Sunday, April 08, 2007

On Visiting Mysore Again, Two Decades Later

Mysore is many things to me. It's the city I associate most with my maternal grandparents, ajji and thatha; it's the city we lived in twice for two years at a time, the first time in elementary school and later in high school and college; it's the city of summer vacations; it's the city of my childhood, in which my aunts and uncles were young, unmarried teenagers or young adults.

My grandmother's house was on a busy main road that intersected 5th main in Saraswathipuram. Buses hurtled down the main artery from a slope to the right of the house and zoomed their way up to the fringes of Saraswathipuram, to Kuvempunagar and beyond. Jataka gaadis assumed a more stately pace, the clip clop of the horses' hooves early in the morning, mixed with a lash of the whip and the clucking sound of the jatakawallah heralding a gaadi full of children being taken to school.

The flour mill a few buildings up the road was busiest in the afternoons, when housewives had a break between lunchtime and preparations for dinner, the high pitch of the motor mingling with the high-speed flapping of the belt that went around the machines. Depending on which of the two mills in the shop was running, we would smell the warm spicy aromas of sambhar or rasam powders or rice, roasted wheat or ragi. The aroma of coffee from a shop that sold coffee powder was a permanent fixture, as was the sound from the tailor's sewing machines across the street from the house.

Her garden was her pride. She took great care of the myriad plants and trees in her garden. The sampige tree, well-grown and in full bloom in the summer was a favorite hangout and I would be her flower picker, climbing higher and higher on the tree at her direction, standing at the base of her tree, her pallu filling up with the flowers I dropped from my perch. The scent of the flower and the beautiful golden yellow of their petals are stuff of nostalgic reveries.

The sampige tree was flanked on both sides by two mature coconut trees. My grandparents would watch them carefully, trying to assess the correct time to call the gardener who would climb up the tree and pluck the coconuts and dead branches for them. The garden also had a papaya tree, a curry leaves tree and assorted flowering plants, such as rose and hibiscus and daria, all lovingly tended to first thing in the morning by my grandmother.

Her favorite hangout in the evenings was the Rama Mandira, across the street and off to the side of the house. It was a gathering place for her friends, to listen to hari kathes (I remember one I went to in which the gentleman giving the discourse went on and on about how the planet Shani (Saturn), was in fact, not a bad planet) and Carnatic music concerts, to gossip about goings on among their friends (who got married, who's still available among the younger generation), and to exchange craft ideas and recipes. I was a faithful tagger along, an able factotum to my busy bee of a grandmother.

When I visited Mysore a couple of months ago on the way to Kabini, the road was busier than ever with way more autorickshaws and two-wheelers than I remembered,

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the flour mill and the coffee shop were gone, and, sadly, so was my grandmother's house as it looked in my mind. Someone else lived there, the garden was taken over by a building, and along with it went the sampige tree and the rest of the plants and trees.

The Rama Mandira, on the other hand, remained unchanged. The entire coconut grove as I remembered it was intact, while the temple itself occupied one far end of the plot.

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The Rama Mandira

The other thing that remained unchanged that I discovered joyfully, was my school, Christ the King Convent near Ballal Circle (behind Ganesha talkies, which was dilapidated and buried under miles of brush - the result of a family feud I was told). The kho kho field remained exactly the same,

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The Kho Kho Field

and on the day I visited, the school band was practising, just as we did - rat a tat a tat, rat a tat a tat, rat a tat a tat a tat a tat a tat a tat! On a hunch, I walked down to the Staff Room and discovered that my Kannada teacher still taught there! It was a strange experience to see someone who belonged in such familiar surroundings while I was going back there almost a stranger after being away for so long.

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She carried my daughter (talk about surreal!), we chatted for a while, reminiscing about my classmates, the fun fair we had (boys were allowed to come in and they did, seizing the only legit opportunity they had to come into an all-girls school and the teachers still talked about the amount of money we collected that year), the other teachers, some of whom had retired and the others had passed away. On our way out, I also met my art and craft teacher and we chatted some more.

