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More Mysore

October 21

Early shower. Our hotel room requires that we throw a switch twenty minutes prior to wanting to use hot water in order to heat the water in the tank, which provides a limited amount of hot water. Actually worked fine, but another example of the many things we take for granted.

Buffet breakfast at the hotel is okay, but a far cry from the Taj. The Royal Orchid Metropole, the name of our hotel, may overstate its grandeur, but it is perfectly fine, more than adequate.

Carol and I spend an hour or so outside the room and at 9:30 are picked up by Sachin and Shanta (who has been our driver since arrival in Bangalore). Shanta has done a fine job, attentive and helpful, pleasant and prompt.

We first visit a silk factory, which, until independence in 1947, made saris exclusively for the royal family. Mysore Silk is known to be the finest and Mysore Silk is not only a geographical designation, but a brand name, made exclusively by the factory we visited. Sachin gives us a thorough and fascinating tour of the factory, taking us through probably a dozen or more steps necessary to produce the final result, from washing the silk, combining strands to strengthen it, twisting it, winding it onto spools, dying it, putting it into fabric, melding the welp and woof, adding gold strands.

All of this is done in a huge, very loud factory, with Japanese-made machinery, overseen and tested each step of the way by people doing repetitive tasks all day long and wearing earplugs to protect their hearing. Takes one back to how things used to be in the industrial revolution. Certainly gives you an appreciation for all that goes into the product and why the best go for $5000-6000. Unfortunately photos are not allowed (out of concern that designs may be stolen), so you’re stuck with this rather bland description of a very interesting process.

Next we went to the decidedly less interesting factory where oil is produced from sandal wood. Carol and I would not have been able to understand a word of the English-speaking guide, but Sachin translated for us. Not a must-see, and again no photos allowed.

Next, in a steady drizzle, we head out to the Mysore market which, like all Indian markets is colorful, chaotic and multi-functional. Here are a few market photos, starting with Sachin buying us some bananas to taste.

The rain becomes heavier as we walk through the market, and we’re quite drenched by the time we make it back to the van and head to a restaurant for lunch and interesting discussions with Sachin, who is quite worldly for a 26-year old who has never left India.  

After lunch, Sachin takes us to the studio/workshop of a Mr. Mohan, who is the Indian master of inlaid wooden art in which he utilizes different types of wood to produce incredible images that one would swear were paintings.

He does a freehand wood cutting of two elephants for Carol.there are others in his studio, learning the skills.Mr. Mohan is doing a dining room table for Sachin, which we saw, partially completed. It looks beautiful, and Sachin clearly is very proud of it.

We leave the inlaid wood studio, and the rain increases steadily, as we drive to a sculptor’s studio, where work is being done outside. After ten or so minutes, the rain, other people there and general weariness prompt us to tell Sachin we’ve had enough of this. Win a few, lose a few.

The increasing rain makes walking to a temple and seeing the supposedly great views we were going to have impossible (or at least unattractive). Here’s the great view.We do drive up to Chamundi Hill where we see the massive Nandi Bull which stands guard over the hills

On the way back to our hotel, we give Sachin a copy of Where the Sacred Dwells, Namaste, our poetry/photography book about India, Nepal and Bhutan and he seems genuinely wowed by it and anxious to read and display it.

Today was a pretty good day, but was definitely dampened by the weather, about which neither we nor anybody else can do a damn thing. Sachin was an altogether terrific and fun guide, though, and we enjoyed the time we spent with him. And Mysore feels more like the India we know. There are cows wandering down the streets.

We got back to the room early and plan to have an early dinner, then pack for our 6:15 departure tomorrow morning.

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