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Old 11th September 2021, 10:56   #1
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Poor man’s travelogue | Photo-less & nonexotic


After a month since I let myself be jabbed with the 1st dose vaccine, inevitably, I got covid. Or so I think (RT-PCR returned negative, twice, however the blood analysis reports were squarely pointing at covid. Probably the delta variant, as per my doctor). Fortunately, I experienced nothing major - 101F fever and mild body ache, all of which, wound down over a period of 8 days. And in those 8 days, I learnt a lot - I learnt how everyone I love, everyone who loves me, everyone I am pals with, literally everyone I know, has a M.D in internal medicine. The psychological “cheering up” was nothing short of what Maximus got before he entered the Colisseum in “Gladiator”. The knowledge gain from the free medical advice equipped me with sufficient material to earn a medical degree from a shady university located in one of those weightlifting-gold-winning former-USSR ‘ia’/’ukstan’ countries in Eastern Europe. Anyway, the infection (covid or not) passed , and I breathed a sigh of relief. I would like to think my body fought well because I’m tough like a silverback gorilla, but most probably it’s pure luck that has rescued the multiple layers of subcutaneous fat that I am.

As a typical Indian familiy, there were many godly-promises (“venduthal” in Tamil, “nercha” in Malayalam, “chadaava” in Hindi) were made on my behalf, inorder to entice the almighty to save me from the jaws of death (I wasn’t in any proper form of danger to being with, as per the LCD screen on that ridiculously priced Chinese college-project electronic item called pulse-oximeter). Nevertheless, post my recovery, these godly-promises started assuming a level of imminence, as they circulated as sound waves around the dining table. Promissory notes, duly signed and dispatched to the cosmic eternity, about making earthly offerings to specific deities in specific temples, to be carried out at specific times. In other words, a set of space-time mile-markers, resulting from thought experiments --> a very precise plotting of important co-ordinates that form the existential reality function , y=f(x) as it gets projected onto the canvass called human life, without really knowing anything about “f” at all. Nothing short of Quantum Mechanics. Stupendous, I say.

For those of you who are thinking ‘what’s this guy on about?’, it translates to - ‘thanksgiving’ to god, for saving my life from the CoronaVirus , by offering him expensive gifts (or her, or them, or it, lest I was morally incorrect in using ‘him’). But the point I’m trying to make is that “He” didn’t even ask, he doesn’t care, he’s probably been saying “you morons, you engineered this monster in a Chinese lab, forgot to close the jar’s lid properly, allowed it to escape, and now it has somehow become my responsibility to save you ?” over the past 18 months. But then, we don’t hear / pretend to not hear. That’s the way we are - we manufacture problems for ourselves, do some social media rioting about the gravity&scale of the problem with our go-to tool called unqualified opinion. We also offer elegant ‘how-could-these-incompetents-not-know-this’ solutions, and eventually lay the blame on the health infrastructure and clueless governance. All the while, our immune system does a thankless job with stellar efficiency, keeping us alive. At the end of it all, after making the great escape from the virus, we assimilate our various forms of thankfulness, roll it into a big lump, and dump it in a place of worship. That’s what makes us the most insolent species to have walked on earth.

I am digressing… back to the main thing.

The ladies in my family, my beloved wife and my equally beloved mother (in case one/both of them are reading this), had simultaneously and separately PM-ed God with promises of some gifts, and since it had been more than two months since my recovery, it was incumbent that we started fulfilling those promises one by one. ‘Time is of the essence, we must make haste’ , my wife remarked, like Mr.Holmes urging Dr.Watson; since her’s was the first co-ordinate, X1.

The first x=X1 co-ordinate, marking y(1)=f(X1) in space-time, was a specific temple in the famous temple city called Trichy (Tiruchirappalli), in central TamilNadu.