School had ended and the teachers and students headed home. I carried my daughter back to the car, rode on the same streets I had walked on and ridden in a bus on all those years ago.

On our way out of the city next day, on a lark, we visited the Mysore Palace,

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and that Mysore institution, Dasaprakash, where the prices seem to have frozen on the menu all these years.

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Our waiter was an elderly gentleman who waited on us patiently as we tried to figure out what to eat just after eating a full breakfast at our hotel. We settled on a couple of dishes and a round of South Indian filter coffee for all. We were not disappointed.


Taz Snow said...

Mysore makes for amazing memories :o) I grew up in S'wathiprm, and it looks like your Grammy's house is just up the road from my mom's clinic! This is opposite the coffee-pudi angadi and the 2nd-hand book shop...

Anonymous said...

Mysore does make for good memories. But it was such a laid back town. I remember that not even the milk guy would come around till 10 am. It used to drive me nuts (being from bangalore myself) :)


Sujatha Bagal said...

Taz, by this, do you mean my grandma's house? I remember the second hand book shop. It was right next to the tailor's I mentioned in my post! Gosh! How cool is that? If your family's been there for a long time, they'll probably know my grandparents. :)

Vinay, I know what you mean about slow. Of course, I didn't think about the town being slow then, but pucca Mysoreans pegged me immediately for a Banglorean the minute they saw me.

Sunil said...

I really like mysore last visit was years ago (some 8 years ago at least), when a buddy of mine was at the medical college there, and I paid him a visit. After some lousy mess food, I decided to treck from the mysore medical college hostel for quite a few miles, till I reached the base of Chamundi hills.

Good times that. I was pretty darn tired when I got back, so we (obviously) went to Dasaprakash for dinner.

km said...

Such a cool post!

I see some other Mysoreans commented here, so, hey guys!

I am not from S'puram but distinctly remember that coconut grove/Rama Mandir area, that bakery on 5th Main (VB?), the coffee-pudi place, the used books stores, the printing press, the buses that ran on that street (Routes 29 and 30!)

Unknown said...

My twins studied in Ramakrishna Vidhyashala and My sore has become very familiar to me thanks to those 5 years... It combines the old world charm and the trappings of the modern...
Nice nostalgic post.

DesiGirl said...

There's a feminism tag going around - I've tagged you!
Ams has done her bit already.

Taz Snow said...

Suj: My gramps and grams lived in Mys for almost ever, and our family moved there in '87. We were the first house on 8th Main, on the Kukkenhalli Kere side. I think my mom started the clinic in '91 or there abouts, so yeah, she and your grandma likely know each other!

km: Good ole VB bakery (with the weird Nippattu)! And Routes 29 & 30...I was a regular on those for years!

Anonymous said...

Lovely post.Have been dying to visit, maybe will go this year.

Sujatha Bagal said...

Sunil, other than the slow pace of life, everyone seems to have great memories of Mysore. :) Chamundi Hills was looking so good. We had a good view of it from the hotel we stayed at.

KM, Yeah, 29 and 30! Lord, such memories of those buses hurtling down the street, the drivers leaning over the steering wheel, the top few buttons of their shirt undone, a chequered handkerchief draped around the backs of their necks... And yes, that was VB Bakery and I remember the used book store.

Taz, my grandparents moved out of there much earlier than 87, but I'm sure they'd have known your grandma. Are you guys related to Dr. Indira?

MG, thanks. :) I hope you do get to visit.

DG, thanks for tagging me, I say. The post is up!

Mohan said...

nice blog! grew up in S.Puram myself and had visited those flour mills and coffee pudi angadi's countless times. There used to be a public library in the first floor of that tall building in that first snap. Used to be a favourite haunt during summer holidays. How narrow the road looks now!

btw, 29 and 30 used to 14A/B/C before they changed the numbers.

and oh, the CKC kannada teacher is my aunt! It's a small world, isn't it?

