Oct 11 2009

This is my last day in Mysore. We leave for Bangalore tomorrow, where I’ll spend 2 nights before leaving for Dallas on the night of the 14th. So I made a list of places to visit and with the trusty Raghu as my driver/occasional guide, I left after an absolutely delicious breakfast of a particular type of dosa called an Adai wherein the batter is a mix of 5 different kinds of lentils with finely chopped onions and cilantro thrown into the mix. I wolfed five of of them down and made my mum write down the recipe for me. I have to give it at the very least the Hail Mary try, which makes for a neat segue to our first stop …

St Joseph’s Cathedral/St Philomena’s Church. This imposing Neo-Gothic cathedral was built in 1936 inspired by the much older Cologne Cathedral. For decades, it was known only as St. Philomena’s church. But owing to issues relating to the proper canonisation/lack thereof of Philomena, it is now cross-listed as St. Joseph’s Cathedral. The controversy aside, it is a masterpiece of architecture and part of Mysore’s rich and diverse heritage. I must also confess to a particular fondness for St. Philo’s (I will always call it that, since its the name I grew up with) for personal reasons that I will explain in a bit. The cathedral is so immense that I had to literally go the the farthest corner of the courtyard to get almost all of it in a single frame.

The cathedral was designed by a Frenchman named Fr. Daly inspired by the Cologne Cathedral as noted above. A relic of St. Philomena was acquired by the Maharaja of Mysore in the 1920s who presented it to a Fr. Cochet who then requested the King for help in building a church over an existing church in the same spot, built in fact by the Maharaja of Mysore in 1843. The (Hindu) Maharajas of Mysore appear over the last couple of centuries appear to have been singularly broad-minded.

If I ever quit my profession, I will become a maker of stained glass works. There is a beauty and elegance to them that transcends cultural and geographic boundaries. Philomena’s cathedral is located in the heart of Mysore’s Muslim Quarter and one of the peeves of some churchgoers is that they can hear the call of the Muzzein from the mosque down the street, inside the church. They have my sympathies, but this is the sort of battle, I prefer to sit out.

This picture brings back memories from 25 years ago! I used to play the violin at St. Philomena’s Cathedral during their Christmas Eve Midnight Masses and our rehersal area was somewhere around the middle stained-glass window. My violin instructor’s brother Felix Joseph who became a good friend used to be in charge of the music and for one Midnight Mass, he composed the “Mass of St. Anne” to woo a girl named Anne who eventually gave in and married him, but the couple sadly divorced a few years later. It was an honour beyond words when Felix asked me to join the string section of the Midnight Mass ensemble. Everybody there knew that I was a non-believer, but nobody confronted me on the issue and there were absolutely no attempts at proselytism during the 3 years that I rehearsed and played there. The first two years I played there, we ended the mass with Rossini’s “Tancredi” overture and the last year, it was Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro” overture. Felix was a musical genius and could play at least 8 instruments. Even though he was actually a cellist by training, you could be forgiven for thinking that he was a concert pianist. His brother, Felician who taught me how to play the violin dided of liver complications shortly after I moved to the U.S. in 1988. Sadly my attempts to contact Felix over the past couple of days have been unsuccessful. According to google, he was/is in charge of the Police Western Band, but I can’t get through to them. I’m going to give it one more try this evening.

The “Masjid-E-Azam” mosque down the street from St. Philomena’s Cathedral. Apart from the call of the Muzzein, a much larger peeve of the populace at large is that the mosque (unlike St. Philomena’s) does not fly the Indian national flag in addition to the traditional Islamic green flag. I personally find this sentiment a tad disturbing because its a slippery slope to full-blown flag-draped jingoism, something the United States has unfortunately been no stranger to either. I don’t see how not displaying a flag necessarily qualifies one as unpatriotic. Fortunately, in spite of the odd point of contention such as this, Mysore’s Muslim and Christian communities have gotten along very well with the Hindu community at large and often, while religious tensions are high in many parts of the country, Mysoreans of all faiths remain largely amicable, which is ample reason for the city to hold its head high. Sorry! I promise that this is the last of my soapbox excursions.

A close-up of one of the minarets of the mosque.

