My-sore ankle

Ha lame pun. My sore ankle is the reason why I’m writing today’s post about…Mysore! I crack myself up sometimes…

Anyway, no big deal about my ankle. India’s pavements are kinda crappy and full of random potholes / loose slabs of concrete / bits of wire waiting to trip you up and yesterday, while walking around, I stepped on a loose block of concrete and fell, hurting my ankle (same foot as the one I sliced open in HK) in the process. It’s kinda swollen from the impact and it hurts to walk (too much) so I’ve decided to be productive in other ways by updating my blog about Mysore!

Mysore is India’s heritage city, and supposedly India’s cleanest city. I took the train in from Bangalore, thankfully managing to get tickets directly at the train station after a slight panic attack that the train was fully booked when I couldn’t get tickets online. The train turned out to be massive (and late, as usual) so we only got underway at about 3.30pm.

Arrived in Mysore without incident (I even fell asleep part of the way – there’s something quite comforting about riding in a train), and found the hostel a guy in Bangalore had recommended me. At 200Rs / night, Hotel Maurya is a steal but duh, some drawbacks. Must have been a legit hotel maybe 50 years ago, but now wouldn’t count for even a motel I think. No hot water, an old-school squatting toilet and a mattress about an inch thin. Still, the price was a huge factor for me, and besides – they have (intermittent) Wi-Fi in the lobby! Someone once joked that backpackers don’t need anything more than a roof and Wi-Fi when looking for a hostel…I’ve come to realize it’s not too far from the truth. Moving on. Hung out that evening with an international backpacking bunch (2 Germans, 2 English, 1 Canadian) which was fun.

Next day, it was off to Chamundi Hill! According to legend, Chamundi Hill is where the goddess Chamundi slayed the demon Mahishasura. Mahishasura (literally buffalo-demon) had asked for a boon of being invincible from Lord Brahma, but Brahma said dude no. So Mahishasura said okay, give me the boon of being killed only by a woman. Stupid stupid stupid demon. Boon granted, he started waging war against all the Devas (angel equivalents?) with his demon army and nobody could do squat to stop him, till BOOM Goddess Chamundi (aka Mahishasura Mardini – also the reason Mysore got its name) appeared and killed him on the hill that is now named after her. How many men get a hill named after them for killing a demon, eh? (Don’t answer that.)

Hoping to beat the traffic, I left pretty early (8am is early by India standards where things only get going at 10 or 11am) and on the advice of the hotel guy, I took bus 201 from the City Bus Stand all the way up to the top of the hill. They have a giant statue of Mahishasura where the bus drops off. Nice touch, getting the dead demon to welcome people to the hill.

There was a nice view of Mysore and the temple was pretty cool too. Not that many people were there yet, so I got a nice look around the temple. Pretty standard stuff.

Wandered around for a bit and then decided to look around for the huge Nandi (Shiva’s bull) statue that was supposedly around there somewhere.

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Not Nandi, but maybe a reincarnation of Mahishasura?

Asked around with a few people (Pro travel tip: People don’t often know where things are but will direct you anyway. Ask 3 or 4 people and if most of them point you in the same direction, you have about a 73.4% chance of getting to where you need to.) and eventually found the Nandi, 300 steps down from the Chamundi temple.

More photo ops, and a quick refuel with some chai and I had to decide if I wanted to walk the remaining 700 steps down, or walk back up to where I’d started. Since I’d initially wanted to walk up the steps to get to the temple anyway, I decided it would be cool to walk down instead of just taking the bus. As I was walking down, I came across several devotees on their way up, stopping at each step to adorn it with turmeric powder, vermilion and flowers.

The steps are a gorgeous pink/ yellow/ red because of those powders and make for a wonderful sight. But also, much respect for the devotees – it’s intense, back-breaking work to do that up 1000 steps.

I eventually made it down and caught a different bus back to the city (again by asking several different people where the bus stop was) and had lunch before heading off to the Government Silk Factory to see silk being processed and woven into beautiful saris. The guy at my hotel had mentioned a bunch of buses I could take to the silk factory from the City Bus Stand, but apparently those buses don’t exist, but several different buses do pass that way, so just ask around till someone points you to the right bus. A giggling group of school girls who barely spoke any English helped me out and I made it to my destination without much mishap.

So the silk factory is free of charge to enter and walk around, and if you stand around watching intently for long enough, one of the workers will call you over to show you what exactly it is that they’re doing. It’s a really long, complicated process that involves winding and unwinding and rewinding the silk thread collected from the cocoons of silkworms before the silk is ready to be woven. The weaving is also done in the old school method, and I do believe that each weaver is responsible for the designs on the saris he makes (didn’t see a single female weaver).

