For more HoHo stops, visit HoHo Trips
It was Monday morning, the train had become all the more crowded as it crossed Bangalore. Ankita decided to deboard, she had commitments. I am glad she could spare the weekend for me. Because I was extending my ticket from Bangalore without paying sufficient amount for the ticket, the railway official decided to shift my seat in the sleeper coach from the first AC coach that I was comfortably sitting in. Once again, I was glad he wasn’t throwing me out of the train. I am usually not the traveler who takes random and unplanned decisions, but this one called for applause. For me, it was a risk, the ones that are capable of skipping the beat. Sure, it wasn’t illegal but yes I was without the ticket for about ten minutes. The icing on the cake was the penniless situation that I was in. Nevertheless, after three hours of pushing and shoving by the below average Indian middle class population who prefers setting a tiring and relentless journey to work every morning through the Indian Railways, I reached Mysore. The journey was worth the view, we were approaching the Western Ghats at a pace faster than I had imagined. Indian villages at this time of the year were brimming with the greens, as if yelling for the rains, for the first shower of the year that would make them do the happy dance before they are finally reaped. It was a cleaner India; I did not see much of the unmanaged, ugly scenes of poverty through my window that display only the lack of resources. For three hours, I was out there, under the blue sky, listening to my music and lost in no particular thought. People came and went, faces changed too quickly but the crowd never lessened. Until came Mysore, the cultural city of Karnataka.
Once a kingdom, house to the great warrior Tipu Sultan, and a warehouse of the cultural developments in the state of Karnataka, Mysore boasts of a balanced city life, a cool cantonment campus and a panoramic sight of the Chamundi Hills. Call it my luck I stayed at the Indian Air Force Station at Mysore, through an invitation from a distant relative who I never happened to meet before. Mysore surprised me in unusual ways and I loved it.
Mysore is also home to a lineage that not only ruled the place for hundreds of years but also left behind the most monumental Palace of the country. Mysore Palace, much appreciated for its grandeur, its colossal display of collectibles of the armors, guard of the local art on the walls and ceilings, the architecture truly illustrious and the stories of a bygone era that are now imprisoned into the audio devices, is a lot more than a sneak peek into the history of this place. Though the monument is crowded most of the times, due its historic significance and its placement on the tourist map, it is worth the long walk that it promises through its well conserved corridors. Spend at least half a day at the museum, if you are one of those nerds who are fond of palatial histories.
Soon after I came out of the Palace, I found myself rushing towards another place called the SGS birds’ ashram. (Website: http://www.sgsbirds.com) Before I speak in detail about this place, it is a must to mention here that the ashram shuts its entry by 1 PM; I was literally the last one who was allowed to enter. And I am glad I was because if in Mysore, this spot is not to be missed at all. Also known as the Shuka Vana, the parrot forest, it is rehabilitation centre for parrots found across the world. Some of these birds are injured and are abandoned. Despite their illness they are beautiful, their skin is explicitly colorful and their voice full of sugar. They mimic if they are in a mood to do so, but they are unbiased, they can copy almost anything and everything they hear. There are cockatoos, amazons, macaws, parrots and many more that are probably not heard of in any other part of our country. Many are brought from other parts of the world. These birds are big and happy; they are constantly talking amongst themselves. They are caged but they are all over the place. At one of the stations, they let us feed the birds. We take a big bowl of their cereal, place them in a tray and stretch our hands in front. From left, right and center we have attracted all the birds towards us. They are sitting in the tray, on my hands, on my shoulders and even on my head. I am blown away, my eyes have widened and my breath has almost stopped. At this point, I don’t know whether I should move or stay still. A designated photographer takes the opportunity to capture this in a frame. It’s a strange feeling, I wasn’t scared of these birds, but to know them as a living being hopping all over me is a bit too ticklish.
Adjacent to the birds ashram is a bonsai garden, where there are miniatures planted since forever. The adapted art is well preserved and well spread here. Some of them are so creatively done that they open up the doors to our visual imagination. A pure delight, some of them even bear flowers.
SGS is a different kind of tourist spot; the love for nature that dwells in everyone’s heart but has become difficult to keep up with the fast city life is seen here. The uniqueness of the tourist spots adds another feather to the hat of city tourism, and can’t be ignored if it stems from the nature itself.
With only a day to spare, I could not see much of the places in Mysore, the one that I feel I really missed was the spectacular Chamundi Hills. The hopes of returning however have increased with this miss. Mysore is also known to be a hub for yoga teaching, which gives me all the more reasons to come back and deep dive into this city. I spent my last night in the city with my relatives at the Air Force Station listening to the heroic stories of flying a chopper for the forces. The confrontation of the terrorists in the foreign lands, flash second decisions to be taken which very well decide the fate of your life and the determination and will that makes all this possible, I was all ears to this man who only exhibited confidence through his eyes. I could relate to none of his stories, for I had never met defense personnel before so closely but his talks kept me glued to the conversation. It is these kinds of stories that urge me to travel more, their revelations are so intriguing and sometime mind boggling, these ones however were awe-inspiring.
My first experience of teaching yoga also happened at the Air Force Station. I took a session within the campus with a group of ladies, wives of the air force personnel and in the process I rewarded myself a sumptuous breakfast at a popular tiffin house in Mysuru, followed by the filter coffee that I was so strongly craving for.
Mysore was my last stopover in this HOHO chapter. For the third time in the past four days, I boarded the Hampi Express and returned to Bangalore. Coming to Bangalore was a clear indication that the trip was coming to an end for my flight to Delhi was scheduled from this city. I somehow had to believe it and come to terms with it. There was hardly any time to explore the silicon valley of India, which is also a hub for pubs, some amazing cultural groups dwell here and not to be forgotten the proximity with the western ghats. I almost ditched the city for this time but definitely hung around with a few close friends. Friends, who I had not seen in ages.
It is hard to write the closing lines of this travelogue, for me, the trip never ended. In my head, I still live those moments, the moments of liberation, of strength, sometimes also of the quick decisions that were to be taken in a jiffy, the laughter that echoes in my ears even now, of the plans that were built, twisted and broken, of phone calls and message that were full of the oozing wisdom on how to travel, the plan of actions and executions, the photographs that were clicked but never shared, the poses that were tried sexy but turned out funny, the train journeys and the bus rides, the rising and the falling of tides, the sand filled clothes, the pebbles of the hillocks, the coffee and the conversations, the sweat that drenched me but then the rains satiated me, the strangers who are now friends and the friends who are now a family, all of this happened just too soon. But long enough to realize that home coming is also a part of the travel. If it wasn’t for returning home, with a bag full of memories, travel would make a little less sense. For it’s the grounded and deep rooted family that lets its branches spread out in the wilderness.
When I hopped off the plane at Delhi Airport, I had butterflies in my stomach, I was seeing my city after almost two months and I was even delighted to smell the impurities of the air. Delhi brings to me an openness, a vastness, a spread of love, warmth and the food that is found nowhere else. As I unfurled on my bed, I silently whispered to myself – No more Hopping for now!