Monday, April 25, 2011

A Fast Drive Down Memory Lane

After the sumptuous Easter lunch (or the lack of it due to the consistent gloom on Appachan's face), my sisters formulated a plan of going to the small town where we grew up. Meet some old friends, I meant literally really old people in whose home we had our first pit stop returning from Catechism class every Sunday when I was really small. They had grown old, like my Appachan. The presence of all three of us (me and my sisters) a rare occurrence in the otherwise dull life of my parents, made sure even they wanted to come along and this time it was me driving in my car. Appa was not happy about it, then he didn't wanna be spoil sport.

The confined space inside a car seems to trigger of the hardest of discussions between me and Appa. We have this urge to get under the skin of each other and normally our rides together would mean a lot of gun shots and then a big silence. Now ever since getting me the new Polo and with me driving, I have developed a sense of detachment every time Appa rides with me and I get all immersed in the road. The funny part is, we go to the market to buy fish, happily on a scooter, with me driving and he happily seated behind, with not a trace of wrath. But inside a car, it is an all together different ball game. He never tells me how to drive or gives me instructions, leaves me very much alone, but yet we manage to fight about some thing or the other. Amma calls it a fight, while we pretend it is only a debate.

This time I had made it a point not to get under his nerve and so it resulted in my foot pressing hard on the pedal. We covered good distance and the new road from Edapally to Trichur seems awesome, the speedometer read a little over a 100km/hour and Appa tried ignore it. After the initial hour in which I had got to Trichur, Appa and Amma were happy sleeping and my sisters urged me to step on the gas more.

Went to the old house where we grew up and there were other people living there. Thank fully one of the neighbors was from old times and we ended up having tea from their place un-ashamed or without the slightest bit of embarrassment. They were neighbors back then, just that. But yeah feels all the more closer seeing all of them after such a long time.

The old ground where me and my friends from the locale played cricket and football, based on the season had some guys still playing. It was getting dark and they were almost leaving, I knew not a single one amongst them. They looked at me and I just kept staring at the ground, wishing for a moment things were just that old self again.

A quick visit at the old people about whom I spoke earlier and then we went to Sri-Krishnapuram, another small town nearby where another family from childhood resided. Wow boy, in the dark, I lost the turn and had to run a few extra miles to their place.

The daughter of that home, a chechi elder to all of us, was our leader while young. I remember, after she completed her pre-degree, she was to go to stay in hostel for college and it was me and my sisters who helped her paint that old army trunk that uncle had got from his days serving the Army. The iron box was to act as her locker in hostel and she was quick to show the box to us, still painted the same.

All the love in the world to be expressed in couple of hours and we set back to Cochin at 11 from their home in Sree-Krishnapuram. Everyone felt asleep soon and I tore down the village roads at an amazing speed, I never did before. I got it almost to 140 km/ hour and then Appa looked at the speedometer and just exclaimed, so I got it hanging a bit over a 100 throughout. The time I honked at our gates in Cochin, the time on the dash board read 01:52AM. Appa asked me, home already, I nodded and then he said, "i thought we might get a lot more faster. I never saw the needle come down below the 100". And then a sarcastic laugh. He was tired to pick up another fight and so was I.

I will be leaving in few hours to Hyderabad and then back to office and monotony. I just smiled and said, "appa, I got you safe and much faster than your driver ever does. Please lets not fight over this now." And he smiled and said, "you been driving very good. But then being a dad, can't just ignore it when you make a mockery of the speed limits. I know you are safe and I didn't even notice a hump the whole way, but stil.. you will know it only when you become a dad....." aahh the killer punch !!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Absence

When I probe my memory for the first picture of my grand mother that I could recollect, it is of an elegant lady in late forties who always used to come visit us in our home in Madras (back then) with bags of food and other goodies. She was not tall, but pretty much of an average built, yet she had an astonishing feel about her presence. She never complained making this many a tedious travels, because she did the mistake of letting her kids free. Education brought in a false sense of esteem to her kids and off they went forgetting the diary farm and many other a thing. Little did they understand that the parents were educated and yet preferred to toil with the land to make the living.

Most of my summer vacations were spend with my grandparents at their place in Cochin. There were cows at the house and it was all grand mom's business. Appachan had some plantations of tapioca  and a good farm of water buffalo near to Mannuthi in Trichur and if that was not enough, he was always up with something, trucking business or exporting tea. Money never seemed to be big hindrance and slowly they retired.

I moved to Cochin from the small town where I took up school till then and my relation with Grandma, changed drastically. We fought with each other for almost everything; moved out to my other home nearby, to where my parents moved in now; and yet she waited for me during lunch with the hopes that, I might come drop in to have a talk. Some times I did and we spoke over many a good lunch, with her special sea delicacies. Boy, was she an amazing cook!!

Appachan was always on great terms with me, but with grandmom being almost like me, we were two firy spirits to be matched up. Forget your, forgiving everything granny. Mine was sharp, blunt, honest and to top it, didn't care a shit about hurting someone with her honesty nor did she fear a soul.

The more we fought, the more we trusted each other. I knew about her estates and knew how strong financially the old couple are. It was me, who made her testament soon after finishing my course. She trusted no one else but me with some things. I guess for her, I was a rogue arrogant child, but very honest at matters of wealth and someone who never bothered her at all with any favors. And she knew, I could be trusted with secrets and getting a job done, guess that is what basically made up our relation. A mutual respect for the other rogue personality.

After a decade of arthritis and lever sclerosis, she finally gave up after a multiple fracture, a heart stroke and comatose for over a month. During her comatose stage I was at home and witnessed many a tale unfold. At times, reality seemed so very stranger than fiction. She passed away on December 24th night at around 11pm. Funeral and the other rituals over, people were anxious about the estate. Some dear aunties knew, it was me who made the testament for Granny and they were after me. Evil at the supreme form, a thing my granny would have despised came up front on so many a pretentious knight of morality on not getting to know how the land and gold was split. I respected my granny for this, she never ever asked for a penny of another, though she was not the first one to let her hands of from her penny as well. You convinced her about your need and she gave, if you couldn't please forget her help. That describes her best.

This is the first Easter i remember with no Granny. She was always there, a presence so very ensured that many a time I took it for granted and failed to stop at her place to munch on some nice curry she has made. After the funeral, things went by very fast and I had left to Hyderabad. So the feeling of missing Granny never happened. But this time at home, sitting in Appachans chair listening to him shout to someone over the phone, I feel her absence. Just like I did, while I first went to her grave after getting home in March, I couldn't help the memories that came flashing by, the thoughts, the words spoken together, the moments and I left a sorry figure drenched in tears and sobbing, not really caring whether someone saw me doing it.