 

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Not a sheet of material, but individual strands of silk! Madness.

 

It requires a lot of attention to detail and incredible amounts of precision to make sure each strand is perfect. I would go crazy after just a day of trying to do that.

 

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When the silk runs out, the weaver has to manually attach each strand to a new one. A painstaking and time consuming process.

 

It’s been great so far and I like Mysore quite a bit. That’s all about Mysore for now. Stay tuned for Mysore part 2, where I talk about my visit to Srirangapatna, incense-making and beedi-rolling!

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Wedding, Kalyanam, Shaadi

The real reason I came to Bangalore – Reshma and Ankit’s wedding (#reshkit), and now it’s over. The festivities have passed somewhat in a blur, but it has been absolutely wonderful being among friends and seeing one of my best friends get married to a man who makes her face light up and her eyes sparkle. ❤

The wedding festivities started off on Tuesday with…dance practice to rehearse a performance for the sangeet that evening! It was fun (and funny) learning the steps and dancing along (really badly) while also joking around with the others who had come for the wedding. It was really great seeing people I haven’t seen in years and the dancing wasn’t too bad too.

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The boys learning their dance steps.

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The girls were obviously better.

After that, it was back to the hotel and a mad scramble to get dressed for the evening’s festivities! Trust me, three girls getting dressed in less than an hour and a half is no mean feat. And…back to the venue we went!

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Sindhu, Aditi and Sruthy – Gorgeous as usual!

With all the lights and decor in place, the venue looked absolutely magical. Fairy lights everywhere, lanterns hanging from the trees – it looked like something out of a movie set.

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I’m not part of the decor.

Reshma and Ankit eventually made their grand appearance and they both looked absolutely stunning (not that they don’t always). The whole event was wonderful, and I especially loved how intimate everything was.

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Spot the couple!

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The Prabhu mothers-in-law showing off their moves!

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RGS/RJC Represent at #reshkit

The evening’s celebrations ended not too late (thank goodness) and we headed back to the hotel to catch some shut eye before waking up at the crack of dawn (not even – it was still dark out when we woke up at 5.30am) to get ready for the actual wedding ceremony. We eventually piled into the van at about 7.30am and off we went. What a transformation! The wedding prep team must have worked all night to tear down the previous night’s decor and set up for the morning ceremony! It was so gorgeous and almost unrecognizable as the same place.

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Same place, different decor!

As typically happens with anything where Indians are involved, there was a delay in getting the pujas started and everything eventually only got under way about an hour after they were supposed to. Thankfully, breakfast was provided so we all stuffed our faces with fresh idly and dosai while waiting for things to get under way.

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Vivu, Sushma’s adorable son with his idly! ❤

First major event of the wedding ceremony was the baraat, or the entrance of the groom. Ankit rode in on a horse, preceded by a whole bunch of dancing people and two (!) very enthusiastic bands. It was great fun to watch, but I think the people dancing had more fun!

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Baraat dancing and singing, with Ankit on a horse!

Reshma’s family was waiting to welcome them and there was obviously more dancing (Indian weddings feature a lot of this)! Fun fun fun stuff.

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This is Sushma’s “welcome groom’s family” face

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Dance-off between the bride and groom’s families!

Then, Reshma made her entrance and it was on to more serious stuff as the actual wedding rites started. The priest was cool and explained a lot of what the Sanskrit mantras were saying, so that was very informative. The key point that I gleaned though, was that Reshma is Ankit’s Lakshmi (goddess of wealth), and that she has the final say on his expenses. Oh, and that if Ankit needs to travel for more than 3 days, he has to bring Reshma along. Very interesting stuff – I had no idea that’s what all those mantras meant!

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Reshma’s dad giving her away to Ankit.

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Ankit takes Reshma’s hand in marriage and promises to hand over all his money to her.

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The happy couple and their parents!

The Konkani part of the wedding rites over (Reshma’s family is Konkani), Reshma was sent off to change into a different outfit for the Punjabi half of the ceremony (Ankit’s family is Punjabi). By this time, the midday sun had gotten to most of the guests and they decided to hide out in the sheltered area…which gave us the chance to get up close to watch the ceremony right on stage with the couple and their families!

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Walking seven times around the fire

The rites were completely different, but eventually ended off with the tying of the traditional mangalsutra and finally, at long last, #reshkit were married!

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Adorning Reshma’s forehead with kumkum to signify she’s off the market, y’all.