Clock Tower A
The Doda Gadiyara “Big Clock” or “Clock Tower” as its simply called in front of Town Hall. Like the one at the railway station, it did indicate the correct time!

Clock Tower B
There is also a Chikka Gadiyara (Small Clock) located outside the entrance to the main fruit and vegetable market, that I regretfully did not get to visit this time.

Town Hall A
The Rangacharlu Memorial Town Hall was constructed in 1884 in memory of C. Rangacharlu, who served as the first Dewan (Principal advisor to the King) of Mysore State. No, I did not know this before I googled it up! I did not even know that it was named after someone. But now, I do and so do you! Please take copious notes. There’s going to be a quiz on such arcana when I return to Dallas.

Town Hall B
I believe these are Corinthian columns.

There was a public forum in progress inside the Town Hall. The speaker is the former Vice Chancellor of the University of Mysore Dr. D Javare Gowda (or DeJa Gowda as he is referred to in a uniquely Mysorean style of abbreviations based on the Kannada phonetic alphabet). The person that furnished me with this information outside the auditorium seemed really puzzled that someone wearing jeans, sneakers and a “Dark Side of the Moon” T-shirt would be remotely interested in what was going on inside. I told him it was for an online blog and that information appeared to explain everything for him, as he articulated with a confident “Oh!” and a wave of the hand. I took a seat at the very back of the auditorium and attempted to follow the proceedings, with very limited success.

Dr. DeJa Gowda is a renowned Kannada poet and scholar and the topic of the forum according to my mother who is quite adept at reading Kannada, had to do with the literary contributions to Kannada by rural folk. He spoke very pure Kannada which made it particularly hard for me to understand much if at all, but he did mention Tolstoy and Emerson. Rather than wait for him to drop any more recognisable names from literature, I decided to exploit the daylight hours for some outdoor photography.

Raghu strongly recommended visiting Karanji Kere (Karanji Lake). Kere (pronounced Kay-Ray – both short syllables) means Lake in Kannada, although it is not clear if the term would apply to a much bigger body of water than the reservoir sized one that karanji is. Anyway that is where we’re bound.

Chamaraja Circle
Chamaraja circle named after my my favourite Wodeyar king who’s statue is at the centre with the palace that he never got to see in his lifetime.

A canopy of palm trees lines the entrance to Karanji Kere.

Karanji B
The area is beautifully maintained and is also a favourite hangout for romantically inclined couples, who were there in force, this being a Sunday.

Karanji A
Boating is also a very common activity. I wonder if an amorous couple has ever toppled a boat while attempting the hibbidy-dibbidy over water! I’ve heard of wet kisses, but this would be ridiculous!

Jungle Fowl
I am inside what is billed as “India’s Largest Walk-Through Aviary”. I imagine that this bird is some kind of jungle fowl, but I can’t be too sure. I did notice any documentation, which would be difficult, given that birds are free to move about as they please.

This peacock tried for several minutes to get the attention of the peahen in front of him, but she sadly showed not the slightest interest in the poor chap. Women that have rejected me in the past have shown a degree of enthusiasm that would perhaps have thrilled the hapless peacock. I wonder if she was genuinely disinterested in him or merely not into PDAs!

Kala Mandira
On the way home for lunch, at Raghu’s insistence, I stopped at the Kala Mandira (Art House). He spoke very highly of the sculpture garden in the courtyard and I am glad that I took him up on it. Here’s the facade of the building. I remember when this building was constructed rather hastily in the mid 80s to accommodate the World Kannada Conference. Its since been used for a variety of Art and cultural exhibits.

Sculpt A
One of the most interesting sculptures outside the building. The implements you see are actually part of the monolith stone carving!

Sculpt B
There don’t seem to be too many pages in those books, but it still looks like heavy reading to me!

Fortunately that not his middle digit! If he’s claiming to be #1, I wouldn’t challenge him. With ears like that, I’m sure he has perfect pitch!

My mum made her signature spinach-curry chicken for lunch and I polished my plate clean! Its been raining since 4 PM and that might have pretty much put the damper (ha!) on my capturing the illuminated palace tonight. I’m going to the Mysore Sports Club for dinner tonight with the extended family.

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