We are now in Mysore, Karnataka. Today we re-arranged our train tickets so we can make it to Hyderabad for Padma’s cousin’s engagement party on March 6 which will be attended by many of the relatives Louisa met in 1997. It will be a great occasion and nice finale to our trip!
Unlike many breakfasts of vadai, paper dosa or idli and tea, this morning’s (western) breakfast was omelet, milk coffee,” butter toast jam” on the rooftop overlooking Gandhi Square. We chatted up a fun young German couple at university studying poli-sci and education. We have hardly met any Americans during the trip.
Wandering thru town after breakfast, we found the most stunningly beautiful Devaraja market with gorgeous produce stacked and displayed in eye catching arrays, hugh piles of flower pedals, jasmine, marigolds being strung and dazzling garlands wrapped with silver thread for weddings as their vendors called out to customers competing for their rupees.
Already our thoughts were turning to food again which is not hard find here. Evenings carts materialize on sidewalks and street corners whipping up delightful dosas (pancakes) plopped in a leaf bowl (biodegradable!) hit with a big dollop of coconut chutney and topped with a vadai (chickpea flour doughnut) or you could have Gobichanchoori as a snack, cauliflower in a dough mixture fried and served with a spicy sauce and sliced cabbage, chillies, onion. Great chased by a cold Kingfisher beer.
We walked on to Mysore Palace, home to the current maharaja, who supposedly still lives somewhere in the back of the palace. Hard to dream up something as opulent as this architectural mash up of Buckingham Palace meets King Tut’s interior decorator. Picture this—peacock blue, pink and gold fluted coumns with floral bases and caps rising up three stories to a stained glass ceiling of peacock feather patterns in the octagonal wedding hall surrounded by a scalloped arch colonnade with 36 murals of the maharaja’s birthday parade incuding marching bands, mounted regiments, caprisonned elephants with golden howdahs, white bullocks drawing silver coaches and a few thousand of his closest friends.
Just to show you how India has changed, we climbed the 1000 steps of Chamundi Hill to the Chamundeswari temple passing the 5 meter high Nandi bull statue on the way. A couple of real cows followed us up the steps looking for a hand out. Being pressed for time on the return, we took a new comfortable city bus with A/C down the hill!
The British influence in Mysore is readily evident with its wide neat boulevards and symetrical street layout. They actually have stoplights and drivers for the most part actually obey them! Unlike Madurai which was built with streets for bullock carts, foot traffic, and bicycles, now has to accommodate SUVs, buses hurtling down the streets, motos weaving in and out, autorickshaws dodging, and bicycles careening and bullock carts plodding along, itinerant cows wandering, dogs laying in the road PLUS pedestrians AND there is no sidewalk. Crossing a major busy street is a death defying adventure. What space would be sidewalk is being used by sidewalk vendors selling sugar cane juice or chat snacks or coconuts. Another notable factor is the unrelenting ear splitting use of car horns, bells, claxons, whining two cycle and roaring truck engines. It is non stop 24-7 off the end of decibel charts. Add to that blasting Tamil movie songs emminating from pirated CD shops.
Fifteen minutes from the Mysore, we found tranquil rice patties being plowed by oxen, sugar cane fields and big shady trees on quiet country lanes yesterday on a day trip to Tipu Sultan’s fortress and summer palace at Srirangapatnam. We rode rental bikes to a 9th C Vishnu temple and were enthralled by the beautiful elegant columns and colonnaded court. Chatted with one of the Brahmin priests to find out he has a colleague at the Indian temple in Malibu!
Leaving tomorrow for Coorg and the mountains! Namaste! Louisa