Dec 25, 2009

Driving home for Christmas

I had five albums of Chris Rea and of all numbers Auberge and Driving home for Christmas were my favorite.

It was a nice number for the road.


Dec 18, 2009

Goa in 1987 rainy season

June/July 1987

Done with second year Pre-University exams, the SSMRV PUC II gang was in buoyant mood. We went for the newly released 'Premaloka' starring Ravichandran and Juhi Chawla. Juhi was a brand new face on the silver-screen, the movie was a super-hit in no time and every teenage boy was humming e nimbe hanninantha hudgi bantu nodu, e baaloo.... We occupied an entire row in the balcony and the crowd was entirely teenagers like us.

Few days later we were all set to go to Goa; Venkatesh, Ashok, Jayanna, Chandrashekar, Anand, Jayanth and me. After dinner, we all met at Ashok's home. Ashok's dad was informed that he was going to participate in a roller-skating competition.

In the train, we settled into our berths and chatted away for some time and slept off. Next morning we passed by Dharwad and now the landscape changed suddenly our train was running through dense & green forests of Western Ghats. The next stop was Londa junction ...a pretty long one. We explored the railway station and chatted with our train driver, a friendly person who patiently explained Ashok's questions. The engine was a steam powered locomotive. Ashok asked if we could ride it ... the answer was no, it would be against the rules. It was time to leave, from here the train would be going mostly downhill .... through Western Ghats to the Konkan region. I liked the weather; sky was packed with clouds and the air was mostly misty and cool. The effect of white mist haunting the woods was magical. Everything in sight was damp with mist and rain. The journey was slow, at times the train moved real slow that we would get off the train and walk along it. We had many stops and we would jump off the train at every opportunity. We would try to identify plants and I did find one little curry-leaf plant next to the tracks. Hawkers were aplenty and we bought from literally everything; idli, vade, bhel-puri, fruits, tea.... Suddenly someone would get into the mood of singing and everyone woudl join in. Our co-passengers would smile at our antics.

Soon we were passing by Dudhsagar station and the train does not have a scheduled stop here but it did stop for a minute and to our good luck our bogie was right on the bridge across the stream with the falls to the left of our train. Except for one (with the camera), we jumped off the train and got the narrow wall- one wrong move we would fall into the gushing stream. The camera clicked and the train started moving.

We jumped off and quickly got on the train. That's when we actually saw the milky white water pouring down from God knows where. This is one of my best train journeys.

The rain was getting heavier as as we got closer to the coast and it was pouring heavy when we reached Margoa around noon ...that's where the train journey ended. We found a hotel and rented one room. The rain just kept pouring signs of let up. Streets and tourist spots were deserted most times.

Venkatesh and Ashok were the planners. During the 5 or 6 day visit, we visited Mangesh temple, Ponda, Church of Bom Jesus, Panjim, and a bunch of beaches; Miramar, Calangute, Anjuna, Vagator... I relished the Goan baji-pav (it's not pav-baji) and had it at every restaurant or shack we entered. At Calangute beach, Ashok got friendly with a shack-owner and got engrossed in a conversation about Charles Shobraj. It seems Shobraj had visited her place few times.

The afternoon we visited Miramar beach, the rain had let up for couple of hours. The gang had a good time in the water, except me, I was watching their belongings.

Jayanth noticed a wooden crate floating pretty close of the beach and they tried to drag it ashore hoping it had some treasure in it. They struggled quite a bit but the crate held it's position and finally gave up as it started drizzling and picking up pace. The gang hastily dried as dry as possible and dressed up in damp clothes and rushed to a four table tea-shop. We ordered snacks & tea and as we waited Jayanna asked for his gold chain. I was surprised and asked him if he had given it to me. He begged not to joke and I told him not to fool around. He was on the verge of tears... I asked him to check me, lifted my sweatshirt off my lap and the gold chain fell off the pocket. I was shocked. Even till now, I just cannot recall Jayanna giving it to me. God knows how he took it ... we never discussed it again.

One strong reason for guys visiting Goa is booze and it went without saying for us too. We boozed every night. During one of the sessions, Anand got so sloshed he could not stand by himself can imagine the rest or skip it and move on the next para.

