The PHoenix Coup Part three

a revolution in the making

Maisie is a reporter investigating sudden unexpected changes in society, including a minimum income for everyone around the world and the deletion of all debt. Some see the positives but others feel it’s a prelude to chaos. No one seems to know who’s behind it.

…..

“Hello”

“OK Babe? Sorry I didn’t manage to speak to you this morning before I left. I couldn’t sleep and needed to get into the office.”

“How’s things?”

“It’s all very worrying. It’s chaos and probably no different from any other bank. All payments are suspended. There’s no money coming in. Mortgages and loan payments have stopped. Virtual money is drying up within the formal system. There’s a massive panic in banks and major businesses. The possible implications are mind blowing. I seriously think some will go to the wall. ”

“What about investments?”

“Investors are running around like headless chickens, so there are some good sides to all this. The futures markets are frozen, maybe they can’t see a future.”

“So what happens next?”

“I have no idea. The institutions that are critical to our functioning economy have ground to a halt. The systems are failing”.

“So suits your radical alter ego? I have a telephone call arranged with John from The Guardian. Hopefully, he’ll commission a piece but sounds a challenge just to get paid in this brave new world. See you later, I hope your day gets better.”

I check out news programmes further east. I’ve found a discussion panel on TV, it’s probably in India, as they seem to be shouting and talking over each other. The anchor doesn’t seem to be holding his ship in place.

“Who is responsible for this?” “It will create chaos” “ If they don’t need money, the lazy people will not do the jobs.”

“They’ll just drink themselves unconscious or stay at home”

“Where is our government in all this?”

“How will they pay for the police? The crooks will take over, it will be dog eat dog.”

The anchor intervenes to get a view from a community activist:

“It means people will have to do their own dirty jobs, is that such a bad thing?”

“Yes, but, how will we make or move money? The banks seem to have stopped working”

“How will society grow and improve?”

“There’s only a certain amount of money or resources available to us, so maybe it will halt unnecessary growth, it means we’ll need to share things more, less of the extremes of rich and poor”

“Where will our food come from?”

“What’s to stop people from growing food and selling it to others?”

“Most of our trade is informal and in cash so I think most people will manage OK”

“ Who will pay taxes to the government?”

“Yes, there can be big changes but maybe there’s a lot of positives in this, less globalisation, being more self sufficient, working together to collaborate instead of compete.”

I’m exhausted, just watching it.

I clicked to another channel showing pictures in the street with Indian farmers. Jumping, shouting at the top of their voices, skipping, flapping their green cloths around, laughing, celebrating the cancellation of their debt. I understand this often happened in India so they might not be fazed by these changes.

We’re now getting beyond the initial reactions. People are beginning to realise the potential problems.

I found a BBC World News report that helps.

“What’s the use of these small payments? It’s not enough to live on and if we can’t sell our products around the world, what are we to do?”, was a typical concern of a New Zealand sheep farmer.

A reporter in Australia reported that:

“Mining company executives were ‘over the moon’ that debts are erased but begin to wonder how people will pay for products. It’s predicted to create chaos in the markets.”

I was going stir crazy, I wanted to speak to some local people. I was carrying my digital recorder and an unnecessarily big microphone. I think it sometimes helps to focus people’s attention and treat my questions seriously.

“Good morning. What do you think of the new monthly payments and the cancelling of all debt?”

“Well, I’m not going to say no now, am I? I’ve had no debt for years, so that means nothing to me. I’ve been working the market on my dad’s stall here for over 35 years. I worry about what else might be round the corner. Suppliers are already telling us there may be low stock soon.”

“How about you madam? What do you think of the changes?”

“I don’t know if it’s in addition to my pension, or not. My worry is my rent. I get help from the council to pay it. Will I continue to get that? If not, they’ll throw me out, even though I’m a pensioner who’s paid my taxes all my life”.

“How will the changes affect your young family?”

“I can’t make head nor tail of it. Our mortgage payments have stopped leaving our account and the bank is useless at answering our questions. Will we lose our house? The new payment included extra for the kids. It’s enough to keep us ticking over but it’ll not cover any luxuries or emergencies. Our biggest worry is work. My husband works at the main Ford dealers in town. I wonder how this will affect the business. If people just have the new payments how will they have enough money to buy cars?”

“Thank you, I appreciate your help and hope it all works out for you.”

