Monday, January 30, 2006

The (Painted Stork and) Pelican Brief

It was a cheerful (not so cheerful, really :( ) week-end and the trek-loving junta started for this small town of Kokkre Bellur which is on the way to Mysore, around 80kms from Bangalore.

Capturing a few thoughts - only as points -

- When I started for Majestic, an HAL helicopter was doing some acrobatic maneuvers - probably some kind of swiftness training was going on. It was worth a stop for couple of minutes and looking up in the sky trying to keep walking towards the bus stop.

- Realised that I had forgotten my sweater/jacket at home when I reached the Basavanagar bus stand. Had to walk back to get it. But it was worth the effort as it was quite cold out there in the village.

- It was heartening to find 95% of the trek members reach Majestic on time :) the remaining 5% was contributed by Mr Rahul Kanchan (referred to as Mr Ra Ka hereafter!), who was waiting for his camera batteries to get charged!
- There is a bus to Maddur every fifteen minutes. It is quite high a frequency, I thought.

- The KSRTC buses are equipped with technology gadgets. The bus conductor was without his leather bag and steel-plate covered bunch of tickets. This gear has been replaced by a sleek thermal-printer cum ticketing machine. No more wrong math for conductors. That's something. I thought this is the right usage of technology. At best.

- Seems like what I have always been calling a masala wada is actually maddur wada, named after the place. It was rupees two apiece on the road, and rupees five apiece in a restaurant. :)

- We had left early aiming to see the sunset at Kokkre Bellur. We realised that we were only one to one and half hours behind schedule to meet the Sun.

- At the Old Bus stand of Maddur (the bus stand is quite new, only the buses are quite old I thought), we had Mr Ra Ka, the latecomer treat us with some groundnuts. They were rupees one a handful of quantity. It was a much needed snack after about three hours of journey.

- After a long wait (of 20minutes) the bus to Bellur finally arrived. It had a wooden frame and almost infinite load taking capacity. I sneaked past a huge crowd and even got a place to sit. Shantanu followed me and handed over his rucksack. The bus was soon overcrowded. Other junta had calmly climbed on the roof of the bus. Even if we desired to go up, there was hardly any place to move, and decided to defend our places.

- The bus contained almost everything - living and non-living - that would be available in this part of the world. After a couple of PVC pipes, a coil of thick plastic pipe (~50kg in weight) was loaded on the top. People inside carried every possible aroma - right from the mograi flowers to acute smell of biDi, from coconuts to two live sheeps. The bus was, well, a haven for all of us. Soon we truly became a part of the crowd, and the bus finally started off for Bellur.

- Bellur is about 10 kms from Maddur. The journey took one and half hours!

- When we finally reached Kokkre Bellur, it was already dark outside, without any signs of a form of energy that is called electricity. Fortunately we had Sandeep, an REC Suratkal pass-out, and having KannaDa for mother tongue. He glibly asked for the essentials - food and shelter for the night. It was quite late in Bellur's clock and all the "restaurants" were already closed for the day. One person offered to cook rice and sambar for us, and we happily followed him.

Our dinner being cooked

- This restaurant guy had a couple of helpers who were riding a motorcycle of some sort. He just took one mate from our junta - Shridhar, and left in "Swades" fashion. When another bike came along, we expected another fellow to be "picked" up. But that did not happen. Assuming that the "picking" was rule of the land, obviously (and fortunately!) there were exceptions to the rule too!

- Here Mr Ra. Ka. and the restaurant guy had a lively discussion on the spirit of the small towns, aka arrack and taaDi and what not.

- It took one and half long hours and four plates of mirchi-bhajji before the dinner was set. Boling rice (it was really very hot) and hot n' spicy sambar was the menu for the night. It was ably supported by some aachaar and a paapaD. For desserts, we had a banana each.

- After satisfying our stomachs to brim, we finally set out in search of shelter. There were two options, the school or the Traveller's Bungalow. The TB sounded better, so we finalised on that. Considering the hour of the day and location, it was no surprise that when we asked the directions to TB, we got three answers from two fellows, each not at all in accordance with each other. We decided to walk in the most common direction that these guys had (actually, at best, tried to ) told us.

- After two minute's of walk, we spotted a big tree and the huge birds sitting (or sleeping actually) atop. It was some excitement, and a lot of promise for the next morning.

- We took a left somewhere near a small lake and came to know that we were actually too early, in the sense the TB was under construction. We had better believed the town people and dropped the TB plan after jumbled directions.

- Now, what? Precisely at this thought, we spotted two very tall (unusually tall, for that time of night) fellows following us. I confirmed their humaneness by checking the orientation of their feet. It looked normal.

- It took a couple of minutes of fluent KannaDa from our master Sandeep to get ourselves invited by the Two Tall Fellows at their place. We marched along.

- The accommodation was, well, first grade. The whole front yard of the Two Tall Fellow's house was given to us. They spread a big plastic sheet for the bedding. We took out our bedsheets and shawls and whatever warm clothing we had brought. The sky was starry and our eyes, sleepy.

- It was not at all cold out there at that time. But soon the temperature fell sharply, adding to the discomfort of stiff and rough bed.

- There was a tubelight just outside the house which kept of flickering until what time I don't remember. It was like somebody was taking our snaps every n microseconds.

- Once we had settled down, we started noticing people just coming in and looking at our group. It happened at three-four times. We thought we were already famous, when the next morning people started to give directions without even asking!

- Vishal was all prepared for the night due - he also put on a cap (he never wore it under the Sun, which was considerably hot too). All along, we kept pulling his leg over his "os" - that is due in Hindi.

- The stars were particularly remarkable (no, not my stars per se but the stars as they were visible from out make-shift beds. When the tubelight finally called it a day late in the night, the beauty of the stars was further enhanced.

- Sleep was not comfortable - to say the least. We kept stealing each other's sheets and shawls as the night got colder and colder. There were two primary 'snore'rs while others kept accompanying them with occasional coughs and sniffs.

- The day broke sooner than we expected and we were on our feet even sooner (many of us, in search of a suitable place and water ;)

- The painted Storks and pelicans (few in numbers) were already up and flying. As the day wore more and more light, more and more treetops with these huge birds became visible.

- It is somewhat strange that all these migratory birds prefer to stay in the city as such. Once we left Bellur, there were hardly any signs of the birds.

(to be continued - I leave you with a glimpse of a painted stork here -)

A painted stork on top of one of the trees

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