So we started moving. Our Rolls Royce..sorry Willy's petrol jeep with WWII engine did not have any seat belts and I felt I was literally flying. It had no top , no back and no front (Faizan Baksh bend/dismantled the front portion to let "air" fly in as though there were no other means for air to fly in). Thankfully, there was a bottom to hold on to.
Ammu peacefully settled down at the back seat without putting up a fight and I held my front seat position firm and strong. For the first one hour of the tour, it sounded like we were giving the tour to Faizan. No man can ever compete with two women. Ammu and I have the skill to talk continuously about particularly nothing and on hindsight I am not sure if we ever gave poor Faizan enough opportunities to speak.
We vividly described Fort Kochi, Wellington Island, Boat rides (feeling nostalgic), Jewish synagogue, beaches, molestation of women in Ernakulam local buses and what not! I felt drenched in the memories of the roaring turbulent waves hitting against the wet sand, disappearing our sand castles; of the fishermen who delivered fresh fish in bicycles at Ernakulam early in the morning with their loud horns; of clams, mussles , crabs and prawns, thousands of whom I peacefully send to heaven without much thought or afterthought; of caravan ice cream parlor at M.G. Road/Broadway, which my sister and I with our brother visited as children; of the children's park next to marine drive with the broken children's jeep and scooters; and the best of all those boat rides with Mummy while she worked at wellington island. Home is where heart is and that's exactly where I go speechless and spellbound. Sigh! Millions of memories came rushing back. Faizan, I have no one but you to thank for this :)
After a short pit-stop at Pashchimavahini, we soon arrived at Srirangapatna. We were soon taken back to the 18th century. I could visualize Napolean's ships catching fire; the French revolution on one side and Anglo-Tipu wars on the other. The fort looked familiar , it was as though I had been there before. But when ? My neurons struggled to recollect. It sounded like the data stored in my genes were telling me something. What is it, I asked myself..but the answers would be revealed to me only much later. "Tipu sultan" .."Sultan Bathery".. "Feroke" ..strange voices haunted my head from deep within..
Seen above is the map of Mysore kingdom when Tipu Sultan was the ruler. Most of my friends and relatives should be able to identity with all the places we are from currently in the map above, including current Kochi, that was once part of Mysore. The primary part was Malabar district of course, which was given away to British East India company at the end of the third Anglo-Mysore war. This basically meant that for most of the period Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan were the rulers of Mysore, Malabar district was part of their kingdom. I could now relate to all the voices in my head (Both of my parents are from Malabar region). Tipu's atrocities against Nairs of that region and him forcibly converting them to Islam is well known. The fort at Srirangapatna and at the ones at Bekal (Kannur) and Palakkad are similar. In fact, Bekal fort is much more beautiful with the beach on one side.
Coming back to the present, Faizan took us to Tipu's summer palace soon after and it was a fantastic work of art and architecture but both looked very trivial compared to the glory of the one and only Mysore Palace. In fact I liked Mysore Palace more than Taj Mahal ! We went to a mosque nearby where Faizan made us jump a lot in an effort to make it look like we were flying ?
The ride back in our Rolls Royce felt quick. We talked much lesser than the way to. A faint sense of sadness encompassed us because the tour had finally come to an end. Faizan finally left us at the Mylari dosa joint. The dosas were yummm... That concludes our 'Royal Mysore Walks' tours. Hopefully we run into them sooner or later.
It must have been sometime in 2009. I was at TK's wedding, when I was first presented with the business card of Royal Mysore Walks. It was a one man army then, probably the logo or emblem wasn't designed yet. I vaguely remember how it had Royal Mysore Walks written. I had promised to help with some publicity then but the treachery of a day profession clubbed with domesticity took over and there were only leftovers of guilt from a broken promise, which remained as a business card in my purse for years to come. With these three blogs, I have hopefully absolved myself of my guilt and sins. My soul can now rest in peace :)