During one of the bus-rides, between Panaji and Margoa, our bus had to wade to through water couple of feet deep. We could see water every where. This part of the road passed through a low-lying area. I asked a question about rain to one of the locals in the bus ... no response! We wondered if did not understand English or if he did not want to talk to strangers. Those days agriculture was still active and we could see green paddy fields through out our journeys. It's a beautiful place indeed ... with mining and tourism at it's peak people have shied away from fields now.

The last day we spent mostly at the hotel and went shopping ...jeans and nothing else. Ashok struck a deal at one of the shops and we picked up some 15 pairs. Soon we were in the train and back to singing and laughing. I had planned to get off at Dharwad, stay at my grandparents' place for a week and then return back to Bangalore. As train slowed down at Dharwad station, Jayanth was with me at the door and said he was broke asked me for ten rupees. I was no better but gave one precious 10 Rupee note ...back then life was lot more simple and fun. We did so much with so little money.

For the trip was unforgettable; friends, train journey, rain, baji-pav and wine.

I got all these pictures from Jayanth last week Jan 2010 and added them to this post March week 1.

In a launch crossing Mandovi river.

At Basilica of Bom Jesus.

At Red Fort Ponda.


Dec 11, 2009

Journey in a truck

Some time 2001

Of all my journeys, this one was very unique. Praveen and I traveled in a truck along with our consignment of weigh bridge parts being shipped to SRAACL's coal based (co-generation) power plant at Gondiparla, Kurnool. It was a 375 kilometer overnight journey. The road was good. The truck was in good running condition even though it was pretty old. The driver was a soft-spoken person but highly experienced and his assistant (what we commonly refer to as cleaner), also a soft-spoken person, was a simple character who would just do what his boss told him. They were a great team, very dedicated to truck and their profession.

The weigh bridge was fabricated by E Shashikumar & team at a nondescript workshop in Peenya Industrial Area was more an open plot which is much more suited for fabricating a 9m x 3m weigh bridge weighing around 7 tonnes. The longest items were two 9m ISMB400 beams. Shashi & team loaded the items into the truck in about two hours and I prepared necessary papers. An advance was paid to the driver. We were all set to go.

A 6-wheeler truck cargo area measures about 4.5m. The two 9m beams had to be placed length-wise with remaining things placed over them. The beams were projecting 4.5m behind the truck! Totally illegal and seriously dangerous but in this business it was not economically feasible to hire a trailer to transport these items. Our truck driver assured that it was his responsibility to transport them safely. I kept my fingers crossed and my mind would not rest till these beams were unloaded. To warn other drivers we tied a piece of red cloth ...this was mandatory for any load sticking out from the back side of a goods vehicle.

We left Peenya round about 5pm. We were four of us in the cabin. Praveen and I had to share one bench with the cleaner. And like any other cleaner his favorite spot was next to the left door. Every now and then he would check the cargo area, especially the beams. There were few known hurdles, 2 or 3 RTO check-posts. Apart from the check-posts, RTO squads would be prowling the highway. I was little worried but our driver was cool and composed. We sailed past all check posts ...unbelievable! As we pulled away from Bangalore, we were cruising between 40 and 50 kmph ...that's when we felt cool breeze blowing in from under the seat. There was a gap in the floor and no possible way to close it. As the journey wore deeper into the night the air was getting colder and my blanket did not help much.

We had 3 or 4 stops; one for dinner and rest for tea. Around midnight, some where between Penukonda and Anantapur we saw trucks being stopped by a RTO squad. Our driver carefully parked the truck such that none of the squad members would notice the beams sticking out. I was calculating how much we might have to cough up ...the driver gave a twenty rupee note to the cleaner and told him to hand it over to one particular squad member and come back. The cleaner took the money and hesitated, the driver told him not to speak anything and asked him to hurry up ...the timing was crucial I guess. As told cleaner gave the money and was back in the truck in no time. In the mean time, our driver had engaged the first gear and ready to take off ...I was skeptical if twenty rupees would work for 4.5m of load sticking out from the back of this truck. We started moving and that's when the guy who took the money noticed the beams and pointed it to his superior who was busy booking cases and collecting fines. We picked up speed as the guy was shouting at us to stop but the driver did not. He kept checking the rear-view mirror for few minutes, nobody chasing us. That's it, we were cruising as though nothing had happened. Praveen and I admired our drivers skill in handling the situation. Very smart indeed.