Out of an urge, I went again to her grave, while the Mass was happening in Church. I am just the driver and was happily sleeping in the car all the time till then. There was nothing, except a few more  people have joined her at the other side of the life. I lit a candle, looked around and then I could smell the stew boiling on her stove. It was her specialty, the beef stew, maybe there was no smell and it was just a thought, but nevertheless my eyes started swelling up and it was not long before I had this realization of absence tore me like crazy.

If this is me, then I can't fathom to understand the absence felt by the white haired man sitting on the old chair, in front of the old house in Cochin. 60 years of being together and then one has to leave, the other alone crying in despair and waiting for some miracle to happen.

For my Appachan, the miracle will be the revival of our farm and pepper. Add tea to it, then I think I can fill his remainder of days not feeling her void to that great an extend. I don't want to feel all the more sad about not giving time to the other half who taught me to love the road, the cow, the green  and gave me the best memories of spending childhood in a farm, straight out from an Enid Blyton book.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Getaway on Good Friday

The time read 15:12 in my wrist watch, which I started wearing once again now that I am back home on a time line. I was tired trying to blow smoke circles, somethings always evaded me and I think it is just another one like that. Read this accident that occurred at Panniyelli-Porru, a green haven very near to Cochin and started of to there.

It is amazing, how you are quite sure about knowing your city inside out and then when you visit there for some days, some places which never seemed to exist come forward into the lime light. I guess, it could be said as to friends as well, some people with whom you just smiled in college, you tend to take that extra pain in driving through traffic just to meet that guy for a chai, as if that friend has suddenly become a priority much over many other a thing and place. The trip to Porru was worthwhile, the place was awesome and the best part, hardly an hours drive from the City.








Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Exploring a Virgin - The Wet Dream

"Damn...", we cursed mobile phones in one breath, me and Rohit, when Manoj's phone rang the umpteenth time during the night. Knew, something will come up and it was not long before he told us that his folks require his ass down in Kuttanad, Allapuzha on Wednesday morning for some very urgent family stuff. Though both me and Rohit were not convinced of the urgency of the family commitment, we decide to let him have his way. At least this guy didn't chicken out at the last moment and maybe a trip ended in a good note at home will make way for more to come, add this ulterior motive, then it was all the more easy.


After the adieus, we started rolling on the Munnar - Madurai NH (NH 49), trust me, this is one of the most scenic roads I have ever traveled on and to that add an element of risk because of the narrow climb, aah you have an amazing experience always awaiting you. Through the fog, with the head lights switched on we absorbed nature, drop by drop. Felt like a sponge and sucking in dear life from the environ. Being the motor-cycle tourists, we stopped at many a narrow alley, where none else could stop. With falls deeper than thousands of feet and getting to see the clouds caress your hanging legs from the narrow barricades at the curves, kept to bring in a false sense of safety.

A bit further up ahead, the 'Lock-Heart Gap' seemed too empty for us not to stop. There were none there and with the torch lights in hand, we set out to explore the gap between the two huge hills. The place smelled of bats and a small one, made a dash for its dear life, very close to Rohit's face and it was the end of the cave exploration for him. But off we went, me and manoj, shining the torch on hundreds of supposed to be Draculla's friend creatures. But, after about a 30 meters, we had to crawl on all 4 legs and that was not the best feasible option for me, with my protruding beer belly, so called it a day, clicked couple of times and started again.

The sign board read, Thekkady..Suryanelli...Ayur County... We were supposed to head towards Thekkady and get an off-road to Idukki Dam, but Suryanelli looked too tempting. For those of you who are unaware of the significance of this small tea plantation village, some 25 odd kilometer north of Munnar, a very famous sexual abuse case was reported here. The case was supposed to have involved some very influential people, that at one time, a news channel had minted many a million from this, with all the prime time coverage and audience ratings. The Home-Woman-ministries were alleged to be involved and it was pretty evident with the way the case shaped out. Sorry about getting off track on the blog and losing the trail to Idukki as it was initially planned. We rode till Suryanelli and people never bothered to even look at us. They were familiar with our kind of people, the bikers and so were they familiar with most others.

Homes were turned to 'home-stays' with many a teenage girl to attend to the traveling hippies needs. Not all were definitely nice, nor did take the road, for the sake of the road. For some, the road was divine. Booze, women..everything can wait till the night..and maybe wait till the end of the trip.. But for some, Road is just a mean to booze and what not. No wonder, sexual abuses keeps happening. Maybe, if we were a bit more cautious about people, especially the tourists who stays in our homes, which we call the 'home-stay'.

A heavenly lunch, the typical kerala 'oonnu' from another extended hotel at the side of a home at Suryanelli made me eager about getting back home and to relish some stuff that only my mom can cook. This is where our course of journey got decided and all three felt too happy about the food we just had. With maps spread out, we were looking for the next road to Idukki and the 'chettan' in the hotel told us a short cut. We were supposed to save 30 kilometers if we went by that road and feeling happy about getting good lunch and an absolutely new route, we set of, with our rain gears on, into the rain.


Idukki, always seemed to be between 40-50 kilometers away and at rare turn a 60 away, but how much ever we rode, we never seemed to get any closer. We rode into the rain, away from the rain, at some curves the rain was chasing us and in some it was hiding for us. The branded rain gears that my friends had started leaking and slowly they were all drenched. My appa had got this old military kind of rain gear for me while in college, when one monsoon I was complaining about not having a new nike rain gear. Guess, he did knew he was getting his money's worth the time he had got it. I was dry like a baby all thanks to the visionary, my appa.

We kept circling around the hills of Adimali and Iddukki, but never got to the dam until very late in the evening, by almost 5:30. By that time, we had covered so many small dams and places I have always wanted to go, AAnachal, Baison Valley, Ellapara.....Pooparra....Kallar..Kallarmutti. The places we covered in that heavy downpour was dream like. After almost seeing all the dams that makes up the Idukki Dam, we were disappointed when a guy, to whom we asked directions said, we wouldn't be let in now. But nevertheless made the climb to the top and was greeted with a locked gate, with many a warning against being present there, taking a picture and many other things. We did take pictures and stood there smoking. Being an Indian, I guess I can see any place I want to and I don't mind fighting my cause for it in Court. A bit disappointed, with some curses on islamic terrorist and their recent activities in the serene green ghats of Idukki, we made the climb down.


Now with the gigantic structure staring at us, I and Rohit, looked at each other. It was an acknowledgment, of a wish while in college come true. We traveled all the way across to the other side and beat security and gained access at a vantage point near to the dam. Bloody hell, charge me with trespassing, our college mates father is the big guy in police at those parts and guy sure can be trusted to get us off. I guess it was what all three of us had in our mind, the time we crossed under the wire into the protected zone. Took some amazing pictures, smoked another cigarette and remembered to not leave the bud there ((lawyers for nothing, have the criminals working inside always i guess)) and our hearts filled with bliss we rolled down to the base via Kullamavu.

