This is an account of a day trip which I made to the city of Mysore by bus from the Tibetan settlement of Bylakuppe in March 2018.
Been feelin’ rough these last few days, little appetite for food but still managin’ to get some down me, little appetite for meditation but still knockin’ in those sittin’ hours as well, but it is all a bit flat.
Yesterday took a trip to Mysore, sunshine bus ride with the cool breeze of a south Indian mornin’ blowin’ in through the open window. Something about the ride I love, done it so many times before but still can’t get enough of it, basic fact of the matter is I enjoy a day out in Mysore every once in a while, a day away from the settlement, doing my own thing, which isn’t much if truth be told when the action gets thin.
More or less follows the same pattern, whenever it is I go, same road rolled down upon each and every time. Getting the bus from Bylakuppe was no problem, one rolled up as soon as I was dropped off on the bike from the house in the settlement. Bus half full, just the way I like it, even more so because I felt subdued, shaky even, as I still had a dodgy stomach which the bumps and curves of the highway soon put to the test. I was able to stabilize things, but for a little while about halfway down the highway, whilst negotiating the ins and out of the town of Hunsur, it did all seem like it might be touch and go.
Got on the bus, a classic KSRTC decked out in red and stainless steel. KSRTC? Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation. Let me tell you one thing, you would not want to get in the way of one of those when it has picked up a bit of speed as it would kill you instantly. The bus pulled away from the stop in Bylakuppe at just after 10, and by 12.30 I had been dropped off at the central bus station in Mysore.
First stop was a quick visit to the gents on the station concourse, an area which was crowded with people and filled with noise. It was good to get relief at a cost of 10 IR, which was no doubt higher than the rate paid by the locals but I was not going to argue, as having a good piss was way more important than going into the finer details of what was the correct price or not. In fact you could say that in this particular instance I really couldn’t have given a shit! Once I was done I was ready for a little bit of city street walkin’ Mysore style, so I made my way from the bus station and into the centre of town, along a route which over the years I have got to know quite well.
The main purpose of this little day trip was to buy a couple of sets of bed sheets for the house in the settlement, preferably ones made by Bombay Dyeing, as they were the best. Vaguely looked out for bedroom linen, bed sheet shops on my way into the centre, but as yet was not too focused, just happy to walk in the midday sun after the ride and the battle with those minor ups and downs with my stomach. Yes, happy now to walk slow, walk quiet, taking in the scenery of Mysore city. The Friday call to prayer was ringing in my ears from the inner city mosques, a profound sound if truth be told, sending me on a faith curve that made the whole thing feel incredible, way beyond the scope of any words or thought.
Before long I was walkin’ the narrow lanes of the ancient lookin’ Mysore market which was full of fruit, veg, spices and so much more, all of it magnified in glorious South Indian colour. Walkin’ through the market and out the other side to where all the banana wholesalers were located. Piles and piles of green bananas were on the ground in front of the wholesale shops, more than I had ever seen before, strewn around almost indiscriminately.
Carried on walkin’ until I reached an old haunt, the Andhra style Shree Devi restaurant where, before I knew it, I was sittin’ at a table in its shadows, waitin’ for a chicken byriani to be served to me along with a nicely chilled fresh lime soda. Fact of the matter was that I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast, and even then had only partaken of a bowl of fresh fruit salad, washed down with a couple of cups of Tibetan tea, instead of following the fresh fruit salad with my usual helping of bread and fresh cooked omelette. This had all been due to the wobbly feeling I had woken up with, a dodgy stomach which was what had been dogging me for the last few days, leaving me feeling almost a bit low. These days when in India I am used to pretty good health and therefore this little episode came as something of a shock. Now, after my walk through the city streets, in the middle of town after that two hour bus ride, I suddenly found myself hungry, so that was why I had walked into the Shree Devi, simply to sit down and have something to eat.
The chicken byrianis in the Shree Devi came as either large or small, the difference in price being 220 rupees and 190 rupees, with the more expensive version coming with a couple of extra lumps of chicken. Each of the byrianis also came with an egg in the middle of the rice mound. This time around I opted for the small one as I knew from past experience that to nail a large one you really had to be starving. Under the present circumstances a small one was therefore more than enough for me and I ended up smashing it, clearly I was hungrier than I thought. I ended up feeling pretty damn full in the process but in a nice way, and it was good to get some lining in my stomach again.
After leaving Shree Devi, feeling suitably replenished and giving the waiter a 30 rupee tip in the process, I took an auto rickshaw across town to the new Forum Mall in which was located a brand new Lifestyle department store that I wanted to check out for bed sheets to possibly buy. Turned out I didn’t have much luck there, bummed out on the selection they had when I’d held high hopes, as there was very little in the way of stuff from Bombay Dyeing. The Forum was a brand new mall in Mysore, if truth be told it had yet to fully kick into gear as a lot of the units were still empty, so I didn’t bother to hang round there for long after not finding anything in Lifestyle.