“Hello Councillor.”

“Who are you?”

“I’m Maisie Judd living locally and reporting for the Guardian, I’ve seen you before at Council events. What’s your take on the recent changes?”

“I can’t believe the Government isn’t behind it. How else would it have happened? Why are they being so secretive?”

“If Labour was in power, how might they have handled it differently?”

“I like some aspects of it and potentially it could lead to massive reform in society which I would support but to be truthful, I can’t believe it’s technically feasible nor politically realistic, there are too many vested interests for this to end well.”

“Thank you for such a helpful insight, may I contact you for further quotes as the story develops?”

“By all means”

I needed to get back to the privacy of home for my call with the Guardian.

……

“Hello John. What’s the latest from the news desk?”

“First, what’s your take on it Maisie?”

“I’m just back from talking with people in our local market, I’ve also checked in with corporate contacts and others via the net including some of the more radical members in the darker corners.”

“Good, and what do you think?”

“People seem to be pulling in three different directions: Firstly, the lost, confused, don’t knows but who seem to be happy to go along with it all yet worry about where it might lead. Secondly, the rich and powerful who are resentful of the changes as it challenges them and they are beginning to realise they have a lot to lose. Thirdly, the more radical, the activists, the ones who see it mostly as positive, and love the idea of a shake-up, a reordering of things.”

“There are, as always, the ones who are looking for an angle to do a deal and make a profit out of any opportunity.

So what’s the view from the Guardian?”

“There seem to be few people, if any, picking up on the potential for real and lasting radical change in how our society functions. The usual suspects are working on that and some of us are seriously excited. In my view, the corporates are working hard on it but seem utterly bewildered. I hope the real action will be amongst the entrepreneurs, the catalysts, the activists. Things are beginning to happen in the streets. I think, it’s just the start of it. , and we haven’t seen anything yet. Our overriding concern, shared by our progressive political friends, is if the system just comes to a grinding halt. Where would we get essentials: food, fuel, medicines? There could be civil unrest. Even a total break-down. The big questions are: how is this happening and who is behind it? I can’t believe we still don’t know.” John provided a good summary.

“Well, I don’t know but someone said it seems that a power has taken hold of the technology that controls our lives. We’ve become dependent on digital banking, online ID, social media, you name it, we’re on it. Think back to the early 90s when we were waxing lyrical about how the web was going to empower communities, be as significant as the printing press and then the corporates took it over and used it for their own ends. It feels to me as if the net has bitten back.”

“I agree. This is really radical and it does seem to be part of a coherent programme, that’s astonishing in its reach, even to the most authoritarian states, although those are the places it doesn’t seem to be working.”

“So, how can I help?” Maisie, is not at all sure.

“We’re going to need a lot of material and just about everyone is working on this.

“Give me a piece 750 words. It’s OK to cover the general narrative but most important is to use your contacts to find out whatever you can about who’s behind it. Get your ear to the ether. It’s your experience and contacts online that is valuable. Follow up those ideas about the net, especially the darker reaches that we generally don’t know about. I’m also interested in where this is taking us. What are the activists doing? Delve into their motivations, what does it all mean and where might it lead.”

“Great thanks”

“You’ve got seven days”

Super,this could be the break I’ve been looking for. But I’ve had enough of the net for now, I‘m off into the centre of London for a sniff around. I wonder if Simon’s mum is available?

“Hello Mags Hiya, how’s things? I need to nip into London this afternoon for some work, can you help out? Do you mind being in the for the kids when they get home and preparing something simple for dinner? Do stay on as I’d love to hear your views on all the stuff that’s happening at the moment. Yes? Wonderful thanks.”

I cycled to the local station and I was in the centre within forty minutes and walked around central shopping areas Leicester Square, Covent Garden and Regent Street, frankly I was sorely disappointed.

Where were these activists that John referred to? It was boringly normal.

I did find some individuals reaching out to pedestrians, and groups talking. But they looked no different from the usual individuals approaching pedestrians who were campaigning or fundraising on the usual subjects: anti-war, pro Europe, ‘Vegans of the world unite,’ Greenpeace, Oxfam. This was a waste of time. I wondered what I was missing?

I manage to draw a few into conversation. It’s not all straightforward. The activists do seem to be very relaxed and well informed about the background to these changes but seem reticent to share anything. I wonder what are they hiding and where they are getting their information from. There seemed to be links between the activists from very different campaigns. Some clearly knew about this beforehand, many attended on-online discussions groups, had training sessions.

