Traveling with Mom, we've passed from the state of Kerala to Karnataka, from the busy seaside town of Calicut (West Coast) across the Western Ghat mountains and onto Mysore, the headquarters of the Wodeyar Kings -- one of the last Indian dynasties to fall to the British -- and a center for yogic learning.

Plenty of tourists in Mysore this time of year, and with good reason as the Maharaja's Palace and local temples are celebrated sights, offering clues to India's varied and mythic history. On the way between Calicut and Mysore, meanwhile, we stopped into an excellent and unique "eco-resort," the Green Magic Treehouse, where C and I shared accommodations with Mom in a treehouse (you guessed it!) in the branches of a thick-limbed Banyan tree about 100 above the ground. The view took in the verdant valleys of the Wayanad rainforest, and the morning bird chorus and starry, starry night charmed us endlessly.

It was almost too much to arrive in Mysore, which is relaxed, but only if you're acclimated to India already. Mom made great strides, getting into the swing of things after our Tarzan-type treat. The palace was an overwrought swirl of tile, stained glass and elaborate murals, the sort of structure too rarely preserved in India and too often closed to the public in Europe; the Mysore food, a lot of veg thalis served on banana leaves, was zesty and amazingly cheap: Averaging about a buck a head.

One Mysore-area highlight for all of us was paddling around the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, where flying-fox fruit bats were just returning to their riverside roosts alongside the rookeries of pink-feathered Painted storks and comical Eurasian spoonbills, their beaks looking like huge ladles. Big crocs alternately swimming and lazing in the sun proved disincentives to trailing our hands behind the boat. Kingfishers and Medium egrets in breeding plumage added to the fun.

We swung back to the West Coast just yesterday, reaching the small city of Mangalore, a steamy Karnataka trade center across the Indian Peninsula from the tsunami destruction in Madras. Remarkably, it's party-time now for the Hindu faithful as they are working up offerings for a variety of local gods. Everywhere we have been since checking out of the treehouse has held large numbers of pilgrims, most from sects worshipping some form or other of Shiva, the King of Destruction, but plenty of local deities are also recognized in the festivities.

It's quite a scene overall, with Indians from all walks of life, chanting and praying, bowing and scraping at the doorsteps to various shrines. Unfortunately, getting caught up in the action paved the way for us to become the target of our first true Indian crime....

C left her shoes at the door of a crowded temple today. It was nothing she hadn't done dozens of times before, as you're required to remove footwear in Hindu, Jain and Muslim worship halls across South Asia. I joked as we stacked our fancy Chaco sandals that they were worth hundreds of dollars, and we tottered off to see what we could of the processions, including a meal for thousands of local people come to make lunchtime offerings. But when we returned some SOB had lifted my darling's sandals! I'd heard of this happening dozens of times, but always to other people.

Don't know if someone heard my quip about the cost of the shoes, or if it was just bad luck, but we got a quick lesson in letting go of material objects. No tragedy, but an aggravation nonetheless. After a quick stop at a shoestore for a pair of utility sandals, we were back in business, though; and tomorrow off to Bombay for the final bit of Mom's tour.

Recognizing that many details are missing from this travel account, I apologize. But please if you're reading along, I'd love to get a sense of what my friends are thinking. Namaste!


At January 21, 2005 at 1:33 PM, Blogger krishna rautela said...

hi dan
my name is krishna singh rautela..
had read part of your blog and christina's articles...
i come from the same commuity... as we call ourselves rung... people of darma/ byas/ chaundas...
i am currently in bangalore and from ur blog i guess you might pass by this place..
would love to meet you guys and share some experiences...
we are in process of initiating an all encompassing web project for rung people ... would be nice to share ideas and info
u can call me on : 09844055334 or mail me at krautela@yahoo.com


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