Updated: Feb 5, 2019
Pehle mai bohot niraash rehta tha. Koi mere saath Mysore nahi jaana chahta tha.
Gharwalo ke taano se bachne ke liye mai chup-chup kar commode pe Mysore travel guide padha karta tha.
Fir kisi ne mujhe 'Solo Trip' naamak jaadui yantra ke baare mein bataya.
Waakai, yeh lajwaab aur asardaar hai. Aaj hi apnaaye !!!
My aversion to bus rides led me to take a train to Mysore on early Saturday morning.
My first impression of Mysore was just what I had always imagined it to be - clean, green, beautiful and a thoroughly liveable city (very Jamshedpur-esque, if you ask me).
A hundred years ago, half of the city's population was wiped out by a bubonic plague outbreak. Today it is India's cleanest city!
The city is steeped in history. Mysuru or anglicised Mahishuru, is perhaps the only Indian city named after a demon. Mahishasur was slain by the goddess Chamundeshwari, in whose honour a temple was constructed atop the Chamundi hill.
The Hindu rulers of Wadiyar dynasty ruled Mysore uninterrupted for close to 300 years before being overthrown by Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan.
The Muslim ruler duo waged the famous Anglo-Mysore wars against the combined forces of Britishers, Marathas and the Nizams, the first two of which they won despite the odds, owing to their superior military strength and the use of ingenious rockets.
The last two wars were won by the Britishers who reinstated the Wodeyars as the rulers of Mysore, albeit puppet-rulers.
An interesting anecdote relates to the curse upon the Wodeyar family. Alemalemma, wife of the outgoing erstwhile ruler of Srirangapatna was cornered by the Wodeyar forces. Hesitantly, she jumped into the the Kaveri river and gave up her life but not before cursing the Wodeyars to never bear a child again.
The dictum seems to have worked as the childless Wodeyars kings had to appoint nephews and cousins as their successors for years. To appease Alemalemma, her statue was installed inside the Mysore palace premises. The 400 year drought finally came to an end in 2017 when a baby boy was born to the royal couple.
I chose to stay in Zostel which is a hostel for solo travellers. It is artistically decorated yet very functional. Large expanses are reserved for common activity and bunker rooms are provided to sleep. The property manager, Amit, was genial as was the chirpy domestic help who would go on and on about her own travel escapades!
The first co-hosteller I laid my eyes upon was a Delhite enjoying some Mysore mango (spoiler : it is not a variety of mango). That day I learnt that a poster, preferably one mentioning the rules and regulations of the hostel, makes for a good OCB paper substitute.
My first stop was the Amba Vilas palace, popularly known as the Mysore Palace. Approaching the magnificent structure, I was awestruck and couldn't stop myself from telling the auto driver, "Bhaiyya, yeh toh bohot hi sundar bana hai !"
The autowallah turned back to reply - "Sir, yeh toh bas DC office hai." We guffawed over my silliness and headed towards the real palace.
Footwear is not allowed inside the palace complex. But nobody told me that. I had marched on a good hundred metres inside, when the security guard escorted me out and politely asked me to join the beeline made outside the shoe counter (which I initially thought is the queue for prasadam).
The palace is really, really pretty. It has an Indo-Sarcenic architecture which lends it the dome typical of the Mughals, intricate Hindu temple like carvings and Gothic style interiors.
Next, I visited the Railway museum which had a number of archaic locomotives and coaches on display. I'm sure Sheldon Cooper would have thoroughly enjoyed it. The highlight is the Maharani saloon which is very luxurious. It is fully equipped with a kitchen, shower, writing table and even personal toilets for the servants!
It was time to hit the road again and visit the famous Brindavan gardens. The sprawling, lush lawns are located next to the KRS Dam on the Kaveri river. Preferably take a bus (dirt cheap at 16 rupees for 16 kms!) to the gardens. Do not miss the lightings and the musical fountains during the evening hours.
Back at the hostel, it was time to bond with my fellow hostellers. My roommate was an English chap who had very nice abs, as pointed out by the maid. He spoke sparingly, the reason for which I found out much later. He was suffering from a bout of Delhi belly which kept both of us up for most of the night.
Then there was this Spaniard lady who in her own words resembled a Punjabi woman. She had picked up a few Hindi expletives to complement her semblance. I think we bonded well over a sweet conversation about how Aghoras feast upon the entrails of human corpses.
Greg, a middle aged American was on an unplanned trip across India, obliging the curious passersby with a selfie on his own mobile phone. I assiduously explained to him the etymology of my name, which when loosely translated into English meant a blessing or a favour, as my grandfather wanted to convey how I am a blessing from God and then Greg told me how Greg is short for Gregory.
Lasya, a fellow Indian from Hyderabad is a bonafide traveller. I loved exchanging travel tales (of which I had not many) with her. She has found her life's calling working as a psychological therapist for rural students. An interesting trivia, Lasya is the dance performed by Parvati to complement Shiva's tandav, and no, it's not short for lasagna.
I had an enormous paper masala dosa for dinner which literally took the waiter three plates to serve.
I was up early morning. The plan was to visit Chamundi hill. There is a motorable road up the hill but that is no fun. What is fun is climbing the 1000 steep, uneven, worn out steps leading upto the hill.
It took me almost an hour to reach the summit, taking ample breaks to catch my breath and to snap pictures. There have been leopards sighted on the route but I found only monkeys and mongrels for company. Sadhguru is supposed to have attained enlightenment somewhere on the way to the hill top, so I was half hoping that nirvana would hit me too.
Outside the Chamundi temple I found a sea of devotees fervently shouting 'Darshan! Darshan!' for what I presumed was a special day for aarti. I congratulated myself on having inadvertently chosen a particularly auspicious day to offer my prayers.
But as it turned out, all the clamour was for Darshan - the South Indian actor who had come visiting and within seconds of the cine star's departure, the crowd had practically vanished.
On the way back to the hostel, I stopped at the Sand Museum showcasing exquisite sand sculptures!
The afternoon was spent visiting Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens. I love going to zoos. They are very entertaining. The animals on their part are quite silent, docile and sleepy. It is the human visitors who are cackling, howling, hissing and making a fool out of themselves. It is also the only place where the directions to the loo can be given as jaguar se left lekar anaconda ke saamne.
Karanji lake next door has India's largest walk-through aviary. My only gripe is that the circular track around the lake has only a single point for entry and exit. I learnt it the hard way when on reaching the opposite end I was forced to turn back and retrace my steps. The walk back was excruciatingly painful.
I was dog tired after having walked over 35km on foot in the last two days. But there was one last thing to do, without which I couldn't claim I had been on a trip to Mysore.
Lasya had rented a scooty/bike(?), which I later found out was called the Honda Navi (very cool!). We drove upto the Mysore palace at night to see it in all its splendour. The photo does not do justice to what you witness with your own eyes.
The palace lit up in a beautiful hue of golden yellow, the regal band performing melodiously and the atmosphere filled with mirth and laughter - it is something you need to experience it yourself.
Sit down. Breathe. Reminisce the time long forgotten, dream of the days yet to unfold and meditate upon this very moment. Soak in all the sounds and all the visuals.
It is going to stay with you for a very, very long time.