Tuesday, 8 March 2011

6. Losing a screw in Mysore

A plain and onion Dosa
My Mysore guest house
I’ve been so busy catching up with the response to the media coverage (including the Sunday Post last weekend!) that I almost missed dinner at a restaurant round the corner from my guest house. I have a choice of plain, masala or onion Dosa (a sort of pancake). Including two glasses of lemonade (more expensive than the food); the bill came to about sixty pence.
My last day in Mysore has been designed to be my sightseeing day and I have agreed to be up bright an early so that Erwan Singh, a local journalist, can take me out and about in the cool of the early morning. But there has been a mini crisis at his home and he turns up an hour late. But I fill in the time chatting to my next door neighbour at the Institution of Engineers, Dr. Suresh Jangamshetti. He’s been brought in to lecture about wind energy. Veethahavya, the 16-year old son of his host has arrived to direct him to his house and I really feel that I am getting a real Indian experience, much more than if I had agreed to stay in one of the posh hotels.
Erwan takes me to the top of Chamundi Hill, atop which sits a 12th century temple, one of the top six holy temples in south India. He goes in to pray to his god and emerges with a yellow and red dot on his forehead, the favourite colours of the goddess Chamundi. I have busied myself taking photos of a spot featured in my grandfather’s photos from a century before. A cooling lassi drink is much needed as Erwan shoes two inquisitive little boys off to school.

Chamundi Templ
We stop at the newly opened Coriander café for breakfast. I am astounded that two of the youngsters helping are aged 14 and 18. They are so short and skinny; they each look four or five years younger.
From the hill, there’s an impressive view of the white Lalitha Mahal Palace, now a five-star hotel and drive right up to the door to take a few photos of the wonderful interior. As you do.
As I change my specs, a screw works loose and the lens tumbles to the ground.
But Erwan delivers me to town, where my screw is replaced and I somehow am persuaded to have an eye test and buy a new pair of specs. These Indians are GOOD salesmen, but the specs are well under £100, much less than I’d pay at home.
Back at my lodgings, I pay my bill. It’s an astonishing £15 for four nights. Fair enough, it’s not the Ritz, the plumbing is a bit primitive and I have had to supply my own loo roll, but I have been very comfortable, it’s really quiet at night and I am honoured to have been allowed to stay.

Helper at the Coriander Cafe
As I leave for town, the father of the young student I’d met this morning introduces himself and invites me to breakfast with his family and the professor tomorrow. I don’t think I have ever known a country with such spontaneous and genuine kindness.
I have a little siesta during the head of the mid-afternoon then, refreshed, head out to survey the back streets of Mysore.
Gobhi Manchuri. Yum Yum. Whatever it is!
Little cottage industries abound. There are coffee and flour millers, tailors, bakers, tiny little premises. Outside many of the more upscale shops are generators, power cuts being a regular occurrence.
Exploring the back streets is, in its own way, as much an experience as the splendour of Mysore Palace.
My new spectacles are ready as promised. The man in the shop says they give me ‘ing’. So that’s clearly a bargain.
A whole lot of little food stalls have sprung up in the street next to Jaganmohan Palace. I have no idea what most of it is, but I am given a sample of something absolutely delicious called Gobhi Manchuri. It is crunchy, with a delicious spicy sauce. I THINK it is chicken, but I am confused because my very limited knowledge of the language tells me Gobi is cauliflower. I will ask at breakfast tomorrow!
I have a portion of rice along with the very tasty Gobi and end my most excellent meal with a pistachio ice cream on a stick. Price for the lot? Around sixty pence.
Prices here are, generally speaking, astonishingly low and I’ve been very pleasantly surprised that, in most cases, tourists pay the same as the locals.

Mysore has, for sure, cast its spell on me.