Sunday, April 16, 2006

MyMysore dot Com

When he heard I was shifting base to Mysore a friend in Coonoor said, “So, you're moving to that pensioners' paradise.” He meant well. But that isn't how Mysoreans like their town to be thought of. When I put in this bit on our web-page I got a mail from Anil Thagadur, a Mysorean based in Dulles, saying something to the effect that it was just as well I didn’t think the way my friend did. I sensed a veiled threat in his message. When in Mysore, think as the Mysoreans do. Dubbing it a 'pensioners' paradise' gives a fuddy-duddy connotation.

When someone mentions Mysore, my Coonoor friend visualises tree-lined avenues, spacious gardens, and a park bench seating a happy-looking greying couple, like the ones we see in LIC ads. I don’t know where he got his picture from. Maybe he had seen some vintage Kannada films, when Girish Karnad played a college kid.

The parks and gardens of Mysore had been all green and wooded when Karnad used to do the run-around-the-bushes routine for films. As for those greying couples, my random check with friends reveals that many oldies have moved away to the USA, presumably to baby-sit for their sons and daughters. It appears Mysore is losing its pensioners to the US, thanks to their green-card holding children. A pensioners’ paradise - could anyone still say?

I can’t say I’m familiar with paradise. Nor do I know of anyone who has been there. Available reports, gathered from sadhus and TV evangelists, indicate that it can’t be much of a fun place. I doubt if they have Pizza Hut and Planet X in paradise. We have them in Mysore and, what’s more, a throbbing club-life. Everyone I know here either belongs to a club or knows of someone who does.

The dial-a-Domino pizza joint is a five-minute walk from my place. The Cosmopolitan Club is close by. So is The Hutch Shop. Equally close is Devraja Urs Road where the executive types shop for ‘power dressing’. Mysore has the very things today’s youth simply can’t do without - pizza on call, the cell phone and the club-life.

I have been here a month now, and have started feeling at home already. One of the first things they say you do in an unfamiliar town is opt for a crash course in the local lingo. I have already mastered a modest vocabulary of two words - eshtu (how much?) and saaku (that's enough). Trick is to try and muddle through with filmy Hindi. It works with many people on streets and in shops. Where Hindi doesn’t work, you mutter the magic words, namme gotheela, and move on. For those who don’t know what that means, it means ‘I don?t know’.

People who have been here long say this is the kind of town that tends to grow on you. Never mind the open sewage that runs through the old town; the cows that have the right of way on streets; and the pigs let loose to feast on overflowing garbage bins. The city mayor reckons that Mysore has a pig population exceeding 18,000. It is such life’s little touches that lend Mysore its distinct feel and flavour.

It is the most comfortable place to live in, says Vinod Maroli, whose business often takes him away from Mysore .”I get this comfy feeling every time I see Chamundi Hills from afar, as I approach the town”. The feel for the place gets more pronounced among non-resident Mysoreans. Harimohan P, of Manhattan NYC, a civil engineer who emigrated in 1969, would like to see a civic campaign launched to get something done about those open channels of untreated sewage flowing right through the city. Harimohan reckons I couldn’t have made a better choice than Mysore, given the awful state in which most other cities are.

Here is a sampling of other people’s take on Mysore, posted in Dr Ramprasad V, a Mysore-born dentist from Trichy, would like to reconnect with his Sardavilas cronies, and to hear from anyone who has anything latest on his revered gurus - KVN, SR, NSS and Tata Ramaswamy.

A Bangalore-based journalist, K G Vasuki, pines for the city he knows he cannot come back to live – ‘How could I forget GTR, Chamundipuram, and those bicycle rides to Gangotri (University) from the Agrahara’. Ananth Iyer, born and brought up Mysore, would want to settle here. That is a long way ahead for this young man based in Pennsylvania. Iyer misses set-dosa, two idli with scoops of chutney at GTR, Gangotri bread-bonda, the drive-in at Ramya's, and the Nalpak.

And then there is Sandhya, wife of cricket legend ‘Googly’ Chandra. She tells everyone she meets how great Mysore is. “The best city to live in,” she would say, “it is royal, roads are broad, and there is freshness in the air, palace illumination, and, most of all, Goddess Chamundeshwari.” Sandhya ends her e-mail with, ‘Lots of love to Mysore, its people.’

(Wrote this piece – Apl. 2005 – a few weeks after we shifted base to Mysore. I have been here over an year now, and I can’t bring myself to be that exuberant about the town. I feel more at home insofar as I’ve discovered Mysore to be not a ‘show-case’ town as others had made it out, but a place where you can actually live in – can’t live in a show-case, can we. I find here umpteen things to gripe about, as I’ve in any other town that we have lived in till 2005. Must catch up on my Kannada, though.)

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