I’m lost, it doesn’t seem to lead me anywhere.

“Thanks mum, for helping out today and preparing dinner. It’s a bit hectic for both of us at the moment because of the changes and especially stressful at the bank.” Simon’s visibly relaxed since reaching home.

“Has there been talk at school about the new monthly payments?” I was keen to hear what the kids had been discussing.

“Yes, we discussed it at our School Parliament.” Rowan was first off the starting block.

“It’s supposed to help us understand how the real Houses of Parliament works. We’ve elected our MPs and raise the main topics of the week, just like the real thing. “

“Sounds a great idea”

“I don’t think it works well.”

“Why?” Simon gets into it.

“We’re allowed to attend , providing there’s enough seats, but only as observers. If we want to raise something or have an opinion about what they plan to discuss, we have to raise it with our representative beforehand,” adds Rowan. “That’s rubbish.” Clearly, Rowan is not impressed.

“Spot on. I’m with you there. But it does sound to me like a very fair representation of the real thing and how it doesn’t work effectively.“ Simon showing his more radical side.

“So the changes were discussed , admittedly by your representatives but I bet it’s also been discussed in lessons, breaks, lunch?” I wanted to know more.

“Yes we’ve discussed it,” Joe piped in. “Everyone thinks it’s a great idea, same with cancelling the loans. We seem to be set up to always be owing something to someone else. Why does it need to be like that?”

“Thanks guys, that’s very refreshing and seriously grown up.”

“I’m impressed that you’re challenging the way its run and sharing your opinions.” adds Simon.

“What about you, Mags?”

“ I worry about where it’s all going, which we don’t know. It could end in trouble.”

“Maybe good will come out of it but it’s not going to be easy. Thanks Mum for looking after the kids and dinner was lovely thanks.”

Simon walked Mags home. Unusually, for me, I made up a Bed-time story for my ‘adult’ teenagers. I miss the innocence of their early years and feel they’re becoming more distant as they grow older. I love them so much.

In the lounge afterwards we shared a nightcap. We needed it.

“How’s it all working out for you at work?” I wanted to know more about Simon’s situation.

“As I mentioned on the phone this morning it’s chaos and it’s impossible to predict. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there are redundancies. The bank could completely implode. It may be a new opportunity I could see myself getting involved with a local business. I’m excited by the opportunities this might provide.”

“I love the radical side coming out in you but it’s likely to be a rough ride Simon.”

Later in bed, Simon was asleep.

It came to me, I had completely missed the point. I realised what was happening in Central London, like Oxford Street. All the groups were focusing on engaging people and seeking their commitment. I had a sense the purpose was to connect and activate. The subject matter was important but secondary. They were beginning to show, through their actions, something of the hidden purpose behind these changes. These were role models.

I think back to the amazing campaign of the Extinction Rebellion. Ostensibly this campaign’s focus was action for the climate but in fact I’d always thought, it was a means to another end, to help people take back control. This feels the same. But where will it all lead?

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Tanu

Tanu, no let’s get it right her full name is Tanuja Dasharath Haunsbhavi So what does that all mean? D…..is her fathers name and . H…… is their village name.

Here she’s with her husband Keerthi, who’s a film maker. They’ve just called round to pick up a Divan (single bed) for the accommodation she’s just opened for the yoga students that visit Mysore.

So who’s that cheekily, peeking out between them?

I first met Tanu when she was running the Green shop here in Mysore and sold me tea, juice, jams and wonderful elephant cups none of which I’m able to get anymore. I wonder why!? That’s also where Tanu and Manjula first met and which was to grow into a very significant relationship. So who is Tanu and what’s important to her in life?

Tanu reminds me of friends back in England. She has a strong and clear moral direction, is committed to changing society for the better and is a wonderful supportive insightful friend. Some mornings you’ll find her leading groups on nature trails at one of our main lakes here in Mysore. She seems to have fingers into many things. I’ll bump into her at the literary festival, see her selling products at pop-up shops, promoting organic, generally being a connector in our community.

Tanu became a sister to Manjula. Someone she’d call to get things off her chest, probably often about me…. often when I was away, Tanu would be a significant support to Manjula, at the end of the phone and often calling round. Tanu was there straight away to help me when Manjula died.

