16th December, 2015
Hampi to Bangalore (343 kms)
I was ready with the first ray of the sun. I loaded my bike with all the bags and sat in the restaurant area to have my last breakfast in that beautiful town. Met David who was from Sweden. He gave me his advice and suggestions for my upcoming France roadtrip. Mohin and Sheikh sat nearby while I was having breakfast. I told them that I can’t thank them enough for the the kind of hospitality and favor they offered me. It was indeed a great experience meeting them. Even after this trip I stayed in touch with them. Shared my trip photographs and blog with them.
I wore my jacket and other riding gears, bid my farewell to the staff of the guest house with a promise of coming back, and hit the road. It was 8 am in the morning. After following curvy roads going through many beautiful landscapes, I left the beautiful boulders and magnificent ruins of Hampi behind. I was soon on the highway. As the gasoline fumes rushed through the engine, so did the adrenaline through my veins. I was back on the open highway after many days. Bryan Adams’ song “Life is An Open Road” echoed in my head. I had to travel 343 kms today to reach Bangalore. My friend from Mumbai, Rahul, who shifted to Bangalore a while ago before my trip, invited me to stay at his place. He had shared his address and GPS location with me. I did not know that despite having the address it was going to be so difficult to find the place. Since I was going there on weekday it wasn’t possible for him to receive me at some known place in the crowded city. I realized that he must be commuting to his office as I was riding on the open highway at the moment.
After hours of pleasant riding on the highway I saw a city far on the horizon. I told myself, ‘The Fun Ends Here’. Bangalore traffic is infamous. I entered the city, rode on many flyovers and finally landed in a traffic jam. When I left in the morning I had hoped that there won’t be traffic in the afternoon as in any city the peak hours are during start and end of the working hours. I was wrong. In next couple of days that I spent in Bangalore, I learnt that Bangalore traffic is totally unpredictable. The main reason for the jams is the absence of railways in the city. In a city like Mumbai, trains carry the huge burden of commuting passengers therefore roads are relatively less packed as opposed to Bangalore. But this city would have never had imagined that it will become an IT hub of the country and would see a sudden boom in the population and it parks. Now the Bangalore city is incapable of handling such a huge crowd. Yet the city is functioning properly despite such huge hurdles. “The Show Must Go On…”
It took me a while to realize that I was lost. I turned on voice navigation on my phone but that too got confused in such a complicated web of roads of the Bangalore city. I asked a policeman for directions, he said, “Go straight from here, you’ll see a circle, take a second exit from there, and then take a third right from the signal, take a center lane to go under a highway then take the outer ring road”. I thanked him for the directions, but in reality I felt more disoriented than before. I did not understand a word he said. I reached at the next signal and asked for directions. And this trick seemed to work. I stopped at every traffic signal to ask for directions and finally reached the destination.
I was in AECS layout, a residential township in Bangalore. It was quite amusing to see such a silent locality well within a crowded city. Bangalore’s weather is pleasant throughout year. As I entered the AECS layout I felt a drop in the temperature. All the gates of the residential premises had an identical boards hanging on them, with their unique IDs displayed on it. Rahul had sent me a photograph of the gate of his residential complex. I matched the design of the gate with the one I could see in the photograph, then I matched the ID on the board…, both matched. A young lady spoke to me from behind a window and asked me if I was Rahul’s friend. She said Rahul had left his apartment keys for me. I took it and went in Rahul’s apartment.
Rahul’s apartment was really big compared to Mumbai standards. His living room was big enough to fit a One Room Kitchen apartment in Mumbai. He had kept his bicycle and camera tripod in the living room and a computer lied silently in the far corner.
I called up my childhood friend Manasa (We call her Dibbu though) to inform her that I have arrived in Bangalore. I’d been looking forward to meet her, her younger sister Shweta, and her mom. We grew up together, played together like siblings. Then her family moved to AndhraPradesh (A state in India). And we never met since then. It was almost 25 years. Thanks to Facebook I was in touch with them again. I had decided to meet her and her family when I was planning my South Indian Road Trip. She gave me address of her home and told me her mom, I call her Kaku (Aunty), was in Hyderabad with her younger sister Shweta, hence I won’t get to see her. I was going to meet her husband and son Darhas for the first time. We decided the time for my visit to her place in the evening, and then I took a well deserved nap.