Neither Praveen nor me could sleep because of the cold air blowing into the cabin. That served our intention of being on this journey ...we had to stay awake. We were on Kurnool by-pass by dawn. Praveen and I went to Kurnool town, checked into Mourya Inn, freshened up and wen back the truck. A 20 km drive and soon we were at the factory gates. Material was inspected and cleared to be unloaded at site. As were waiting at the gates to exit some confusion ccreated by one of the security guards caused our driver to reverse the truck and the beams damaged a truck parked behind. We wasted an hour sorting out the problem ...I guess we paid some 200 rupees to the driver which would be his pocket money for the day. Finally, the consignment was unloaded at weigh bridge site and we were relieved. We paid the balance as agreed and gave a small tip for the good service rendered.

Dealing with truck drivers is not something one can like but this was different. It was an experience to remember.


Dec 4, 2009

Kudala Sangama

Sometime 1983; first time I visited Kudala Sangama with Deepak, Mom, granny, one of maternal uncles and granny's sisters. We had travelled in a Tempo Matador. That was the first time I'd ever seen a Sangama ~ confluence.
 Basava's Aikya Mantapa in 1959
October 2009, this visit I was travelling alone. I left Dharwad around 4:30AM, I had to take a round-about route ...Belgaum, Lokapur, Bagalkot and Kudala Sangama. Around 10AM I was driving through flood ravaged areas. Kudala Sangama is few kilometers from here; many field were flooded, destroying standing crops and rendering many fields unfit for cultivation for days to come.

Actually I was not at all happy to see all this so called developments ...all I could see was cement every where ...disappointing. During my maiden visit in 1983 the temple was almost in it's original condition and the protective wall around Aikya Mantapa was under construction however, on that day there were no workers. I had climbed up the scaffolding and I got a glimpse of the Mantapa down below but I was not brave enough to descend the unfinished cement steps leading down.

During this visit Krishna was right upto the brim, there was water as far as I could see seemed like one lake.

The long pending wish to see the Mantapa came true. The 'well' smelt damp. Recorded Om Namah Shivaya reverberated ...actually it helped people reign in concentration towards the Aikya Linga under the Mantapa. Again I was disappointed to see marble tiles and cement ...I wonder why man is so obsessed with cement. Anyway, I wanted to make the best of the visit, I touched the Mantapa ...I do not know if I'll ever visit again.

This is where Basavanna attained Aikya.. hence the name Aikya Mantapa.

Sparrows fly in and out chirping noisily. I was happy to see them, they are fast vanishing in cities ...I've heard many say that cell phone signals affect them and many die because of the exposure.

During my first visit I vaguely remember having lunch under the tree which is still standing there. Water level was way down and I had walked right down and washed my hands and feet. I had found a small stone Shiva Linga and shown it mom and grannies as if it was a great discovery. My granny's eldest sister whom we used to call Nallur Ajji told us to put it back where ever I found it. We were not supposed to take them.

Girls from local villages sell curds set in little black mad pots. I had three of them ...that was my breakfast.

I decided to move on, my next destination was Bijapur ...but I stopped on of the many tourists attractions ...a historical scene was recreated ...horses, king, courtiers, maids, etc. As I got out of the car and walked towards the place I felt I just did something stupid. I felt my pockets- no car key. I was locked out! Even the spare key was in the wallet which was safely tucked in one of the two bags. Great!! I walked to one of the shops, told about my problem and asked them to lend me all vehicle keys they had ...nothing worked and a small group had gathered . Somebody suggested that one of the drivers here had more keys and lo he appears as his name is taken. Our man seemed magical, he unlocked the front right door. I thanked the whole group and made sure I always locked using the key.

Soon I was at Kudala Sangama cross on NH13. Memories of Gulli and I having local food in a small hut came back. I was retracing the same stretch of the Highway we had ridden my Splendor back in Feb 1996 but the road was much better back then.