Now she is one of my most important supports as I deal with the grief and mourning from losing Manjula. She’s been fantastic. Recently becoming involved in our business together with our good friend Satish to take Manjula’s place as director.

A little bird told me of a recent conversation.

A group of Indian wives were discussing the belief amongst some that partners would be reunited when reincarnated. In Kannada it’s: Eelu Eelu janamaku neene nana Ganda/hendati yagabeeku OR for the next seven lives I want you to be my husband/wife

When one of them asked if Tanu would be happy be reunited with her husband she declared:

“Yes, of course but would he be happy to be reunited with me?”

I like this..

I’m up for it and look forward to meeting up with Manjula again, I just need to work out if there’s anything to do, to help it happen.

A Mysore view

A short story with a serious edge from Stephen Farrell

A Mysore view

The cyclists meandered around the Rangoli, passed by the Hero Stones and entered the bustling square to find the usual rich mix of India.

Women fetching water and washing their pans, children playing and slowly becoming intrigued, being drawn to the new visitors. Men hanging out at the corner shop.

Slap bang in the centre was a fenced-in stone lingam, with the slow ooze of offerings running down its face.

The onslaught of their senses as they entered the square, the smells, the colours, the activity, the extraordinary mix of people living life to the full, reminded them all of their first experiences of this incredibly, unique, paradoxical, unexpected country. 

The visitors, were themselves a rich variety of ages, nationalities and experience, from Europe, down under, Canada and a couple from Mumbai.

Everyone saw and experienced something subtly different. Maybe it was the different housing ranging from the old mud single room dwelling with its country tile roof, or the three storey concrete towers; the clothing, the women washing the front of their house, dealing with the children, the smiles, the welcoming, the dust, the noise, the smells, the chilli and lemon hanging in the doorway, two wheelers, the multiple designs of Rangoli, the auto rickshaws and the old ambassador, the hanging Mango leaves left from a recent festival, the constant presence of Gods and their many temples and symbols.

That cacophony was reminiscent of all that is India, where different things jostle for attention, cheek by jowl.

Now the group were engulfed with interest from the local people… children posing for photographs… women carrying water and smiling as they passed… the lounge lizards at the shop, the friendly stares and conversations were like a returning boomerang and neatly reciprocated….so we wondered out-loud, who is really watching who? 

Most definitely in these moments that make up every day we were building bridges and breaking down walls . Cycling helps us to be participants, to be travellers and perhaps less of the transient tourist.

It was however time to move on….

The flow of cyclists quietly moved through the remaining narrow streets in this compact community in Mysore. 

We gently pass amongst the houses of the poor and the not so poor, cattle ambling or hanging out in their house sheds, cow pats drying, people greeting us, past endless local temples. This represents a traditional way of life that in some ways has unchanged for hundreds of years. Its people may have little in terms of material goods but have a quality of life that the richer west are looking to rediscover.

Just minutes away from the Palace at the Centre of the City. It’s a reflection of the past, of times gone by, of the village that grew and existed way before it was absorbed into the city, yet still retaining much of that earlier character. Above all, people remain connected to each other creating an atmosphere and lifestyle that can be both positive and life enhancing.

Like the society of which its part. Being taken over whilst retaining its character. 

Like India itself regularly invaded over its vast history, absorbing influences without losing its essence.

On our continuing journey we pass through many more areas of the city that seem somehow less colourful, less inter-connected, the community less active, its dustier and dirtier, congested with traffic, the activity is commercial, people setting up shops cooking breakfast, frying samosas, patting breads, its still active but somehow its different ….. something about it is diminished. Its much more ‘developed!’ in a simple sense.

We stop for a chai, an opportunity to consider what we’ve seen. Our different life experiences bring an added dimension to these conversations. We’re all committed to gaining insights and growing through sharing our, opinions, culture, humour.

In our view, there is nothing to quite match that first neighbourhood and its lively community. Its remarkable in many ways and somehow retains something of its original spirit, people are out and about and outgoing, friendly with easy communications whether its a smile, the one handed namaste, the head rock and roll, above all it seems connected, people gather together when others need help, the community is somehow healthier and seems unbroken as its not lost its spirit to the urban juggernaut.

In contrast other areas of the city seem to have something missing.