I was once again lost in the alleyways of Bangalore. It was dark and and getting colder. I was searching for Dibbu’s place. I stopped at a shop to buy cookies and sweets for her family, especially her son. I missed the correct turn from the main road and found myself riding a never ending alleyway. One fellow, carrying a small kid on his arm came to help me. I told him the address but he did not know it. I called up Dibbu and handed over the phone to him. They spoke in South Indian language and then the guy gave me correct directions. I went straight, again came on the main road, saw an under construction temple little further down the road and turned left from there, just like the guy had told me. At the end of the road I saw a girl lit by my bike’s headlamp, standing with a phone. It was Dibbu. I saw her after 25 years. There’s something special about meeting your childhood friend. It brings back all the innocent memories of your childhood. It does not mean that I have turned into a mischievous rascal now. I remembered all the silly games we played together, all the fights we had, caring nature of her mom and dad. How she was a part of our family and how me and my brothers were part of her family. I wondered if her younger sister, Shweta, would even recognize me after all these years. I rode further down the road. I was travelling forward in space but my mind was travelling backwards in time. I had mixed reactions in my head. I was happy to see her but at the same time was feeling emotional. I kept smile glued on my face.
I stopped the bike near her. She had hardly changed after so many years. Twenty five years is a big, really big time. We greeted each other. I conveyed the warm regards my family and cousins had sent for her. She introduced me to her father-in-law who was standing near her. Then we went to the parking space where I parked my bike. We walked to her apartment. I walked in and met her husband, Ratan. Ratan and I sat in the living room discussing my road trip. He seemed very eager to know about my travelling ideas and my previous trips. Soon we were accompanied by their son, Darhas. Meaning of Darhas is smile. He was very quiet and shy in the beginning but as the time went by he revealed his innocent mischievous childhood.
Dibbu setup the dining table. It was time to continue our conversation over dinner. We brought up our childhood memories, she asked me how my brothers, parents and rest of the cousins were. Born and brought up in Mumbai, Dibbu could speak fluent Marathi but I was surprised to hear her speak Marathi with same fluency after 25 years. The conversation between three of us was multilingual. Dibbu and I conversed in Marathi. She spoke to her husband in their native south Indian language and me and Ratan spoke to each other in English. Soon we had company in our conversation, Ratan’s Father. I learnt from Dibbu that he was a retired Doctor.
During my travelling I stick to strict veg diet. Dibbu had cooked chicken for dinner. I decided not to tell her about my veg diet and go ahead with the non-veg dinner. It was going to be my very first non-veg meal of the trip and also the first time I was going to have food cooked by Dibbu. Before serving the food, she apologized saying that the chicken has gone too spicy. But when I tasted it, it was just perfect. I was glad I broke my veg diet plan. The food, especially chicken was just too delicious to miss.
I told them about my next day’s plan. I had planned to visit ‘Pyramid Valley’ which was 40 kms from Bangalore. I had seen photographs of the place in my friends Facebook album. Ratan and Dibbu both advised me against it. They both had been to The Pyramid Valley. They said that it would be a waste of time to go there, instead, they told me to visit Nandi Hills which was a 60 kms ride. Nandi hills was famous Sunrise spot. I made a quick search on Google for Nandi Hills and was quite captivated by the images I saw. Their advice was going to be proven very valuable in next couple days which will be elaborated in next day’s blog. Nandi hills turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences of the trip after Hampi.
Our discussions stretched long after dinner. It was getting late. I took leave of them and left. Dibbu, Ratan and Darhas came to the parking space to see me off. I waived goodbye and before shifting to the first gear, took a last glance at them. I had no idea when I’ll see Dibbu and her family again. A smile lingered on my face.