July 22, 2011

Vintage India - Mysore

Oh, Mysore, such a wonderful city!  I was enrolled at and attended the University of Mysore, in the Manasagangotri campus, and fell in love with the city and the people.  Most days, after classes, I would take the short ride in an auto rickshaw into town.  You can see a black and yellow rickshaw, a three wheeled vehicle with a small and wheezy engine, in this picture:
Bananas where a common purchase and a staple of my diet.  Until then, I had no idea that they came in such a wide variety.  The very small ones were a favorite:
I could get my meals at the University cafeteria, but often ate out, or sometimes bought things to cook on a hot plate in the dorm room, so a trip to the market was often on the agenda.  Farmer’s markets are essentially the same the world over, I think, and I felt at home here among the green beans:
And the tomatoes:
But the piles of powders used for bindi dots, and the sticks of incense, where a colorful and exotic touch:
This street musician was one of a panoply of buskers, sword swallowers, snake charmers, and yogis standing on beds of nails I grew accustomed to.  I was always a soft touch for a bit of baksheesh.
Sometimes I browsed the selections at the Lakshmi Vilas Saree Specialists, but I never quite got the hang of wearing a sari in my daily life.
I settled on a uniform of long skirts and shirts made from hand-woven khadi cloth, very beautiful, breathable, and comfortable.  They were not a ready made item, or something commonly worn by women, but I got away with it because I was obviously foreign and taking the trouble to cover up in a modest fashion.  I had them tailored by this man:
The men on the left and center were part of the family that owned the small textile business, and the man on the right did the tailoring and sewing.  He cut everything freehand after you picked out a fabric and described what you wanted, then stitched it together on his treadle machine. He did an excellent job. Word got around among the foreign students, and I think we contributed significantly to the fortunes of this enterprise that fall.
I did splurge on one magnificent silk sari, embellished with gold threads. I am modeling it here in the family home of the textile business owners.  The invited several of us for dinner to show their appreciation, and treated us fabulously with traditional Indian hospitality.  The women in the family helped me arrange the sari properly and appropriately:
Sue in Sari
Most of my time in Mysore was  taken up with classes, socializing, and the routines of daily life, but I did get out for some local sightseeing at places like the renowned Brindavan Gardens:
SueReno_Brindavan Gardens
And even every day life was often exotic and sublime.  An Indian friend was studying dance, and stopped by one day on his way to a performance to give us all a treat:
Back at the dorm, under the auspices of a very strict matron, I did my schoolwork, learning history and culture, and attempting to learn the written language of Kannada (the red marks are my errors, but still rather a success, I think):
It was a simple, almost monastic existence, with very few objects and possessions.   A bed with a mosquito net, a small desk and folding chair, and a closet with a few shelves were the extent of it.  Here I am in a happy contemplative moment:
SueReno_Mysore Dorm
I did have sheets and blankets, of course, but when this snapshot was taken they were being attended to by the laundry ladies in the courtyard:
SueReno_Mysore Laundry Ladies
The school year at the University was punctuated by a month long break in the fall, which I took advantage  of by setting off to travel by second class train and explore the country.  Here I am, all bright and shiny and eager:
SueReno_Mysore Ladies Hostel
I hope you’ve enjoyed my wandering recaps of my escapades in this series of posts.  Stay tuned as I venture out again, every bit as eager, and almost as bright and shiny, for another grand adventure in India.
Here are the rest of the posts in this series: Calcutta and Goa, Rameswaram, Bodh Gaya, Benares, Khajuraho, Kerala, Chennakeshava and Hoysaleswara, Tamil Nadu, Bombay, and Taj Mahal and Agra.

1 comment:

Gerrie said...

Can't wait to see new photos and to hear of your adventures. Safe travels!