Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!





These blog posts have been few and far between this week – many apologies. My computer died (yet again) and I had to take it to the iMAGINE store (Apple India), which, while very helpful, took a long time in getting it back to me. Then, as soon as I did get it back, guess who’s internet stopped working? You guessed it. So now, my apartment is switching places with Apt 331, who, while their internet was out, would come sit outside our door and mooch our internet, to the sound of our whining about the slowness of bandwidth. Presently, I am sitting in front of their apt doing the exact same thing. What better place to practice karma than India?

Our week has been a glorious mess, beginning with Sunday when we went to the zoo/safari at Bannerghatta National Park and ended up driving another 2 hours to go to Mysore in the middle of the night. 

Our new Indian friends S and A planned out our brilliant day at Bannerghatta National Park (which I sorely mispronounce every time much to their amusement – fyi, correct pronunciation is Buhnur-guhta). M, my roommate, and I were both very skeptical about going to an Indian zoo – even in the U.S. they can be disturbing so thinking of seeing one in India (where underfed/ownerless dogs, cows, monkeys and all manner of other animals are constantly roaming the streets) did not sound appealing. However, once we got there and entered the safari portion (in a rickety bus, possibly from 1967, made mostly of plywood, sheet metal and and plexiglass – very reassuring), it was brilliant – the animals they did have (black bears, white tigers, bengal tigers and lions, as well as alligators, birds of all kinds, etc.) were well looked after, healthy and had TONS of open space. They were totally used to the bus and would walk alongside it (offering excellent photo opportunities). 

The entire trip was an excellent choice, as we ended up having the best road trip of my life, 4 of us packed in the backseat, 3 in the front seat (of a small sedan, mind you), consisting of our 2 Indian friends, my flatmates and our friend L, windows down and all of us singing Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” at the top of our lungs. Many thanks to A’s cousin (whose car we were borrowing for this adventure) for leaving those CD’s (VH1’s Top 100 Greatest Love Songs AND a Bollywood Extravaganza Mix) in your car – you created one of the strangest culture exchanges I have ever been part of. 

This whole additional part of the trip, mind you, was only meant to take us “10 minutes” past the zoo, so we could get dinner at this lovely outdoor South Indian restaurant. We soon realized that A meant an Indian “10 minutes” though, which is actually more like 60. By the time we were happy and fed and relieved (I ended up being the only one stuck with a squat toilet [as opposed to Western sitting toilets], thanks to my roommate’s swiftness), we just decided you make a night of it and drive all the way to Mysuru (Mysore).

When we arrived in Mysore around 11pm, we went straight to the STUNNING Mysore Palace, which by night, I’m guessing, is even more beautiful than in the day – it’s like the Westminster Abbey of India. Heavily influenced by the Moghul era, the palace is comprised of beautiful archways, rich colors, ridiculously cathedral heights, etc. 

Then we drove straight up the mountain, or “hill” as they call it – one of the 8 sacred hills of India as luck would have it. When we arrived at the top, “10 minutes later” (ahem, 40), I thought we were on another planet. The fog was reddish and actually swirling around us, lit up by blinding florescent street lights against a back drop of shanty stores, donkeys and a gargantuan statue of a Hindu God (who looked eerily like Jafar from Aladdin – complete with a snake staff). The view though, over Mysore, was so beautiful and after we stopped at a very sketchy coffee stand (while attempting to take a “shortcut”), we finished our trip home, sleeping less than 4 hours before getting up to go to Monday’s long day of classes.

Finally made it to Mysore Palace!

First taste of ice cream in India.