Monday, 7 March 2011

5. A day of privilege and discovery

Breakfast puri
Mysore Palace
Wall painting, Mysore Palace
Glass dome and pillars from Glasgow, Mysore Palace
Armoury, Mysore Palace
Trophy Room, Mysore Palace
Mysore Palace ceiling
Reception area, Mysore Palace
Mysore schoolboys
Polly put the kettle on!
Policeman at the Karnataka Mounted Police HQ
When I set out on this journey to discover about the life of my grandfather, I didn’t realise just what enormous interest there would be in my quest. An Indian friend says it’s because this country is about ready to learn about its colonial past, which has largely been hidden since independence.
The huge amount of coverage in the Indian Press has meant I have undoubtedly been able to make rapid progress in my search, so my journalistic colleagues here are owed a huge debt of gratitude.
But the generosity from people like Yeshvanth Kumar, Ashok Shetty and Michael Ludgrove, all people whom I have only just met, has been very humbling and I can never repay them adequately for the help they have given me.
Others, too many to mention, have helped me along my way and have contributed towards making this day, of all days, very special indeed.
After a splendid breakfast, my working day starts with another pillion ride, this time behind R G Singh, the owner of an art gallery and the Ramsons handicraft sales emporium ( near Mysore Zoo. He says I am a very tense passenger, which is very true!
RG and his curator, Raghu, go through the 155 images and cuttings from my grandfather’s album that my brother Nicky has uploaded. They are to spend more time identifying and placing much of the imagery. One startling discovery is that my grandfather was so highly thought of by the Maharaja that, after his 8 years of toil supervising the interior design of Mysore Palace, he was awarded the Order of Gandaberunda, a high and personal honour from the Royal Family.
RG takes me to the road where my grandfather lived almost 100 years ago and explains that the water tanks that feature in some of my grandfather’s photos were removed after it was found that the water was seeping into the Palace foundations.
I have been given very special permission to take photographs inside Mysore Palace but, even so, I have to wait an hour before officialdom can sort out the protocol. After removing my shoes, I am escorted by the curator and the guide who looks after VIP’s, who are delighted to hear about my grandfather’s work. The pictures of the interior of the Palace are very special indeed
Just time for a quick lunch in the much-needed air conditioned saloon at Café Aramane, where a very filling thali costs just 50 rupees, about 75 pence.
Having now established without any doubt that M A Azeez, who my family always believed was a name used by grandfather for his Indian drawings, was in fact not the case, I venture to Jaganmohan Palace to see the two enormous Azeez works on display. (Both dated well after my grandfather’s departure from India).
From there, my adopted auto rickshaw driver, Mahadeva, takes me to see the Assistant Commissioner of the Karnataka Mounted Police.
S G Mariba Shetty is an accomplished international-standard show jumper and clearly a busy and important man. As he signs endless papers, he notices that my lips are dry and a policemen appears with a coconut whose water, says my host, is the freshest you can drink.
Even with my 38 years Naval service, I have never before seen such saluting and heel clicking as I do on this occasion. It was much like our military would have been many years ago.
Assistant Commissioner Shetty has 105 men, 74 horses and two bands under his command. The bandmaster is summoned to play the honoured visitor some appropriate tunes which include Colonel Bogie, Edelweiss and Polly Put the Kettle On!
A very special treat indeed.
I get outside and am surprised to discover that Mahadeva, my auto rickshaw driver, is outside waiting for me.
Mysore is wonderful. India has been full of surprises and I don’t think I have ever met so many genuinely friendly, helpful folk.