Monday, April 30, 2012

Bangalore to Home via Hitchhiking

This idea was planted in my mind long time back, but never had the guts to execute. Google maps said 330 km of journey from my Bangalore house to my homely abode. It usually take 7 hours of journey by bus in the night, adding an extra 3 hours to my journey it would take 10 hours for me on a day journey that too with complete strangers. As it should be it was completely unplanned and thanks to Kingfisher my plans to visit Delhi had been just cancelled, so on Mar 24 Sat I set for this epic journey.
I woke up at 6 in the morning took a back pack with some snacks, I avoided my camera, took 300 Rs as cash in my hand , debit card with 3k in it and a fully charged mobile with enough credit in it. My First destination was Nanjappa circle, the bust stop near my home. I stood at the bus stop for 15 min, a bus came I avoided that as I didn’t know how to start the journey but I just knew that I will not take any bus or taxi. I was having a starting trouble and wanted to boost up my spirit to start looking for a hitchhiking option. Standing at the bus stop and looking for a hitchhiking option was a very bad idea. It took 15 min for me to realize that, so I started walking towards KR market which was 3km away from my house. Just after walking 200m I finally had the guts to show my hand for a lift, but the driver didn’t notice it. I waited there and started waving my hands clearly then on. A moped guy finally stopped, frankly speaking when I started the journey I expected beautiful ladies riding on Honda activa or guys moving very fast in high end bike or an open shield car as my mode of commuting. But the only guy who cared for a foolish hitchhiker was a moped guy. I asked him if he can drop me at KR market. He just nodded. I took my seat behind his back. He was my first stranger; I still didn’t know how to start the conversation. I had taken a learn kannada guide and looked in that for a suitable conversation starter. But I couldn’t spit out any words. I just sat behind him, he didn’t ask me anything. He left me at the Market and went away without waiting for my thank you. Thus my first driver to the destination and that wasn’t a good one. I had thought that I would be  more social with a nice little smile when he drops but instead I was received coldly. For an instant I thought of catching a bus back to my house, but it was late to make such a decision after all “der ki aage jeet hai” .
I walked along the flyover which will land me straight to the mysore road. Once climbing down the fly over I waited for my next commuter. The second one was easy, a young man stopped. I asked him if he can drop me to Kengeri, next big stop on Mysore road. He was friendly; he agreed to drop me at Mysore road satellite center which was almost halfway to Kengeri. On the bike he started the conversation, I told him what I am up to, he stopped the bike for a while looked at my face and then drove again. Then he started giving me advice on the precautions need to be taken. He told me to take only two wheelers as the travelling option and to not travel in the night and much usual stuff. We had a nice little chat during our journey. His name was Darshan. He was like the guy with whom I wanted to travel in this venture. Very near to Satellite Bus stand he stopped to talk with one of his relative. While they were talking a 50+ aged man came to them riding on splendor. They were talking something in kannada while I was surfing through my mobile. Darshan started saying something about me and I started smiling for the each look the old man gave me. Darshan had told him to give me a lift as he was going to Kengeri. He seemed to be reluctant in doing so, but Darshan was doing the convincing part. Finally he asked me to get into his bike.
That was most probably the bad decision that I ever made during my journey. Just after saying bye to Darshan, the old man took me through the busy Mysore road. He started advising me during my the 10km trip to Kengeri. I could decode only half of it and I knew that he was talking that the whole hitchhiking is a bad idea. He was like an infinite source of advice and I felt pity for his children. He asked me to catch a bus from Kengeri to Mysore and dropped me at Kengeri Bus stand. He showed me the bus to enter and waited for me to enter that. Once I entered he left the Bus stand, I looked around and when I was sure that he was not around, I got out and started walking out of Bus stand. I didn’t know whether I will be disappointed in rejecting the old man’s advice, but I had miles to go before I sleep.
Next stop that I had in my mind is Mandya which was almost 80 km from Kengeri. Few two wheelers stopped but hearing Mandya they left. I continued my walk along the mysore road. I showed my hand asking for lift in between. This time it was a real estate agent who stopped to give me a lift. Ahmed asked me, where to, I smiled and replied “Mandya” expecting him to reject me. His was riding an old bullet, it’s always a pride to ride on a bullet even if it’s as a pillion rider. He is going to save my 80Km journey from Kengeri to Mandya. It was already 9 and I was only 16 Km from my Bangalore house. Ahmed was settled in Bangalore, he usually visit his age old mother on all Saturdays. He was the eldest son in the family and opted to move to Bangalore when he got married. His beard was dyed with henna. He was proud about that and much more proud in helping his mother to go for Hajj with him. He talked about his first saving being spend on that. He obviously seemed to be a proud son honoring age old mothers wish. We stopped in between to have breakfast, I started paying for him but he stopped me and told that he had an account their and he used to pay it only on the month end. He must be a frequent rider.  We continued the journey. He took only 1.5 hours to complete 80 Km. During the journey we talked about religion, monotheism, jihad, campus love and even films and I liked his ideologies in all these. I admired him, no reason why he rides a bullet. That was the expected beauty of such a trip, you meet people in whom you find yourself and finally leave them at the end of the journey. I never told him my name, he never asked. He left me 2 Km past Mandya.
