In Mysore for Dasara
Decide quite arbitrarily to catch train to Mysore, 180 km away. Set off at 8.00, train arrives at 9.00, leaves at 10.15. Signs around station helpfully tell us to beware of pickpockets and bombs and other random gibberish like ‘10 bogies - push pull to stop’. Initially sit downwind of latrine on train. Someone opens door on latrine and we hastily move somewhere upwind.
Train journey an unforeseen four and a half hours long. Landscape endless groups of palm trees and workers in paddy fields, broken up only briefly by seemingly randomly placed ‘mountains’, other stations and the longest viaduct (possibly aqueduct) that I have ever seen.
Arrive Mysore 2.30pm. Parade starts at 3.00 with 21-gun salute. Of course, we milled with people who seemed to know what they were doing. We saw three cannons behind some railings, army types standing close by and two cows sitting very lazily in front of the cannons wondering what the large black things were. 3.00pm came and a new world record was set in the bovine 50m dash. Those things are loud.
Follow crowds through streets pedestrianised for the day to see parade. Crowd twenty rows deep held back by army and air force types in riot gear and armed with batons which they did use on the more enthusiastic onlookers. More sage locals took whatever vantage points the nearby trees could give them. Got a vantage point in a horse drawn trap with some Americans and Belgians. Scarily, the yanks knew of us and had some of our books already. One or three elephants about, but not the fifty we were led to believe. Floats quite nice too.
Caught Chennai Express home - still took three hours. Exited train through scrum of some thirty people trying to get the seats we’d just vacated for the consequent twelve hour train ride to Chennai. And you thought moshpits at rock concerts were bad….Posted on October 8, 2000 #India