Sunday, September 24, 2006

Mysore Musings

With India fast becoming one standardised city — a Shoppers’ Stop here and a Landmark there, with a few Baristas and Cafe Coffee Days thrown in — it is difficult to tell one city from the other. The only reminder that you are in a new town is the language spoken by people around you. But this distinguishing feature is also blurring out fast: your ears rarely catch a Telugu word in downtown Hyderabad, and Bangalore, but for its pleasant weather, could be mistaken for Delhi. So if you take the morning flight from Chennai to Hyderabad (or Bangalore) and return the same evening, you will feel you have not gone anywhere at all.

That is why my trip to Mysore was refreshing: Kannada was being spoken all around, and I finally felt I was in a new land. I even picked up a word, beda (don’t want), which came handy when a lottery seller near the bus station tried very hard to sell me a ticket, forecasting that I would be richer by Rs 20 lakh. After shaking him off with half-a-dozen bedas, I walked back to my hotel wondering what I would do if I were to get Rs 20 lakh. The answer, in the soothing evening breeze, came easily: buy a modest flat in Mysore. Mysore is one place whose name you get familiar with from your childhood, even without knowing its location on the map, thanks to Mysore Sandal Soap, Mysore silk, Mysore agarbattis, Mysore pak...

Present-day youngsters, however, are likely to have heard of another expression prefixed with the name of the city: Mysore Mallige. No, it’s not the collection of poems by the romantic poet K S Narasimhaswamy, or the 1991 film made by T S Nagabharana, but an amateur (and hardcore) porn video shot by a young Kannadiga who is shown spending time with his girlfriend in a hotel/lodge. The two (at the time the video was made) were supposed to be students from Mandya, though there are a million theories about their identities, and also about their fate once the video found its way into the porn market. Some say they committed suicide, some say they were killed, some say they are married and settled in the US. If you Google up ‘Mysore Mallige’, the maximum number of search results would be related to this video and only a few to the famous poet or director. Sex sells, after all — a point that was driven hard into me during my return journey to Chennai.

From a news vendor at the Mysore railway station, I bought R K Narayan’s Talkative Man (as a souvenir) and a copy of my paper, New Sunday Express. No sooner had the train started, the man across the aisle asked for the book; a few minutes later, the man next to me borrowed the newspaper. I was observing the man on the next seat as he fished out the Magazine section — the one you are holding now. He first looked at the cover page; it took less than 10 seconds for his eyes to travel from top to bottom. He did not even bother to look at the ‘Opinion’ page. ‘Books’, ‘Insight’ and 'Focus’ pages were spared two seconds each. Finally, he settled on ‘Meanwhile’, the page that is facing you now.

I looked at him with increased interest: is he going to read my column? If yes, what is his facial expression going to be? From the corner of my eye, I saw his eyes move in a circle around the page till they settled on ‘Ask Simi’, the sex (well, mostly) column at the bottom left. He spent nearly ten minutes on the column, lingering over every question and answer. Next, his eyes went up, on the snippets about celebrities. I waited for him to come to my column. Suddenly, he shut the paper and moved on to another section. He hadn’t even seen my column, leave alone read it.

5 Comments:

Blogger Sadhana Ramchander said...

You are very readable, Bishwanath, and it is because of your honesty and spontaneity, and the simplicity of your expression. I always read and enjoyed your column in the Express, and am now a regular visitor to your blog. Thanks for being a blogger...

11:40 PM  
Blogger Bishwanath Ghosh said...

Sadhana, thank you so much.

5:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Biswanath, I am a regular reader of sunday express for quiet some years. though it is a habit to read Hindu daily. your articles are good and with great wit. Iam visiting your blog quiet regularly now and have recommended your site to many of my good friends. The best thing about your article is your touch with reality and simplicity. Like this mysore Mallige. i remember now my bangalore days where when my friends used to go and get BF and ask for some nice one and the vendors immediately give this CD only and every guy has his own story like you have said. They are dead, married, students etc.Keep writing and we hope to see much more knowledge enriching sundays from you. One more thing of the many versions of this cd i have seen it is not complete. It gets over abruptly. hope u have seen it fully. :)
Regards
Vijay C
chennai
Vijayc80@gmail.com

1:15 AM  
Anonymous dprinc@gmail.com said...

Yes Mr . Bishwanath .The "Ask Simi " coloumn is most times a better bet in the NIE Sunday Mag these days .Moreover , this sunday magazine has become a sort of "porno " due to the so-called sizzling gals in the least clothes ! Cant the paper survive today's market without such stuff? Do remember , there still are a handful who would love the NIE without such "bits " !

11:06 AM  
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10:34 PM  

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