As the time for my son’s visit home drew close, I started making plans, gloating on the three weeks we would be spending together. He usually has his own list of favorite places to visit and we both enjoy historical sites, art and culture-related outings and of course, the zoo.
As soon as he arrived, we got the calendar out and wisely started scheduling what we wanted to do. You know how the days fly by when one’s on vacation.
One place we have always wanted to visit is Channapatna, famous for its toy industry. We have many toys acquired over the years. Although we’ve visited Mysore a number of times, somehow this quaint little town was always skipped.
So we thought, why not now? So, alongside the other staples which included his favorite bookstore, meeting friends, his music classes (yes, he’ll always squeeze those in) and his Dad’s hospital visits, we decided to visit Channapatna.
Wednesday morning dawned bright and clear, for which we were very grateful, especially these days when we can never predict when we’ll have a wet day.
Being a regular Ola cabs user, I have been constantly seeing the #OlaRental popup and I thought, why not give it a try and see if it is as great as my friends say? Also, we had not really zeroed in on exactly which day we’d go because of the hospital visits that took priority.
I opened the app as usual, and scrolled to the “rental” option, clicked it and got the following screen, informing me that I could rent a cab at flexible hourly packages, starting at Rs.229, giving me the choice to book for any duration ranging from 1 hour to 12 hours. That was good news, because I didn’t really want to be restricted by the 4-hour 8-hour mandate. There is an upfront rate card, which meant no nasty surprises at the end of the trip!
Once I clicked “ride now” I got various options starting with pickup location, duration, cab type, and so on. There were also other packages, such as airport packages, which I filed away in my mind for future reference.
I chose the 8 hour/80 km. You’re probably thinking, if I went to Channapatna, I would have traveled a lot more. So yes, after the first 80 km, each additional km was Rs.10. I am happy to say I got a Rs.500 off using a code that popped up, Yay!
Once the booking was done, our driver, Mr.Mohammed Mustafa, turned up in a few minutes. I was pleasantly surprised to hear him speak impeccable English. His cheerful attitude set the tone for the day!
We informed him about our plan, and set off towards Mysore. Our agenda was to go directly to Channapatna, which is approximately 70 km from Bangalore, Karnataka, and on the way back, see what we could see, and then head back home.
We had a super-smooth ride to Channapatna, opting to take the NICE road. We stopped en route at Adayar Anand Bhavan, Billakempanahalli, to use their washrooms before continuing our ride. Our driver had a running commentary going on the landmarks on our way, not the least of which was the iconic Ramanagara, where one of our all-time superhit movies, Sholay was filmed. Other places of interest that we passed are Innovative Film City, Wonderla, the massive Dodda Ganapati statue and a huge Hanuman statue.
Around 11.15 am, we entered the charming town of Channapatna. We asked around for the address of a toy manufacturing unit. I was keen on visiting one.
Thing is, I did not do my homework before visiting. I recalled someone telling me long ago that once we got there, we could ask around and visit a toy factory or two. There were quite a few toy shops along the main road and we stopped at one to enquire. They gave us directions to one of the factories. On the way, we saw a few home businesses with the machine housed in the space adjoining their house. Many of the locals earn a living from making toys.
You’ve probably seen the handmade lacquered Channapatna toys being sold in shops, government showroom and the like—perhaps even own some.
Today, this traditional craft is protected as a geographical indication (GI) under the World Trade Organization, administered by the Government of Karnataka. Besides the traditional ivory wood, they also use teak, rubber wood, red cedar, silver wood and Nepal wood. And of course these toys are exported worldwide.
Located approximately 70 km from Bangalore on the Bangalore-Mysore road, Channapatna is also called “Gombegala Ooru” or toy-town. About 200 years ago, Tipu Sultan, the erstwhile ruler of Mysore, who loved wooden toys, is said to have approached Persian artists to teach the locals the art of toy making, and they used the local ivory wood or “aale mara”. This was easy to work with and once machined and lathed into the toy, vegetable colors and lac was used to color the toys.
We reached the toy factory and were warmly welcomed by the workers who were each busy with their tasks. They invited us to explore the “facility”. Outside, drying in the sun were huge stacks of wood waiting to be cured, seasoned, cut and stored away. This takes at least three months. They also had large bunches of palm leaves that grow near water, which they explained was crucial in the making of the toy. These thorny leaves are dried, trimmed and transformed into strips used for filing and finishing the toy.
The “factory” had several machines in place. The floor was covered in sawdust. The walls were lined with shelves that housed wood in various stages. The machines were running and each worker was busy turning, polishing, or fine-tuning the piece of wood that would soon become a work of gorgeously colored art.
While talking to the oldest member, he informed us that they still use the conventional organic colors such as turmeric, indigo, vermillion and so on.
The wood is mounted on the lathe machine and different chisels are used to shape it into spheres, circles, ovals and so on, depending on the design. Then, the wood is sanded to make it smooth. If there is more than one part to the toy, they are assembled together. Lacquer sticks are used on the wood, still mounted on the machine and the heat allows the lacquer to be applied on the wood. How does the toy get that superb shine? Here is where the palm leaf comes in. It is used to spread the lacquer uniformly across the surface of the wood. And voila! A beautiful toy is ready.