It was getting dark and the rain was growing stronger. My hands and feet which been exposed to the rain was feeling horrible, I can't just wonder how Rohit and Manoj hanged on to the bike all this while. There was an urgency in us to make the climb down fast to warmth. We didn't feel like un-packing and calling it a day and off we went navigating the huge curves, slippery tar and arshole drivers, who never learned to drive. The smell of metal rubbing on wet tarmac and the faint sparks that it brings about seemed so very adorable to me during the climb down. People were often amazed with the pace both the bikes been making the climb down, we kept passing slow careful drivers and some stared in awe at the acute angles the silhouette of bike and man was making.

It was just after 7 in the evening and it seemed much late, The rain had settled in and now it was a constant downpour. We were used to the wet clothes and now it really didn't matter. After having 2 extra big mugs of black coffee and tapioca with fish curry at a shop in Kulamavu, we hit of again. This time, there was no stopping and we circled around Moolamattom and the Hydro-Electric Substation and hit it straight of to Cochin, via Thodupuzha. All the way from Kullamavu till Mallika, we never stopped and rode in the rain at an amazing speed. Towns went passing by and almost everything gave way to the BULL. We were returning experienced mahouts of the BULL and now very few things really seemed to stand in the way. There is this feeling, one has while riding a BULL, which I don't think one will ever experience driving another bike. ((I am not sure of the Harleys and things of that league though.)) A feeling of being invincible and that is what best described us while we reached the signal at Vytilla in just over a hour and a half. Wow, good timing for the night and rain, I shouted to Rohit.

The traffic was not much, but enough to give a run through the rain. A thumbs up signal and we set out for a reckless final stint. With the engine warm, and the BULL roaring, we took of in between buses and Manoj was just too scared to follow us to the space in between a bus and a truck. We came better off and apart from some trailing glimpses once in a while never saw him until we stopped at the big gates of Malika. Trusted him to make it safe home from there. The rain miraculously stopped the time, I rolled the BULL to the shed and all three had a good mighty laugh looking up at the sky :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Exploring a Virgin - The Bulls day out

The water was freezing cold, the time I showered in the morning and the dormitory owner failed to give us 'hot water' as promised. What is there in forgetting a small promise, when all your life, you have been conveniently forgetting bigger ones made. Smelling of the new liquid soap made by lux in market, we started of on the second day of our journey. There were not even a single tale of hardship from last day, the bums didn't hurt nor did the road seemed long. All that remained was the eagerness to cover good stretches while the sun was still hiding. Had heard many a tale about the road from Valparai to Pollachi, with its numerous hairpin curves. Being  in love with the road and being easily fascinated by the spectacle of the foot rest emitting sparks from the road while taking the curves, we were  eager to catch up the morning grub and head straight all the way down.

A small shop at Iyyerpadi, adjacent to a home was were we had our breakfast. The tea was tasty and the food awesome, making our bond with the small hotels even more thicker. With tummies full, supplies re-stocked, we started down the hill. The weather was pleasant, the golden rays were making its way through the trees on to the road and the shadows that they made seemed like  masterpiece paintings. The dark long trees, the damp atmosphere, the golden rays tracing a trail in through the trees, all three of us felt basking in the abundance of universe.

The hairpins started and we were to navigate 40 of them till Monkey Falls, near the Aaliyar Dam. Coming down the road, the view was picturesque, the many hairpins lying down and the big pool of water at the end of all the hairpins. At the 13th hairpin, out of the special fascination I have for the number 13, I even posed for couple of pictures and had a good shot of the scenery down. There were some ladies feeding monkeys at the next hairpin and the time bull crossed them, they had jumped to the safety of the sides for dear life. I was taking the video of the climb down and that is when Rohit told me that the Bull's clutch cable has broken. We were taking the turn of the hairpin and the cable gave way. My first reaction was to laugh and slowly Rohit got the Bull to the safety of the side and shouted for Manoj to come back. After assessing the situation, we decide to ride the Bull down till Monkey Falls and then decide on the next course of action.

With no clutch and almost a non existent back-brake shoe, we made the decent. Being not on the gear, the Bull was not the best bikes to climb down with, but nevertheless, Rohit made it feel easy. Finally we reached the bottom and Manoj and Me set of towards Pollachi to get a clutch cable and a guy to repair the Bull. The packhorse, hit a 110km/hr on both legs and in 2 hours time, we drove back to Monkey Falls to see Rohit sitting on top of the Bull with a dozen monkeys surrounding him. We were lucky to find a guy named Arjun close to the Aaliyar dam, who had a repair shop and knew his business. He helped us fix the clutch and then noticed that the Bull was leaking engine oil and asked us to drive to his shop 8 kilometers away.

At the shop, Arjun got working on the Bull and I set of to find a barber shop to shave my beard. The Forest Guards at the checkposts been staring at me and my documents and frisking our bags and I felt my beard was the reason behind, so of it went. 60 days of not shaving and a shave finally at a discreet unknown barber shop in a strange place. Arjun, fixed the oil leak for the moment, but then he said, the bulls clutch plates and pressure plates and springs been damaged and everything needs to be replaced. We were not sure, whether his take on the Bull was right, and so we thanked him and drove to Pollachi to get a second opinion before opening up the Bull and trying to fix him.

By the grace of God, we ended up with a mechanic, who knew the Bulls well and the icing on the whole thing was, he was free to work on the Bull. Got all the parts including new clutch plates and sat watching the guy repair the Bull and nodded in understanding every time he showed us why some part was being replaced. Three hours of unexpected stop at Pollachi and running almost 6 hours late from our initial plans, by around 3 in the evening, we set off from Pollachi to Udumalpet and from there through the wind mill farms to Anamalais.

The road from Pollachi to Udumalet was rich in agriculture, there were hectares and hectares of coconut and other fruits. While most of the land in my state was turned to home stays, the people in TN still tended their kitchen garden and agriculture and were not keen on making the easy dough. With thoughts about the growing food scarcity, I didn't know, when the coconut palms gave way to dry shrubby forest. The Anamalais forest range had began and this was a jungle which resembled the ones shown on TV. Not really green, like the jungles of Kerala, dry and brown in colour; plain as well unlike the ghat jungle we traveled yesterday. Anamalais had a spectacle waiting for us, a huge group of wild boars and we spotted them at a distance. Stopped the bikes and slowly got near them and watched them go about their business for some time. That is when, one of them lifted its head and saw the intruders standing, with two thumps the group ran away and in seconds nothing else remained, except the long vacant road.