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Tying (? he kinda clasped it) the mangalsutra. Officially traditionally married!

Wedding festivities were almost over, but not before it filling our bellies with an incredibly tasty South Indian thali and we finally waddled off back to the hotel at about 2pm. I was exhausted, so I can’t even imagine how Reshma and Ankit were feeling – especially since they sped off to do a house warming ceremony too!

While they were being busy bees, we headed back to the hotel for some R&R before the afterparty planned for that evening. It was a nice chill afternoon with good conversation with friends I hadn’t seen since…Sushma’s wedding. How time flies, eh? The afterparty was also really nice – very chill at a cool brewery in Bangalore, so plenty of time for chatting and relaxing after the frenzy of activities at the actual wedding. Excellent time to unwind.

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Totally unrelated picture of my feet in the very trippy hotel lift, because I didn’t take any pictures at the brewery.

And just like that, the #reshkit wedding was over! I had an absolutely fabulous time – it was great seeing all my friends, and a huge thank you to Reshma and Ankit’s families for organizing everything and making everyone feel so welcome. Mad props also to the couple for planning such an amazing wedding – it couldn’t have been any better.

Here’s wishing you guys a very wonderful married life and all the very best in Barcelona and wherever else life may take you! ❤

Busy, Bustling Bangalore!

Quick update on Bangalore so far! I arrived on Wednesday (thanks family + Kalpy for coming to say bye to me at the airport!

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Thanks Fam! ❤ Will miss you guys!

I’ve been here 3 full days and a bit, and I feel like I’ve been here for 3 years. Bangalore is busy busy busy and all the streets are always bustling with so much energy.

I met some lovely people at the hostel and it’s been absolutely wonderful wandering around the crazy mess that is Bangalore together. The traffic is absolutely mad, the honking drivers are driving me nuts already, and we’ve almost been killed by awful auto drivers who look you right in the eye as you’re trying to cross the road and then speed right toward you, but we’ve survived. The food is absolutely amazing – delicious, spicy, bursting with flavors, and the people are so great! An elderly gentleman on the bus started talking to my friend Anna, and found out her entire life history in the duration of the bus ride. It’s absolutely great.

Anyways, I have to run now – it takes about 2 hours to travel 12 km in this mad city, so I gotta go soonish so that I can get somewhere…before the sun sets (it’s 11am now). Okay I’m rambling. I’m meeting up with some friends, Aditi and Sindhu, who are also here for Reshma’s wedding so that’s going to be fun. Really looking forward to the #reshkit wedding on Tuesday and Wednesday. But I shall stop here and leave you with some pictures instead!

 

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Anna, blending in with the flowers.

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Dancing by a sacred site on top of the giant rocky plateau in the Lalbagh Botanical Gardens

 

 

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Giant tree in Lalbagh Botanical Gardens

 

 

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At the flower exhibition in Lalbagh Botanical Gardens with Zu, Arvind, and Anna!

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Selfie in front of ISKCON, one of the largest temples in Banglore/ India/ the world / I don’t know. Photo Credit: Zu

 

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Last selfie with Anna 😦 Safe travels! Photo credit: Anna

Travelling is awesome, but it also really sucks when you have to say goodbye. 😦 On the bright side, the world is a wonderful place and life is magical, so maybe we’ll meet again someday.

Till the next update, safe travels everyone!

Sorry, Boat Adventures is on hold till I settle into some sort of travel routine! Keep watching this space!

Day 1 in India – Survived!

First (almost) 24hours in India, and I am pleased to report that I HAVE SURVIVED!

Alright, first impressions – India is LOUD. Oh my goodness, people will not stop tooting their horns. Also, traffic is CRAZY. We could have died a few times crossing MG Road and various other giant roads with traffic coming from every which direction. But we didn’t and here we are! Still alive. Final observation of the day: The food is EXCELLENT.

I’ve met some wonderful girls at this hostel where I’m staying – Anna, from Germany and Zu from the Netherlands. I hung out with them pretty much all day today, and we had a wonderful day. We walked around the insane mess that is Commercial Street (where they each bought some kurtis) before having lunch at a small but cozy place off MG Road. Frankly, I felt quite like throwing up after walking around Commercial Street for a while – the sheer number of items on display is enough to make your head spin – so our lunch break was a welcome respite from the madness that is India.

After lunch, it was off in search of the Indiragandi Musical Fountains, but we ended up at Cubbone Park instead (I think), where we had a jolly time people- and squirrel-watching. A short break later, it was off to look for the musical fountains, but in the end we saw the High Court, a random Government Palace (?) and an abandoned train engine, but no musical fountains. Finally giving up on that, we decided to head back to the hostel, but catching a bus back was such a complicated task that we only arrived back at the hostel about 2 hours after we’d decided to leave.