The connected community, its traditional approach compared to the other more ‘developed’ areas, can be seen to reflect the challenges facing the bigger city. As we grow and change there is the risk we could lose what makes us special. There’s a clear message that we should recognise what’s important and not lose the richness that we have before its too late.

Overall the city has an incredible mix, institutions set up by the Maharajas to serve the community to help with their health, to develop a vocation and gain an education, for all sectors of the community from wrestlers to Tonga drivers, from villagers wishing to better themselves at college to the city dwellers, the opportunity to meet and share their grievances, everyone can be part.

Here, there is, something of a metaphor for Mysore. The city has managed to retain its human scale in the face of urban development, it has an essence worth keeping, a friendly open aspect, connections between people, traditions, with history oozing from its porous buildings and abundant greenery, whether in the form of its formal gardens, the tree lined avenues, lakes and parks. Yet it is changing, it has to and will develop but we need to mimic what happens in the small village or in this great nations history and hold onto what’s special and makes it unique, the magic of Mysore.

The Author: Stephen Farrell

Stephen is from the UK and has a varied career in charities, government and business, the main emphasise of his work has been to help people engage and connect within their communities or organisations. More recently establishing “Seeing is Believing Events” in India to encourage businesses to be more responsible and create leadership programmes for corporations. Stephen has two adult sons living in Vancouver, Canada and London, England and a gorgeous granddaughter.  He now lives in Mysore, where he’s now set up MyCycle: Mysore Cycle Tours to help visitors discover Mysore, Srirangapatnam and their surroundings at a human pace.  

Bereft and tearful

It’s late afternoon, post lunch of pizza and smoothy ….. I’m listening to the shouted messages to ‘eat properly’ and look after myself. I even got to yoga this morning. It hasn’t been feasible for the past three months. I still however sweat like a pig.

I’m in this park now.

Where there’s lots of young lovers hanging out. I don’t know how Manjula and I came to be here, it’s the other side of town. It was probably on one of our endless trips to clinics.

We’d make them extra special times. We’d turn the tables and make a positive out of the hassle of the clinic crawls. Regular visits to clinics all over the city. Sometimes we’d turn it into a trip to a salt cave (yes we have one in Mysore!) and we haven’t been there for a long time, or lunch at one of her fave places, maybe to get some fish or a drive miss daisy/Manjula style outing into the countryside.

We were such idiots (flashback) … I love you, i love you two, three, four, five a crore…. childish, innocent, emotional, warm, connected to the extreme. Now I’m Nourished by my memories of Manjula but of course also bereft, pained and tearful.

It is however, good to stop, becalm, remember, smile and try block out the crap.

It’s been a difficult few months. Manjula has lost so much weight she was the proverbial stick-insect. See she’s here and not at the same time.

We discussed at the beginning of the season whether to keep the BnB open. Manjula was adamant, it was a no-brainier and critical to her. The whole point is …. we have an open house, our home that we share, we invite and welcome people to come and connect. That was her ‘quality’ she might have been ill but this was her life and what she wanted.

I’d keep checking as the weeks went on and always it was the same. She had to take more and more pillS, was confined to the ground floor, a bit doddery on her feet, needed lifting up from the toilet. Her day was made by coming out and speaking, even if only for a few moments, to say hi, connect and get to know her guests, share herself. It would enliven her, be a kick start, we’d get chat, smiles, fun and laughter. You guys know what I’m saying.

So in that spirit I’m Looking for help to come and be part of what we’re doing here.

I’ll get back to you on that, in my next posting.

there’s a knock at the door

This is a health warning (part one):

we love our guests so much we go visit them! We sometimes forget to mention that when you book to stay, so be warned. Well you are such an amazing mix of interesting, talented, friendly, open people we’d be odd not to want to return the favour!

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Lucy however is not at all impressed, she’s the one that has to stay at home!

It all started with Kathy and Mark in the USA

Kathy and Mark were two of our earliest guests from the North West. Mark as a vet was volunteering for a Vets Beyond Borders (VBB) Project in Bylakuppe, where the famous Ani Samten lives. Mark was helping neuter dogs and inject them against rabies and other viruses for a couple of weeks. Fact is we met so many vetenarians we felt like we were a branch of VBB. We go to know Kathy and Mark so well from their visits they became part of the family. As of course you all are.