A city renowned for (apart from its many temples) :
(1) Lord Ganesha perched on a rocky hill. Want to meet him ? Need Olympic level cardio fitness.
(2) The gastronomical ritual of stuffing copious amounts of mouth-watering pongal, idli, medu vada, spicy coconut chutney etc down one’s oesophagus, all of which are to be washed down with ultra strong filter-coffee; and for neutralizing the resulting volcanic lava within your stomach, to be followed up with a glassful of Jigarthanda, a.k.a supercooled liquid-plasma (probably the only location on earth, apart from the subterranean laboratories in CERN, possessing the secret recipe to give birth to the plasma state of matter)
(3) The numerous custom-hand-made, steeped in tradition, ‘sweets & savouries’ shops splattered all over city - each of them with their own captive blast-furnaces (for ‘straight-out-of-the-oven’ freshness) that jettison the aroma of molten butter, molten jaggery and exotic spices, straight into your nostrils as you walk into the shop, eventually overwhelming you with a desire to buy everything you can see & smell.
(4) The ubiquitous ‘tea-stalls’ around the two bus stations, selling piping hot tea & delicious bun-maska, always manned by pious looking gentlemen sporting a generous serving of vibhuti+kumkum on their forehead, at unearthly hours like 2am and 4am, providing much needed respite to tired travellers.
(these are the most relevant points about Trichy, for other dreary info like tourist attractions, use Google).

Enough about the city. Back to the topic.

One amongst the many temples scattered all over the city, was the one chosen for the celestial mile-marking of my post covid life. A temple deity boasting of a Ripley’s-believe-it-or-not number for the (wishes fullfilled) : (wishes made) performance ratio. According to my wife, the number stands at 0.999-->1.0 (yeah, don’t ask) from generations yonder, for the particular DNA sequence carried in her human cells. And therefore, applicable to me as well, since my DNA too has entered the fray, owing to the nuclear fusion our DNAs underwent, inorder to create the ball of joy who punches me in my stomach, for fun. Encouraged by the effectiveness of the barely believable arithmetic, I was tempted to ask whether I can wish for my car to have double the torsional rigidity that it currently has, but better sense prevailed after I looking at my wife’s face and her hand that was busy chopping vegetables.

An agreeable distance of ~320km one way, between Bangalore and Trichy, and the mortal fear of ‘covid strikes again’ meant than it had to be a one-day whirlwind trip without overnight stay, straight to the temple and back. The prospect of ~640km of driving, on smooth divided highways and picturesque curvy undivided roads with recently relaid tarmac, meant that I was licking my lips - the driving, the food, the break from work.

The Journey – preparation and starting off

The plan was for us three (my wife, my 6yr old son, and myself) to start from Bangalore at 3am and reach the temple by 9am, with a leisurely breakfast stop in between. Then spend a max of 2 hours at the temple to say our prayers and make the offerings ; and start back immediately, hoping to be back in Bangalore by 5pm, inclusive of a lunch stop.

Before you read further, let me tell you at the outset, something important about my better half. She is a person who can be entrusted to carry out a DEFCON 5 security detail for the POTUS. A person who is perfectly equipped with enough resources, tactical nous and guile, to make her family safely take recluse in a nuclear bunker, in case the final battle between Skynet and humanity starts tomorrow.

This is the list of ‘equipment’ that had to be loaded into the boot, for a same-day return trip that would last around 14 hours :
1) Medicines + first-aid (we could be attacked by malaria, cholera, E-coli, or even the zombies from “28-days later”)
2) One flask of super-heated-steam- water; plus one flask of mildly-hot drinking temperature water
3) A Bisleri 5L packaged drinking water orb (its not a bottle, if you observe closely). This is in case we find ourselves lost in the middle of sub-Saharan Africa and it takes us a week to find the road back.
4) Covid Protocol protection level 4 - a set of utensils including plates, spoons and tumblers, in case we are able to get a takeaway from a non-crowded restaurant that has managed to score pass marks post my wife’s WMD detection protocol check (is she related to Tony Blair, I don’t know).
5) Covid Protocol protection level 5 - packets of ready-to-eat noodles, bread & jam, in case all the restaurants that we find, don’t qualify for ‘takeaway food’ eligibility.
6) Some in-car food&beverage solutions, like candies, biscuits, cookies and those tiny comes-with-a-straw cartons of flavoured milk.
7) Some picture story books and a Lenovo tab that has preloaded games to keep our son entertained, in case he gets cranky.
8) Enough sanitizer material in aerosol, thick gooey liquid & low-viscous-ready-to-vapourize forms, that would’ve otherwise constituted a 1 week worth supply for a small hospital.
9) Umbrellas, in case a cyclone forms in the Bay of Bengal.

