Mysuru isn’t just about the beautiful palaces or the serene hills or its famous festival, Dasara. Mysuru is all about the people, the love, the tranquility and the simplicity. Boys and girls, men and women strolling, jogging and chatting at Kukkarahalli kere and on K. D. Road, students hanging out at Big Bowl and Downtown, and Cubs and SJCE Downs. The serene environment, the almost-constant temperature, the dysfunctional street lights, the quietness of Emerald Enclave, the clatter at K. R. Market, the fixed-amount-go-anywhere bus tickets, DRC and Rangayana, MOM (Mall of Mysore) and BMH (B. M. Habitat Mall)…Mysuru is heaven on earth, a paradise that welcomes all and disappoints none. And I almost forgot, the place with prodigiously great food!
Now, speaking of food, there is a particular instance from my stay at Mysuru that I’d like to recall. It was the 29th of October, the eve of uncle Vikram’s birthday. Uncle Vikram, auntie Sunaina, Ma and I had dined real nice at the Roost and, we had gone straight back home. We had all quickly changed into our pajamas and then curled up on the couch, all set to watch a Kannada movie that uncle Vikram loved – Lucia.
Halfway through the movie, as the clock read 11:50, I felt really drowsy and I was all set to close my eyes straight for nine hours, but I fought very hard to stay up and sleep after I had wished uncle Vikram. Each ensuing minute ‘paraded’ very slowly, just like the elephant carrying Goddess Chamundeshwari at the Dasara Procession. My mind drifted toward the thoughts of Dasara and I began to think about the tableaux, the crowd, the welcome sign on the Chamundi hills and the colorful spectrum that Mysuru had turned into. Meanwhile, the clock had advanced seven minutes and stood firm at 11:57.
Without warning, the front door of the house flung open and five of uncle Vikram’s college friends busted inside the house with hands full of covers and boxes. ‘Happy birthday, Vikki!’ they all yelled in varied styles and rushed straight towards the dining table.
‘Vikram, we got you Methi Parata from Tina’s Cafe, Pepper Chicken from Top Stuff, Death-By-Chocolate from Corner House, Cold Coffee from DRC and a Cheesecake from Cubs,’ said Ragini, as she placed the 5 dishes on the table.
‘Achari Kabab from Jewel Rock, 65 from Biryani Paradise, Zinger from KFC, Chocolate Truffle from Regaalis and Grape Juice from RTO circle,’ added Raksha and placed another 5 dishes next to those that Ragini had placed.
‘Hazelnut latte from Coffee Day, Dry Gobi from Usman’s on Chaat Street, Bajji’s from Chamundi hills, Ice-cream sandwich from Kafé Biryani Paradise, Kids Crunch from Big Chicken,’ continued Swaroop and pulled out another set of 5 dishes from his bag, as Suhas placed a Masala Dosa from Mylari, Pulliogare from Vontikoppal temple, Cold Badam Milk from Bombay Tiffany’s, Manchow soup from Nan King, Biryani from Hanumanthu’s and Lemon Tea from Down’
’21 – Golgappa from the University, 22 – a bottle of KF from Gusto, 23 – Shawarma from Lemon Tree, 24 – Churmuri from Water Tank and 25 – Mysore Pak from Guru Sweet Mart,’ narrated Farah, as she placed the final five dishes on the table.
’25 dishes for the 25 years that we have known and loved you,’ said uncle Vikram’s friends from his days at SJCE, who had all travelled from various parts of the country – Bangalore, Mumbai and Hyderabad – to wish their friend a very happy birthday.
I was so elated on seeing so many dishes on the table and looking at all of uncle Vikram’s friends. 25 years after college, they still knew each other so well and I couldn’t but wonder what kept them all together?
I pondered for a while and then deduced that they all were tied not just by memories, but also by places. The time they spent together in Mysuru (It seems that it was called Mysore back then) and the memories that were associated with each place here really did keep them linked. They recalled so many humorous while stupid stories of their college days and they cracked jokes at the expense of each other, as we all sat at the table and munched on the midnight snacks.
Almost an hour hence, Aunties Ragini, Raksha and Farah, uncles Swaroop, Suhas and Vikram, and I climbed inside uncle Vikram’s Duster for a drive around the city.
As the song I Would Walk 500 Miles played on the stereo, uncle Vikram drove real fast on Hunsur road, then on J. L. B. Road, then 100 Feet Road, then M. G. Road and then finally, we went up the Chamundi Hills.
I put my head outside the window, like a dog you might say, and felt the cool air run through my hair and the sweet aroma – its origin I couldn’t figure – crept up my nose and made me feel whole. I closed my eyes in peace, as the voice in my head said, your passport might say that you are a foreigner, but in Mysuru you are at home.