So now switch to 2016

Well Ol and I were on a mini-road trip from Vancouver into Oregon. Now, what do you think? It would be rude not to drop in, as we were so close, wouldn’t it? so we did and had a great time visiting them in their lovely lakeside home Kathy was an absolute wonder and Mark kindly led us on a cycle tour of their amazing city… Portland! We had such a great time and this lovely couple had set the bar very very high, could it be matched?

What a great idea, this could get to be a regular thing.

Back in the UK

Carol and Paul were the first we visited in the UK lovely city of Hereford, and the astonishing black and white village trail, check here wonderful Tudor houses and then a great trip by the River Wye, in and out of the Wales/England border, Manjula’s first real expereince of the beautiful British countryside.

Later we meandered over to see Stephen who has become an annual visitor to Mysore Bed and Breakfast. He’s also quite a storyteller (its the Irish in him) and he’s a dab hand with the bees. We now sometimes cycle together in the UK.

But that’s not all, before crashing over at Stephens we  had a wonderful time through Bath and a wonderful few days with Sally on a narrowboat on the Kennet and Avon Canal (check here)

Its been astounding, how many Canadian guests we’ve had stay with is this last season. They’ve shot up the chart, passed the Australians and are neck and neck with the number of German guests we’ve had visiting this last year.

Well one of the unlikeliest groups were when…

Lise and the rest of the Sari Sisters (a cycling group from Vancouver Island) turned up (see pics above) at Mysore bed and Breakfast earlier this year with a half baked grand plan to cycle from here to Cochin. Most had brought their cycles and after transport to Mysore this was to be the very beginning. but what seemed like a plan on the back of a fag packet it might have been but they floored us with their enthusiasm, get up and go and they did it. An amazing cycling trip full of wonderful adventures. well done!

So of course, as my son Oliver lives in Vancouver and the sisters came from Vancouver Island we just had to pay them a call when I was last over there. It was fab. We met up with the husbands, had a great dinner and cycle ride together and the tip top flexible Lise was our hostess with the mostest.

img_3529Why am I telling you all this

Well, because its part of our story.

We’re often asked how we manage with the constant stream of new faces coming to stay with us. well first off its not constant and second……

Before starting Mysore Bed and Breakfast I hadn’t quite realised what an absolute joy it was going to be.

Think about it.

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We live in a super city that more like a town. We can escape to the countryside in a moment. In a country and with people that are open and accepting (mostly anyway). We have a lovely house, I have a beautiful, caring, sensitive, funny wife, another companion in Lucie (who sort of behaves). We have one adventure after another (thats not just dealing with officialdom). Our business/livelihood comes from the Mysore Bed and Breakfast and MyCycle tours which we LOVE doing, so its not work.

The ingredients of this cake are therefore scrumptious and to top it all…..

The ‘icing’….. the health giving properties of connecting with wonderful people comes from you our guests, our big family, the community.

Thank you.

Coconut palms

The two lovely palms in our drive whose tops form a backdrop for our rooftop garden have been removed by the owner of our house. I’ve managed to hold off the inevitable for a year or two. I’ve used every argument you might imagine, to no avail.

THERE WAS ABSOLUTELY NO NEED FOR THEM TO GO.

So is this…. Idiocy? Stupidity? No it’s probably not those things.

You might see this as a gross over-reaction on my part and maybe it is. It does in my view reflect something that diminishes all our societies. There are at least two key issues. The first is about the ‘trees’ themselves.

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Looking around our area, where beautiful trees are regularly chopped (I’m the one that will go out and challenge, when I see it happening, credibility gone there then) where people dump rubbish (another key question for our guests will be covered on the blog) on the road verges, its a mess, one eyesore after another. You’d think it’s lack of awareness of environmental issues or appreciating what is beautiful. It is those things and it’s depressing.

Its also impractical. Trees are useful they provide amenity. They help freshen our air, create oxygen and now we’ve realised, a week after the carnage we’ve experienced here it provides well needed shade to reduce the temperature and make life bearable in the heat of the summer.

Yes the giving has gone.

Firangi’s Fortunes

He was breathless, panting, with bulging eyes. What was amiss? Was he having a heart attack? would I have to scramble around in my messy brain for the First Aid Training from over 40 years ago?

He was completely speechless,  flummoxed and didn’t know what to do.

But relax dear reader it wasn’t a life or death situation.

He’d unexpectedly met a foreigner.

