Sunday, August 16, 2009

My first drive on a highway- to Ramanagaram

I had not imagined that it would turn out that way. Nor did my friend accompanying me. Aravind and I had gone to our gym, like we have always, on any given day of the week. On reaching the gym, we were told that they are closed for the day. We had no prior wind of this and were caught off-guard, as we are generally serious about our workouts.

Given this sudden turn of events, we were wondering what to do. We were not in the mood to go back home immediately. At the same time, we were not exactly well attired to go to any public place like a movie etc - after all, gym wear is not exactly presentable! We trudged out of the gym to my new car and were generally wondering what to do next.

Out of the blue, I suggested to Aravind that it might make sense to go on a long drive. Both of us are recent buyers of our first cars and he completely understood the excitement that I was hinting at! On the spur of the moment, we decided to go past Mysore Road and enjoy some music along the way. That was the start of a very sudden weekend getaway on this lovely Sunday afternoon.

We crossed the city limits in about 30 minutes and hit Mysore Road. I soon realised that this was the first time ever that I was in a car of my own, on a state highway. The road was immaculately laid out and the weather outside was quite magical. I was as excited as a small kid boarding his first flight and being greeted with chocolates by a good-looking air-hostess!

Given that both of us are travel maniacs, we quickly sized up the situation and realised that this could be a fantastic, quick/sudden trip that can be converted to a memorable one if we stretched a bit. While Mysore is a good 130 kilometres from Bangalore city and was a touch impractical to achieve (given that we were well into Sunday afternoon & had a Monday morning coming up!), we decided to go to Ramanagaram - about 25% of the way to Mysore.

Ramanagaram, as the average Indian Bollywood fan would know, is the venue of that giant of a movie shot in the 1970s-Sholay. This is exactly where the characters of Gabbar Singh, Jai, Viru, and Basanti hit national headlines and captured the imagination of the Indian populace. And for us to see those tall hills, big rocks, and the paths that led to the top of the hills was indeed exhilarating. What added to the spice of the afternoon was the beautiful cloudy weather, with a tinge of sunlight peeping through the skies.

I was particularly excited when the speedometer in my car hit 100 km/hour. To do that on Indian roads in my own car, was truly a moment to cherish. I had dreamt of that moment for years. The fact that it happened without any planning and with no hint of a trip coming up, made it particularly thrilling.

We crossed Ramanagaram and reached a place called Janapada Loka - translated in Kannada as the World of Janapada (a folk dance in Karnataka state). It was a lovely, low-key kind of a place run by the Government of Karnataka. The beauty of the place lay in the manner in which the history of the state was captured - it was a place that showcased the state's rich culture & heritage, had a museum full of old artifacts that were used in yesteryear in interior Karnataka, had colourful dolls replicating real-life artistes with great attire in folk dances etc. In particular, the magic of the Yakshagana form of art was brilliantly depicted in all floors of the museum.

Following the visit to Janapada Loka, we proceeded to the neighbouring building - Kamat Yatrinivas, one of the most famous restaurants in the state! There, we had great south Indian dosa, authentic Maddur vada (slurp!) and a coffee that was par excellence. For a non-coffee chap like me (tea -freak!), the coffee here was amazingly crisp and strong.

We finally trudged out of the hotel back onto the highway for our return journey home. The drive back to Bangalore was replete with a couple of rash drivers giving me an opinion or two about my safe driving on a highway + dumb auto-richshaws crippling the fast-moving traffic. Well, they need to understand that I was driving in a new car for the first time ever on a big highway! And in any case, even if I were a veteran highway driver, I don't think I will be a rash one.

I dropped Aravind at his place and came home directly. On reaching home, there was a sense of immense thrill and satisfaction of having driven a car on a highway and clocking very good speeds at that. An old dream, suddenly fulfilled. Like Aravind rightly said, the best thing to do in life is to take it as it comes - who in the wild world knew this morning that we would end up making a round trip of 100 kilometres, on the outskirts of Bangalore between 230 and 630 pm! That's life!!:)

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