Saturday, June 16, 2007

There and back again - 4

Km 933 Mangalore, 5:05 am

Wake up with my limbs feeling completely jaded, worn out. A cold water bath dispels the grogginess and weariness only temporarily. Tempted to stay over another day and rest until the next morning, but there's no money or time for that - besides, pride intervenes.

Km 936 Kankanady circle, Mangalore, 5:50 am

“Which way is the Bangalore highway?”
“Saaar, Bangalore is very far. Take a bus.”

Km 982, Stop, 6:55am

300km to go, and the left wrist almost feels like it’s been wrenched free. I want to go sleep. Roads have worsened, patches of mud and piles of stones abruptly populate midst of tarred stretches. Soon the road begins to resemble that god-awful NH4A(Panjim-Londa-Belgaum), which, as you know, is the undisputed stinker-prince of National Highways.

No ups and downs, or descents and ascents – only the trees around rear up and occasionally form a canopy. At times the vegetation is so thick, you can’t see more than two or three trees deep.

The houses and cottages and their clumps that form villages perch on the roadside – the unending jungle as their backyard, and the by now very narrow highway as their verandah.

I park in a small clearing, acknowledge the receipt of a curious glance from the local milk girl, lie down on the bridge over a brook.

Km 1009, Breakfast!, 7:50am

Subramanya Vilasa. Store room, kitchen and eating area all in one huge hall.

Hunger, thus far blocked by other bodily aches, is soothed by 5 large idlis, 4 huge dosas and a big tumbler of coffee. All for the grand total of Rs. 25.

The satisfied feeling of a full stomach is so enlivening, the creaky joints and the countdown currently at 275 are driven out of the head. I leave a 50 buck note and take a walk, and find myself attempting to hum a tune.

An auto goes past, with the words on its hood,"Baare figure, andare togombaro Pulsar"

Translated, that means: "I tell her - come with me, o figure. She says - go get a Pulsar"

Translations just completely spoil it! Pah.

Km 1042, 9:25am

Again! Uncanny, the ability of the Sahyadris to throw up scenes that completely astound you. My road is between two enormous, grassy peaks that rear up on either side of me, both of them stretching on and on - upwards as well as on all sides – it’s the enormity of it all that overwhelms you. These two distinct peaks seem to be infinite, everywhere.

There’s absolutely no traffic – I go lie down on a stone flanking the road, and stare unbelievingly at the peaks and their cloudy halos.

As good a place as any, I say, to catch a nap. Tale for grandchildren and all that. Dreamless sleep for more than an hour, uninterrupted by passing truck-roars. Bliss!

Km1074, Sakleshpur, 11:30am

The ghats end. But not before increasingly deteriorating roads, whose effect manifests itself in four overturned trucks over 100-odd-km. As the ghats approach their end, there’re boards on the roadside homes advertising the fact that fresh honey and coffee beans are for sale. I stop for a break in what seems like an immensely dense cover of green, almost like a green tunnel.

I’ve to bid goodbye to the Sahyadris who’ve been my companions for four days, showing me a world of beauty and depth and enormity that completely amazed me. The awareness, the reaffirmation of the beauty that makes everything worthwhile, ends up changing at least some part of you deep within.

Km 1080, The plains!, 11:50am

Finally, the roads get better. Flat, straight, and as fast as you’d want them to be. That’s at the cost of the forest and the hills that now seem to have been with me for ages, who now give way to fields and flatlands that let you see as far up the horizon as you want to.

Why must a highway through the ghats be that bad? NH17 goes through much tougher terrain, and refuses to admit abrasions and lacerations on its surface. The cost of it all is what’s most tragic – all the deaths, all the accidents are so completely pointless, all the more so since they result from what are primarily pleasure trips.

Mysore-Bangalore and Pune-Mumbai, which were graveyard stretches, became much, much safer after doubling(though people still manage to find ways to kill themselves on these two roads) – why cant we fast track the doubling of every national highway around?

The trouble is, road safety is grossly underrated, perhaps because we assume accidents to be an unavoidable fact of life. Also, perhaps because we always think accidents happen only to someone else. Unfortunately, we’re all someone else to someone else.