With the new clutch plates and parts, the Bull had a new life and was racing all the time. The pack-horse had a tough time catching up on many a curve. Stopped in between at a cliff for a smoke and looking down at the thick forest down and the multitude of forms of life it is supporting, we had a chill down the spine when that eerie cry was heard. Must have been some wild animal, but not sure what really it was. It was getting dark and the jungle seemed to fill with life. The guards at the checkpost had warned us against stopping after dark and we slowly made the climb from the Anamalais to the Chinnar division in Kerala.

Our headlights searching for the road in front, with the fog settling in, a drizzle to tag along, the drive was not the easiest and it was made harder with the few cars which came towards us. People un-aware about dipping the headlights and clueless about the basics of riding on ghat roads, never bothered about the three guys coming up from below through the fog. On one such turning, we thought the road was up ahead because of the rogue extra bright head light of a car and nearly missed a turn and had to brake in at the last moment to avoid a collision with the source of the light. The back tyres gave way, the back dragged to the side and both the mahouts just left the Bull alone and didn't try anything smart. Avoiding a near definite fall, and only a small burn on my right calf muscle from the Bull's silencer and a million abuses later, we continued on with the climb.

It was nothing short of a surprise, when we saw the white fiesta, parked in front of the 'home-stay' where we always stays during our Munnar visits. KL 53 - 33, the number just brought in a sense of home coming and this was the culprit behind our many road trips being not on bikes. Zayed was so very jobless at Cochin and he knew, we would camp at Munnar that night, so he made the climb from this side of the hill along with another friend from college, so that all of us could spend the night together and have a blast.

I couldn't end the day without a shower and the geyser was not working. Didn't feel like troubling the owner of the home-stay who been always extra nice with us and I stood under the cold shower to wash of the dirt, heat and oil from the day. With teeth stammering, I was a much relieved man when I walked out of the bathroom clad in my long black sweater and Vimal greeted me with a shot of coke and rum. It was a welcome drink and many more followed. Remember taking a walk to Munnar town, semi naked in only my boxers and not bothering the cold and then in some un-known hour of early dawn, I settled under the quill in between Rohit and Manoj, with a smile about the day well spend. Had moments of being on the edge and moments of bliss, in short another day worth living again :)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Exploring a Virgin - The First Night

We hit the road from Mallika at 7:00AM, 14 hours late from our initial plans, and 2 hrs late from our last formulated plan over a conference call the previous evening. With our bags and supplies tied behind the pack-horse (Manoj's Pulsar) and Rohit and me acting as the mahouts of the BULL, we rolled out of the big gates of Mallika.

The air was still damp from the showers previous night and the feel of the damp air on face when we hit the wide stretch of National Highway 47 made sure the sleepless previous night showed no signs on me, rather it just made my heart leap in the anticipated excitement which was supposed to happen in the due course of the journey. We had plans of catching up an early breakfast, but then trusting Central Kerala on a Sunday to open a restaurant was plain foolish. People professing all religions, Hindu, Christianity or Islam takes their Sunday sabbatical very serious in my part of the world and we should have known better. Nevertheless, we found a way side eatery at Chalakudi and after a good warm coffee and some grub, the road to Athirapalli saw us taking the turn by 8:30AM.

All three of us making the trip, were mates for almost 6 long years of studying law in Cochin and rode together over the hills and to the beach, but never did we ever make it to the Athirapalli during college. It took us 6 months after college, on a rainy night with nothing else to do, to make our first visit there. But then it was almost midnight by the time we covered the 60 odd kilo meters to Athirapalli and were not given access to the waterfalls. The short drive was memorable, because we bumped into herds of deer and sambhar throughout the short drive and we kept repeating it every time I got home from Hyderabad.

This time, it was different. We were actually making the journey during day and the road seemed so very different. With the deers being spotted regularly in the headlight of the car, I thought, the whole road was through the jungle. But, daylight proved otherwise, it was rubber and pepper which adorned the road and not jungle. The deers and the sambhars we saw at night during our previous rides, were leisurely grazing on the human inhabited areas and not really the jungle. The rubber gave way to the wild trees and bamboos and the road started winding around the jungle river, all the way to the water-falls.

The water fall was filled with the usual tourist, the happy families and the cries of youngsters playing in the water, happy jovial sounds, but proved too loud for our tastes and we decided to climb down to the bottom of the falls for the other view and maybe a little more less noise of humans and more of the water. The climb down was tedious, steep and by the time we got to the base, all three seemed almost dead, struggling for breath. The 15 months after college has taken a toll, with sprouting pot bellies highlighted in sweat, we didn't have anything left in us to jump into the water, but rather sit on the rock and just watch the splendor of nature in its abundance. If the climb down was tedious, the climb up was even more challenging, with rusted muscles forced to do some work, we made it to the top and all three collapsed on a bamboo bench at the refreshment stall on top. After emptying gallons of water, we made it back to our bikes and felt all relieved when we found the supplies and clothes tied securely behind the pack horse. But then, if we didn't miss anything, then the story seemed imperfect and I realized I left my camera at the refreshment stall. 3 Hours into the journey and I lost my camera already. Manoj gathered up all the remaining molecules of energy left in him and made the run down to the refreshment stall to find the camera happily lying on the bamboo bench we were sitting on minutes back.

The bikes were rolling again on the road entwined with the river and we made it to Vazhachal, the Kerala Forest Check Post in no time. The road was a gradual climb all this while and BULL was doing good mostly. An elaborate checking of our bikes and bags later, with a thumbs up the Forest Guard opened the gate for us to get into the reserved forest. There were not many who were keen to travel the road up front and amidst some stares, we drove of into the jungle. I over heard a person making a comment seeing the BULLs registration plates and seeing our bags tied smartly behind the pack-horse, "guess they are from Ladakh, look at the number plates..it says LD" and the reply to it was "it could be London as well, the bikes and bags together reads, these guys are international bikers." I hid the smile at the ignorance of my countrymen and pretended as though  our BULL was actually from Ladakh or London and never told them the truth that, LD on a number plate of a vehicle in India means, Lakshadweep and not Ladakh nor London.

The road and the terrain changed drastically after the check post, the climb was steeper, curves more sharp, pot holes plenty and the signs of human cultivation vanished into huge trees and thick under bush. When the BULL showed signs of aging while climbing one particular steep stretch, both me and Rohit, the inexperienced mahouts thought it was a common thing for old BULLs. The BULL lost power every time the throttle was turned, but the sound it made just doubled and there was a delay in the whole process. From the time, the throttle was turned and actually the bike surged forward, there was a 2-4 second delay, but we were fools not to have identified the early symptoms and continued on with the sharp curves and climbing steep roads on the first gear making an enormous sound.

Up ahead in the distance, I found a clearing and told Rohit to stop there for a cigarette and once we came closer, the clearing turned to be a watering hole for the wild animals and then nothing could stop me from almost rubbing my face on the mud, trying to identify the animals which made use of the water hole. I did identify hooves, paws and also the big foot prints left by elephants. Elephant dung was rich there and the whole place reeked of animal smell. All three of us knew, if we camped here for the night, we would stand to witness abundant wildlife. But then, our journey had just started and there were so many more water holes to pass through and notorious places to see before we camped.