He demonstrated the making of one of the toys, explaining that each toy was handmade. He deftly turned the toy, transforming it into a smooth ball. He then added the lacquer, turning it into a brightly colored and shiny toy. It was fascinating to watch them at work.
The stock room
Next, we visited the large room where finishing touches were added to the toys and then, the toys were stored in huge boxes. There was a lady, who was clearly in charge, with an assistant, busy working on a selection of toys. We had a wonderful time looking, listening, and enjoying ourselves. And of course, I ended up buying some. I saw the most adorable cooking set, different from the one I have, packed in a lovely box.
I would have loved to buy it, but restrained myself! I had had no intention of purchasing, but … sigh! Irresistible!
Adjoining this room was the design room. It had a huge blackboard on one wall, which their artist uses to create the designs that go on the toys. One side of the room was used to stack wood.
There were two more rooms, all filled with wood, which has to be absolutely dry before use.
The elderly staff member proudly showed us a sapling of the ivory wood they have planted in their compound, mentioning that it would be a couple of years before they would be able to use its wood to make toys.
Our driver was fascinated with this cup and ball toy. The goal is to get the ball into the cup. Not as easy as it looks!
Channapatna toys make the perfect gift for children. They are eco-friendly, non-toxic and safe to play with. And of course, attractively colored. Great set of educational toys!
Besides dolls, there is a variety of items such as toy trains, scooters, animals, jewelry, beads, napkin rings, wall hangers, kitchen sets, wall décor and plenty more. I remember we bought my son a rattle that was super-loud and drove his dad nuts.
Sadly, the industry’s biggest challenge is the plastic toys crowding the market.
After a pleasant couple of hours at this factory, we went back to the factory showroom that had guided us here.
Well-stocked with every variety of toy we’re likely to find anywhere, it was a delight to explore. And yes, we ended up buying more stuff. My son chose a miniature tabla set, a tanpura and veena. I got a few wooden combs, a set of wooden bangles, and some small pots. There’s something for every age with Channapatna toys—from infants to the elderly!
What a terrific morning! Happy, we thanked the guys at the store, and got into the car, to head back.
It was lunch time and we thought we’d stop at lunch at the Kamat Lokaruchi, about which I’ve heard great reviews. What an excellent choice it turned out to be!
Set in beautifully serene surroundings, this lovely restaurant has affectionate staff that’ll make you overeat. Not a bad thing, considering how delicious their food is! Mohammed and I opted for the North Karnataka thali, while my son preferred to go with the jowar roti and two veg.
Their menu was pretty extensive with items from North and South Karnataka, including full meals light eats. I saw a counter selling Dink laddus and Dharwar peda and meant to buy them, but forgot!
Besides the ambiance, the restaurant has clean washrooms, a little play area, a number of shops where one can buy—you guessed it—Channapatna toys and other arts and crafts and pottery.
Adjoining the restaurant, was the Janapada Loka. My son and I looked at each other and told Mohammed we wanted to visit. He settled down in the car while off we went to spend the next three hours. That’s a different post though!
Around 4 pm, we decided to head back home, stopping for chai at Hotel Ramgad. Okay Mohammed had chai and I had some good coffee.
Finally, we were on our way home, satisfied with a fabulous day!
My trip was memorable because I got the best car to travel thanks to OLA Rentals.
What I really liked about Ola Rentals was:
- So easy to book and available right away—compared to the hassle of the regular taxi booking which means informing them the day before and haggling on price—and at the end of the trip, invariably some disagreement. Moreover, the billing is point to point, rather than garage to garage, which means savings! Most of all, absolute transparency in billing.
- Easy to change destination en route, and therefore, hassle free navigation. This was amazing, because honestly, I only wanted to see Channapatna, but having gone that far, how could we return without seeing Janapada Loka?
- Flexibility and choice. Instead of the standard 4-hour or 8-hour package, there were several options ranging from 1 hour to 12 hour packages. Invariably, when we want to go out, buses, autos and the Metro are not always convenient, particularly when we want to cover several places in a day. Ola Rentals made our trip stress-free and thoroughly enjoyable.
- Car quality was very good and the driving, excellent.
- The driver was communicative, absolutely polite and thoughtful. He made it a point to stop at clean rest rooms. When my son felt a little uneasy, he stopped at a pharmacy and ran out to get some antacid! What a pleasant change from the grumpy driver we invariably end up with!
- Also, Ola Rentals is available in 91 cities and a friend of mine in Chennai told me it made her cousin’s wedding shopping a breeze, since they had to visit several shops. Best thing, they didn’t have to lug their purchases everywhere—they could leave it in the car.
- I can see how it can be useful for doctors’ appointments and also to take a visitor around. If you’ve tried Ola Rentals, I’d love to hear your experience.
Have you been to Channapatna?
Do you own any of their toys?
(So many questions for you to answer in the comments!)
This is a review of #OlaRental service. All opinions and views are exclusively mine.