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Mysore Diaries - 10-11-2022

As I sit in my hotel room to record my first impressions of Mysore, I am unsure how to begin. Actually, these are not first impressions; my uncle, who loved travelling, visited Kodaikanal or Ooty with us and passed through Mysore often. As a result, I am familiar with tourist spots like the Brindavan Gardens, Krishnaraj Sagar Dam and the Mysore Palace.

This time, I am with my mother for a conference on food security. She is going to speak on food fortification and its impact on livelihoods. Since the topic does not interest me, I plan to explore Mysore as she goes about lecturing.

But my travel will begin tomorrow, so I cannot say much about the places I am yet to explore. Yet, my ordeal with reaching the Bangalore railway station en route to Mysore this morning is worth mentioning.

The Shatabdi Express to Mysore was due to leave Bangalore at 10.50 AM. Although my mother and I got ready in time by 9, finding an Uber wasted precious time. It took the app on my phone half an hour to allot a taxi and fifteen more minutes for the driver to pick us up. So we ended up leaving only at 9.45. The heavy traffic (something Bangalore is famous for) forced us to take an alternate route. This, coupled with the fact that the platform from which the train was to leave was unknown to us, made matters worse. And if you thought that was the end of our woes, you are mistaken. Majestic Railway Station, the point at which we were boarding the train, was jam-packed ahead of Prime Minister Modi’s scheduled visit. The BBMP, in a last-minute beautification frenzy, had blocked the entrance to the railway station. This forced passengers like us to disembark much before the station and walk for two hundred metres with luggage in our hands. My mother, aghast at the situation, argued with the taxi driver and local police.

I tried to keep my cool. At least I gave the impression that I was. So, upon reaching the platform, we got on to the nearest coach. We had no choice as the train was to leave any minute. Besides, the internal connection of all compartments made us feel confident. We had to cross seven coaches before we could arrive at ours. This took a while, but when we made it, both mother and son heaved a sigh of relief.

On the positive side, being human can mean being empathetic and feeling the pain of others. It can translate into kindness, generosity and large-heartedness.

Being human is usually associated with generosity. But generosity has pitfalls. When you help someone out of sheer generosity, the receiver may take advantage of your generosity and keep asking for more.

If you believe being human only means being kind and generous, you live in a sugar-coated version of reality. Humanity has dark sides to it, as history has shown. Adolph Hitler from Germany abhorred Jews killing over six million of them. Joseph Stalin of Russia executed those Russians who stood up to him; he was intolerant of dissent.

Being human is about making mistakes, having an ego and suffering from insecurity and jealousy. It is about having faulty judgement, falling in and out of love and showing prejudice. It also includes laziness, greed and selfishness.

Being human is equally about feeling joy, pain and regretting one's choices.

Humans express fear, love and joy in different ways. A child scared of bullies might go silent and stop communicating. A young man may express his love for a girl by gifting her flowers and chocolates. An employer angry with his team might express his rage through abuse.

The one human trait that has survived the test of time is spirit. A never-say-die attitude that refuses to give up or give in distinguishes man from beast and is a trait worth celebrating.
Take it or leaf it

Whenever I get stressed, I stroll in the woods next to my place of work. The smell of the mud and the canopy of trees has a magical impact on my state of mind. The connection with nature boosts and refreshes my mood. By the end, I am young, energetic and ready to take on the world.

In summer, the leaves on the ground are dry; I hear a rustling sound as I step on them. The sound is not very different from that of a hissing snake. But, during monsoon, the wetness leaves nothing to the imagination; I am more aware of my balance, lest I slip and fall.

Most of the trees in the woods are eucalyptus; they emit a distinct camphoraceous smell. The woods sometimes also emit a foul odour. When this happens, it appears like the sharp, rosemary smell of the eucalyptus trees is losing to competion from the foul odour.

Eucalyptus oil has medicinal properties. I remember applying the oil to soothe my painful teeth as a child.

I have been using the woods as a stress buster for many years. Since stressful situations don’t come knocking, there is no set pattern to my walks in the woods. Yet, I prefer to go alone as I enjoy the me-time to reflect and come to terms with frustrating situations at work.

During my walks, I rarely come across animals. I have noticed insects and worms, though.

Guypajama is a lush tropical paradise. A large variety of trees thrive on the length and breadth of the island. As you climb out of your boat and step onto the land, the smell of wet earth greets you. Guypajama is like any tropical region - warm by day and wet by night.