Sujatha Bagal said...

Mohan, small world indeed! Thanks for visiting my blog. Yeah, the roads did look narrow. I noticed that all the places I go to, everything looks smaller now. My old schools here in Bangalore, the old roads. Guess it's a function of growing up. :)

umarag said...


Thanks for the trip down the memory lane. Mysore is one of my favorite places on earth. Gosh I haven't been there in almost 17 years.

I have linked and commented about this post at my One Hundred Years of R K Narayan post .

And of course, I tagged you for a Malgudi-O-Palooza :-)

dipti said...

Hi Sujatha

Really enjoyed the Mysore post ( a bit late i know, but what to do? just discovered your blog a few days ago!) .Reason? We spent many years living very close to your Grandmother's house, in fact still have a place there and plan to live there again some day. I immediately hunted for and found, an article I had written for sunday Mid-day many years ago, on this barber who groomed the old elite of Mysore. Well, tried attaching the scanned clip for your enjoyment but failed. Perhaps if i had your email id, i could mail it to you?

Sujatha Bagal said...

Dipti, thanks. :)

Please send me the link at

Anonymous said...

Hi Sujatha,

We lived in Saraswathipuram on the 7th main road. I have such fond memories of the Central library between the 6th main and the 7th main, and sometimes when I was a kid I would go atop this 'tall' building that housed the library and Saraswathipuram looed like a coconut grove, so beautiful :)
Do you remember the park that was on the 10th main road, such a beautiful park !


Anonymous said...

Forgot to mention, I was schooled in CKC from LKG to 7th ! Between 1977 till 1986 I think ! Loved the funfair and also the day before the funfair when the highschool girls would dress up and come to our middle school classes with drum beats and all to advertise !


Sujatha Bagal said...

Yogi, I was there 76 to 77 and again from 84 to 85. So there's definitely some overlap!

Yes, I do remember the park beyond the coffee shop and bakery. It must have been around 10th main. There was a goldsmith shop there we used to go to all the time.

P.S. Welcome to my blog!

Anonymous said...


Looks like there was a overlap at CKC. Some of my teachers were Ms.Diana (3rd Std), Sister Christella(4th Std) and our head mistresses were St.Margra(e)t and Sister Prudentia.
Thanks for the CKC pictures and the Saraswathipuram main street picture !

Unknown said...

Hi Sujatha,
You have a nice blog going on here! You have made me nostalgic writing about CKC, Mysore. BTW, I was in CKC b/n 1986 - 1991 (5th std - 10th std). When did you complete your 10th and which batch were you in? I'm just curious to know

Cantaloupes.Amma (CA) said...

I loved my school CKC ... so nice to know you studied there as well. The kannada teacher you are referring to was from high school or middle school?
I played Kho Kho and distinctly remember the pole :)

Didn't know you had Mysore connections ... lived in Mysore since 87 till I got married in 2000 ... still can't think of any other place better to call home :)

Sujatha Bagal said...

CA, that was Rama Miss. She was the high school Kannada teacher. I left there in 1985, just two years before you got there!

Was Sister Magdala still there? And Sister Bertilla?

Kusuma, sorry I missed your comment. I finished 10th in 1985.

Glad to find more CKC people!

Anonymous said...

I was born in the Railway Hospital, Mysore. My grandparents' home still stands on Temple Road in Jayalakshmipuram. Sadly, old homes like theirs, and the sleepy-town quality that is uniquely Mysore is being replaced by Pizza Hut, Nilgiris, and gee - even a discotheque! On the bright side though, there's Karanji lake, Chamundi Hill (still gorgeous!), the University campus for l-o-n-g walks... and the voriginal Myalri dosa.

Unknown said...

