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Hampi Visit- II. Andante con moto
When driving away (or being driven away as is always the case with me) from Bangalore, the transition from an urban to a rural landscape is not an abrupt one. Tall glass-metal-concrete structures taper off to squat single storey houses which then vanish into vast fields on either side of the road. Bangalore, like our other metros is not a city of enormous distances and within an hour’s drive we were racing on a national highway. The stray light from the headlights of our bus would illuminate an occasional roadside hovel transitorily. In one such hutch, I caught a glimpse of countless white chicken huddled together in a hencoop. Two rats, oblivious of my short-lived intrusion on their privacy, chased each other on the parapet of the same primitive lodgings. And then within moments I was staring into the dark nothingness once again. The tedium of black broke for a few seconds when a white luxury tourist bus sped past ours, offering ephemeral glimpses of its interiors. The only source of light inside it was a small TV screen playing a movie. Having heard from friends and acquaintances the quality of cinema that is doled out on such routes, I felt glad for being where I was.

The cool breeze that now flowed from my window slit, induced in me a state of sweet sleepiness. I took out music from my hand bag; which (the music, that is) to me is as essential a companion as a towel to a hitchhiker in the galaxy.

After having driven for another hour or so, the bus took a left turn on the highway and slowed down to stop next to a roadside restaurant (named very imaginatively like most restaurants in Bangalore as Shanti Sagar). Our Bus conductor made some house keeping announcements on the bus’s public address system in a booming, blaring (which was largely a contribution by the loudspeakers) voice – first in Kannada and then (I think a terser version of the same) in English, with undue emphasis on availability of clean toilets in the restaurants. I sat in the open area of the restaurant, surrounded by a tastefully done kitchen garden, and used broken fragments from my limited reserve of Kannada vocabulary to order a South Indian thaali. A thaali frees you from the taxing exercise of picking what you want to eat – the restaurant makes all the choices (usually the right ones) for you. Having washed a delicious meal down with a hot cup of tea I felt disposed towards a little walk – though the fear of bus departing without me confined me to a limited radius around it; like a planet bound by gravitational vow to its orbit around the sun.

I looked up at the moon and then below at the white sandy wasteland surrounding the restaurant. It was littered with a confused hotchpotch of tire-treads, footprints of children, marks left by designer sport-shoes, dog paws and cattle hooves. To these I could contribute only a few specimen of my own for once other people started emerging from the restaurant, I got back into the bus and busied myself in contemplation of music for the remaining journey. “What shall we play Deepak? Something dark and dour as the road and night ahead? Clara Haskil’s rendition of Mozart’s D-minor piano concerto would be most befitting then!”

I dozed off somewhere during the second movement of the D-minor concerto and when my eyes opened next, John O’ Conor was negotiating a tricky cadenza just before the coda of the first movement of Mozart’s 21st Piano Concerto. From the frequent swerving and careening of our bus it was evident that our driver too was negotiating the movement of the bus on the now one-and-a-half lane wide (though still bi-directional) highway with a skill next only to that of Mr. Conor’s. I slept off once more only to be woken up shortly by violent trembling of the bus. The earphones by some miracle were still inside my ears but the music that they were pouring in, sounded tremulous. The trio of my three tiny ear ossicles - stapes, incus and malleus – have never been shaken so badly before. This is about as subtle as I can be in commentary on the state of our highways. I dumped my musical paraphernalia back into my handbag and tried once again to summon some sleep.

My next rude awakening came about at ten past two in the morning. The bus had stopped on the highway at a roadside fruit-juice and tea stall. A few people got down for refreshments but a look at old lady sleeping on the seat next to me quelled whatever little willingness I had for getting down. I hoped that the driver was enjoying his cup of hot tea. “It should keep him up” I muttered to myself half-asleep. The often heard tales of drivers “sleep-driving” their vehicles on highways were working their mischief in my mind. Two in the morning is no time for such contemplations - as the bus started its not so gentle rhythmic rocking, they were usurped by uneasy sleep once again.
posted: 30.1.05

6 Comments

Excellent and hilarious write-up.

"I felt disposed towards a little walk – though the fear of bus departing without me confined me to a limited radius around it; like a planet bound by gravitational vow to its orbit around the sun." LOL! This is a fear that I share when I travel by bus...

More power to your pen/keyboard!

By Blogger 'Anil' Radhakrishna, at 30.1.05  



Travelling between Pune and Bombay, I used to have the same fear myself till I realised the conductor dutifully did a headcount everytime the bus resumed its journey after a break. :)

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 30.1.05  



Beautiful wordpic of the sleep-wake oscillation throughout a road journey at night. I ate an uneasy vada pav at the mid-point with my eyes on my Mumbai-Pune bus just last night! :)

By Blogger Ink Spill, at 30.1.05  



Thanks Anil!

[Anonymous] - our conductor was a little a lackadasical, so I had to fend for myself :)

Thanks Ink Spill! Despite the fatigue and sleep deprivation one suffers en-route, these overnighters have their own peculiar charm that I find hard to escape :-)

By Blogger Deepak, at 31.1.05  



Noticing foot, paw and hoof prints, man you are too detailed an observer! Not to forget the type of shoes!!!

Neat musical description as well.

By Blogger R, at 1.2.05  



Thanks Aditi... I tend to think that all the details around me notice me rather than the other way around ;-)

By Blogger Deepak, at 1.2.05  


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