Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ride The Tiger

Arjuna the elephant and her mahout take a respite.
One of my favorite places to visit in Karnataka is Mysore, just a three hour car, train, or bus ride from Bangalore. Since I first came to Mysore in 2002, they have paved the bumpy, dusty road between the two cities, but somehow, it still takes 3 hours! Go figure. The Mysore dynasty was founded in 1399, and wow, it shows! :P A visit to Mysore wouldn't be complete without visiting Mysore Palace, still the home of the royal Wodeyar family. The current palace was built in 1912 because the previous palace had burnt down in 1897. Photographs are not allowed inside the palace but I can show you the outside and all the goings on.
Of course you have to ride a camel and an elephant while at the palace!Arjunas eyelashes!

School pen, madam? But of course!

I have so many pictures of Mysore and I haven't even told you about Mustafa. Now Mustafa is that CHALO! kid that I met in 2006 when Karenji and I visited Mysore. Since he was a tiny kid he has been working as a tour guide while supporting his 2 sisters, mom, and good for nothing drunkard of a father. The first time Karen and I met him, he was pestering us, so I told him to CHALO! (go!) Were were surprised when he began yelling back at us, "Chalo! You chalo! This is my country, you chalo! Don't tell me chalo, you chalo!" We laughed our heads off and then chatted with Mustafa for awhile. He speaks 5 languages perfectly yet has never been to school. After all, how can a child that works constantly ever find the time for school? So this year he saw me at the internet cafe and came walking up to me, and reintroduced himself. We had a chat where I found that his life is still very much the same, drunken father, etc. I slipped him some rupees when noone was looking and he hid the money in his underwear. Afterall, when you are a 4'6" little boy, you're easy to shake down. Mustafa, you are only 12 years old, yet you are more of a man than your own father. To you, I wish you all the best and you deserve it.

As some of you know, people in India are not huggers like we are here in the United States. You know how we are, we hug everyone! And also, I have been told, that I touch everyone on the shoulder or arm when I talk to them as well. I never notice that I do that, except when I am in India because sometimes I shock people with the touching. So, when I said my final goodbyes to Mustafa, I was the one left surprised when Mustafa reached his arms up around my neck and gave me the biggest, warmest hug. I held him for a long time, and yes, it caused a bit of a scene, but I wasn't going to miss out on this moment. I will miss you, little man Mustafa.

There is so much more to show, but what's the hurry. I want to mention the Slumdog Millionaire phenom before I go. I have been asked, "Is it really like that in India? Do people really live that way?" Yes, it really is that way, I am afraid. It is estimated that 50% of the population of India lives in poverty.

Eileen said to me on the way home that she would never take for granted one single grain of rice, ever again. Nor one single drop of water. With 600 million people living in intense poverty in India alone, how could you ever?


Amber said...

Those pictures were beautiful...It is astonishing that the poor little guy works and speaks all those languages...and has a drunk father. Wow! That is so funny that you touch peopl when you talk and don't notice it...I guess you dont think about those type of cultural differences until you actually live them....sound like you had a good and spiritual time.

Breazy said...

I would have cried had I been in your shoes when Mustafa hugged you.

I am a person that touches people on the shoulder when I talk as well, or so I've been told.

Love the pics Susie, the one thing I love about India is all the beautiful bright colors.

Have a good weekend!

lime said...

it seems amazing to me that you'd run into mustafa again but i am glad you did. he certainly is far more a man than his father and i pray he is able to somehow rise above his circumstances.

13messages said...

I love your life. Thanks so much for what you share.

Anonymous said...

great pics as always suse...!!! the palace pics were great to see...!!! keep em comin...!!! now i need to go chew on a daffodil...!!! ;) xx

RennyBA said...

Awwwwww, you look so tiny on top of that elephant ;-)

I imagine you are a great huger so glad you could teach them some American manners too!

Thanks for sharing all those pics, but I miss one!??!!?? Yes; now I've red through (and commented) your 9 lasts post and you promised one when you was in Pahar Ganj! :lol:

LisaPizza said...

Every year I am fascinated and awestruck by the vibrancy of the colors in India. Your photography has improved over time as well, not that it needed any improving.

Regarding the touching thing, when I went to school in Paris the American students in my program were warned not to walk around the city smiling and saying hello to everyone because it would draw unwanted attention to us. This was especially difficult for me as my natural state is smiling, and I love to great strangers when I pass them. But the day before our orientation I had learned a valuable lesson as a male German tourist followed me as I walked about the city sightseeing (no map or camera in view) and I wondered how he Knew I was an American. He told me he would pay me to help him with his English if I would go back to his hotel with him. Thank my lucky stars that a) I didn't need the money, b) I wasn't that naive and c) I was able to ditch him once I got to the flea market. He really creeped me out! I latter learned that he probably knew I was from the States because of my white Nile tennis shoes. This was in 1985, long before you could buy Nike all over the world. Tourists beware us girls traveling alone must be very especially careful.

barman said...

Mustafa is something else. Sucha friendship you have established. In 600 million people it does seem amazing you would meet again.

You, my dear, were made to ride an elephanty. You look like you belong up there.

I tend not to touch or hug but I certainly can. I once worked with someone that you would have drove nuts. He could not stand to be touched, ever. He ended up getting married and I just do not see how he did it. Seperate beds perhaps?

What an awesome trip.