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.