Km 1117, 12:35pm

Past Hassan, past the intersection where two years ago I had hopped off a bus to Bangalore and lorry-hopped my way to Mysore. I dont stop at that intersection - I go past it and on.

The almost contemplative, meditative calm of driving on an even, beautiful road fills you with immense peace – all you do is look at the skies, watch the clouds, allowing no thought of what purports to be real life, as the bike coasts by, refusing to make any demands on your attention.

I’m much less than halfway through by noon, but the road here puts me at ease. I stop again, in the midst of a completely open space. As soon as I stop, the calmness, sereneness of the drive give way to the fatigue and exertion that have been in the background so far.

I go to a hut in the middle of a neighbouring field, ask if I could sit down. The old man points to the corridor where I go ahead and lie down for a while. His wife offers some water, which I refuse, and proceed to draw out my Bisleri.

Km 1167, 2:30pm

Break. Walk around, sit down at roadside beedi shop. This is sometime after lunch at a Kamat’s restaurant – where I gorged on what seemed an exorbitantly priced 90-buck meal.

Highway still fast, calm, peaceful. Towns, fields, villages, houses, people, cars, buses – everything flashes by, everything flits by – nothing’s a bother, nothing any trouble.

Km 1224, 4:10pm

Raindrops on the visor. No sweat, will drive on.

Am overtaking a truck, who decides to overtake a car that I cant see. Truck does a late swing into me. Reflexes are jaded after 4 days of constant attention, but manage to respond in time to ensure all’s well.

Km 1264, 5:10pm

Past Nelamangala. Mad traffic. Jam. Stuck. Agony of driving inside a city. Both wrists coming apart. Body pain decides it’ll go ahead and scream. In slow traffic, pain and bodily sensations get magnified, everything needs to be done with greater deliberation.

There're views of the city that provide comfort – Bangalore isnt flat, it’s largely up and down, so there’re spots where you can get a view of large swathes of the city, almost from up above.

Km 1284, Channasandra, 6:30pm

Home. I strut around for sometime, putting on my best ‘of-course-I’m-not-tired’ air.

I give up after a while, and pop off to sleep.



lsd said...

Very inspiring, and verily envy-evoking.
Not because it's a fantastic sounding adventure, or that it's done on a (heavy sigh) bike, or that it talks of views that seem sacred at the very least, but for you seem to be living your dream.
That inspires like nothing else.

Karthik/SK/wimpy/SKimpy said...

just read all of it da. all four parts. awesome stuff!

Shamanth said...

LSD, thanks for dropping by! I guess I've been lucky enough to be able to set off whenever I've felt like it.:-). There are, of course, occupational hazards, foremost among which is the fact that everyone considers you rather insane when you loaf like it's nobody's business.:p.

And pray, why must you prefix a heavy-sigh to bike? Them bikes arent that difficult, nosiree - 100cc bikes are pretty easy to learn. In fact, I began learning to bike a while before my birthday number 23(and promptly drove 2000km-in-a-week before before I got my licence, but that's a story for another day!B-)

Do leave your name - I'm sure nobody minds if you tell us a little more about yourself! As a friend of mine would say, I dont bite folks who comment on my blog, so please be assured that you've nothing to worry about!

Shamanth said...

Wimp! Good to see you here after a while! Thank you saaar!

Gee said...

Oh well - I'd love to learn how to ride and then own a custom chopper one day, it's just that I can't even ride a bicycle. So things are pretty hunky-dory for me right now.
But if you learnt at 22, there is still hope for me:)
Of course you don't bite! But I particularly like this one Beatles number - Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds - and tend to use it a lot as a screen name, almost like an OCD:)

aminoglycoside said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
aminoglycoside said...

dei Vazhyaka!...incidentally that was the nick that Bhaand gave u in case you remember it and him!;-)
Good show dude..never knew that you had a penchant for traveling and biking...would've surely lent you my bike before you had turned 22 and you could've avoided that embarrassing admission ;-)
by the way...beautifully expressed...see you are having a real good time...let me know in case a vacancy turns up at the day job such as the one you have!! keep in touch..
devan aka dd2