Day 11 – Saturday, June 21st

We were picked up at 7:00 this morning and driven to the research station to pick up Suresh. As we were driving we saw a monkey sitting in the middle of the road as a bus went around it. It looked as if the bus would have run over his tail, but he never moved an inch.

As we drove the final time through the Tiger Preserve, we saw a small elephant and stopped to take his photo….with several honking cars behind us!!! Suresh guessed that he was about 3 years old and he had little short baseball bats for tusks.

While driving thru some of the villages, there were groups of school children in the yards outside of their school, obviously in some sort of opening assembly. At one school, they were marching and there was a small band playing. All of them were dressed in matching uniforms and it was quite a sight to see them standing in rows. Many of the Indian schools have classes on Saturday, at least until noon.

We also saw many people (men and women) working in the fields and hoeing their crops with short handled hoes…..it looks like it would be hard on your back!!! One of the fields was a mixture of Turmeric, Onion and Maize.

One of the more interesting things that we saw was the manner in which they would thresh the millet. They would take the stalks (with heads still attached) and place them on the main road and let trucks and cars run over it. Then they would (between traffic), remove the stalks from the road. They would then (again between traffic) scrape the millet seeds off of the road and into a basket. The final step was to separate the chaff from the seeds by putting it into a finely woven wicker plate and holding the plate at an angle so that the wind from the passing vehicles would blow away the chaff. Absolutely amazing!!!!

Many of the houses in the villages sit very close to the road and much of life seems to take place in the small space between the front of the house and the road. We saw people getting haircuts, taking baths, cooking meals, eating meals, washing clothes (scrubbing and beating them on rocks), and generally getting on with the things of daily life. At one house, the clothes were laid out on bushes to dry. I even saw an oxen being held down by several men while another one worked on one of his hooves….this about 3 feet from the main road.

In many areas the roads had more potholes than smooth surface. You would start out with a full pavement and then it would start deteriorating along the edges, ending up with a small sliver of pavement down the middle of the road and complete carnage everywhere else. The driver’s would veer from side to side to try to miss the worst areas…..it didn’t help. Often they would even drive off of the road and on the dirt beside the road because it was smoother!!

Our first tourist stop of the day was the Mysore Palace. It was built in 1897 by the Wodeyars of Mysore. It was a beautiful palace, full of many beautiful colors…..lots of blues, greens, pinks and purples. There was a “peacock” theme through much of the temple and those colors featured prominently. Unfortunately, you could not take photos!! There was a gorgeous stained glass domed ceiling (the first that I can ever remember seeing) that I could have spent hours looking at. It featured peacocks and other gorgeous designs….I see a quilt coming from the window, but need to see if I can find a photo first.

There were also LOTS of wonderful graphic designs in the walls and the floor, but I didn’t have time to sketch them all. Next time I travel, I am taking a notebook that has graph paper… it would certainly have made life easier.

Various types of woods were used through out the palace, featuring some gorgeous carvings. One of my favorites was a Rosewood door. There were also some wonderful Teak doors with intricate ivory inlays. I cant image how they put that much detail into an inlay. There was an area that had children’s toys, and a series of chairs that were used to carry the Maharaja’s around. There was a long pole coming from the front and back of the carriage and 2 servants would carry each end. Michael said that he would have called in sick on the days that the fat queen wanted to go shopping. One of the carriages was made of silver and we wondered how much it weighed….without the royalty.

There was an extremely large area on the second floor of the palace that opened onto the courtyard and Suresh said that this was the royal dias, where the Maharaja would appear before the crowded courtyard. It had huge, hollow, metal columns supporting the roof. These were painted the most vibrant colors of green, blue and pink. I told Michael that this would have been a great stage for a rock concert and we decided that we could see Mick Jagger dancing across the dias!!

One of the things that I noticed was that the women tinkle when they walk. Often they are wearing ankle bracelets and 5 – 15 bangles and they make a soft tinkling sound as they walk.

When we first arrived at the palace, we had to walk through a metal detector which naturally went off because we were both carrying our computer backpacks. They were not at all concerned about the computers, but only about our cameras. We were directed to a room where they would lock up our camera while we were in the palace and then return it to us at the end of the tour. Fortunately we were allowed to take photos of the outside of the palace and of the palace grounds.

I was pleased to find them using the Hindu Screens (called Jali) that I had seen in the V&A Arts Museum in London. These were made of concrete rather than marble, but had equally exciting designs. When I photographed them last year, I never dreamed that I would see them in person just a year later.