Foreigners

We’re often asked by guests at Mysore BnB why, as foreigners travelling in India, do we get so much attention? Whether it’s wonderful hellos, gorgeous smiles, penetrating questions, endless photos, now the ubiquitous ‘selfie’ and almost constant stares.

 

When I first travelled in Kerala,  I found myself with a Frenchwoman in a small Elephant procession but it was us, the foreigners and not the Elephant that seemed to be the main attraction. It felt as if we were the first foreigners these guys had ever seen but that was patently not true.  We are so often the centre of attention.

How could  that be with such lovely specimens…..?

It hasn’t changed that much after living here seven years.

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I often wonder who’s watching who? It’s sometimes unwanted and annoys some people  but its pretty harmless. But why? As always and especially in India there is not one, nor easy or consistent answer.

A blessing

On one of my first visits to Mysore. Early one morning, I’m sitting at a corner watching the city come to life.  An elderly Indian lady walks up touches a cow (which of course is a god!) and then touches herself as if to take a blessing. She then does exactly the same to me! How come?

Some may see us as special even exotic and there seems to be at least, a certain reciprocity there.

One of the downsides of all this, is of course, that it relates to seeing someone with lighter skin as better and in that case it should be relegated to the dustbin along with the ‘fair and lovely’ creams. But it’s not quite as simple as that.

Guest is God!, but not always…

Nowadays

Just last week we went to see another (first floor) house to rent.

Manjula had called the owner to get details and the price. It sounded ok. So we arranged to see it. It didn’t quite go to plan.  We hadn’t revealed that I, a foreigner, was involved. This was to help ensure we’d get a fairer Indian price. The owner pulled up outside the house of his two-wheeler. Manj and I were waiting and the ladies from the downstairs house were hanging around and chatting.

He’s the guy I began to describe at the beginning of this piece.

Let’s say he was speechless but it might best describe his initial response to say he was shocked and stunned. When he slowly began to gather his senses (OK don’t expect too much here) he said it was “only available for vegetarians”. The shocking foreigner before him obviously was a rabid Christian carnivore. Well, I’d got him there, I’ve been a veggie for 40 years.

sorry ….. the cogs whirred a bit more

“It’s for family and not bachelors.”  Well as I’m nearly 60 with grown up kids I’m not exactly family but neither am I bachelor and I’m not planning to have all night parties. So I sort of hit him with that in my inestimable western logical sort of way. I must admit though I wasn’t winning him over.

Finally we got it. It wasn’t available to a foreigner. It’s the Firangi Flop. End of story so we’re not just special!!  I gave him a bit about being a guest in his country (Famous saying Atithi Devo Bhava: ‘Guest is God’  clearly didn’t apply here), that I’d been renting from a member of his ‘community’ (this guy is a vegetarian Lingayat as are my current house owners) for seven years, kept a clean house, paid rent on time, blah blah blah. To no avail. So that house is off the list and he’s not getting a Christmas Card! 😉

We tried it again with a lovely small house just down the road, same problem.

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It does however reflect a common fact here, not unlike elsewhere. Traditionally, local people’s friends are quite rigidly defined, social networks and milieu are of their community, a term which locally means: where they are from, who they worship and their caste. No difference from the rest of the world eh? but prejudice here is incredibly transparent. They haven’t learned to hide it behind ‘politically correct’ camouflage. Appealling to ‘vegetarians only’ is code. Outsiders need not apply. It specifically means:  it’s only for higher caste (Brahmin), Jain or Lingayat. In this case, it’s based on even more prejudice and only available to people from Rajasthan , who are themselves, of course, in-comers or oft-comers as we’d say in Yorkshire.

So we’re special but we’re also outsiders.

In my view its part of the iceberg which  also relates to extreme politics, we’re seeing  around the world and that touches on people being disconnected from each other, xenophobia, anti-immigration and intolerance,  but that story is for another time.

Maybe, as always, I leave the last word to Manj.

Here’s Manjula ‘s view from a couple of years before working for me.