Climbing up, Rohit realized the BULL had trouble with the gears as well, when 'neutral gear' appeared out of no where when he tried slow on a sharp curve, by shifting gears and the BULL just made a free roll for a few seconds, before he eventually manged to get the vehicle on to that elusive second gear.

Though the smell of wildlife was the one dominant thing throughout the road, except monkeys and some stray fox and rabbits we never saw anything else. The sound of the BULL must have scared the animals I guess and they must have run for dear life and one such animal, a huge antelope jumped right in front of Manoj's bike and thanks to disc brakes, he avoided collision and the animal jumped again to the other side and vanished. That got our senses alert and eyes all focused again. We were slowly getting a grip of the road and was forgetting everything else except taking the curves and avoiding potholes. The antelope, injected a sense of caution not just for the road, but also about the wild life lurking nearby hidden in the thick green.

The next stop was near an abandoned tree house, with signs of elephant attacks on the trunk of the tree and the tree house missing many a plank from the floor. I thought of first climbing the tree and getting a picture from inside the tree house, but common sense prevailed and Rohit forbid me from trying to make the climb.

The best part of this road was we were almost alone all the time and then there seemed to be so many off roads from the main stretch. One particular stretch which had an old sign board, with rust eating away all the name of the destination and leaving only the distance legible seemed inviting for us to follow. The tar had gone with years of rain and the jungle seemed to pour in from both sides of the road. Monkeys didn't like the intruders into their home and the chaos they created jumping from a tree to another was a spectacular sight. The trail led us to a huge locked gate stating 'trespassers will be prosecuted', but what exactly the gate kept away, eluded us. There were dark clouds on the horizon and we didn't have to think twice to return back to the main road when the first lightening struck. Leaving our mission to find out the secret behind the locked gates we slowly made our way to the Sholayar dam.

The view was splendid from the top, with lush green everywhere and huge reservoir behind the shutters, the road was now along the bed of the reservoir. Time was just 3PM and it was dark already, with head lights turned on, we navigated through the treacherous stones adorning the small road and made it up to Malakkapara. This is one famous place, the last settlement in Kerala on this road and a place notorious for frequent leopard attacks on humans. Boy, we were damn hungry, except for water and an occasional smoke nothing else had made its way down into our tummies since morning and we decided to get some grub before continuing on with our journey from Malakkapara. The rain seemed inevitable, and we got into our rain gears and bought a huge plastic bag to cover our bags and supplies behind the pack-horse. Everything secured from the rain and stomachs full we drove again before being asked to open our bags for inspection by the Forest Officials at Malakkapara. It must have been my anarchist beard, which made made them ask us to open our bags and I made a note to shave the beard first thing after reaching Valparai.

The signboard read Valparai 12KM and Korangu Mallai 7KM (Monkey Hills, that is what the literal translation reads), the time read close to 5PM and the rain had not yet started, so we took the right instead of the left to Valparai and set out to find out, what did Korangu Mallai hold. There were very few houses en-route and the few people living there were staring at us, the time we passed them. The road turned narrower and made it to the other bank of the Sholayar reservoir, we could see the road we traveled in the afternoon, across the reservoir on the other side, but this road was more ancient and seemed sparingly used in the past one decade maybe. After spending more than an hour sitting on the high banks of the reservoir, we started our way back to the road, which takes us to Valparai.

The wild huge trees and thick under bush gave way to lush green carpets of tea as we got closer to Valparai. It had turned really dark and getting to see the virgin tea plantations near Valparai was a sight to be cherished. The first night, exploring the virgin, her many secrets and narrow valleys and hills made me feel like a newly wed groom, exploring his bride.

Exploring a Virgin - Prelude

My plane got to Cochin on spot, sharp at 12:00 hrs it taxied down and by 12:15 I was out waiting for my backpack at the terminal. After getting home to a good grub and listening to couple of comments about my beard, I set off to get the BULL from the work-shop. The junior from college, who was supposed to have given the bull for the service, never picked up the phone and I was left making visits from one workshop to another in vain. Thankfully, Manoj was done with his other responsibilities and as an afterthought, we visited our rented mansion in Cochin (the Mallika) to find the bull standing in glory at the abandoned parking shed. The junior fooled us, he never gave the bull for service and claimed he did. Since none of us (the ones making the trip) was in Cochin, we were forced to believe him and costly it proved. Then it was a scrabble, to start the bull and get at least the oil changed. I always had a tough time getting the enfields to the neutral gear and this time proved no exception, after a grueling ten minutes over the phone to find the neutral, I finally manged to start it up and slowly ride down to the mechanic. The bull did prove one thirsty son of a gun, with three liters of engine oil down the tubes and it still seemed it could take more.

Riding around town on the bull, I felt truly special, felt maybe the other drivers should make way for me. Rohits train was 4 hours late and Anush just chickened out and called off from the trip at the last moment, claiming an imaginary cousin sisters marriage, at 7PM in the evening. He might have got scared about the stretches we planned to hit or maybe, he just didn't have it in him, never asked for reasons the time he said he can't make it. Just reminded him about something known as informing others when there is a change of plans, with a million abuses in my heart, I hanged up on him and got to matters at hand.

Rohit will get to Cochin only by 5 in the morning and not 2AM as it was scheduled, the bull was never serviced but only the engine oil changed and a mate for the trip backed out at the last moment, this is how things looked at 10PM when Manoj and Me crashed at the Mallika, to get a good nights sleep before we hit the road. Sleep evaded, tossed and turned, got up and rechecked the bags, the things we were carrying, smoked, lied down again, but still sleep never dawned. After a grueling 4 hours trying to get some sleep, I finally took a shower and was ready to go to the train station to pick Rohit up by 2AM, 3 hours earlier than when the train was expected to get to the station.

Never heard the announcements over the loud speaker, but the time a train got to the station at 5AM, we were already looking for Rohit and disappointment seeped in, when we couldn't find him. With muffled shouts of 'Rohit...Rohit..Rohit..', we searched for him in vain and then wisdom dawned and called him up on his mobile to be told that, his train is at the station before this one and we realized our stupidity. All this time, we were looking for him in a wrong train. Asked him to get down there and not wait for the train to get him to Cochin,, but rather wait for us to get there in 15 minutes. It was a station hardly 10 KM away and trusting the train to complete that leg of the journey seemed too taxing for me. People in the train, who were subjected to our stares all the time we were searching for Rohit, did understand that we had made a fool of ourselves and started laughing and I couldn't stop myself. Started laughing like a hyena and slowly started stepping back. The laughter was so bloody genuine, its been so long since, I made a complete fool of myself like this and I couldn't stop it. I was walking backwards all the time with some sound resembling a laughter emerging from my mouth and then it happened !!

