Last week, Merel was interviewed by the popular Dutch newspaper ‘het Parool’ for their column on former citizens of Amsterdam who have moved abroad. The article is based on a 1,5 hrs interview and written in Dutch by Anouk Vleugels. Below you find the translation.
PS World weekly Skypes with a former citizen of Amsterdam who is living abroad. This week Merel Martens (30), owner of Parimukti yoga school in Dharamsala, India.
Text Anouk Vleugels
‘When queuing, it is survival of the fittest ‘
“Since two years I have been running a yoga school, Parimukti in India. Currently, I stay in Dharamsala, at the foothills of the Himalayas. A special place, where backpackers, yogi and locals come together. There are a lot of Buddhist monks and nuns, as the Dalai Lama resides here. Usually he is on a journey, but when he is home, he gives public lectures. Last year I took my chance and I went on a picture with him.”
“I studied medicine and after that worked as a consultant for the Royal Tropical Institute. A nice job, but also stressful and many hours behind the computer. I noticed that I was not happy. At that time I practiced a lot of yoga and decided to follow that path and learn how to teach. Initially I attempted setting up a yoga school in Amsterdam but that proved to be financially difficult, so I thought: why not in India? Meanwhile I have succeeded and give monthly yoga teacher trainings to around ten students.”
“I have met many nice people, but I also was perplexed about the jealousy and competition amongst the yoga schools in the village. My students are regularly bombarded with questions: what they think of my lessons, what fees I charge. Sometimes the are even discouraged to take classes with me. Once the local immigration police came looking for me to check my papers. I suspect that a competing school was behind all this. Fortunately it went out with a whimper, but it was distressing.”
“There is no such thing as ‘the Indian’. India is too large and its people too diverse. But one thing that Indians have in common is that they all are suffused with a spark of spirituality. You think you are having a casual tea (chai) with someone and they end up sharing the most profound insights.”
“The Dutch concept of love and relationships is something that Indians not quite understand. Here an arranged marriage is still common, and traditionally there is no sex before marriage. But cheating on the other hand is – for men – not that much of an issue. They often think that Dutch women are equally casual about this. When I just moved here, I was still in a relationship. ‘Is your boyfriend in Netherlands?’ men would ask me. ‘Well that’s not cheating, is it?'”
“It is of course a familiar story, but hygiene is still problematic in India. I’m sick about once every six weeks because I ate something wrong. Usually it confines itself to a day or two on the toilet, but there are also times when I was so ill that i begged for an antibiotic drip. What helps is that I now have my own kitchen. And I watch what I eat, especially in the larger cities.”
“Indians are very patient people – they can spend hours waiting for a doctor’s appointment – but do not expect them to stand neatly in line if they need something. Then really it is ‘survival of the fittest’. I am regularly pushed out of the line by a little old lady, for instance when I am waiting for a blessing in a temple.”
Most topics can be discussed here, but it depends who you talk to and who is present. With Indian women and girls I talked about very personal things – including love and sex – but one-on-one. If other people are around, then other rules apply. Older people are higher in the hierarchy than young men, and men are superior to women. Anyway, I would not start talking about love or sex when talking to an Indian man, unless it’s one of my very good friends. That would be perceived as flirting.
3x Things that I miss from Amsterdam
Fresh air. Here it always smells a little funny 🙂
Nightlife. Especially Paradiso, Roest and Mezrab
Anonymity. Here everyone knows each other, and you get to hear it immediately if you’ve gained a few kilo or look a little tired
In Amsterdam. consultant at the Royal Tropical Institute
Left the city. May 2013
Old address. Veluwelaan (Rivierenbuurt)
Current City: Dharamkot (in Dharamsala), winters in Goa
Daytime activities: teaching (including yoga and meditation), administration, washing clothes by hand, making music (flute)
Marital Status: Single
View: Mountains, eagles, the occasional monkey in the tree