Friday, June 22, 2007

See Rock City

A delayed post about my trip to Mysore - work is pretty intense right now, and will be at least for the next week or so, so I have had less time to blog. I mentioned pictures of the trip two posts ago, but I will try to tell some stories now. No travel this weekend, but we have tickets to Hampi next weekend. Mysore was fun, though it seems to be more of a tourist destination for people who live in India - Pavol, Jason, Nels, and I may have been half the white guys some people saw all day there. It's not the place you need to spend more than a day at, according to everyone we've talked to (and I agree) - in short, I'd declare Mysore the Rock City of the metro-Bangalore region. That said, for a day trip, it was quite nice.

We saw the palace, which was interesting, and Jason and Pavol rode an elephant while Nels and I stridently did not ride an elephant. After that we took an autorickshaw up to the temple atop Chamundi hills, which was kind of a mistake in retrospect. See, these autorickshaw things, mechanically, are are like a cross between a decent motorcycle and a really awesome lawnmower, not the kind of thing you necessarily want to use to get three people up a large (say, Stone Mountain-sized) hill. Our lawnmower barely, barely made it up the mountain - we were getting passed by everything, including large farm equipment. It made me glad that we didn't haggle down the price (which was less than $5 equivalent already), as this driver probably melted his engine in the process of getting us up the mountain.

In general, and especially at the top of the hill, poverty was more evident than it usually is in Bangalore... it was at times quite striking, there were definitely a number of begging children that followed us around for some distances on occasion. However, the increased amount of obvious poverty in Mysore when compared to Bangalore was offset by a curious effect that in Mysore, everyone was following us around for some distance - people selling flutes would follow us playing the flute, kids would start up conversations any way possible and then try to direct us to particular markets or sell us drugs (one young guy just shouted "Marijuana!" out of nowhere). In this environment you quickly train yourself to ignore everyone that you're not explicitly interested in facilitating a commercial transaction with (say, an autorickshaw driver), and as a result of this effect you notice beggars less - you've already had to turn off your instinct to engage with people to avoid getting anywhere without being sold things. I was trying to get Pavol to teach me Slovak so that I could respond to people asking me questions/trying to sell me stuff in Slovak and they would go away - a similar strategy actually worked for me in France.

When we walked down the mountain, we were so in ignore-everyone mode that we (or at least I) had to consciously think about the need to re-engage with people, that the people we were encountering on the big staircase were either being friendly or wanted to practice English (or perhaps wanted to take a picture with us.)

That's all for Mysore, at least for now. Tonight I was invited randomly by Kentaro to go to dinner with a young full-time employee and a visiting professor from NYU at the Windsor Hotel, which is right next to my apartment. The food was north Indian - it was supposedly Lucknow cuisine but I was told it seemed more typical of Hyderabad. Whatever, it was wonderful, a much nicer restaurant than I'd been to since I got here, the food all smelled like perfume and tasted fantastic.

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