16th September 9pm
I spent today sans Deborah who is now ten hours into her 40 hour plus train journey to Delhi. I gently made my way to and around Srirangapatna – not the British Raj anglicised Seringapatam as Lonely Planet would have it.
Patna is basically a relatively prosperous one street town which leads to the Ranganathaswamy Temple. And a truly splendid temple it is too.
“Hindus do well to visit this place and get grace of the Lord, so that they may be happy, both in this world and the next.”
I can’t easily decipher why and certainly not from the rupee pocket history I’ve just quoted from. Put simply, in parts, this temple is a thousand years old with its fortifications remaining remarkably well preserved.
Outside are the familiar cold drink vendors and the usual assortment of postcard peddlars – “psst, do you want to buy some…?”, and the pan handlers, be they for baksheesh or “one pen, one coin.”
On the other side of the Mysore-Bangalore road, behind the bus stand with its tanga drivers lies the summer palace of Sultan Tipu. According to those English generals who put him down in1799, he was a wise and just ruler, inspiring great affection and trust among those he ruled over. His capital, Srirangapatna, was massively fortified, but the British had an Empire to build and Tipu had to go. His summer palace was later occupied by Arthur Wellesley who went on to be given the best address by a grateful sovereign when she named him Duke of Wellington – No.1, London.
Today, Tipu’s palace is a museum surrounded by ornate and manicured gardens. You can sit by the lily pond or under the shade of a mighty tree on a comfortable bench, of which there are many. This I did for a couple of hours to refurbish my tan and to let crocodiles of children stream through.
When it was quiet, I followed, and a splendid museum it is too. The history of Tipu is told at the start so that all, and I do mean all, on display is in context. Prints which were published by Orme, H.M. Govt. Printsellers, Bond St. West London, 1799, hand-tinted. A model of Srirangapatna before the British largely destroyed it. Coinage from Tipu’s realm, his clothes and weapons, and contemporary portraits. And all set in a building where the plaster has remained on the walls and every surface is covered in murals. Some are patterned like wallpaper and other, larger, areas have a pictorial scene of the defeat of the British before they won the war.
So I was feeling rather mellow tonight in town. I’d queue-jumped my way onto a seat on the express bus into town. I’d bucket showered and then braved the evening crowds to find a meal. After a miserable looking and expensive vegetable cutlet (for Rs.3.15 !) in a restaurant recommended by a Lonely Planet reader, I found a proper south Indian meals hotel.
My appearance aroused strong interest: not many foreign nationals had strolled in there. The meals room was upstairs above the larger snacks and tiffins area. The food was very good, large portions and a range of tastes. I was contentedly slurping alone until I noticed two of the staff enjoying some huge joke at my expense; I don’t speak their language. Kannada, and they weren’t speaking mine.
At that, I snapped. Had they done something to my food before serving it to me? Fetch the manager! Then it flashed through my mind that this could easily be construed as totally insane paranoia. So I let the bad vibes stay and gloweringly ate on.
Am I so raw, so vulnerable – still? The scene was so unnecessary, yet so easily provoked. A clear case of communication breakdown.
When I left though, they still hadn’t shared the joke.