The denizens of Mysore, India got to meet a 6’6” awkward white male today – and they were shocked. Everyone was in awe at my size – old men talking amongst themselves, little kids coming up to me and saying “Hey! It’s The Big Show! (ex-WWE wrestler) and store owners joking about how I almost reach the ceiling in their shop. It was a very interesting experience, being in the total minority for the first time ever – and I took it in stride. I laughed with everyone and joked about it – figure I might as well embrace my pseudo-celebrity status!
All of this occurred during my Saturday morning journey into Mysore with a few colleagues. I had such a good time. The sensory blend of sights, sounds, smells, tastes is just incredible. We walked around the area near Devraj Market and just wandered around the city for a bit. It was the most “authentic” experience I’ve had since I have arrived – Infosys’ campus is amazing, but it is an oasis of corporate serenity in the midst of a wild and beautiful country. Just talking to the people was fascinating – everyone was so friendly. This one guy named “Phillip” was a really chill dude – he told us about the various seeds and plants in the marketplace, showed us cow manure burners and savings banks designed for Diwali, and led us in to see his friend Syed. We were led into a back room of a shop and there he was. Turns out Syed (Mujeeb) was a former body-builder – with the trophies to prove it – and now runs a company that distills and exports essential oils and manufactures incense for The Body Shop (of worldwide renown). He was extremely friendly, taking time to explain the uses of each oil and such. He even served us goat milk tea! I ended up getting a vial of Lotus oil extract – supposed to be good for stress/anxiety, which Lord knows I need less of. We also got to see how Syed is able to employ elderly widows to make incense sticks (they can make up to 6,000 a day!) because of The Body Shop’s emphasis on social justice/fair trade techniques.
I’m sure some of you are thinking we got scammed out of our $5 (don’t think we did – the whole thing seemed too elaborate/he wasn’t pushy at all) but even if we did – we experienced something totally cool and unique that I would never have experienced in the States. Hell, you spend more than $5 on a Value Meal at McDonald’s – and you don’t have a guy talk to you for 45 minutes about fascinating stuff. Phillip was probably a tout for this guy, but he gave us some fascinating tidbits of information about life in India – stuff you don’t find in Lonely Planet. I’ll chalk it up to an educational expense if nothing else.
We met up with some other colleagues at the Park Lane Hotel – had some amazing butter chicken and roti. Total cost, including drinks and tip – $3.94. I love it! On the way to find a cab back to Infosys, we got the hard sell from the auto-rickshaw guys – one even sat out in front of the hotel that was going to hail a cab for us and stared at us longingly.
Overall, India is crazy and amazing at the same time. I am loving the experience so far and look forward to what other fun stuff is bound to come up! I miss everyone back in the States, but don’t worry – I’ll have a ton of stories to tell you all when I get back.