Heading South

Mysore! Perhaps not the most attractive name, but the nicest city I’ve been in so far. There seems to be less traffic, less pollution, less dirt than where I’ve been recently, and more of the old buildings remaining. They aren’t in any better shape than in other cities, but they’re there.

Mysore is famous for its palaces and its silk, sandalwood, and incense. I’m learning that separation of trades is part of the general Indian commercial culture:  as you walk the street you move from trade to trade. Not so great if you find yourself in the plastic bucket or auto parts section of town, but lovely in the fresh flowers and spices areas. A young man took me around to see incense being made and cigarettes rolled. I tried to give him some money for his trouble, but he refused, saying he was just a friend. But then he was crestfallen when I didn’t want to buy any of the oils he brought me to see. It’s too bad, because I would have paid him for showing me the city, but I didn’t want any oils.

I had taken the overnight train from Goa, passing through Bangalore this morning. There was a three-hour layover there — not enough time to see anything — so I had breakfast in the station and watched the comings and goings. There was a strike on. I never discovered what it was about, but there were hordes of women in red saris with white blouses sitting on the floor and men in white shirts congregated at the station entrance. I thought I saw a hammer and sickle flag, but I could have been mistaken. There was a bus full of policemen waiting, but they didn’t seem too concerned.

Have I mentioned the state of security in India? It’s pathetic. There are metal detectors at the door of everything important and uniformed people standing by… but they pay no attention whatsoever. The metal detectors are constantly beeping and no one even looks up. I could carry an AK47 into a station tomorrow.

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