There was a lot of hunger after Friday's big trip to Bylakuppe, so I stopped at Nalpak restaurant on the way home from Gokulam. It was around 4:30PM, which is considered between-meals here (lunch is at 1:30 and dinner is from 7 onwards). Usually you can get South Indian chats or snacks, such as dosas, at any time of day. But Nalpak was closed and the gate was locked, which is unusual. In fact, the streets were quite deserted. I am always on the lookout for cops these days, and didn't see a single white cowboy hat as I drove towards home.
I decided to stop at the hotel formerly known as the Southern Star. During my first couple of trips here, I didn't know how to find between-meals food in my neighborhood, and suffered the consequences (hunger, crabbiness and depression). But sometime around Trip Number Three, I realized you can get a grilled cheese at any time of day at the Southern Star (now called The Regalis, it's in the process of expanding next door). I freshened up in the (lovely) bathroom before sitting down in the posh dining room, where only one other table was occupied. Sure enough, toasted cheese with lady fingers was on the "snack" menu. I decided to splurge and have a fresh lime soda with it.
While waiting.... And waiting.... And waiting for the food. I read the Mysore MIttra, or Star of Mysore newspaper (there's a link to it on the right). The headline was about the solar eclipse taking place that day, starting at 4:45PM. No wonder the streets were deserted. No wonder Bylakuppe was half-empty. No wonder everything was clos-ed.
According to this website:
It is suggested that the inauspicious period actually begins about four praharas before a solar eclipse and three praharas before a lunar eclipse, (prahara being the unit of time equivalent to one-eighth of a day). Since food prepared during this period is not supposed to be consumed at any time, Hindus generally observe a fast. The water, clothes, food grains, etc., are sprinkled with the sacred tulasi leaves. People take a bath as soon as the eclipse begins and also perform rituals like tarpana, sraddha, homa, prarthana and give donations. After the eclipse is over, one is suppose to take a bath once again. To erase the unholy shadow of Rahu that has fallen on one and all and avoid its ill-effects, another bath is prescribed after the eclipse is over. However, married women are not allowed to wash their hair.
The Southern Star has moved the dessert case from downstairs to right in front of the restaurant, and it was impossible not to pick up a piece of chocolate cake on the way out (Rs 45, or just over $1). Back home I called Queen E, who is now in Bangalore for the long haul (3 years). Everything there was closed too. She seemed to be in good spirits. Then I ate the cake while watching the beginning of Mr. Holland's Opus. Yawn. I fell asleep partway through, and awakened again just long enough to clean up and turn on the ceiling fan (I was too tired to place the mosquito net around the bed, and the fan is just as effective).
I awakened to the sound of the phone ringing at 8AM; it was Dreyfus (not Mr. Holland or the thespian but my brother, who looks just like the actor Richard Dreyfuss), with all of the latest news (he's finally reinstated his Skype account). After bathing and doing laundry and sitting, I took the scooter the internet cafe and then to Gokulam, where I ran into K. We went to lunch at Shaila's, an Indian woman who cooks lunch in her home (and offers classes) for westerners. It was delightful (although the inquisitor from last Sunday's conference wanted to know why I was "so dressed up," asking, "Are you going somewhere special?" I didn't have the energy to explain that it's only the westerners in Mysore who dress like slobs, not the locals - and that I identify with the latter).
Afterwards we had chai at Chakra House with Ursula, who has a really cute place (with its own balcony) just up the street form the shala. Then K and I went looking for the Krishna temple, we found it, but it was closed. I dropped her off and drove over to the coconut family. The younger sister was with the baby, who is (duh) a year older and much, much bigger – and is learning to walk. Sneha is sooo cute; she kept clapping, and so did I. After chai and some gesturing (and some drunk guys trying to engage me in conversation until the sister chased them off), I went home.
After dropping off some things I went to the Venkateswara temple directly behind the Kaveri Lodge. It was prime time (apparently it is bad to go to the temple at 5PM, good to later, because evening has ended and night is beginning), and I missed aarti (where the priest waves the flame around the deity and then offers it to the worshippers) the first time around. While waiting for the next one I ran into Deepak (who works at Chakra House), which was a nice surprise.
Apparently there's a festival every Saturday this month; on the way out they gave us a large cup of sweet rice prasad (blessed food), which was very tasty indeed. But I was still hungry, and took the scooter to Shiva Prasad restaurant. I was there two years ago for a soda with the Indian woman down the hall, and haven't been back. They were nice to me even though I was a westerner and by myself (not like Mahesh Prasad, where they act as if you're the antichrist in a salwaar). Among the items on the menu was "American Chopsy." I decided to go for the rava idly, which was more than enough and came on a banana leaf.
And now I feel like the fattest person in the world. If only I'd thought to bring the pineapple corer with me, maybe I could stick with a mostly-live diet.... Oh, well.
But I pity da fool who's next to me on the plane ride home.