As you walk around the island, you have leeches sucking the blood out of your feet. They are not painful and hard to discover. I spotted five of them clinging onto me once I returned to my room and removed my shoes. Some had sucked so much blood that they had grown to the size of a tennis ball.

It is common to see snakes on the island. I spotted one the other day; it was about five metres long, had a hood and was hissing. It met the textbook definition of a cobra.

A thick canopy of trees blocks the sunlight. In some parts, thin shafts of light enter through narrow gaps in the foliage.

Guypajama is a sensory feast. The air smells of damp earth; the sound of birds confirms again that you are in a forest, far removed from the bustling city. As the humid air engulfs you, you desire a bath.

I spotted a group of howler monkeys in the trees. Their hysterical laughter was annoying. I felt like slapping them but could not, for obvious reasons. Their howling increased when a piece of rotten fruit landed on my head. Indeed, their behaviour was far from cordial - I wished I hadn’t encountered them.

An architectural ruin is present in the centre of the island. The Incas who ruled this area centuries ago had built this fort-like structure.

As dusk approaches, you can hear the birds returning to their nests. Busy with hunting for food the whole day, they are on their way back home, looking forward to relaxing with family.

As night approaches, you hear the sound of crickets chirping. The constant buzz they produce reminds you of a lawnmower and also that it is time to call it a day.
The Antique Shop - Chapter 2

Once I reached home, my mother asked me why I was late. Her concern was understandable. I usually get back by 4, but that day I returned an hour later, at 5.

I explored the option of lying to her. Yet, my moral compass told me I ought, to be honest. So I told her about where I was that evening.

I recounted my experience at the antique shop in detail. Once I finished, my mother said that she didn’t mind I was late, except that from henceforth, I ought to tell her in advance if I had non-home plans after school. Her reaction surprised me but relieved me nonetheless.

That night, the antique shop appeared in my dreams. The frail man at the counter had undergone a transformation. He had developed horns, a large nose and ten hands. He was also spitting fire. And if that were not enough, the stuffed animals had gotten a second lease of life and were walking around the shop. The anaconda had joined them, hissing away. The human skeleton had broken out of its glass chamber too. It was sitting on one of the chairs, sipping coffee.

I woke up with a start. My head was aching, and I was thirsty. I glanced at my watch and discovered it was 7.30. I had half an hour to get ready or risk being late for school.

I brushed my teeth, visited the toilet and bathed. I devoured a sandwich and gulped down a cup of milk. I was ready by 8 and left for school.

As usual, my school day began with maths. Usha, our teacher, lectured us about trigonometry. Learning about right-angled triangles, unit circles and the derivation of Sine, Cosine & Tan functions was fun. The others in the class seemed to have enjoyed the class as much as I did.

Once done with maths, we had our English class.

The bell rang after English class notifying us that it was time for recess. I rushed to meet my friend Deepak. I told him about my visit to the antique shop and how the collection of stuffed animals, the human skeleton and other objects had unnerved me. I was hoping he would empathise, but he ended up amused.

It's always the darkest before dawn

It was 2007, and I was two years into TV9. I no longer felt the same thrill and excitement about work. It got monotonous, the competition was fierce, and I was losing opportunities. All these factors combined to make me feel miserable. I began smoking to escape from the chronic frustration.

Finding myself at a loose end, I approached my friend Sirisha. Sirisha and I were classmates in school. Our respective parents knew each other too. After class twelve, she moved to the US. She graduated from a university in California and then landed a job as a marketing manager. When I mailed her, she replied with one word of advice - take life as it comes.

I decided to heed her advice and began living in the present. I made the best use of the opportunities available to me. I also developed a sense of humour and used comedy to recover from emotional ills. I believed the bad times would pass and lead me to a brighter future.

Sure enough, life changed for the better. Ten later, I quit TV9 and shifted to Bangalore to work for an IT-retail company. I am currently with the same company in a good position.

In retrospect, I think my years in TV9 toughened me. The bad times I went through, the disappointment I faced and the opportunities I lost all contributed to making me more resilient. But there is no taking away from the credit that Sirisha deserves.

Another source of hope in my TV9 years, in addition to Sirisha, was the famous 'The Diary of Anne Frank'. Although I read it as a boy, Anne's never-say-die attitude and stubborn refusal to give in to self-pity stayed with me. If a youthful teenage girl could display such spirit, so could I.

On a related note, it is heartbreaking to see youngsters today give up in the face of adversity. They ought to learn from history and how humanity rose and overcame challenges thrown at it. They ought to believe that they, and they alone, have the power to script their destiny.

