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   The splendor of Dassera may be best seen in Mysore. (October 25, 1993)

I do not know how it is now, but in the old days when the portly maharaja still ruled his state, and not Mr. Moily or Mr. Ananthakrishna or whoever (I wonder if anybody is still following Karnataka politics), on Dassera nights the elephants would come out of the palace and move in procession into the illuminated city. The whole city would be lit, and the Chamandi Hill in the background, and at the Dassera bazar you could buy Mysore silk and sandalwood soap. And newspapers in other towns would carry advertisements ‘Visit Mysore for Dassera’.

Even other than at Dassera time. Mysore is a city worth visiting. It is among the more neat and clean cities in the country, extremely well planned. The maharajas in their times used to get engineers and architects from abroad to design their cities. Consider Baroda also though not Gwalior and Jaipur. Now we have some of their finest engineers and town planners in the country, but we do not use them.

Gwalior could have been a lovely city. It stands on the edge of the jungles of Madhya Pradesh. The jungles, filled with prowling wild animals, extend up to Shivpuri and Jhansi. Truck drivers, in the night, regularly see jackals and deer cross the highway. And in the day, often a peacock stands in the middle of the road.

That is on one side of Gwalior. On the other side are the ravines of Chambal, dacoit country, stretching from Morena to almost near Agra. One hot, dry and dusty afternoon, I was stranded on this road. A man with curling moustaches, looking like a screen dacoit, came down the highway pushing a barrow of watermelons. He stood in front of me, then, from under his bandit jacket, he took out a long sharp knife, the sun flashing on it, cut a generous slice of the melon, gave it to me, and moved on.

Gwalior itself is built like a citadel town, which, probably it was. The fort is built on a hill, and at the base of the hill, in a busy jumble, like in a Mario de Miranda cartoon, are the houses, the streets, the tongas, the Gwalior Rayon factory. There is a complete contrast between the serenity at the top and the filthy mess below. The maharajas live in the clouds, playing with their toy train, which goes around the dinning table with its sauce bottles and salt cellars.

I have been neither to Jaipur nor Jaisalmer. But I have visited Udaipur, stayed at the Lake Palace Hotel. They say it is an ideal place for honeymooners to be in. Perhaps, but first I would like the dirty waters of the lake to be drained and fresh waters put in. What is striking is a view of the Old Palace on the mainland from the Lake Palace. It is the kind of picture I would put on a biscuit box, if I was manufacturing biscuits.

 
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