India Travel Diary 07


“From Mysore to  the Kolar Gold Fields” 

Friday, February 15th 1991

Early morn, got up and did the Maharaja’s main palazzo, complete with ostentatious extravaganza of various materials in an infinite amount of combinations. As for the paintings it was all out paint o raja experiential dreariness. While some people whizzed by the great gilded paintings, we took in one painting of baby Krishna on a lotus leaf sniffin’ his toes.

A lot of paintings of  the  Maharaja’s of Mysore Dynasties , long sequences of begats, along with relatives and friends in arches with inordinate amounts of turbans on stun. Just having renderings of turbans through the ages could warrant a descent coffee table book. It would make an interesting focus of study, turbans of India, then and now.  We saw silver doors, gold doors, gold doors with silver details, elephant ivory doors, mirrored walls, floors, ceilings  and again more surfaces of inlaid tile in the most garish colors imaginable. But remember Diana Vreelands claim “Pink is the navy blue of India”. On closer inspection I observed that the placement of tiles was not so accurate, or even in application.  It seems that if its more garish in color and over crowded, the eyes overlooks inaccuracies and is impaled by the creepy crawly effect of a whole ton of artistic elements on the move.

We did a treasure hunt on the palace grounds, but alas no ruby and emerald encrusted rings, so we headed into town and had some bhel and went back to our Caligula Lodge home for a mid day relax and play.

Early evening we decide to see a movie , so we got a tip from the Mysore Star that  ‘Baagi” was playing at the Lido. We stopped to get some batteries for the cameras belly and spoke to some westernized, sanitized, hip guy, drug dealer, “ what, do drugs, are you kidding me, your whole country is like being on drugs”, as we walked into the dusty night. The drug dealers assume that if you’re a westerner you came to India to do drugs, the thing is, the place is so full of unexpected twist and turns, that the last thing I want to do is alter my perception any further even alcohol seems a bit risky to me.

Mysore Theatre
Mysore Theatre

When we got to the theatre, which is in a large traffic circle, we saw large mobs of men, waiting outside of two theatres. One had a sold out sign and the Lido box office was still open. So casually and without noticing anything perculiar I slipped into the lobby with Sabubu in toe. Suddenly and instantly got sucked into the lobby by the rush of angry boys and men, we were separated, I lost site or sound of Sabu as she disapeared from view, I never heard her call her out for me. I was being shoved and punched by three guys, at one point I was upside down looking at the floor, I was kicking, shoving and punching people, as I rose I saw her shoving and punching her way out of the lobby.  Then just as suddenly as it had begun all the men were sucked by out into the street. As we came out the doors, all the mobs of hoodlums where standing about as if nothing had occurred. I comforted Sabu as we walked away she told me how she had been pinched, groped, grabbed, and was heavily molested. We are talking thirty to forty men and teen boys,  so many of them we simply walked away stunned, Sabu totally transformed and extremely pissed off. The first romantic bubble of India had just burst it’s shards of glass into our naive childish hearts. We talked about the weird feeling we had gotten all along about this place,  but had never mentioned it before to one another, I had never thought of myself as the ultimate protector of Sabu. I always watched out for her but I realized that she was being preyed upon all the time. As for Mysore   it simply was a wrong time to be here obviously. We wound up at Grampa’s Kitchen, where I did have a shot of whiskey  and ordered some fish ball special, in an expensoid part of town, but not really. So got back to hotel and watched some tv news  on USA Iraq showdown. Brown out came and we lit candles and I did some chakra work on Sabubu using rocks and crystals, gave her rescue remedy and some gentle massage. After half an hour I noticed three men peeping through the window, I told them to fuck off and shut the window. This is the land of the peeping eyes,  always ever present, somewhere in a corner, behind a wall, through a peep hole or just flat out in the open.  Never try to outstare people here, they don’t think of it the same way as westinoids do, they simply will look you over without batting a lid, or any self conscious thought.  Went to sleep and decided it was best to leave Mysore at six AM.

Saturday, February 16th 1991

We took a bus towards Bangalore, but set our sights on Kolar. The bus drove though the streets of Bangalore lined with pastel coloured California type  houses, but no stopping here, we are heading to a small town to the north with the worlds deepest operational gold mine.  Once in Kolar  we  got a  large place at the Municipal Travelers Lodge for forty rupees, operated by a tall deaf man and a short shouting Tamil man.  We went to the art centre, a small building in town where dance classes where in progress and we were invited to come back on Sunday for a celebration and art exhibition.