It was almost 11 and the sun was very hot and I was walking. I was sitting for a while so I thought of walking at least a Km and then continue my begging for lift. In a shade a guy was selling sugarcane juice, I went there and ordered for a glass. As I was waiting there a kerala registration Wagon R came by and stopped for a drink. I was happy to see a kerala registration vehicle thinking that I will get another lift as Mandya to Mysore which is almost 50 Km. But to my sadness they both were talking in hindi and I wondered how they got a kerala registration wagon R. This time it was they who initiated the talking. They smiled at me and complained about the climate. I told them it is better here and it is much worse in my native kerala. I wanted to stress that I am from kerala. That clicked!!! We started talking in Malayalam from then on. They were vipin and Irene, both malayalees but born and bought up in N India. They were going to Mysore for the weekend. So I decided to break Darshan’s advice and asked for a lift in a car. Next 50 Km went very fast, we talked non-stop during the entire duration. Vipin was a super cool guy and he made a perfect pair with Irene. Vipin was working in IT industry and Irene was working in SBI. We talked mostly about films and I gave them a good idea about the Malayalam must watch films. Being with a couple who is perfect for each other always makes you feel good. Vipin took the pain to let me off at the madikeri road , he parked the vehicle and didn’t let me leave without the lunch that they have packed. My journey was going to be 100% success, I had chappathi and chicken curry and I congratulated Irene for being a good cook. We shared few jokes and finally they left me in madikeri road. Vipin took a U turn and went back to mysore city.
Now I was ready for anything, I rated my journey as complete success. I still have 200 plus Km to my house, but I was happy. I walked along the Madikeri road. Mysore-Madikeri road is very wide with big trees along both sides of the road. I walked for at least 4 km. No one stopped. It was almost half an hour since I said good bye to Vipin and Irene. I was ready for any option; I started showing my hands to almost all the vehicle. I became desperate, I thought of taking a bus but even that didn’t seem to come. I was moving towards the country side. Unlike Mysore road, Mysore -Madikeri road is not at all busy. Very few vehicles pass by, no one cared to stop. Even few Kerala registrations passed me. One hour back I thought my journey was success but still with 200+ Km left to my house, I seemed to lose my heart. I saw a National Permit Lorry with a name tag “Mary Matha” (referring to the mother of Jesus) at a distance. The scenes from almost all movies passed through my mind. Though many National permit lorries didn’t stop before, I had a notion that this will stop and that did.  I asked the driver’s accompany in Kannada if he can drop me in Madikeri. He waited for driver’s nod and asked me to Hop in. They both were talking in some strange language. It might have been Kannada with an unusual accent. But I couldn’t understand any of the questions he asked as the vehicle started rolling. Finally he stopped asking me question and they both started minding their own business. A wet underwear kept for drying on a rope tied  just behind my head kept on banging to my head during the entire journey. We all were silent during the entire trip. The accompany dozed of frequently during the trip, but he got up with a response when ever driver talked about something. The entire trip took 3 hours. If I hadn’t got the window seat, I would have bored to death. The driver stopped the vehicle and asked me to get down. I obeyed; I didn’t have any clue which place that was. I asked people on the road side to the road toward Irrity, the other side of Karnataka forest which I am supposed to enter in another half an hour.
I was walking through the Madikeri town I was looking at the street vendors. A man waiting just outside a textile shop asked me in Malayalam if I am going to Kannur. I told him that I am going to Iritty, he asked me to get in the front street. That was the easiest commuting option during my entire journey. He was there to get some textile for his shop in Iritty and he was waiting for the porters to load it in the back. It was Mahindra’s commander, I sat on the front seat waiting for the porters to finish the job. Once they were done he still was waiting and I felt bad because I saw many two-wheelers passing by whom I considered as a good hitchhiking option. It was already 5 30 and I doubted about reaching home in time. Finally his apprentice came back and murmured to him in Kannada. He got into the last row were textiles were kept, and the driver started the vehicle. Just after moving 50m he stopped and a couple with their children got into the middle seat. Then I started feeling bad, maybe he wanted me to give him some money for the lift. We started with casual talks, the couple behind us were talking in Kannada. He told me that textiles are cheap in Madikeri and he come here to refill his stock once in a while. He told me about a place in Bangalore called chamrajpet were sarees are very cheap. He was a pure business man and whenever he talked, he talked about how he can make profit from that. He drove very fast. We reached Virajpet and the couple got down. My expectations were all let down when those couple paid him few notes. He waited there for another 10 min looking for a replacement, finally he left to Iritty. It was already past 6 and we had started travelling through forest. He drove really fast; I wanted to tell him to slow down so that I can enjoy the forest journey. But every look on my watch gave me a shiver. It was almost getting late and I didn’t think I can make it as expected. I might have to board a Bus from Iritty to my home.
It was 5 past seven when I reached Iritty. The driver asked me to pay 50 Rs for the ride. My epic journey is no more an epic journey as I couldn't full fill my demand to not board a taxi or a bus. Though my last vehicle was a private one and not a taxi, when I handed him 50 Rs note my pact to myself was getting broken. I walked to Iritty Bus stand, It was getting late and as my plan to go on a complete hitchhiking trip was shattered, I decided to board a bus. I had to travel another 50km to reach my home. Bearing the shame I got into the bus and handed the conductor the money to Thaliparamba from where I need to get into next bus to reach my home town. Finally at 9 30, I walked into my house to the complete surprise of my mother, I asked my mother to cook good dinner and went to have a shower to erase the bad memories of losing the race in the last lap.