Discarded Careers

In the mid-’80s, Subarata landed a job teaching vegetarian cooking in an adult education college course. This was during a time in New Zealand when you could do almost anything you wanted, with absolutely no experience or qualifications at all. If you knew how to boil a few potatoes you could be a chef; pass your student license and you were a taxi driver; prune back your old apple tree at home and you could apply for a position as a horticulturalist’s research assistant. Subarata would swat up on untried recipes a few hours before each evening’s course, then turn her students loose in the college kitchens, attributing the strangeness of the ensuing dishes simply to beginners’ inexperience. Many new career paths were explored in these heady, carefree days.

I could still bend at the waist then and found a job teaching yoga and meditation, bought some leotards and did a home-study crash course in the asanas (“postures,” to the uninitiated) from a helpful book called Yoga Made Easy. My course was called “Paths to Tranquillity” and was supposed to run for three full terms – a challenge which initially caused me some mild concern at the amount of material I would need to know. But armed with my new wealth of knowledge and a mastery of several of the fifty or so asanas in Yoga Made Easy, I began my new career. To establish my professional credibility early on, I would meticulously demonstrate the three or four asanas I had mastered, then run through them slowly and patiently with my students at the beginning of each class. Proficiency in these, I assured my spellbound and riveted audience, and longevity and super-health would all be theirs.

When it came to those asanas I couldn't do, I would simply call up a volunteer and then, my own mastery already a given, instruct them on how to adopt the various poses while I cajoled, instructed, prodded and pushed. Had I even attempted these contortions myself, the tearing of sinews would have been audible. But as the weeks wore on, my housewife-students became increasingly restive and rebellious, especially during the protracted silence of meditation practice, and “Paths to Tranquillity” began to take on an uneasy and decidedly un-tranquil air.

By mutual consent between students and teacher, my introductory yogic teachings never ran into term two. The housewives jumped ship and enrolled in “Integral Yoga with Alison” on another night.

Neither Subarata nor I felt inclined to pursue these careers any further – I became disillusioned with yoga and took up running, while Subarata moved into a whole new realm of cuisine, the exciting world of takeaways.