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.
Thank you …. thank you …. thank you.
Friends, yes guests who have always become friends and all our other worldwide friends have been wonderful supporting me through email, messages, likes, you name it.
I’ve been in London less than a week, managed a days work, granddaughter sitting and met up for wonderful support from four different sets of guests. Amazing!
OK we’re English so invariably beer is involved.
It’s eight weeks now. I’m in London and carrying with me a photograph of my beautiful Manjula.
We don’t have access to Mysore Market and it’s wonderful selection of beautiful fragrant flowers.
Manjula did however love receiving roses and the local Sainsbury’s has obliged.
Manjula is, of course, in my thoughts, every single minute but I also especially remember her by placing her photo somewhere prominent and displaying flowers on the monthly anniversary of that Saturday morning when she died.
A letter to my Granddaughter Poppy.
I’m staying with her and her mum and dad.
It’s her dad Ben’s birthday.
This morning on waking Poppy gave me sweets and asked if Manjula liked them and if we could telephone her.
So she doesn’t know about what’s happened, or maybe she does and she’s looking to me for further explanation and understanding, hence this letter to be read out….. to her, which I’ve just done after supper
Manjula has died.
When people’s bodies become tired and can’t manage anymore they stop working, they die. Usually it’s when they are older, sometimes when they are younger.
It’s OK to be sad, to miss her and to cry. I do a lot of the tIme. She’s still with us in our hearts and in our minds.
We don’t know what happens to their spirit when someone dies because it’s not happened to us yet. Most of us believe part of us, usually called our spirit carries on.
Manjula (and I and lots of people in India) believe that part of us carries on and usually comes back and lives within another body. So that would mean we never really die, nobody really knows.
In India when someone’s body stops working it’s cremated and the funeral ceremonies are about helping her spirit move on….
Some people think that afterwards they hang around in a beautiful place, like a valley, where they sing, dance and have great fun.
Some believe we’ll catch up with each other again, hold hands continue to be friends and carry on.
Some people believe that butterflies or dragonflies are messengers or they find some other way to pass a message back to their loved ones.
I know Manjula’s spirit is still alive – where exactly I don’t know – maybe waiting for me, maybe waiting to be the spirit once she finds another body.
We know she was loved and gave love and we can’t ask for anything more we still love and miss her.
I know she had a happy life when we were together, she was a very good person, looked after others wherever and whenever she could. I think and believe our spirits will meet again somewhere in the future.
So it’s sad because we miss Manjula but it’s also happy because she’s left us with wonderful memories, she’s still in our hearts and her spirit lives on.
You have my sympathies.
I’ve posted what must seem a constant stream of feelings. It also can’t be easy to find your way around the many postings.
It reminds me of an interview I gave to a journalist in the UK, years ago. I was working on an innovative approach to engage local communities in helping guide local public services to be more responsive to their needs. After I’d explained my approach. He said, so you launch a whole series of custard pies some hit and some even stick While some fall by the wayside.
I’m beginning to think meandmycycle.com is not dissimilar. A series of disconnected postings ranging from the bizarre, mildly interesting and hopefully a fair few that connect to you.
I’m working on that same theory. Randomly works, sometimes.
Thank you for sticking with it and me.
But I think I need to get a bit better organised and the blog more focussed.
So over the next few weeks I’ll start to focus on:
Our story, with two separate parts Manjula’s amazing story (I’m not biased, the more interesting by far) and Stephen’s
There will also be insights into this amazing country….
Life in India
and some bits a pieces:
Titbits a sort of hotch potch
Clearly labelled (yeh!)
I’ll use feedback to review, amend and revise.
So please….. As always, comments are appreciated and feedback on what works for you and suggestions of how I can improve would be great.
Thanks for your invaluable support.
We’re out on our morning walk and stopped to sit reflect and write in one of the many local parks.
There’s a guy wandering around the park. There are two friendly boys following.
What is he doing?
In his bag there’s a series of containers with what seems to be powders, seeds and maybe even snacky things.
He’s distributing little piles all over the park.
Piles of powder on the ground Crunchy stuff on top of the walls.
He’s feeding the insects and the birds.
I’m assuming he’s a Jain, doing good things particularly for the animals and that can’t be too bad for his Karma and future incarnation!
A kindly neighbour loaned me a copy of the Bhagavad Gita with a recommendation to read the section on death. It helps illuminate the ‘matter of factness’ of the Hindu approach. As wordly family we shouldn’t get too attached as the spirit lives on ….. the spirit moves on to another body and as it progresses becomes part of the greater whole. We’ve done the main rituals and send our positive vibes hoping Manjula has found her new home. We know she deserves a good one.