Sometimes I just don’t want to know. I don’t want to know the history. I don’t want to know when it was built or why it was built or by whom it was built. Sometimes I just want to wander around and imagine stuff, zone out, get lost in the beauty. And then later, when I write it up, I can read about it.
Hospitality in India knows no bounds. Everyone wants to help. Especially at tourist sites. Guides – some licensed by the government, some chancing their arm, some even wearing jackets emblazoned with the words ‘tourism police’ – offer to take you around and tell you things that will give you a better understanding of the place. Things that need to be explained. And it takes either a cold heart or sheer desperation to say No. No thanks. I want to do this on my own…
I’ve been drowned in facts and figures and dates and names that are both unrecognisable and unpronounceable, all delivered at a rapid-fire pace in that lovely sing-song lilt that is Indian English. But only once. And since my first experience, I’ve stood my ground and said No. No thanks. I want to do this on my own… I simply don’t have the bandwidth to listen. Yes, you are lovely. Yes, it is an amazing place. Yes, the price is reasonable. But no, please, no. Let me do it on my own.
But at the Tipu Sultan’s summer palace, I was still acclimatising. It was my first day in India and I hadn’t yet built up my resilience. So I agreed to a tour from a chap who didn’t have a badge or a card or seem in any way official. But he was persistent. and he mentioned his wife and kids and that this was his only job, his only means of supporting them. It was just easier to say yes.
I caught some highlights: The palace is made of wood, teak. One hundred sixty pillars, each one a whole tree trunk, hold it up. It took ten years to build and it’s built in the Indo-Islamic style. It’s 224 years old and the paint (vegetable dye) on the ceiling of one landing is apparently original. There are two balconies: one facing front where the Sultan would sit to hear his people’s entreaties; the other at the back for private audiences. It has 14 rooms all told and it was to here that Tipu would come from Mysore in the summer as Bangalore sits 950 m above sea level and is far cooler. This was as much as I needed to know. But if you want to know more, check out Sahil Ahuja’s blog post – it has all the details.
The man himself seemed quite the character. He is said to have forced 10 million (yes, 10 million) Hindus and Christians to convert to Islam. He imprisoned them. He made them eat beef. He forced them to marry Muslim women. And if they didn’t convert, he hanged them. Nice man.
My guide, in fairness to him, was lovely. Enthusiastic, eager, and full of names and dates and facts and history that didn’t enrich my life at all. But his enthusiasm did. As did his eagerness to make sure that I understood what I was looking at, that I fully appreciated the beauty of it all. The pride he took in the place was obvious. Little did he know that had I just wandered around by myself, I’d have been just as awestruck. The palace was the second of my must-sees in Bangalore this time around. And I’m glad I went. Truly stunning.