(I was relieved that we didn’t need to carry hazmat suits and fire-fighting equipment. On occasions like these, I am often left wondering whether she belongs to a secret special forces unit, and marrying the fat ugly bloke, was her ‘cover’)
I straightaway saw a problem with item #4, and wrapped all the utensils with a set of clean kitchen towels, before stuffing them all into a cloth bag and loading into the boot. Otherwise, the clunking and rattling sound of stainless steel against stainless steel, would’ve driven me mad. I hate it when there are unexpected and undesirable sounds when I am enjoying the act of driving.

Right, all set.

But you know where this is going. We are a typical Indian family - we don’t run on IST (Indian Standard Time), but on IET (Indian Expandable Time) – like millions of our brethren, we have mastered the space-time-continuum.
3am had eventually rolled over to 4am, by the time we got going. The drive was a breeze, southbound on NH7, with me sitting happy on a gentle 100-110kph cruise on the nearly empty highway, listening to some soft devotional music, whilst my wife and son had retired to a peaceful sleep in the backseats. It was all going well, until we hit the ‘Thoppur ghat’ descent that comes before crossing Salem (not so long ago, this stretch of road gained notoriety for being the location of a godawful accident where a cement carrying 18-wheeler lost his brakes on a downslope and rammed into a large number of vehicles that had been forced to a stop at the bottom end of the slope, smack in the middle of the highway, due to some other truck that had gotten stuck ahead of them. Many cars, two wheelers and smaller commercial vehicles were smashed to smithereens, resulting in many innocents losing their lives).

Thoppur Ghat descent

To prevent the catastrophe from recurring in the future, what the traffic police, the NHAI and the district administration have conjured up, from a rare confluence of inter-departmental co-operation, is an Orthopedician’s delight – a massive civil engineering knee-jerk reaction. At a biblical scale. Here’s what they did –an infinite number of 6 inch long x 1 inch wide x 1 inch deep trenches, neatly carved into the erstwhile butter smooth tarmac, at accurate 1 inch transverse intervals. These trenches form six parallel ‘trench-trains’ – two on either side of each of the three white lines (two solid lines at each edge, plus a lane-separator dotted line in the middle). From the perspective of a car’s wheel, it’s like six parallel square waves with 50% duty cycle and 1-inch amplitude. The dotted white lanemarker line, also has a sort of ‘water-drain depression’ around it, like a canal built into the middle of the road. The whole setup is nothing short of an extremely scientific apparatus specifically designed to resonate with the natural frequency of vibration of a car’s wheel+tyre+brakedisc conglomerate (a.k.a the unsprung mass on each corner of the car). It will shake the bejeezus out of any suspension system, unless it’s chain-tracks with rollers for springs, that are found on an actual army tank. In a bid to arrest the speed of vehicles down the series of curvy descending switchbacks, they have bitten more than what they an chew, and created a Frankenstein monster. It’s impossible to find a single orientation on the tarmac, where atleast two out of the four wheels of a car are not vibrating in an epileptic fit. However, the pièce-de- résistance is a set of pole-mounted loudspeakers, every 100m, that are screaming “SLOW DOWN” in a loop, at 120 decibels, in three different languages. Oh, and by the way, forgot to mention about yet another driver-aid – cleverly placed mini-pyramid sized ‘catseyes’ , on top of the three white lines. The catseyes are cheerfully fitted with red and amber reflectors/LEDs, so that your headlights are lighting up pleasurably blurred visions of Diwali/July4th in front of your eyeballs which are already vibrating in their sockets. In summary, “overdone” would be too mild, “apocalyptic” would be a better word to describe this military-grade way of slowing a vehicle down.

The journey continues

After shattering their way out of deep sleep, both wife and son were making cranky animal noises – my razor sharp brain was able to filter out questions like “what is this road”, “why can’t you go slow” buried in those sounds. In normal course, I would have given a reply explaining how ‘slowing down’ to crawling speeds even, is not going to change the amplitude of vibration, only it’s frequency. But knowing that a “sorry, go back to sleep” reply would qualify as a quick and satisfactory answer to their partially working brains, I did just that. And they went back to sleep. They slept all the way until it was time to stop for breakfast.

