a road trip to Mysore

Walking through the gates, I find magnificence standing tall before me in brick-and-mortar. The cream-colored facade gracefully embraces the fine granite structure within. The deep pink marble domes concretize royalty. It is the Ambavilas Palace (also called the Mysore Palace), that was once home to the Wadiyars (meaning Lords in Kannada) who ruled the Kingdom of Mysore for over 500 years.

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I am asked to take off my footwear before entering the palace. The warm weather and a long queue turn me a bit grumpy. But unfazed by the crowd, I persevere anyway. I know, the interior is going to be a spectacle to behold!

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A step inside, and I am gazing all around the palace, filled with wonder. The kaleidoscopic murals gracing the walls. Vivid colors glistening bright, off the ceilings. Intricacies patterned out with rare finesse.  An artist’s golden touch, subtly caressing the walls, the roof, the floor beneath my feet. The perfect interplay between shadow and light.

Every speck mirrors the grandeur of the Wadiyars who once lived here. And adeptness of the artists they patronized. 

How they must have worked at it!

Hands chiseling just the right quantity of stone. Poised at the exact angles that were meant to be tore into the masterpiece. Shaping it nimbly to its last millimeter.

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The palace perfectly encapsulates the glory of the kingdom it once adorned. It is an epitome of its power. An ornate jewel. An architectural splendor. A fusion of Hindu, Mughal, Rajput, and Gothic styles.

Influences from several eras coming together to birth one piece of art.

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It’s already 4 by the time I leave the palace. On the way back, I come across a local restaurant, Hotel RRR,  that seems to have been beckoning me to try out their typical Tamil food! Here, they serve food on a long banana leaf. The platter is luscious, all decked up with rice, daal, rasam, sambhar, kofte, curd and sabudana kheer (made of tapioca pearls). And I savor it well with all my fingers digging in! 😛

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Then I’m headed to Chamundi Hills, to visit the famous Chamundeshwari temple. It has been named after the Goddess who was worshipped by Mysore Maharajas for centuries. Chamundeshwari (Durga) is the fierce form of Shakti who killed the demon Mahishasuran. His colorful mannequin greets me as I reach the summit of the hills.

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The exterior of the temple is fascinating, embellished with numerous images of Nandi (the bull mount of Shiva). A small market, sprawled just outside the premises of the temple, is buzzing with color and life. I buy a beautiful Ganesha idol, having grains of pulses glued together to materialize His form.

A perfect souvenir to carry back home.

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It’s almost evening now and rains have swamped the streets of Mysore. Having been stuck badly in traffic for an odd hour or so, I take a detour, back towards Bengaluru.

The rain-ride is so much more beautiful anyway.

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A delicious dinner at Thalassery later, I am back home, happy and (almost) warm, save for the cold I catch the following morning! It’s worth the ride though. 😉

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This is the 3rd post in a 4-part series on my travel stories from South India. If you like this part, you can read the other parts on CoonoorOoty, and Pondicherry.

unwrapping the gift that Coonoor is.

Winding around pine thickets for the past half hour, I have been adoring the midnight-blue silhouette of the Nilgiris painted against the pale-blue skies. Looks so much like those pretty picture postcards.

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Finally, I disembark at Sim’s Park. On the board outside, it boasts of having rare plant species from around the world.

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I walk inside and roam around, breathing in the fresh air thick with an earthy fragrance.

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Having experienced the storm in Ooty last night, I find Coonoor surprisingly sunny. And so much more beautiful that I snap out of the auto midway to dash for the tea gardens flanking either side of the road.

Coonoor has acres and acres of them!

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Ambling around, I soak in the overwhelming essence of tea leaves. The Blue Mountain tea that grows here is dark and is known for its intense fragrance and flavour.

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Further up the road, I stop by the Highfield Tea Factory and watch the end-to-end process of tea being made from these tea leaves. The entire place feels immersed in a strong aroma. It permeates me. Tickles my senses. A few refreshing cups of Chocolate Tea, Masala Tea, and Green Tea later, I feel grateful for the little sips of happiness.

Walking on, I come across coffee beans being ground into powder. Feeling my love for coffee scream inside me full-throttle, I instantly pick up a handful to take back home as a souvenir.

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Few steps ahead, a sharp and pungent scent comes wafting across the room. Inquisitive, I find out, what I had just sniffed was the odor of eucalyptus oil being procured from the eucalyptus leaves lying heaped nearby.

I step out and see small shops selling natural oils and creams. Feeling whimsically compelled, I immediately buy the cucumber one. Downstairs, they are selling handmade chocolates and I don’t leave without packing all the dark chocolate that I will need for the month.

Driving off to Lamb’s Rock, past cultivated plantations, and unguarded wilderness, I uncover Coonoor more intimately on the way. Lying sheathed in clouds and mist, it is a beauty enveloped in the embrace of blue hills, that appear melting into the blue skies.

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I trek up to the highest viewpoint at Lamb’s Rock and take a fleeting glance around. What strikes me is, I am staring down into a deep, scary gorge that at the same time accommodates a breathtaking panorama of tea estates, coffee estates, and Coimbatore plains.

Surreal.

The path back meanders through a jungle and the experience is alarmingly enlivening.

Exactly how badly had I needed this rush?!

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At last, I arrive at Dolphin’s Nose. It takes me a while to register for myself how the tip of the peak resembles a dolphin’s nose. A beautiful wind blows in my face, as I stand there watching the Catherine Falls pound in the distance.

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Later in the night, I lie snuggled up under my blanket, back on my way to Bengaluru, and the moon through the window feels like a welcome trespasser.

