8 days. 6 states. 1 guy. ≃ 2800 km. #ForeverAloneThat would be the summary of my ad hoc travel that started a Friday & ended the next. I call this my ‘GoUNESCO Trail‘, for had it not been for GoUNESCO, I’d’nt’ve done this.And having traveled even this miniscule distance, I’d now say:
India is neither First World
nor Third World;
It’s a Different World.
The posh roads of Bangalore, more-than-2-millenia old caves of Ajanta & Ellora, laid-by-Ashoka-and-been-there-since-long Stupas of Sanchi, The Symbol of Love that is The Taj Mahal, the a-mazing town of Vrindavan, the secure roads of Delhi – all these which I had only read about could be witnessed in person. Never thought these’d happen, but they did. Well, and this is how.
Day 0 – 14th Dec. 2012
Right after the last hour approval of my long leave, on the Friday the 14th of December ’12, I booked my ticket on KSRTC by 17:00 for the bus at 20:00. Having started at 18:00 from my place at the southern end of Bangalore, it was indeed Herculean to reach the Majestic Bus Terminus at 19:30. The bus to Bijapur started at 20:05, and it reached its destination by 07:50, the next morning. This 12-hr journey was the first in the trail, and it gave me the maximum # of micro heart-attacks. Not that there anything horrifying happened around me, but within me. First, I was to cross South India, which I never had, speak languages that I hardly could, put up with a weather that I’d never even been in, stay at places I had no idea about, and above all, return alive and rid my parents of their fear.
To a South Indian, which I very much am, India is divided into two major
parts. Only two – the South & the North. Anywhere within the 4 states – Karnataka,
Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu & Kerala is South and anything above these
is the other. By this standard, I was to go North & Norther than any
North I’ve ever been to. Starting one evening with just a couple of tee-shirts & 2 jeans pants, and half a strip of Crocin pain-relief tablets with a toothpaste-n-brush was the easiest thing to do, to begin with. But the moment the engines revved up, so did the blood-flow from & to my heart. Of course I admit that I was nervous, for reasons stated earlier. But what seemed more important was what-n-where I was going to see-n-be. I decided not to alight from the bus. And there went my first sleep filled with worries of my Android phone’s battery backup for the rest of my life then.
Day 1 – 15th Dec. 2012
So yeah, I reached Bijapur at 07:50, and I was to go to Aurangabad, for which I got into my next bus to Solapur. The puri, the breakfast had at a junction was just okay, but my first shock came by, and it sent a million chills across my nerves – NO COFFEE! A blow so hard that I considered for a moment taking the bus on the opposite direction and heading back home. But there was a hotel at a corner of the bus stand in Solapur, and I could get a Coffee there, albeit yucky. Then a bus to Aurangabad was boarded, and I got myself a ticket to Beed, which is only half the distance, based on a co-passenger’s advice that there’d be better & faster buses from there since it’s a junction. And he was wrong. The bus in which I already was the fastest one could ever get anywhere there.
My only companion was The Krishna Key by Ashwin Sanghi, which I had borrowed, and that kept my occupied most of the time, i.e. whenever I wasn’t on my feet / peeping out of the window. There was a mention in the book, of Radha, and the very next moment, I could hear a child being addressed with the same name, and her mom was trying to calm her down and get a smile out of her, which wasn’t that easy. And a few minutes later, I was having a conversation with that mom in my broken Hindi. Most of the passengers in that bus were conversing in Marathi which I had no clue about, or Kannada, that was a lot different that I’d ever heard. This lady, Gayatri Tokar [that surname was a bit complex] was a post graduate in Computer Science and had been a lecturer in a university nearby, and had just left her job a few months ago for her kid. She was on the way to their parents’ place, and her daughter Aurohi aka Gita was keeping her occupied. The bus stopped somewhere for lunch, where I could get a plate of what was called ‘Masala Rice’, and there was also a good milk-sweet available on the street – Khawa, aka Paal-kova as we call it in Tamil Nadu. Got a slice of 50g for 10 bucks, and it was totally worth it.
|Gayatri Takur & Gita||Masala Rice. #NotBad|
And a few minutes later, I spotted a familiar face on a newspaper a guy was reading nearby. Once he was done, I requested for it, went to that page, had a wide smile on my face, and tried deciphering the Marathi written in Devanagari. Oh, and who it was! Cheered me up even for long after that!
The Superstar Rajnikanth!
And around 16:00, we crossed a long river with and I got to know that it was called ‘Ganga‘. That very moment, there was a rise in my desire to travel up till the other famous Ganga. That had always been one of my dreams, always is, and hope it wouldn’t remain only so in this lifetime. Every river has got that something that’s more than just water or the things it brings. Something more. A river, along with its land would’ve witnessed generations, cultures, peoples, their faith, rituals, and a million things more than we could ever know! Thoughts such as these, then rose, do now, and always will. But this journey taught me that owning a ‘been there; done that’ feel involves a lot of actions which would teach a lot more of reality. It was another snack-time, and there was a guy selling the local mixture or some sort of khattaa-meethaa there. It was ‘DOlE chivudA‘. Was worth it for 10 bucks, with some oil for 15.
|ढोले चिवडा – DOlE chivudA|
I kinda landed at Aurangabad around 19:30 that evening. I say ‘landed’, for I was on my back for the whole day, and could hardly stretch. I was already stammering in my Hindi, and a few good men did help me out in English. I was even told about this Hotel Arora Lodge near the bus stand, and was advised to stay there and continue the next morning. There was a good restaurant nearby, and I promptly checked in and asked if a Filter Coffee would be available. Yes, you guessed it right. The answer was a No, and I had to settle for Nescafe. Plus, I could get my Android phone charged for as long as I would be there sipping or sitting. And the most important & essential relaxation could be afforded there – The Holy Restroom. A good restroom with running water is a nomad’s boon and good karma. So I washed my face, had a Nescafe strong, and had a conversation with an uncle there who gave me a decent map of the areas nearby and the places worthy of a visit. One of them was Shirdi, the one known by Sai Baba. I never knew it was nearby and that I could go. That I didn’t is different thing, but a local’s words always help. And all these time, the ever hungry Android was having its dinner, thanks to my second coffee.
Since I was seriously scared about the accommodation, et al, I has just signed myself up on CouchSurfing. That wasn’t of any help throughout, but I could get some good reviews and was thrown a good amount of light on people who were ready to host strangers, just by browsing some of the comments there.
The next little hunt was for a “pure veg.” hotel, but this wasn’t as tough as I expected it to be. Soon I could find one nearby, a Maarwaadi-style restaurant called Panchamrut, and also learnt that the Hindi equivalent for ‘pure veg.’, that is ‘shudhdh shaakaahaari‘. The Sanskrit remaining in me explained it to be ‘pure that-which-belongs-to-a-branch‘. Or so, I thought. The food was that which mattered the most now.
|Damn, I forgot the sweet’s name!|
I got a cozy little room at Hotel Arora Lodge for 250 bucks, and it was cheap for there. The reward was flying around in the form of mosquitoes, but that didn’t matter much. There was a minimum of a million thoughts on insecurity and survival that nearly made me want to check out and go back to my place. And since I acted against him by traveling thus far, dad’s words, “Alright! Do keep me informed everyday once in the morning & evening, that you’re alive. Nothing more do I ask from you now. Good night!” were resonating within. I had to sleep. And so did I, not knowing the next day, like every other night, like everybody else.