As a child, I enjoyed visiting the annual Numaish, or exhibition, in Hyderabad’s Nampally Grounds. I looked forward to playing fun games like ‘Shoot The Balloon’ and eating at the food courts. I was amused by practically everything in the Numaish, except for the Ferris Wheel. My first experience with the Ferris Wheel was also my last.

The Ferris Wheel, or Giant Wheel as it is known in that part of the world, is true to its name - it is enormous, easily a hundred metres in diameter. It has chairs equally spaced on its circumference for couples to sit. The idea is to give people a roller coaster ride. Remember, as the wheel turns, those seated at the ground level travel to the top and then come down again, quite suddenly. As that happens, you feel you are suspended in mid-air with no protection. In reality, of course, you are tightly fastened to your seats to avoid falling. But the movement can make you dizzy or throw up. Your stomach churns as the Wheel does a 360-degree rotation. When I sat on it for the first time, my heart was in my mouth. As expected, I threw up once the ride ended.

I don’t see why people enjoy the Ferris Wheel experience. When I sat on one, I felt my time on Earth was ending & I ought to prepare for a life in heaven, assuming God liked me.

It is not as though Ferris Wheels are accident-proof either. Mishaps have occurred, causing some to die. If I am asked for advice on whether it is a good idea to sit on one, I would say it is not.
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I live close to my school and walk home every day once done with classes. Usually, I take the shortest route on my return. This has often led me to wonder about the kind of shops and people that abound on the other longer routes. My friend once alluded to a row of interesting antique shops on the way. I wasn’t surprised by his recommendation, as shared a close bond with antique pieces. His father was a collector of antique pieces and had a large collection at home. Intrigued, I took the opportunity to go by the less-taken road back home yesterday to have a peek.

The antique shop was inconspicuous from the outside with a broken, slanted board. It had something written on it, which I deciphered as ‘Roy’s Antique Shop’. Piqued, I opened the door and entered.

I saw rows of animal & human skeletons arranged on the walls. The stuffed zebra, horse, monkey, stag, and deer were intimidating. There was also a jar with a dead anaconda preserved in formalin. It reminded me of my biology teacher, Mr Dawson’s laboratory in school. I felt the human skeleton staring hard at me and did my best to remain calm. The other objects inside the shop also spooked me, and I wished I hadn’t entered.

As I approached the sales counter, an old, frail man greeted me. His toothless smile complemented the antique collection in his shop. He welcomed me and asked if I’d like to buy something.

I was visiting the shop out of plain curiosity. I had not planned to buy anything. I replied to the man by saying that I was window shopping. He grinned again and asked me to go ahead.

Once done with seeing the display of human and animal skeletons, I bid goodbye to the shopkeeper and left. I heaved a sigh of relief as I left, as I wasn’t sure if I’d come out in one piece, like some of the antique pieces I had just seen.

As I was walking back home, I remembered that my friend had recommended not one but several such antique shops on the road. So I began looking and found, to my surprise, five such shops arranged neatly in a row. But having just been to one such shop, I hadn’t the guts to enter another. I let them be and hurried back home.
Interesting read! I'm curious and would like to read more: Why'd the friend suggest the freaky antique shop? Does the MC go into other shops, or meet anyone else on this route less taken? --My only suggestion: change "I saw an old, frail man greet me" to "an old, frail man greeted me." Otherwise, good stuff! *Smile* [sorry, I'm in review mode! *Wink*]
Buddhangela's Brave & Crazy, thank you for the words of encouragement. They mean a lot.
Being right is lonely because of many reasons. Sometimes, if you are better read than the people around you, you arouse envy. People can’t digest that you are equipped with facts and blessed with the ability to win arguments. This makes you lonely and you may even regret taking the pain to boosting your knowledge level. At other times, you are right because you speak the truth, and people dislike hearing the truth. This breed does not consciously want to be right, for reasons like appreciation & fame. They are just programmed to speak the truth and suffer the consequences. Loneliness in this case is the by-product of a frank nature.

Being right is a burden. I would rather be wrong and feel normal than living in an ethereal world of objectivity and truth. Besides, it is difficult to be consistently right. No one, at any point in time, knows everything. Even the most accomplished of scholars know that they are yet to sail in some areas of the vast ocean of knowledge.

Nice to meet Indians here.
I am Indian as well.

Hello Kanishka di! Nice to see you around. *Smile*
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