I stepped on the chest of a person, who was sleeping on the platform, while I was tracing my steps backwards. Poor guy, must have been having a nice dream, when this calamity occurred. By the time he regained his senses, I had already said a 'sorry', made a bigger ass out  of myself and the engine of the bull was on. The ride to Edappaly was fast, very fast and the excitement in meeting Rohit and starting the trip, made me turn the throttle a bit more freely. On our way back, I let the bull run even more freely and Rohit and Manoj claims, I burned the tyres twice, literally when I had to get down the speed at traffic signals.

Friday, April 15, 2011

the night before the BULL

The big wait is almost over for me, I am done with my small responsibilities in the world of tax and am off in some hours to Kerala, my home and the green. Growing up, none of my friends must have felt that I would turn up to be nutty nostalgic individual by the time I become late twenties. I was always the guy with the eye for women, booze, friends, rogue missions and a lot of things that seemed very alien to the serenity of the small town I did my schooling. But, then time had a different tale to say about my fascination for Kerala.

My flight leaves at 10:30 Hrs tomorrow and now that seems longer than W T F. But, then Deloitte has taught me a thing or two about time and spending it doing nothing, while there is very little work to do in the world of tax, our lean seasons. My travel check list is almost crossed out, the Bull, at the work-shop ready to be saddled, the traveling plans to Cochin confirmed with my fellow riders.

 I will be getting home close to 1PM and a good meal Amma made, boy just the thought makes me say it yet again, 'nothing like a home cooked meal'. And an evening watching the Manchester United in the FA cup semi finals, the time we 3 wait for Rohit to get to Cochin and finally when his train reaches at wee hours of Sunday Morning, hit the road straight from the station. Hope his train gets here by 2AM as scheduled on Sunday morning, or else it will be yet another screw up before we actually hit the road.

The trail we are following goes somewhat like this:
Sunday (4AM start) : Cochin - Athirapally Water Falls - Sholayar - Parambikullam - Malakkapara - Valparai
Monday: Valparai - Pollachi - Udumalpettu - Kodaikanal - Top Station - Munnar
Tuesday: Munnar - Iddukki Dam - Ramakalmedu - Cumbam - Thekkady
Wednesday: Thekkady - Kumily - Vagamon - Kottayam - Kumarakom - Cochin

Looks like a lot of places to go, but then, for me it is not exactly about seeing new places, but it is more about turning the curves with the foot rest rubbing on the asphalt and the wind on the visor.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The ICEMAN Continues to Inspire

(( This note is about a senior I met in college and ended up being friends with. I had posted a "testimonial" as it was famously called in Orkut on his profile back then. But later the morning when I felt like deleting my social networking accounts, the testimonial went with it. After my recent visit to Bangalore, I still know, I do owe him a lot, though he is not aware of it.))

Please don't be surprised with the name ICEMAN, the original story behind it goes like this. The christening happened long time back, almost when I joined college in 2004. The protagonist ((his real name is Harish Joseph Abraham a.k.a. ousu)), used to go out with a very pretty damsel studying in the sister concern of our college, called the St. Theresas. ((people from Kerala would be familiar with the name, for the enlightenment of every one else, it is supposed be the best college for members of the fairer sex in the Gods Own Country and by the sarcastic twist of destiny, was right beside my college.)) She had this fascination for some part of his anatomy which almost rhymes with 'ice', I think it was the 'ass' and he ended up being considered by her to be the 'ASS-MAN'. Now it could have started a riot in her family if someone ever heard her call him that and he ended up being the 'ICEMAN'.

Now the spicy gossip on his life aside, the reason how he ended up being the iceman for me is an all together different context. Every time I see him, the one person he reminds me is the ICEMAN from the movie Top-Gun. I don't mean the looks, though I feel our guy could give the movie star a run for his money, but the way he carries himself and the air that he always has with him, that is the catch. It doesn't matter if he is drunk or sober, early in the morning or late at the night, he has this profound look of being in control. I knew some females in my class who had this fascination for him, and even that was not about the way he looked, but it had to do with the confidence he brought in with his presence. And another point of similarity is the way he handles his vehicle, both cars and bikes, smooth and easy, text-book like, but very fast and very much always in control.

While I am more like a Maverick, stretching my imagination a bit too far with this, but still the Maverick, come on at lest his bad traits. Arrogant, ruthless, rogue, free-spirit. There were many an evening when we got in a dozen beers and spend talking about life and future and dreams. Some traits we shared, a slight pinch of racism, love for benevolent autocracy, a lack of feeling of nationalism, bluntness and that is what made us close.

The last time I went to Bangalore, I met him after 2 years, but then I never felt the two years. It was as if we parted the weekend and am meeting again on the Monday. The warmth and the simplicity with which he leads his life, that is what made me never realize the gap. Things were simple with him, its a Saturday afternoon and there is only one thing in the world for him to do, get a pitcher of  beer, a good steak and slowly pamper one self.

I knew his friends would be people I will like and I didn't even have to think to say an yes, to catch the second part of cricket world cup final at his friends apartment. Things were good as usual, loads of whiskey, good intelligent conversation, a good match, nice guys and couple of theirs wives and small kids. Boy even the dinner-whiskey plans around him brings in that sense of family, that is another thing I have liked about him.

the ICEMAN still continues to inspire me just like in college. His passion to lead life is what inspires me now :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Taming the BULL

My friends tell me, I am the worlds best drunken driver. Because, when drunk, I never step on gas or flex the throttle. Sober, I normally am lost in my world dreaming while driving, but drunk there aint space for dreams, I am all eyes on road. Then, that has always been on lean, mean bikes and never an Enfield Bullet, that too a vantage model.

Of all my friends who had old versions of the bull, the ones with the gear on the right pedal, only Sid ever thought friendship was worth more than the bull and he threw me the keys, when he saw my eyes shining seeing his silver plated Royal Enfield Standard. Machismos and thunderbirds, yeah, I have been on and around everywhere with them, but hardly an hour have I spend with the big older bulls, standard and classic.

And here I am, getting ready for a road-trip on a Bullet, close to 1000 kilo meters of ghat roads and forest. The fun is, my folks doesn't know that I am hitting the road on bike. All they know is me and some friends from college is backpacking. I couldn't help it, but twist the facts or simply put, lie; coz when I spoke about the trip over phone with Amma, by the way she sounded, the options were either car or backpack.  She has her reasons and yeah it is true , the lean motor-bikes we owned has given way to hatchbacks.  But then there is no fun in the comfort of a car or the familiarity of a lean bike.  Now, where the hell should I park the car, the time I am gone and I said backpacking. The  untamed Bull  will give the extra adrenalin required to make the trip fun, with the lean, proven and trusted pulsar; the only rationale behind setting of on this trip with the Bull. The fun doesn't stop there.