I was soon in an auto rickshaw heading to Sapna Book House and the shops on Devangiri Urs Marg which was in the old part of town. As usual I spent quite a while in Sapna, checking out the latest selection of books, primarily in the meditation and philosophy sections, deciding whether or not to get a copy of the Mind of Ramana Maharshi by Arthur Osborne, which was the Indian edition published by Jaico Publishing of the classic Ramana Maharshi and the Path of Self Knowledge. In the end I gave it a miss as I had it in the latter edition already by way of a copy I bought a couple of years ago from the Ramanasramam, so I really didn’t need another unless I had felt like reading it again there and then.
Instead I bought a book by Sadhguru, a contemporary Indian master who was actually born in Mysore, although I only found out that interesting little fact later, and it was a book of his called Spiritual Engineering. Sadhguru was popular local boy made good and so there were plenty of his books in Sapna. In fact he was far more than just a local boy made good, more like a twenty-first century spiritual giant as far as modern India was concerned, with a very impressive and innovative ashram in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. Felt like spendin’ some money this time around, so along with the Sadhguru book at 299 rupees I bought a book called Kundalini by Sadhu Om also published by Jaico Publishing at 250 rupees and finally I also bought a copy of the classic Autobiography of a Yogi published in a new 2018 Penguin Ananda edition at 225 rupees which seemed to me like it was a bit of a bargain.
Back out and onto the sunny streets again after Sapna Book House it was now time to check out the bedding shops and after not so very long I struck lucky by coming across a Bombay Dyeing outlet shop on Devangiri Urs Marg which had a full and extensive selection of products. This was just what I needed. There were strictly no discounts available but they had a large choice of sheets and after a good browse around I picked out a couple of sets which I hoped would do the trick. After checking out on my mobile some snaps I had taken of the curtains they were supposed to match back at the house in Bylakuppe I was pretty confident I had nailed it. The total came to 3300 rupees which I paid for by way of my ICICI debt card, all going through the terminal no problem. It was good to know I had now accomplished the main purpose of my trip, to get those sets of sheets for the beds in the spare room of the house. It gave my trip some meaning beyond the usual excuse of using it to go somewhere and do some serious hanging around.
Once the purchasing of the bedding was done it was just a question of doing a bit more street walkin’, some of it in a fruitless search for an ICICI ATM in order to get cash, but mainly walkin’ just for the hell of it; for the exercise, for the spectacle, for the glory of the traipse once more down the lanes and alleyways of Mysore. Dropped into a Bombay Tiffanys to buy a box of fresh Indian sweets to take back for people in Bylakuppe, the usual selection of barfis coming in at 230 rupees. It was another ritual of mine on my Mysore trips, dropping in on either Bombay Tiffanys, Mahalakshmi or even possibly Dolphin to purchase some Indian cakes and sweets.
Once that was accomplished I wondered back to Sapna Book House to get an auto rickshaw to the main post office in order to send a couple of postcards I had bought some weeks back, but had never had the chance to post. I mailed both of them to Toby Ruff, an old German friend of mine and fellow spiritual seeker from way back when, mailed them at just 20 rupees a shot, bit of a bargain if truth be told, but I guess the fact of the matter is hardly any postcards are either sold or sent anymore in the age of the mobile phone.
Stood there in the post office entrance waiting for a rain shower to stop, my mind briefly filled with memories of Post Restante, how it used to be so important for travellers out in India, far from home, to be able to go to somewhere like a Post Restante to pick up any letters which have been mailed to them. The rains didn’t really let up but I stepped out all the same, onto the streets, and made my way back to the bus station which was not too far, just a couple of blocks away and through a bazaar crowded with people.
Got a KSRTC bus to Kushal Nagar as its final destination, after popping into the gents again. It was easy enough, just like it always was, buses to Bylakuppe in that part of the world were never too far away when the departure point was Mysore. Needless to say the bus was full by the time it pulled out of the station at 4.30 in the afternoon. Still felt subdued, tired really, with an awareness I had to keep a lid on things, quite literally as far as my stomach was concerned, for the next couple of hours at least, as I didn’t want any problems to surface from that chicken byriani I’d eaten earlier on.
On the journey back I was able to dig deep, and so fell into some beautiful states of mind, happy thought dwellin’ as the sun streaked out west over the darkening fields of Karnataka. Once the bus left Hunsur, in fact before it even got to Hunsur, the holy hill of Bettadapur stood sentinel like a beacon on the red plains as we sped-on towards Periyapatna, like it was a call to the faithful.
So that was my little trip, I went to Mysore in South India on a sunny day in the middle of March 2018, just before the weather would start to get really hot. When coming back it rained some, but not in ways to continue, in fact the further west we went away from Mysore, the more it eased off.
The header image for this article is a photograph of Mysore taken by the writer.