Garden City, City of Palaces, Cultural Capital of Karnataka, Retirement Paradise, Cleanest City in India, Mysore is called a lot of names, but for me it has always and will always be HOME. While we were still doing 2-years a town in Gujarat, Grandpa told dad it was time he invested in some property. He also suggested Mysore was a good place to own a house. Grandpa’s best friend had been in Mysore for quite a long time, the place had lots of schools and colleges, was a city but not too crowded, was at a decent distance from Bangalore and had affordable houses. It was the best choice!
So in 1998, while I was in class 2, we bought a house in J P Nagar, Mysore. In my summer vacation, we had a house warming ceremony, a gruha-pravesh. This was the first time I met a lot of our family, uncles, cousins and others. I had never been around so many family members before, it was an exciting and fun time! Because, it is considered inauspicious to lock up a house right after the house warming, me, mom and grandpa stayed back in Mysore for almost a month. It was a good time, we had no TV in the house, so I was taken to the Geeta book house (https://www.justdial.com/Mysore/Geetha-Book-House-Opposite-City-Bus-Stand/0821P821STD2001150_BZDET ), and we bought Krishna leela, and Ramayan. This was my initiation into Indian Mythology, a love that has stayed on. A lot of things around were new to me then, the lady who sold herbs every day, the flower and plant vendors, the regular power cuts! These were all new concepts to me. It was during these regular power cuts that mom taught me the first ganpati stotra, one that I chant to this day. I still remember us sitting by the light of the lamp, as she taught me each verse. It was also then that I first came to love the king of fruits, the mango. Grandpa would buy different varieties of mangoes and would tell us about which one was better, and why.
As summer drew to a close, we went back home and all I had of the time were these memories. It was not until 2003 that Mysore would be back in my life. In 2003, dad was transferred to Qatar, and my parents thought it was not the best idea to have me swtich schools as I entered high-school. So it was decided me, mom and granny (bapama), would stay in Mysore. We moved to Mysore as I entered class 7, and suddenly I was in a completely new place. This ‘city’ had empty roads, no not less traffic, but completely empty! It had schools which were so close to home, which meant I would have to walk, no comfort of a bus or a rickshaw. And as mom told me, all the vegetable were much much cheaper than in Ahmedabad, where we had just moved from.
It took me quite some time to settle into the slow life of Mysore. Mysoreans are the calmest people you will meet; they go about their day in an extremely slow manner. From the early morning rangolis to the wafting smell of flowers and agarbatti, from evening walks to “fetch” Pooja flowers from other people’s compounds, to visits to the neighborhood ganapati temple the day is interjected with multiple tumblers of strong and delicious filter coffee. A household just cannot function without coffee. Their day starts early, but the schools and offices are not fully functional till 9.30 or 10am!
Mysore is not a city that you will fall in love with in one visit, the city and its people have to grow on you. In a visit lasting a day or maybe even a week, all you will see is the palaces and other tourist sights. If you haven’t arrived at the railway station or bus stand early in the morning and taken Masala Dose and Bisi Bele Bath parcel from GTR (https://www.zomato.com/mysore/gayatri-tiffin-room-ittige-gudu ), you don’t know what I’m talking about.
To fall in love with Mysore takes a lot of time, it takes living in the city and meeting its wonderful people. The beauty of mysore is in its by-lanes, the mains and crosses that form each neighborhood, the market at nanjumalige selling all sort of fruits and vegetables, devraja market and its colors before any festival and waiting for the elephants to arrive months before dasara!
Dasara, a large part of the cultural identity of Mysore. It is like the city wakes up to new lights during these 10 days, quite literally. As most of the city is covered in colorful lights, auto rickshaw drivers are busy complaining about “traffic” and “tourist galu”.This is the time when the locals enjoy the flower show at Curzon park (kids only tagging along for the large “delhi papad”), the food mela and the changing colors atop betta! Ther’s also a show for everyone, for the young it is the shows at Yuva Dasara, for the old the performances at the Palace and for the kids it is the multiple shows at Rangayana.
Dasara for Mysoreans is not a mere 10 day affair; it begins with the arrival of the elephants and the mahout families, proudly announced by the Star of Mysore, and ends with the closure of the last stall and last ride at the Exhibition. It is a time when Mysore wakes up to all its royalty and glory, when the ‘king’ is holding durbar, and all the ‘urs’ friends you have are busy attending it!
Having spent quite a bit of time across the country, “Where are you from?” is a difficult question for me to answer. But after the time spent in Mysore, with its warm people, the great eductation and the ever so clean roads, my answer to that question has always been one, without a hint of a doubt.
Here is a beautiful piece about Mysore that I once read, have never found the author yet:
Mysore cannot be experienced in holidays or weekends. Like a creeper growing and encircling the staff, you have to live, and grow withMysore to experience it. You have to be with the ajjis who have seen you from the time you were soooo small, where the maid who works in your house is your family maid, your ajji had “recruited” her mother.
When you go on an evening walk, and the poojari of the Ram mandir, stops and chats with you, and moves on saying there is a pooja at 5 next morning, that’s Mysore for you.
When you walk a little ahead and the librarian says he has the latest copy of & “quot ;Kasturi” or “Mayura”, that’s Mysore for you.
When the milkman sees you on a walk, and delivers an extra half litre without being asked, that’s Mysore for you.
Mysore is when you board a bus at the bus-stand and conductor-uncle gives you a ticket without asking.
Mysore is when you collect little red ‘gulganji ‘ seeds on your way back home from KukkarahaLLi lake.
Mysore is when you come by the Tippu express, and you find someone going in you r direction to drop you off.
Mysore is when elephants are marched in from the forests for Dasara.
Mysore is when you wait for your copy of “Star of Mysore”.
Mysore is when the English movies are only at Rajkamal or Sterling.
Mysore is when you look for your KEB uncle to book tickets at Woodlands.
Mysore is when there are student body elections in MARIMALLAPPAS.
Mysore when SSLC results are announced at MARIMALLAPPAS and SADVIDYA.
Mysore is the eternal SJCE-NIE feud.
Mysore is when you got your project report bound at Venkateshwara Binders in Saraswatipuram. Mysore is having grape juice at RTO circle.
Mysore is buying vegetables at Agrahara.
Mysore is buying plantain leaves in NanjumaLige, savoring the aroma of the agar batti factory behind.
Mysore is eating ice-creams at Penguin.
Mysore is eating dosa at Mylari Hotel.
Mysore is having biriyani early in the morning, near Philo’s church.
Mysore is drinking sugarcane juice near kukkarahaLLI lake.
Mysore is munching corn-on-the- cob in the palace foreground.
Mysore is when I grew up in Mysore.