Nice blog! Brought back memories of my younger days in Mysore. We lived in Sarasawathipuram (6th main). I also attended CKC from 1982 to 1986(2nd thru 5th grade) and have very fond memories. I remember Ms.Diana was our class teacher in 3rd std. and I think it was Ms. Sujaya Rao when I was in the 5th.

Dinakar KR said...

Nostalgic post, well written.

From Class 1-7, CKC (English medium, Section 'A'). Years, 1963-70. We were shunted out but girls could continue till 10th. Went to Sarada Vilas June '70. I have posted some pictures of our classmates and memories of CKC in a separate blog.

Geetha said...

Wow...nice photos of my school. I finished 10th in 1976 (Ms. Tara was the English and Social Studies teacher in high school then. She was strict but most students adored her!). I left Mysore in 1984 and went back in 2006. While some parts of Mysore have modernized, it is still the cute little town. People are nice, and life is slow paced. We lived in Krishnamurthy Puram (near Kamala clinic(?)) and later in Vidyaranyapuram.....

Unknown said...

Hi Sujatha.

I became nostalgic the moment I saw the Kho-Kho pole still intact after all these years. Thanks a lot for a view of my favourite school. I studied in CKC from 1989 to 1994 and then was forced to move to Nirmala Convent due to my father's transfer to Mysore. I was a boarder at CKC. I remember crying when I left the school and the hostel when most of my classmates were happy that they were leaving the hostel. I still cherish those days. Yes, Ms. Diana was my class teacher too in 3rd standard and I still remember my favourite teacher, Ms. Neelamma, my science teacher in 6th and 7th. Sr. Stella, class teacher in 6th who took so much care about improving our handwriting and vocabulary. Sr. Christella was our warden and then Sr. Gracy. Sr. Avila was the headmistress of high-school when my elder sister Sangeeth Ganesh studied there as well. I can just go on and on about my life at CKC for 5 years since those were the most wonderful and cherished moments of my life. Now, that I am married and settled in Bangalore.. wish I could go back in time. :-(

K Vanitha Ganesh.

Kapali said...

Nice blog! Miss the Mysore I grew up. I'm from Saraswathipuram 7th Main the very first house from lake. 4thMain 5th cross Saraswathipuram junction has still remained the same with Used book store and the place to sell Ganesha and Gowri idols during festival. Taz your mom was my doctor Dr.Jayashree Galgali. Me and my bother with few other kids from 8th & 9th Main often played together. Its a small world!

Rajendra Penna said...

Great reading this post. Went to CKC between 1967-73 when my father was transferred to Bhubaneswar and we had to leave. Remember most of my teachers in those days, Ms. Rita, Ms. Louisa, Ms. Philomena, Ms. Diana. Sr. Alberta, Sr. Prudentia and Ms. Nirmala. The Hindi teacher Ms. Leela left an indelible impression on me. Remember the PT Master (never got to know his name) and the 'other' PT master who had his shoulder mangled by a Tiger when he went on a hunt with the Rajah of Mysore! For some reason we used to call him 'Koli' master, he did fight with a tiger, he was no chicken! Sr. Margaret the Principal of the Primary section was a very stern lady, the Admin Officer Ms. Jana Bai was a kind soul. 42 years later, my biggest regret is that I have never been able to connect with ANY of my then classmates. If anyone reads this, please post onto this site. I still remember HN Srinivas, V. Srinivasa Raghavan (Kanna), Gautam Rao, Ashok, Ravishankar, MS Murali and among the girls Ms. Lakshmi, Ms. Indrani and Ms. Purnima. Several others too. Hope I get to connect with some/all of them some time. Thanks for posting and having a wave of nostalgia sweep all over people like me.

bird's eye view said...

I love Mysore. Went back 3 years ago for a family holiday with kids, husband, parents and sister's family. My dad had a house in Saraswathipuram and later Kuvempu nagar. Mysore is still so charming. ..