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over nine years ago, the time when I lived at my brother’s place. Once my brother’s wife and I were out to purchase something from a shop, it’s a small village, it comes after Hassan, it’s called Salgami. On our way back home we saw 2 foreigners, a couple, they were cycling. My brother’s wife said in astonishment, “Look how these English people are cycling in our village. I think they like to see villages.” She continued, “If you work at an English person’s house you will earn well enough, they’ll offer you good food, nice and rich food. Imagine, if I was not married, I would have worked at an English person’s house. I would have eaten the same food as they did, I would be happy and jolly. “
I said, “Ayyayappa! English person’s house? A big NO to their house. They eat insects, they eat all kinds of meat, they eat cow’s meat, pig’s meat and what not! And a few also eat insects.” I said this as I had watched in television; in a few shows which showed them eating many creatures “
She said, “It’s not necessary that everyone eats. The ones who eat will eat and there are the ones who don’t eat at all. “
Later we reached home.

After 6 months, I came to Mysore. Look what happened with me? The same thing what my brother’s wife had said, I got a job at an Englishman’s house! I remember Stephen had asked for a maid for this house, a girl or an old lady. I was lucky to find his house and he was lucky to find me.
I was wondered thinking about all kinds of meat I might have to cook. Later I heard it from Vasanth that Stephen was looking for only vegetarian food to be cooked. “Thank God!” I was relieved.
I eat chicken, mutton and fish. I can cook them all but if it was any other meat I wouldn’t have touched it. I would have reluctantly said “NO” to cook any other meat.

so we’re special, crazy, outsiders, or maybe…

We’re just weird…

Farrell Factoid

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The final section above is taken from the digital recordings that Manjula has made in Kannada and have been transcribed by our good friend Vidya, for me to share via the blog. This is the first quote from this treasure trove.

 

 

 

Firangi is an old term for Foreigner, usually white, westerner and possibly British now we’re referred to, rather boringly, as plain old ‘foreigner’ or even “American’, I think it was originally Persian and Jonathan Gil Harris describes some in the ….

The First Firangis

Fond farewells

D

We absolutely love having our wonderful and diverse range of guests. There’s no continent which hasn’t been to see us, except perhaps the Eskimos and Penguins, and their neighbours.

Stephen is often heard declaring how it’s one of his best jobs he’s ever had (except it’s not really a job), because it’s providing great opportunities to engage and communicate with people and we realise how much people appreciate our efforts. It’s Fab!

We’re so lucky.

So as we reach the end of yet another season, we celebrate being one of the top 1% around the world for the fourth year running, because of the wonderful reviews on TRip Advisor. Our MyCycle family extends, the Mysore BnB community grows, and as we say goodbye, we feel a warm glow but it’s also sometimes feels sad to say goodbye.

Thankfully, so many of you return.

Stephen and Manjula

 

 

its the people that make it!

Mysore Bed and Breakfast is very much an open house, where we have now welcomed guests for over four years. A great community is beginning to develop. It’s formed from our guests, many who have returned or know of us through other friends, together with out team of drivers, gardener, cleaners, the hosts (Manjula, Lucy and the Yorkshireman) . There is also a network of other friends such as Homestay hosts and tour companies that collaborate to provide a great experience for visitors to this wonderful India. This helps create a richer life experience for us (eh… we don’t need to travel, the world comes here 🙂 !)  and a greater depth for our visitors.

P1120354We’ve decided to introduce some of our community beginning with one of our guests.

Stephen F (a different Stephen F 😉 ) is a keen touring cyclist who has been to Mysore BnB maybe three times. He’s even left one of this cycles here for regular use! Originally from Northern Ireland he now lives in England and works as a communications consultant. Stephen goes way beyond the cycle tours we provide. He recently visited again doing a cycle loop travelling from here and taking in the National Parks. Previously he’s toured parts of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. On his first visit here we were amazed to realise we’d spoken to each other over the phone earlier in our careers in the early 1990s…. the coincidences of India, great stuff!

He’s just bought a rather expensive cycle and whenever we’ve had prospective guests planning on long and overnight tours we ask for Stephen’s help, whether its planning the tour, working out the best maps, finding suitable accommodation or general survival tips on cycling in India. Stephen has been a godsend. He now joins and has helped organise our family cycle tours back in the UK.

P1120379Stephen, as you would expect, has been on all our tours. Stephen and I have now started to develop longer tours taking in the local countryside, villages and my favourite, Srirangaptnam island.

See the map below.

Other cycling guests are also suggesting their favourite tours.

So this next year we’ll be inviting cyclists to come base their holidays here, join us on our established tours and we’ll help them design day tours in and around this wonderful area

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Thank you,  Stephen