“Be nice to bus conductors in Karnataka. You never know who might turn out to be the next Rajnikanth.”
Joshia (a portmanteau of Olivia and Joshi), has aptly cautioned us in the crisp morning sunshine at the Central Bus Station in Mysore. What followed was two days of unending wandering, exhaustion and what not!
8th October, 5 pm
Out into the streets from the railway station at Mysore in the cold evening, there was an almost complete lack of litter and stench, the explanation for which was put by Santhosh’s comment “Mysore is the cleanest city in India according to Swachh Bharat Abhiyan”. I don’t think any other words would please the ears of a bunch of tired travelers, especially travelers with OCD, and more specifically those travelers who want to wash hands with water after using a hand sanitizer because they have a severe OCD against using hand sanitizers! Thus, seven souls with seven backpacks were finally where they wanted to be, after months of planning and day dreaming. A Dasara in Mysore.
Soon it was nightfall. We caught a bus to the Chamundi Hills. Situated 13 km from the city, these hills are famous for the shrine of goddess Chamundeswari, also identified as Durga. The cold wind creates goose bumps in your skin as the bus winds up through the hill at night. The lights inside the bus were switched off once we reached the peak. And it was opened before our eyes. The entire city of Mysore lit up in all its majesticity! At that moment one feels like a God, to witness the grand view of dots of lights adorning the city below like diamonds of many colors!
How to eat a poori?
Chamundershwari Temple seems like a wonder on top of the hill, for at night the structure stands so proud in a surrounding of darkness. Its trapezium shaped gopuram, typical of South Indian temples, was under renovation. We decided to have dinner near the temple itself. Here shops sell only pooris and snacks. Pre-cooked pooris which were cold and damp after being exposed to air for long time. Now I’ll give you a Life Lesson; there’s nothing more terrible in life, if you didn’t get your pooris hot. It is mandatory for pooris to be puffed up and filled with hot air. And the moment you crush it with your fingers, you ought to feel the heat and scream ‘ouch’, if possible. Since there was a lack of hot pooris, Akshay, our darling planner found one shop where they agreed to make us fresh pooris. Everything was alright, except that pooris were so thin and fragile that at one point Joshia demanded a spoon so that she could have the poori crumb upma.
The Youth Hostel was a comfortable place, if you fancy sleeping in a room on the terrace of a two-storeyed building. A room where there were 30+ bunks arranged one after another. While the boys slept in the first floor dormitory, we three girls entered the abandoned and positively scary dormitory on the roof. It was really scary because it actually looked like a concentration camp. But I swear I have never slept so good in a very long time.
The morning was still cold as we got ready for our first day in Mysore. At breakfast from a restaurant nearby, the menu was naturally familiar (this is South India!). Dosas, Idlis, Poori, Vadas and more. But there was also the Chowchow Bath, which should ideally be a scoop each of kesari and upma in the same plate accompanied by coconut chutney.
I don’t know if you are a deep Romantic, who values feelings and emotions more than anything else, but let me tell you as a self-proclaimed Romantic, the Jaganmohan Art Gallery is one place you would love, if you adore paintings of couples enjoying the full moon, mythical paintings and portraits of intensely blushing women near ponds and tanks. This palace- turned-gallery contains many of the paintings of Raja Ravi Varma and Haldankar. In a separate dark curtained room is the majestic ‘Glow of Hope’ painting which showcases a lady holding a lamp. This painting is remarkable for its changing color and the intensity of the lamp as the light changes. Besides, there are many sculptures and art works of the Mysore rulers. St. Philomena’s Church, which was our next destination, turned out to be an import from Europe. Modeled on the Cologne Cathedral, St Philomena’s Church is where you need to be if you are too broke to explore Europe.
In the City of Palaces, one cannot miss out on the Mysore Palace. And many have been unlucky in that sense, for the palace having shut down on the days when they decided to explore this city. But with Fortuna by our side, we didn’t have to worry. Mysore Palace was the residence of the Wodeyar dynasty who ruled Mysore from 1399-1950. The part of the palace which was accessible to visitors was amply supplied with old paintings, furniture, and other artifacts of the monarchs. The luxury was unbearable that one moment I simply became dumb and yelled “WTF dude! Even goats have carts!” Joshia liked this.
Once outside the palace we roamed around the crowded pavements. The candyfloss was good. While I paid 20 bucks for one, the rest of them managed to find some other seller who sold it for 10 bucks and thereby bringing the much dreaded buyer’s remorse to my experience. Well, you know what they say; have no regrets (because frankly mine was better). Or I am saying that to feel less looted.
As the night fell, the city was lit up. There were lights everywhere. Mysore is in all its glory during Dasara. The Mysore palace looked like the entrance to some heaven, golden lights creating an outline of the structure. Amidst the crowd and night-traffic, we thus had our possibly best experience of this beautiful city. Peanut sellers, musicians, occasional food-stalls and everything you need to feel happy about secretly running away to a fantasy world. (With all the hope that my kin won’t ever read this one, or even guess that this blog exist).