We are four guys hitting the road, four advocates belonging to the BAR of Kerala. I am sorry, I meant, Bar Council of Kerala, if you go by what the identity card reads. This is not the first time for us (Rohit, Manoj, Anush and Myself), but definitely the first time with an untamed bull and two novice mahouts to ride it. We have together taken the stretches and gorges to Goa, negotiated the curves of the Ghats and camped at the serenity of Top-Station. But, turning a curve to see a wild rogue elephant en route to Valparai, sleeping in a hammock overlooking the Idukki Dam, we never had a chance to do. This is a trip, Rohit and I wanted to do in college, when we were younger and had young, fast machines to zip by. The eventual friday evening never happened and 5 years later, here we are, going into the wild, for four days on a Saturday.

I am yet to make my terms with the beast and Rohit is no better as well. The taming of the bull while exploring virgin earth, that is the story I am waiting for.

((the Bull belongs to a very close friend from overseas and I did mean it literally, our guy is from Lakshdweep. After  precariously pursuing his education here in Cochin, he had to move back to the isles, because, it seems this is the age when matrimony rings according to his family. But then he had to leave the bike at our scary mansion in Cochin, at my mercy. If the Bull gets tamed, I do plan to swap the Bull with the information about a very pretty damsel I know in Lakshadweep, which might be of help to him.))

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

W T F

The clock on the right bottom corner of my laptop reads 18:45 Tuesday. A meeting scheduled to have happened at 6:30PM, giving me an early exit from the world of tax probably in another hour, got rescheduled to 8:30PM. By the time formalities gets done it would be time for dinner and then watch the Red Devils take on Chelsea at Old Trafford. I had plans for this day, to be out from office early and complete my itinerary for the road trip. Nothing big, but important, things like mosquito repellents and other way-side camping materials.

Out of habit and having nothing to do, I was going through my Outlook Express once again.  No new mails, but I did already know that. I am one of those idiots who maintains the mail box, spic; all labeled and separated.  There was nothing else for me to do for close to 2 hours other than staring at Outlook calendar. It reads:

Wednesday
14:00 - Send Update to SE
14:30 - Meeting on Rotator

Thursday
14:00 - Send Update to SE
17:00 - National Sales Tax Teleconference

Friday
14:00 - Send Update to SE
16:00 - Fun Friday at Cafeteria

With my calendar listed, you have the perfect picture that I report to someone everyday at 2PM about my work and progress. And if you are wondering about the Meeting and Teleconference, please don't be fooled, I am another pawn who sits through it, nodding my head and mumbling an 'yes', suppressing a yawn that miraculously appears every time I get to see those big lcd's showing groups gathered across the globe, discussing tax.

I have my road trip planned for this Saturday and my calendar is killing me. Not the work, but the big wait for it actually to begin. There are things to attend to before burning the asphalt, the enfield needs a service and battery check up, need to remind the influential people to make the phone calls required to the right Forest Officials, to give us permits to drive through at the night and probably sleep on hammocks if required. Simple silly things, papers and permits and some people at the right places, but then they come very handy when you are at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Wat The Fuck

Monday, April 11, 2011

Chat Bandar - A con

The tiny little guy who made the business proposal to me, made me feel weak and cashed in, got away with my money. With hopes all high, wanting to eat for the first time from my own place, I set of in search of that one signal in Kondapur. I found the signal, found chat shops....but none was mine..even the faintest trace of the 12 year old boy with dreams didn't seem like ever existed.

Blame me and my sense of stupidity. Probably he has reasons for not having opened up. I know its even more stupid, but yet still, I can't believe the boy with the dream was only a mirage.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Ousu's Chat Bandar

I made my first investment in a business venture last night. Not in plantations nor animal husbandry, as one would have thought considering my likes in life and also my lineage. I am the financial partner of a business concern, a chat shop, a tiny weeny one at that.

I was driving back to my apartment from office, it had been a long boring day and I was numb to the world. I was on auto-pilot and was expected to navigate all the curves and traffic without much hardships. It was dark and he stood under a lamp-post, right before a curve, with arms out-stretched, pointing my way. I don't ever stop to pickup strangers, always have this fear of some serial killer hitching a ride with me, but this time, I dunno, what made me, but I stopped.

Was he happy to have got a ride? Gleefully he jumped behind me, probably must have been 12 or 13 years old and started on with a short biography of his life. The usual story of poverty, famine, migration, death and slums in a big city. But the difference was, this 12 year old boy managed to work his way through or maybe manage to steal a push-cart and arrange a make shift chat-shop and business was good in his words. He could attend to his mothers and a younger sisters hungry stomach and also afford to pay for a roof in the slum. That is when, the long dirty hands of law in the form of police constables, forced him out of his money at the end of a day when business was good. Leaving him with not a penny for even supplies.

He was not embarrassed to ask me, whether I have an extra 500 Rs to loan him. It was a business proposal, not a plea. If I gave him the money, he would get the bhel and puris and all other stuff and start with business as usual the next day and give me 50 Rs everyday for a month. Not a bad investment, I definitely knew it. The boy was smart and I think he will make a living out of it and in the end I stand to get a profit of 1000 bucks. Not a great much, but definitely a profit and the best part a profit out of a good deed.

Then there is always this other being inside you who questions  your every decision. Maybe this was a con and I stand to loose money. Reason my brain did, but my heart had made its choice. I stopped at the next atm and gave the boy the money and the only security I asked the address of a slum where he is living and the name of the junction his chat stall stands.. sorry, our chat stall stands.

I found a dream in him, a dream to take care of his loved ones, a dream to wake up tomorrow, a dream to inhale the next breath and my loan was for that dream. The dream might fail or maybe the dream was never there, only a projection to fool me, it doesn't matter. Because in my heart I helped a dream :)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Trading Romance for a Bean !!

After an eventful weekend, with loads of adrenalin and fun, I noticed the faint glimpse of a smile on my face, reflected on the almost too dark, rear-view mirror of the auto-rickshaw. Spirits high I sail into my apartment and my friend updates me about the things I missed in Hyderabad; nothing much though, office, work, the new boss in town, more ass-kissing (I prefer to call it ass-licking) and all other mundane things. I listened to him, giving him my view about a thing or two and he mentions about spending the weekend with another colleague and the new boss over a drink. HHmm I thought. Then I knew, he was not practicing the skill about which I was talking earlier, cause right now he has got far more superior priorities in life and tenure with Deloitte don't seems to be right on top of the list.