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This is the 2nd post in a 4-part series on my travel stories from South India. If you like this part, you can read the other parts on Ooty, Mysore, and Pondicherry.

stepping into the new year in Goa.

You are riding by dense palm grooves lining the roads, forming a thick canopy over your head. You can see the sun filtering in through it, can feel it kissing your back as you sprint by, watching the world through hair in your eyes. The houses in every block around here look like the ones you have seen in storybooks, all decked up as colorful little present boxes wrapped in fairylights. The streets are laced with Christmas decor, there’s a shining North Star hoisted from the ceiling in one corner and a Santa waving from the balcony in another. It is a different kind of world around here, a magical one, a world so much more habitable than the one you’ve got in your own city.

You are staying in a cute little cottage which has got lush green meadows for the frontview. You think, it looks adorable. The quiet around here kind of grows on you. You can hear the cuckooing around here apart from the usual banter of the birds. It feels like a secret little world, tucked in a hushed corner away from the noise and clutter of the city. It feels so pristine and rustic that you immediately fall in love with all of it, the coconuts stranded on the roof, the bananas blooming in the backyard, sunlight splayed into fritters on the palm grooves.

There is sand in your hair, salt in your eyes, water in your ears, sun burning your skin. You uncover for the first time what beach feels like. You bend over and dig your fingers across the water into the sand trying to hunt down seashells on the sandbed. There are plenty of them, whites, and browns and every shade in between. You find a really pretty one, a starfish-lookalike, edges intricately carved out and buried in the sand. You immediately pick it up and keep it in your sling bag. Later when you will zip it open, you will find the entire bag reeking of a weird nauseating smell and you will need to buy a new one. But until then, you are ignorant and this shell is a token of love from the sea.

You are lying inside a beach shack gulping down spaghetti with beer as you watch the sun go down into the sea. It reaches the zenith of its beauty before it is wiped out from the horizon. You want to be like this. The lady whose place you are staying at, was telling you the other day, that she had always wanted a house like that, a cute little cottage submerged in greenery, nestled peacefully in the lap of nature. She said she feels grateful to God that He gave her exactly what she had wanted and that she feels content. You realize, you are chasing this feeling, the bliss that comes along with content and gratitude. You want this for yourself, the feeling of having done everything you have always wanted to, having realized all your dreams, having reached the zenith of your imagination, having been at your capable best. But to reach this feeling of having achieved what you have always wanted to, you will first have to know what you want. And to figure that out, you will first have to sift through your crap and create some headspace for new things, and may be, new people. You realize, all you are seeking is self-awareness exactly, and may be this year will bring that along too.

You are riding back home, your body aching for your warm cozy bed, toes yearning for the linen touch. Full moon night falls tomorrow but the moon is anyway, almost a whole, tonight. And it is going to be daybreak soon. It is 4 A.M. You have to ride 50 kilometers and there are still 40 to go. The cold is gnawing at your skin, and you feel like you have lost all sensation, except that of the wind whirring in your ears, so loud that you cannot hear your own voice over it. You ride on nevertheless, with your gaze getting gradually attuned to the thick intermittent white line painted out on the tarmac, screaming the kilometers skipping beneath your feet.

You stop by a small roadside cafe for chai. It has got indoor seating, so you quickly get inside those glass doors, craving for the warmth more than the chai. They don’t have chai, so they give you coffee, which turns out pretty bad unfortunately. But everything is welcome as long as it is killing the cold. So the bland coffee seems okay. Even the ‘Soldier’ playing on their cable seems okay.

May be this is a year of firsts, may be this will be a year of firsts. You want it to be. The first time you pick a homestay over a hotel lodging, the first time you watch a mind-numbingly expansive and seemingly-never-ending stretch of water sprawl before your eyes, and the first time you walk right into it, the first time you stay grounded against the waves no matter how hard your ankle might be slipping on the sand underneath, the first time you watch the sun vanish into the sea, the first beer on a beach, the first ever road trip mapping a city from one end to another, the first nightout under a beautiful glowering-white almost-whole moon making its presence starkly felt even through the branches, the first time you bring home gifts with your own money, the first time you leave a place with sand filled pockets and a bag stinking of sea shells.

One of your friends, from office, had told you the other day, that whatever you do on or around the New Year’s eve, you keep doing that for the whole year. You wonder if your whole year is going to be a string of beautiful explorations if you happen to be exploring around yourself and inside yourself around this New Year’s eve. Is this going to be the year of soul-searching? You can’t possibly tell rightaway but all you can do is have faith.

And then one day, many many many years down the line, may be you will feel exactly the same as that lady feels today.

All in due time, before the sun goes down.

 

IMG_20171230_083331070a glimpse of the first morning in Goa from the bus window

 

IMG_20180101_141413 (1)Benaulim beach, Goa

 

IMG_20180101_153308 (1)New Market, Margao, Goa

 

IMG_20180101_164255the beautiful home we rented in Majorda, South Goa

 

IMG_20180101_164313the entryway to our home, Majorda, South Goa

 

IMG_20180101_183458047watching the streets lit up with Christmas decor while riding along the way

 

IMG_20180103_145819_758Vagator beach, North Goa

 

IMG_20180103_145924_781soaking in the sun at the Vagator

 

IMG_20180103_150139_640Vagator, North Goa

 

IMG_20180103_162630_910Majorda beach, South Goa

 

IMG_20180103_163652_355Benaulim, South Goa

 

IMG_20180103_165149_012Agonda beach, South Goa

 

IMG_20180106_131730_638 (1)riding on the streets, South Goa