bpb guest Scouter and author Mahesh Rao moved to Mysore from London eight years ago to be “somewhere quiet, cheap and boring enough that you will never want to do anything but write”. However, a love of walking and an “Instagram addiction” have allowed him to discover what the city offers in addition to its laidback vibe, Malgudi dreams and occasional outbreaks of ex-royal pomp. If you’re going to the Dasara Habba -- on until October 11 -- take Mahesh’s guide on what to do with you:
EAT & DRINK
Mylari: They only open for breakfast; you’ll get a whole range of dosas from the traditional Mysore variant with red chilli and garlic spread, to a version that incorporates peas paste into the batter.
MIG 12, Udayaravi Road, Kuvempunagar, Mysore.
Hotel Shilpa Shree Bar & Restaurant: Walk up a rickety wooden flight of steps in an Art Deco building to sit in an open roof-top bar that gives you a 360 degree view of Gandhi Chowk, “a very busy square by Mysore standards”. Don’t ever get a table in the ‘Family Room’, it’s awful.
1848/1, Old Mysore Bank Road, Gandhi Chowk.
Shanghai: Started by a Chinese family that moved from Kolkata decades ago, this place has tons of old-school atmosphere and food that’s all greasy goodness. They don’t have a liquour license, but a waiter will run out to get you a beer from the bar next door if you ask sweetly. Mahesh has never “plucked up enough courage to go upstairs,” but others claim it hosts gambling nights.
1487, Vinoba Road, Devaraja Mohalla, Shivarampet.
Tina’s Cafe: A retreat for the hopeless Northie bachelor, it serves home-style Punjabi food and is run by a Punjabi aunty. Open-air, with Tibetan chants playing on loop, Mahesh hazards that it might be trying to align with the “new age-y vibe” of its extremely yoga-centric neighbourhood.
1D, 3rd Main Road, Vani Vilas Mohalla, Gokulam.
The 1961: Situated in heritage hotel Sujatha Residency, true Mysoreans ignore its multi-cuisine offerings and focus on its wonderful Mangalorean food.
Near Highway Circle, Anegundi Road, Bannimantap.
However, a love of walking and an “Instagram addiction” have allowed him to discover what the city offers in addition to its laidback vibe, Malgudi dreams and occasional outbreaks of ex-royal pomp.
Gokulam: This neighbourhood harbours Mysore’s yoga eco-system. Consequently, rents and groceries both cost more here. Mahesh ticks off some friendly warnings: Most people walking around here are territorial and fanatical about the benefits of yoga. Since Madonna and Sting came here, a few years ago, every lane has mushroomed with more than one yoga school. “Most of them are charlatans, so do your homework before you take a trial class,” he advises. (The concentration of Gucci yoga bags are a good indicator of which ones to avoid.)
Pete: This is the oldest part of the city. Most of the structures are crumbling but remained untouched, and walking through its tiny lanes is like going back a hundred years.
Lakshmipuram: Combining the charms of both the previous neighbourhoods, this place used to house the members of Mysore’s nobility; it’s also where the late Pattabhi Jois, Ashtanga yoga phenomenon, started his first yoga class.
Bombe Mane At Pratima Gallery: A decade-old festival of dolls will pay homage to MS Subbalakshmi on her birth centenary this year. It will also commemorate the recently-concluded nuptials of Yaduveer Chamaraja Krishna Datta Wodeyar to Trishikha Kumari with never-before-seen artefacts from the Wodeyar dynasty; and a giant tableau that celebrates the country’s “bovine culture”. Happy heifer after.
Pratima Gallery, 91, Nazarbad Main Road.
Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion: The former residence of the eldest princess of the Wodeyars, this now houses the folklore museum, which has the “usual masks and artefacts,” Mahesh says, but also a 300-year-old temple car. Sign up for a tour with the caretaker, who will be accompanied by an assistant who turns on the lights for him, in true sarkari fashion.
Mysore University Campus, open on Monday to Saturday between 10 am and 5 pm.
Karanji & Kukkarahalli Lakes: The Karanji lake has India’s largest walk-through aviary: tweet to (or about) hornbills, white peacocks, herons and more here. Located in the heart of the city, the Kukkarahalli Lake acts as a lung for both people and birds, some of whom fly all the way from Siberia. “People claim the lake has crocodiles,” Mahesh says, but they may just be gator-ing to your whims.
Karanji Lake, Jockey Quarters; Kukkarahalli Lake, Saraswathipuram.
Sterling Theatre: The single screen is still going strong in Mysore, and this is Mahesh’s favourite: it has the friendliest stray dogs, who make great viewing partners.
On your way out, Mahesh suggests you stop at Srirangapatnam to take in a sunset on the banks of the Cauvery. Pick from any of the resorts that line this stretch for shady charm. He suggests Amblee Holiday Resort (17, State Highway 17, Srirangapatnam), which looks like “a place where one brings one’s mistress” but has a restaurant with tables right by the river with the most wonderful view.
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