And then he tells me about my ex- and says she flirting with a friend of mine in office and  he adds, it seems she doing it with couple of others as well. Now in the world of 'ex's, I am not sure what to call this one, maybe my ex-romantic inclination, the last one I had. Now our proximity and how life shaped out is an altogether different context and the updates I heard about her made me feel happy. "Boy wow..Someone did follow the lessons I taught her about mobile phones and instant messenger flirting and flings. She using our phrases to good use with others it seems", I felt glad and replied back, "Good for her. At-least now that is one girl less to be bothered about." I felt honestly good. I had walked out on her, being the arrogant son of a bit#h. She bored me with mundane things and I showed her the road. "I have not been following my bible and the ten commandments all that close, so she too should be free to do what ever she felt like", I always knew it when people spoke about my ex- interests in life.

Standing under the shower, washing away the road on me from the weekend, I was feeling disturbed. Seemed as though I been burdened, nothing like choking for air or struggling for breath kind of feeling, but a little disturbance, a thought that is going across some place back in the mind or maybe the heart, I aint sure. I realized, it had everything to do with my 'ex-romantic inclination' and I felt even more disturbed with this realization.

I thought about it all the time under shower and tried dig the reason behind the sudden heaviness I felt. "Am i still possessive about her? No, I am not. I aint that kind. Still have fondness left? Not really. Not this one definitely, because I had my biggest relief, the day I showed her the door. Would I have been disturbed, if it was the news about her marriage? Naah. That would have been like an icing on the relief. Then what on mother earth am I feeling? Why am I disturbed? I dunno." I hit the wall but had few suggestions though; could be, I felt responsible for her venture into the world of romance and flirting and sleepovers and felt she trading on waters she aint sure of or maybe it was just a pang of possessiveness, after all and nothing to get scared of.

Then a thought dawned, it is a matter of existence for her, she needs to get a man, she badly needs to be married, a question of survival. I was feeling bad for her because it was me who shattered all her fabulous dreams of marriage and children. Life was all settled for her and she was trying to drag me in to the settlement, as the chieftain and I definitely had other plans and forced her to find someone else to start her dream with.

I cannot do anything much to restore her dream and hope her ventures brings her success eventually. My part with her is over and she will have to do what ever it takes to corner someone and settle into marriage. HHHmmmmm..My bum was hurting, sitting on the floor. A bean would be a nice thing to sit on and not my ex-. So, off i went in the summer heat, on an impulse to buy a bean bag. I rode around town and finally got one back to my apartment tied behind my bike.

Another shower later, with a glass of good booze by the side, sitting on the bean, watching the news in background and writing this, I definitely know, the trade was worth it. I feel more attached to the bean and not a person, though an ex-, she is.

Monday, April 4, 2011

alexander SUPERTRAMP

Tramp, yeah completely. But super, hhmm very much doubtful. The movie, "into the wild" moved me the first time I saw it and ever since then I always toyed with the concept. Alexander super-tramp, only a name that he chose to christen himself with. But the movie, moving..aah ah here I go rhyming !!

I hit the road to Bagalore on a Friday afternoon. The train was scheduled to leave at 7PM and I felt restless waiting for it, so threw my backpack on my shoulder and decided to take up the journey, hitch-hiking and traveling in the municipal buses.

The summer heat was still at its peak and I rubbed sweat with my fellow country men, crowded train compartments and buses always fascinated me during short distances. I could feel all alone in that crowd and watch it like an eagle, hiding at the corner. The concrete wild structures in Hyderabad, the huge hi-tech buildings which makes one frightened and the dirty ruins that threat you with an epidemic gave way to a green, not lush as one finds in Ente Keralam, but green nevertheless.

I got down at Kurnool and explored the Town, like I always do every time I get to a new Town. This was the starting of a series of short expeditions planned and I wanted to know if I was fit for the streets. It has been a while since I have lived on the road and a night trip to Bangalore with couple of stop overs, could give me a better picture about myself physically. Crowded streets and lots of dust, thats what Kurnool looked to me. Sweating profusely, I was all happy gulping water from my flask, sitting in a bus bound to Anathpur at 8PM.

Anatpur, the Raktha Charithra fame town, I was all excited. The flashes of greyish red, which occupied the screen for most part of the movie was still fresh in my eyes. A quarter past mid night, the bus gets to the Bus Station and boy that is a normal bus station any place in India, that was my first thought. Some people sleeping on the newspapers spread on the floor.  At least the paper serves a much important purpose like this. Cheap sleeping material to the poor and homeless. Being a good insulator, I have seen people use it to protect themselves from the cold during winter. Couple of shops which sold coffee and snacks, the very usual scenes. In the first place, now when I think about it, I am not sure, what I expected to see there? Secluded streets and people roaming around armed with double bored guns and long sickles. Aaah I was being stupid, but then that I always am.

Thankfully I could complete my last stretch of the journey hitch hiking in a truck. It was from a village near Anatpur, loaded with vegetables to Bangalore. Bangalore had written me off in 2003, the time I was testing myself with engineering for graduation. I have never really been back to Bangalore since then. I have been, but always with an academic interest, never since 2003 to get drunk for breakfast, drinking beer and that is exactly what I planned to do.

A shower at a friends place and I was soon in an old steak house, with a pitcher of draught beer and some fish and chips and a good friend sitting across me. Boy it felt nice.

It was the big day for the average Indian Cricket Fanatic. The 2011 ICC World Cup Finals and the time was 4PM and we were still emptying our pitchers with not the slightest interest in the game. The last time I was here, India had reached the world cup finals. Had settled in with friends with loads of beer and everything went futile when Ricky Ponting started of with a six the second ball he faced. I didn't want a re-run of that, but then almost all of Bangalore except me and my friend was glued to the screen. Soon we moved out to another friends place.

Sipping good expensive scotch whiskey, all relaxed and settled in a very comfortable apartment in the center of Bangalore, listening to the match and a group of people whom I knew only through a friend. I felt happy. The group held some very elite from the central travancore region from the erst while era. Rubber, pepper, good meat, good booze and very homely woman is what is special about the elite from central travancore, the Kottayam - Pala belt of Christians. When Dhoni hit the six, a large toast we did for our nation and hit the road to complete the victory lap. Boy it was fun, with people wondering what two babies doing inside the cars of a group of drunken people. All happily drunk, shouting and waving, along with the kids of couple of members of the group I mentioned earlier, completed the victory lap and then me and my friend went on ahead for an after match party sometime in the early morning at 4AM.

I roamed around the streets of Bangalore on Sunday and then by evening, I was getting bored. There were too many people to meet, too many things to do, but all I really wanted to do was travel. Said adieu to my friend and again hit the road, back this time. My tired limbs didn't feel like taking another rough night of travel and roaming about and I got my tickets confirmed  in a good luxurious bus. Boy I am getting old, I couldn't stand another sleep less night. Like a log I slept and woke up only when the bus reached Hyderabad.
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