We all crashed for a while at the hostel, dehydrated and worn out from our long day of walking around. But eventually, we collected ourselves and headed out to dinner at Vapour. The food was delicious, and the view gorgeous, but the service was lackluster (except for one guy) and the taxes outrageous. Seriously, we paid almost 35% in tax. -_-

All in all, I’d say that Bangalore is a good place for an India noob like myself. Everyone speaks English, and it’s a modern enough city that you don’t feel too out of place there. Even so, it manages to capture the essence of India in that everything is extremely…extreme. India definitely isn’t for the faint of heart.

Anyway, tomorrow will bring more adventures. I’m exhausted now, so pictures will come later, once Anna has sent them to me. For now, good night!

Bye Bye Bye

Off to India in a couple of hours! I’ve packed my bags and gotten my pre-departure jitters on. Somehow, I think I might have been less nervous about going to South America…

India India India. I’ve been as a little girl with my family to visit distant relatives. I don’t remember much of those trips.

There were huge temples with scorching floors, and enormous granite statues.

There were cows every where, and that time someone stepped in a pile of cow dung.

I remember holding little chicks in my hand, and carrying a baby goat. I really wanted to bring the kid back with me, but the boy who caught the kid for me said they wouldn’t let me bring it on the plane. He promised to send it to me on the next ship out, and I waited for weeks for the arrival of the kid, but it never came.

A boy from the village took us on his motorcycle up and down the street and it was the most thrilling thing to ever happen to me at that age.

I remember the hospital; my brother fell sick and had terrible diarrhea and a high fever. They put him on a drip, but I don’t know if they let me see him in the hospital. I only remember the white tiled corridors we walked down, endlessly.

We ate dosai and spicy tomato chutney on the overnight train. It was the best chutney I’d eaten, but so spicy it made my eyes water.

We went up a really windy mountain road in a car. I was sitting in a distant uncle’s lap, but I started feeling sick. I told them to stop, but it was too late; I vomited.

My grandmother’s house didn’t have much, but I distinctly remember the creaky fan in the corner of the spartan room, and the wooden chest of drawers. I wonder if that’s still there.

I don’t remember much about the India I visited as a child. I’m sure much has changed, as have I. Or maybe it hasn’t. In any case, I’m looking forward to creating new memories. Here’s to India!

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Modern take on “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

“If you take a picture but there’s no SD card in your camera, did you really take a picture?”

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Somewhere in the Dominican Republic, stands a tree.

So Much Time, So Little To Do!

You’re probably all thinking that I’ve gotten that completely wrong – it should be So Much To Do, So Little Time, but nope. I’m quite sure I have that right.

Maybe it’s because I don’t have an actual job – I do freelance work, which means I get to choose my hours and work only (kinda) when I want to. Maybe it’s because I don’t have kids – ha! sorry those of you who’ve willingly donated 18 years of your life to another human being. Or maybe it’s because I choose to.

Now, I know I’m extremely privileged to be able to even choose the live I’ve chosen for myself. I do not have student loans to pay off, ailing parents to provide for, or any other financial commitments to worry about. But on the other hand, I’ve also chosen to live a relatively frugal life, one that doesn’t appeal to many people, I’m sure. People always say they envy my life, and the freedom I have, and that I’m so lucky to be able to travel. I don’t deny that luck has a part to play in it, but that doesn’t mean my choice is without sacrifice either.

I don’t own any Kate Spade wallets. My wallet is a recycled milk carton.

While you buy yourself a new pair of shoes with every paycheck, I’ve been wearing the same knock-off TOMs I got in Costa Rica for $5 for the last 4 months.

You spend $50 on a meal, I’m pleased as punch if I can finish lunch for less than $5.

You go on luxury weekend getaways, I stay at gritty hostels in “the bad part” of town (they aren’t actually).

And it’s not just monetary sacrifices I make. In the last 3 years, I’ve spent 5 months with my family. I’ve missed birthdays, weddings, milestones. I said bye to my niece as a 4 month old baby. When I came back, she was 2 years old and had a brand new baby sister.

So maybe you think I’m really lucky to travel the world and not have commitments, but it’s also a choice I have made that have required some sacrifices.

And yes, I have so much time, so little to do – but only because I choose to.

This has turned into a random rambly post. Oops. Tuesday afternoons are maybe not such a great time to write.

I leave for India in less than 36 hours. Wish me luck!