Judi Stewart and Guy Cowley

Home      Travel in India      Mysore
Appams (rice pancakes) with cooked-in fried eggs
The vegetable market
Powder paints made from ground stone
What are the mystery objects? Bunches of bananas!
The palace, illuminated for festivals
The British Governor's bedroom, now part of a State guest house
When it rains, it rains!

Mysore was memorable for at least one thing – Guy’s geographic self confidence was shattered!  Guy has always had confidence (and, one must say, some smug pride!) in what he calls his “map in the head”, the ability to navigate on instinct, even in relatively unknown places.  Mysore, for some reason, challenged all those assumptions.  He got lost, not just once, but repeatedly, despite perfectly adequate maps.  Loss also of some smugness was at least a collateral bonus!

Mysore is flagged as a tourist favourite – though it is not immediately obvious why.  A perfectly pleasant small town, with a great palace and a few other sights, but not the charming, tree-lined, sandalwood-scented idyll foretold by the guides.  It did, however, have two of the essentials of an interesting Indian town – good places to eat and a great market.

Our hotel had, unusually, a very limited restaurant so we had to go out to eat breakfast.  This is actually a joy in India.  Most hotels and some restaurants specialise in a fast service for the staples of South Indian life – iddli (steamed rice cakes) and dosai (crisp rice flour pancakes) - as well as the normal chapattis and paranthas (both wholewheat pancakes) and puris (large puff balls of whole wheat pancake).  All these are served either stuffed with e.g. spiced potatoes and cabbage or with a mildly spiced dhal (spiced lentil sauce).  Not what you might immediately choose for breakfast, but addictive once you get the habit!  Judi liked the milky coffee, Guy stuck to the black tea (without the customary hot milk) though both struggled to avoid the normal overdose of sugar which comes as standard!  Lunch too can be a joy with the universally offered thali – a selection of small pots of curries, chutneys, yoghurt and dhal, all served on a banana leaf with rice and chappatis (and all for about 1.50!).

The market in Mysore is enclosed in an old building which enhances the teeming bustle.  As well as all varieties of vegetable and (not much) meat, Mysore also had brilliantly coloured powder paints and, because it was Diwali, a huge variety of flowers made up into garlands.  Separately there were emporiums for local craft products - from simple carvings to the most intricate inlaid furniture, though it was not clear how tourists were meant to get it all home!

The Maharaja’s palace was indeed a sight to behold.  Rebuilt around 1900 after a fire, to a design by an English architect, it still had all the traditional grandeur, though with some unusual sourcing – the decorated cast iron pillars were from Glasgow!  A large selection of pictures enhanced the spectacle of the building, showing elephant parades, military of all descriptions (including Indian Scots guards with bagpipes!) and all the trappings of the absolute local monarch.  We were lucky to be there on a feast day so saw the palace lit up at night with its claimed 5,000 light bulbs.

Other sights were more conventional, though we did find one outstanding building – the residence of the previous British governor, now used as a government guest house.  All the trappings of the wealthy of the 1800s within a colonial building of some grandeur.  We were the only people there and had an informal tour of the apartments – really still very atmospheric.

One reason to stay in Mysore for an extra day was to see Diwali celebrated – usually with firecrackers and light shows.  However the only light show in town was a spectacular thunderstorm at dusk which turned roads into rivers and washed out all ideas of firecrackers – a bit of a dampener in all senses of the word.