Monday, December 7, 2009

Our whirlwind Bharat Darshan

Perhaps I woke up on the wrong side of the bed that day .... got my transfer order from Kanpur to the North Eastern corner of India ... where family accommodation was not available. I had only one weeks leave to drop sudha & shyam home in Kochi & get back ... all trains were overbooked .... there were no direct flights & the rates were sky high anyway. I was sitting in my Vista & leafing through the railway timetable when the road/rail map of the country slipped out .... "Why not drive down?" I thought.

The advantages of driving down were tremendous ... the very idea of travelling across the country was thrilling .... I'll get to put new car through a real test .... & the memories of the journey will keep me company during the period of separation from my family ..but the doubts were still weighing me down ..... one week was too little time perhaps to enjoy a 2800km trip & my son was just one year old .....hmmmm

When I made the proposition to Sudha, she gave an instant reply "If you are confident ... I am too ... & I am sure Shyam will enjoy it ..." So, the decision was made ... We charted the route took advice & made our plans ..... most folks were inclined towards discouraging us, out of concern ... I've always made instinctive decisions,stood by them & things have generally turned out ok .....

We set out on an early October morning .... & took the route - kanpur - khajuraho - bhopal - indore - mhow - nasik - mumbai(andheri) - pune (khadakwasla) - belgaum - hubli - jog falls - kollur (mookambika temple) - mangalore - kozhikode (bekal fort) - kochi ..... the km reading indicated a road distance of 3200km .. driving by day & resting by night, the journey was completed in six days ...... we visited some tourist spots ..... stopped to say hello to the near & dear en-route. The only rules followed were ... start early & never drive when tired.

I 'll not bore you with a travelogue ... but will run through the trip. As we started off the roads in UP were terrible to say the least .... the Khajuraho temples were architectural marvels ,though visually embarrassing at times .... the road till Bhopal was ok & was dotted with some typical crowded towns of MP .... the early morning drive from Bhopal to Mhow was the first one on a decent road ... the rendezvous with some very dear people in Mhow was rejuvenating ...... one could perceive the gradual shift from the North-Indian to the Malwa/Maratha setting (the fresh makki-ki-roti & arhar dal from a dhaba on the MP-Maha border is worth a mention) ..... Shyam behaved miraculously decent for his age .... he particularly enjoyed a potty session in a farm in the midst of numerous "ambas" (cows) much to the annoyance of his mother ....... we spent the night at Nashik & drove to Mumbai early morning the next day ...... one whole day of relaxation in my uncle's house at Andheri rested us for the next half of the trip. The mumbai- pune highway was a revelation ..... spent some nostalgic hours in khadakwasla & got on to the bangalore expressway .... the satara- kohlapur - belgaum route was covered in a flash.... after a night stay at hubli I intended to move west to the konkan coast but missed the turn....... we took a diversion from the road at haveri & took the forest road via sirsi to the jog falls ..... the cup of tea at a small stall near sirsi for a rupee was best i've ever had ..... we proceeded along the jungle road to kollur ..... after the evening prayers at mookambika temple we reached Mangalore & took a break at my cousins place .... after entering kerala our first halt was at the Bekal fort in Kazarkode (which is known more now beause of the "Tuhi-re" song in the film "Bombay" than the exploits of Hyder ali & Tipu Sultan) ...... the final stretch from there to kochi seemed unending becaue of the anxety to hit home & the terrible traffic congestion on the mallu streets .... we reached home late evening on the sixth day..... & I flew back on the seventh.

As we traveled across states, the rapid changes in vegetation, dialects, food and above all attitudes were intriguing.... this was a whirlwind trip which afforded little time for liesure... however the experience left us with some fond memories to cherish .... I've got to thank the Lord for the guiding us home & my little one for cooperating ..... Shyam too turned out to be travel freak .... :)