us on to this doctor as he is her teacher. Again, I stress each parent must decide vaccinations themselves. This is only our opinion and experience.

Where to Find Baby Supplies
The supermarkets have most things you need: diapers (nappies), baby wipes, formula, baby food and everything else you need to cook for your child to be healthy. Nilgiris and Loyal World are the main supermarkets. The prices are good.

Babysitting and Childcare Recommendations
This issue comes down initially to having somebody with whom you can really trust to leave your child. Recommendations from some of the other students when in Mysore are helpful. Plus, checking in on the student vine with Murthy, Shiva, Tina and the other ladies who cook or clean can offer advice or even help find someone. Our cleaning lady, Ratna, is an angel, and is great with our son. In fact, he loves her and runs into her arms. So whenever we need back-up minding, she does a great job and Sean is happy. But as I mentioned above, one of the benefits of being in Mysore with the kids is maximizing the family time. We just use a babysitter when necessary. A typical time is in the morning managing practice. Ratna will come by and let Jutima go to practice while I will have gone earlier. But you can also practice at different times and trade off the baby. There will be many hands to take baby in the waiting area, and the whole Jois family will be there, too. This is easier to do when it's still a baby. With older children a babysitter will help. At other times of the day, you can find family-oriented activities to do. On my own, I never ended up at the pool, but suddenly with a child, it became a favorite haunt. Children love the water, and there is open grass area to run around in and play some ball. Plus down at the Southern Star Hotel, it is clean and you are not bothered by people grabbing and squeezing your child's cheeks. We would also take off on weekends and extended moon days to different nature spots. For us, that has been a bonus and a saving grace for managing family time.

There are a few childcare centres around the Gokulam area. This is really for when they are older, though our son did not take to it because they were usually small and crowded with other kids coming up and squeezing his cheeks. So we felt much better just keeping him with us. There is a good kindergarten that Sharath’s daughter attends. All these places are closed in May, quite possibly in April and for two weeks in October. All are very affordable. It certainly would be a cultural adaptation for the little one. If they are really not into it, then I'd have to say keep them with you and find a very personal and reliable babysitter or child helping hand.

Playgroups amongst parent students will really depend on who is there. There are a number of parks with swings and more, providing a good outlet. You can also buy a variety of all sorts of educational and noisy modern toys in the supermarkets. Conveniently forget to buy the batteries!

Doctors and Medical Emergencies
A doctor's house may be found on practically every street in Gokulam. We were directed to a good one, Dr. Murthy. Unfortunately, all I can remember right now is his residence. Go up 8th Cross, which is the shala street, take a left at that first crossroads, go through the next crossroads which has the shops on the corner. The cross after that will have a big field at one corner. Opposite that on the nearest left corner is his residence. So if any emergency check-up is needed, that is the best I can recommend. Beyond that, there are a number of hospitals.

The main thing is to take care of the children's food and how they are out on the streets. Always have them wear shoes and watch out for what they handle. There is the usual adjustment phase for everyone at first. Keep their immune systems strong with fresh orange juice and wholesome food, then slipping into Mysore life is quite easy.

By all means, just feel relaxed and enjoy your time in practice and in India. Many parents have done it, and it typically works fine. Come prepared and let it be a holiday for you all together.

© 2006 Paul Dallaghan


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