Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Train ride

When I was young I worked for a while in a bakery shop, after school hours, mostly cleaning pots and pans. It takes a lot of scrubbing to get those baked-on crumbs off. The people I worked for liked me, they would have loved for me to be an apprentice, but starting work at 2 AM was not for me. Here I am, on ‘vacation’ getting up at 3 AM…..groan.
Still Dark As We Arrive At the Station

The train leaves at 6 and with packing the bus, driving to the train station, finding the right train, hauling suitcases around, we thought it would take a while. Lakuma was not there, she arrived a bit late, so Fiona and Gary had to negotiate all. They did fine, we were early and nobody had to haul luggage, all taken care of. The train ride from Chennai Central to Mysore takes 7 to 8 hours on this express. So we relaxed, the hotel had prepared a breakfast box for each of us.

Have you been in a large train station lately? Chennai’s is huge, old but well-kept and yes, huge. I felt I entered a special world, not related to life outside. Even the people waiting for
Inside the Cavernous Train Station
 something, sitting, sleeping on or near the platforms look different. Hand carts stand around, some loaded, some not. Packages wrapped in burlap, porters looking for work. A train station, especially this large, in a big city, is a town in itself. We had first class seats which meant lots of space, A/C and seat service. We were served coffee and yes, another breakfast and also, later on, a nice lunch. Indian style of course, but we are in India. The train left on time, exactly at 6 AM. We were on the Shatabdhi Express Train, electric and fast. Outside temperature at 4.45 AM was a sultry 27 C (84F).
Long Modern Train

Buzzing along at high speed we saw the country whiz by. Some towns or villages were clean, some not so. I have taken many train rides in the world and always found that the tracks are used as dumping places for the trash that people need to get rid of. So I prepared myself for the worst in India, but it was not bad. I was even impressed on how clean some towns looked.
Someone Left In a Hurry?



Oblivious In the Station

India has a large and old railroad system. The regular, common trains can be overcrowded I read, I only saw the nicer side of India's RR system. It worked well, was fast, clean and had all the amenities one could want.

Mysore, Still Some Trash About

We arrived in Mysore in the afternoon and just dropped off our bags, then took a bus to the Palace. Lakuma, whom I did not see in the train, was our guide. We had to deposit our cameras at a station, no pictures allowed inside the Mysore city palace. Yes, we could take some outside pictures.
Entrance To the City Palace Is Free Of Trash

Mysore is advertised as the 2nd cleanest city in all of India because they have greatly restricted the use of plastic, I am told. I am not sure what criteria were used to make that statement but you can read the qualifications by clicking on the link above. There were certainly less plastic bags and bottles around. The mix of old, colonial and Indian housing was pleasant to look at. The road layout, the old trees planted during the British rule added to the orderly look, yet this is India. The claim: 2nd cleanest town? It is all relative!
The Mysore Palace:   by now, having traveled India, having seen some grand palaces I wondered why we had to see this Palace, too? Is it really that special?  Look, we just traveled 8 hours by train to come here to see this place, how GRAND is it? We were told that after the Taj Mahal, this is the 2nd most visited sight in India.
Another Building On the Palace Grounds

The first Palace built here was from the 14th Century, but it was ripped down a few times to finally create the present Palace. It was finished in 1912 and no expense was spared. In fact even after 1912 and as late as 1940, things, rooms, gardens, temples, etc. were added to this complex. The whole installation is large and reminded me of Versailles. Grandiose splendor, let them eat cake. There is this golden seat for the top of an elephant, 750 kg in weight. It took 8 people to fit the seat to the elephant. There are large silver doors inside the Palace. Other doors made out of rosewood inlaid with ivory. Intricately carved teak
Close-Up Of the Intricate Carving On the Above Building
ceilings, hand painted tiled floors. Not one, but 2 Dunbar halls (reception rooms), marbled in rare colored marble, splendid and more splendid. The main, stained glass cupola was made in Glasgow Scotland. The throne room left nothing to wish for. It seemed that taste was secondary, as long as it was the most expensive way to decorate. Well, taste is subjective; I really did not like Versailles either. The opulence was over the top for my taste. In my mind I saw the men outside covering the rose garden with cow manure, amid all the stink of it, too. India had this heritage, I know it but sometimes it is difficult to look at, like in this case.

Main Entrance To the Main Palace
And the British, who fully supported this builder, this Maharajah, and even installed him into power,  were ultimately responsible for it all. The Maharajah would subdue his subjects so that the British could reap even more benefits. The British gave him all the power, supported him, helped him in his squandering, even encouraged this Maharajah, and backed him up. Yuk! It was overload for me. It was too much.

I guess if you just came, had a look around, let yourself be amazed at the former wealth, it's a nice enough place. The hype of Mysore being the 2nd cleanest city is over rated.  Mysore’s Palace 2nd main attraction in India? Hmmmm!
One Side Of the Main Palace

The total complex had several (7?) temples within its walls. Mysore itself has other palaces as well, but none as grand as this City Palace.

Fierce Palace Guardian

 We progressed from the over-the-top richness of the Palace to the city’s old spice market. Devaraj fruit and vegetable market the sign read. It was well swept and kept orderly. The aroma of all the spices overwhelmed my olfactory senses. There were hundreds of sellers, the prices were low but I was in no position to buy anything.
Sweets In the Devaraj Fruit and Vegetable Market
 The colors of all the offerings were a photo op however. Lakuma felt at home here, I could just tell. I had a bit of a hard time following Lakuma and tried not to get lost in the maze of the market. In the end all was fine. Carol bought a bindi set; we looked at saffron, 400 Rupees/gram (US$ 6.15) but did not buy the spice. In my way of cooking I never use saffron.

Mysore is known for its sandalwood, a very expensive wood. Buying from a government source, if you can get it, costs US$ 200. per Kg plus tax (Jan 2017 price).  A piece of wood, that expensive?
Colourful Spices
The oil from this wood costs way more, a bit more than $2000 a kilo. Did we buy some? No! The oil is mostly used in Hindu special services and Mysore seems to be one of the centers for its production.

Silk and Incense, besides tourism, are the other industries bringing money to the towns coffers.

We Had No Clue What Most Of the Vegetables Were
But They Were Very Colourful

Our Guide Lakuma With Another Of Her Beautiful Saris

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