Our final tourist stop was a temple that was built in an entirely different style from the one we saw on Thursday. It was the Keshava Temple and was built in 1268 by Somantha Dandanayka. According to the sign outside, this temple is a perfect example of the Hoysala style of architecture. The temple is built on a stone platform that depicts an 8 petaled lotus flower. The temple is INTRICATELY carved, inside and out and has depictions of the various incarnations of Vishnu. The carvings on the inside could not be seen as well because of the low light, but fortunately, you could take photos and the flash showed the beauty of the work.

We were now on the last stretch of our trip, with just 2-1/2 more hours of driving. We started taking tons of photos from inside the car and many are slightly blurred, but considering the speed and the bumpiness of our travel, I think that they show our view quite well.

I enjoyed watching the women riding on the backs of motorcycles. Sometimes their saree (I just found out how to spell it) would billow out behind the cycle like a parachute at a “funny car” race. I also noticed that several of them placed their saree scarves over the back of their hair to keep it from blowing as they drove.

We have found that many things happen at stop lights, which stay red for a relatively long time. As we were stopped at one red light, the van in front of us unloaded 5 or 6 people into the street and then continued driving on. We also saw food vendors walking around the busses as they were stopped and selling cucumbers, fruit and sugar squares through the windows. The funniest incident happened when we saw a bus being loaded with people. At the back of the bus was a man with 2 SHEEP and, yes, he was loading them onto the bus. We are not sure if they were going into the baggage compartment or into the cabin, but the sheep didn’t look too happy about either possibility. But, with our driver (see below) we would have gladly switched places with the sheep!!

Our driver was obviously in a hurry to get back home, and his speed and erratic driving grew in intensity…. we didn’t think that would have been possible. At one point he hit an unexpected speed bump and it felt like all four wheels came off of the ground. That slowed him down for a few kilometers, but he was soon off again. We also decided that he only knew how to pass on curves and when large vehicles were approaching. We even watched him bump and cow that would not get out of our way fast enough. He was an interesting individual….about 22 years old and very proud of his ability to handle a vehicle. His rear view mirror was turned so that he could only see himself and not the traffic behind him, and he spent a fair amount of time talking on his cell phone as he drove. We had to stop 3 times for him to put more minutes on the pre-paid sim card!! He had TWO horns in the car and he LOVED to use them. The first one was a normal sounding horn, but the second made a series of notes that reminded me of the “Twilight Zone”…. not a great thought!! Most people use their horn frequently, but he was an exception to the rule, honking repeatedly and for long periods of time for no apparent reason. We gave him several not-so-nice nicknames including “Aspiring rally car driver”, “Head injury waiting to happen”, “Rajasthani Rapper” (referring to his choice of music which was played on a CD that continually skipped). Much to our dismay, we both went to sleep humming the songs that we had heard endlessly!!! But, our favorite nickname was “Hindu Jiggie Head”, given to him for the movement that he made to stretch his neck. It was often in time to the music and would give Will Smith a run for his money. Michael’s best comment to me was “remember, it is easier to ride a roller coaster if you relax”!!!

Having said all of that, it was not always HIS fault. At one point we encountered a bus that was driving on the wrong side of a DIVIDED road

As we entered Bangalore, Sukumar suggested that we and Suresh come by his house for a few minutes, so we headed to that part of Bangalore. His condominium is modern, gated, guarded and very western by Indian standards. We had a cup of tea with he and his wife and ate a few snacks. She brought out two things…..the first was a thick type of corn chip that was curry flavored, while the second was a peanut-brittle type candy, but it had an unidentified nut in it. Michael enjoyed a few of the savory chips while I loved the sweets. Sukumar’s wife was also concerned that we hadn’t eaten much and offered to make us Dosa, which is the rice and lentil porridge. We declined and she was VERY concerned for our health.

We drove back to Paul Billy’s house and said farewell to Suresh and our kamikaze driver.

Suresh has been a wonderful host during these three days and has worried about us constantly. We offered to take him home first, but he said that he wanted to see that we were home safely first. It was a good thing that he did, because the driver wanted to charge too much and Suresh got him to change the bill. The same thing happened with some trinkets that I wanted to buy from a vendor. The cost started out at 250 rupees for 1 item and I ended up with 3 of them for 300 rupees!!! He was also very knowledgeable about all of the areas that we visited and we enjoyed our time with him.

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