We went and had a Dosai which was served upright like  a tall conical pancake  witches hat, usually a dosai is potatoes and spices rolled in a chick pea flour crepe and it usually sits folded and  flat on your plate. We got mesmerized by these conical dosai and ate them every day we stayed in Kolar. We had so much room to spread out we decided to do a meditation in a large circle of candles with the bed in the middle, with our music playing on our cheapy ten dollar cassette player we created a home and healing space. It was a blue moon meditation.

Sunday, February 17th 1991

Ah yes, we walked toward the goldfield slang heaps with clay pyramids over sixty years old. We passed a small village and found a tree with some Sadhu offerings at it’s base, so we decided to sit there in our customary Egyptoid public meditation pose. Sabu worked on my shoulders for a while, then we settled in with our eyes shut. When we raised our lids, low and behold over thirty people mostly women looking at us. They burst out laughing so we took a group picture under the tree. Then we where invited for idly at one of the womens home. We sat on the bed eating with our fingers while smiling faces looked on. The water came and I remember the long pause before we did the fake tight lip drink of water trick, then we washed it down with the tight lip lemonade drinking trick. We took a group photo and headed back to our colonial lodge.

We checked out of the Travellers Lodge and went to the celebration at the Cosmopolitan Club where we were brought to the main boardroom to speak with Sri K Gowdar, famous artist from Madras who insisted he had to make a portrait painting of Sabubu.

india napob
Sri K Gowdar, painting Sabu

Somehow  as he painted in front of an audience of fifty or so people, I must of psyched him out. As the painting proceeded it went from bad to worst to comical monkey lipped white lady with googly eyes.

Ouch!
Sabu  by  Sri K Gowdar, 1991

Sabubu was still overjoyed at the attention and he kept making excuses that he had never painted a white person before. We met a lot of artists that day, one of them being a typewriter portrait artist who showed us in the Limca Book of Records at having completed 190 portraits with a manual typewriter since 1976. After we  celebrated even further by having another witches hat dosai along with the customary buttermilk drink and barfi.

Afterwards we split for the KDVP Gold Mine Shaft One. The deepest pit in the world at over 12,000 feet deep, we booked a room nearby at the Corporate Guest House. It turned out being a colonial apartment with twenty foot ceilings, no kidding the bedroom was sixteen feet by twenty and the bathroom was a long ten by twenty foot room,  with adjoining gardens and adjoining king size beds with mosquito nets included. That night I did the great white hunter using a night scope to kill the little vampire mosquitoes, went to visit Sabu in her net, kiss and headed back to mine. Good sleep, great dreams and woke up to the sound of chirping birds and laughing monkeys.

Monday, February 18th 1991

Kolar Gold Mine

 Went to the mine to book for a Wednesday tour to go down at nine AM, when we get to go down possibly to the ten thousand foot depth. We then headed to Oorgam to rent Jitensha’s ( Japanese for bicycles). At  ten rupees a day, it turned out to be a great way to get around. We got a papaya for rups six, a humungoid pleasure chest of enzymes, vitamins and sugar. In the afternoon, no water, no electricity, no fan over the bed for the mid day escape from the heat nap, so we figured out the wet lungi on a naked body cool down. We fell asleep and the electricity came on and so did the fan, the combination of wet lungi and fan woke us up to chattering teeth, we had discovered a new AC trick to keep cool.

Mahatma Gandhi in Roberstonpet
Mahatma Gandhi in Roberstonpet

In the main square in Roberstonpet is a monument to Ghandi, it looks odd because the glasses are put on the sculture minus the lenses, rather than sculpted rims. Went into town to Roberstonpet on our Hero bicycles, everywhere astonishment that white people could ride though the country side on bicycles.

It reminds me, that on the bus to Oorgam, a man had asked to sit with me, and in a direct fashion asked me “ How long have you had this affliction?” pointing at my freckles. He was a traveling medicine salesman and he was sure he had a cure in his large suitcase of pills. After a lengthy conversation as he searched for the magic pill he gave up, even though I explained to him that Scotland was full of people with freckles, and there was no cure for this affliction. He truly felt sorry for me.

With our bikes we got to ride in traffic with cars, trucks, auto rickshaws, ox carts, bikes, elephants, dogs, people,  a truly nutty fun ride as we stopped at the Meenakshi Vege Lodge for a witches hat dosai and had a photo taken by the shop keeper then rode home,(go to look for that pic). On the way we found a remote paved road, so after a while we go off to the side of the road and watched the crescent moon rise while the big dipper appeared in the western sky,  I did a drawing of it from the twelth degree latitude. We talked about the experience of truth, and heard ox carts go by in the dark, quiet conversations of passers by, unaware of our presence just footsteps away in the shadows.   After an hour or so we rode home, writing letters, updating my travel book, love and dreams.

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