Tuesday, March 29, 2005


From the very beginning, it was an un-planned excursion. We decided on Friday, during lunch time, that we should go somewhere over the long weekend. When I suggested that we go to Mysore, Anant agreed at once. He would probably have suggested the same.

We made a few attempts to rope in a few other people. Prasenjit was invited, and accepted after some discussion. He later pulled out at the last moment. Anupam was invited and declined the offer. He later joined in at the last moment. Preetam, Tommy had other plans. So finally, it was the three of us.

We had decided that we will go by train. Train journeys are much more comfortable than bus journeys according to me (but then, my opinion should not be taken as universal, I believe bikes are more comfortable than cars.) Anant rarely gets the chance to travel by train, so he also wanted to go by train this time. A quick call (half-an-hour long, and after being passed on to and fro between a host of automated response systems) to the railway enquiry, and we were told that there was a train at 11:55 in the night.

We reached the station in due time, reserved three berths, went out to have dinner, came back, waited for the two sleepers to be coupled to the rest of the train for half-an-hour, boarded the train, went to sleep, and reached Mysore, all in no time.

At four o'clock in the morning (or night), all towns look and feel curiously alike. Specially if there are no pavements anywhere, and you are walking miles along desolate streets in the middle of the night, and you still do not have any place to put up, and are searching for a hotel. We had reached Waynad at 4:30 in the morning, Pondicherry, slightly later. (Refer to this post and this post for the details of these earlier trips.) This time it was 3:30 AM when the train chugged into Mysore station. I suggested that we put up in the station Retiring Room. After bouncing about between an invisible dormitory attendant and an unhelpful security guard (RPF) we decided to find out the Retiring Rooms ourselves.

After following a cold trail (Anant vaguely remembered having seen the legend 'Retiring Rooms' from the train window) we finally reached an unimpressive doorway which promised to take us up to our destination. We went in and up a flight of stairs to reach the Empirical era. The rooms were huge, the ceilings so high above as not to be visible. We walked along a wide verandah (in the wrong direction as we found out later) searching for an attendant or an office. After trekking for about a mile on the moonlit stone floor, we reached a dead end. We turned back, and made our way to the juncture were the flight of stairs had left us. Here we met a shadowy figure clad in white, who told us that all rooms had been taken, and we could have easily used what few grey cells we had in our heads, to find that out ourselves, by pressing a switch on a switchboard at the top of the stairs.

Banished from the Railway Station, the night found us trudging along a desolate street in search of 'Hotel Ramanashree', which had advertised its presence in Mysore through a large banner at the Railway Station exit. A few traffic policemen outside the station had confirmed that indeed such hotel did exist, and was the best to be found nearby. So we walked for about a couple of kilometres, directed by a few mortal souls, who for some reason unknown to us, had chosen to be around at that un-earthly hour.

The tout found us about a hundred metres away from the destination. He showered us with a deluge of pamphlets and cards and information regarding hotel rates and managed to confuse us thoroughly. We ended up checking in at the Mysore Hotel Complex. They had only the "Superior Double Bed Rooms with TV" available for Rs 650 per night (plus Rs 50 for an extra mattress for the extra person). What we did not know then was that Hotel room charges, like everything else in Mysore, were negotiable. Finally we ended up paying Rs 1100 for one room for two nights, when they refused to accept credit cards, and we claimed to be short of cash (which we were actually).

The Superior Room turned out to be superior indeed - in terms of the mustiness, the thick carpet of dust on the floor, and the huge volume of mosquitoes, ants and bed bugs. The latter, for some inexplicable reason, chose to let Anupam be (Anupam and I shared the bed, while Anant slept on the mattress and had to cope with the mosquitoes and ants only) and turned all their unwelcome attention towards me. After a night of troubled, scratchy & itchy sleep, when I woke up, my face, swollen in parts, would have put Frankenstein to shame. The only thing missing was a big nut & bolt sticking out of my neck.

We spent the first morning hunting for second hand books. It may be an unconventional thing to do on a trip, but then this was an unconventional trip. Actually, the huge collection of second hand books available at a place was one of the motivations for Anant to go to Mysore.

We didn't do much in Mysore. We visited the Chamundi hills in the afternoon, went (quite late) over to the Brindavan Gardens in the evening (there was no current there and the Gardens were shrouded in darkness.) We also went to visit the Maharaja's Palace on Sunday morning, a singularly uninteresting palace, if there has been any. Before going, I was keen on the GRS Water Theme Park, but we chose to give the theme park a pass this time around.

The ad hoc visit also included having lunch at Bhattacharya Restaurant (Anupam was very excited in finding a Bengali place in Mysore), a free auto ride throughout Mysore in search of a Citibank ATM, with an over-enthusiastic auto driver who claimed to know what he was doing, a couple of long bus rides to and from Brindavan Gardens, with a painful local movie playing on one of the busses, and a few other adventures, like having the apprehension of running out of cash before buying return tickets, a mile long queue in front of the ticket counter, with about twenty minutes left before departure and so on.

All in all, it was a nice trip, including the train journey back home where we discovered that there exist TTEs in this world who are young (on the right side of thirty) & helpful (not necessarily above corruption, though)!