We had covered considerable distance (~230km) since the 4am start, and the time was 7am. Breakfast stop was at the Adyar Ananda Bhavan (A2B for those of you who are regular highwaymen in south India) restaurant, shortly after deviating off the NH7 and entering Namakkal town. A branded restaurant chain, renowned for hygiene, clean restrooms, reasonably ok tasting food and exhorbitant prices. Woke both of the sleepers up, and as soon as she saw the name and the empty parking space in front of the restaurant, I caught a glimpse of a reassuring nod from my wife. She got out, peeked in for good measure, and declared that we were the first customers -- ‘WMD detection protocol’ successfully cleared.
Before she walked in and placed the order for a takeaway (to be eaten from inside the car), I dived into the fray and claimed :
Me : Look, there’s no one in, we can sit and eat on the tables very close to the door
Wife : What ?
Me : Yes, look, there is nobody, they’ve just opened and we can order something quick, like idli or pongal. All the staff are well masked and are wearing 5-star kitchen staff style transparent skull-caps.
Wife : Ok.
I had cleverly subverted “Covid Protocol protection level 4” (takeaway) into a dine-in.

(silverback gorilla 1, special forces 0).

My main motivation for dine-in, was that I didn’t want sambar on my leather seats, knowing my son’s partiality towards the Pongal-sambar combo.

The service was quick and efficient, and we were done with breakfast within 20 minutes of entry. We settled the bill and also managed to reassure our bladders with a quick appointment to first-use-of-the-day clean restrooms.
Job done. First pivotal point of the journey successfully completed, considering covid era travel.
After nearly 200ml of sanitizer was unloaded onto three pairs of palms and subsequently the leather upholstery (I was on the verge of crying) of the car, we were finally settled in and ready to continue our Journey. It was 7:30am and the undivided roads ahead, with sparse traffic, laid almost in parallel to the river Cauvery, coupled with the gentle rays of the sun, chirping birds, and lush greenery everywhere, was a this-is-the-highlight moment in the journey. Whilst my wife and son were enjoying the music that was being played from her phone through the car’s speakers, I was enjoying the smooth tarmac and curvy roads, kissing the apex and powering out at the exit of each corner, since there was nil traffic. It was an 80-90km long, 1.5 hour drive to Trichy on these roads. I was living my rally-driver fantasy through the corners, dips and crests, until a point where my left eye started twitching. It took me a while to realize why. It was my ears. The ‘rowdy baby’ song played in an infinitesimal self-recursive loop (courtesy my son) had breached the threshold of neuron tolerance between my inner ear and my brain. My ears were carpet bombing my brain with “mayday” SOS messages, and being unable to service so many interrupts (since I was using up all the brain bandwidth concentrating on the rally driving), my brain finally decided to issue the alarm that would catch my attention – the left eye twitch. I slowly cocked my head to one side & glanced at the IRVM – both mother and son were fast asleep, yet again, and the damn music was simply blaring out in a loop. Switched off the thing and gained some much needed respite.

All it took was one badly designed road hump to wake up my wife from her morning siesta. She remarked :
Wife : Do you remember the last time we visited Trichy a few years ago ? We had bought an earthern pot during that trip.
Me : Really ?
Wife : Yes, and remember how you loved the taste of whatever was cooked in it ?
Me : Oh yeah.. I loved the rustic taste. Why are you not using it nowadays ?
Wife : Eh ? asking me, are you ? Don’t you remember breaking it as you tried to demo ‘how to make veg biryani in an earthern pot’ after hijacking my kitchen ?
Me : (oops) Yeah yeah, of course, of course.
Wife : Well, we bought that from a nice village shop somewhere in this region, as we were passing through some road approaching Trichy. I have been wanting to buy a replacement for a long time - it’s triple the price in Bangalore, compared to what they charge here.
Me : But do we really need it ? Already the kitchen is bearing the burden of surplus vessels and utensils, we don’t really need so much, for the three of us.
Wife : You broke that pot which I dearly loved after spending so much time searching for it and carefully buying it from the right place. And now, when there is a chance to have it again, you don’t want me to ?
Me : (I had given up) ok ok, if you spot such a pottery shop, let me know, we can stop to buy.

(silverback gorilla 1, special forces 1).

Wife : I vaguely remember that the shop was on a road like this, where you were needlessly driving fast. But I don’t remember exactly which road and where.
Me : Oh, is it ? I don’t think it’s from this route then, must be the other route on the other bank of Cauvery, since I remember we had taken that road previously.
Wife : Hmmm…

What I didn’t realize, was that my son had already woken up somewhere in between this conversation, and had quietly switched on the voice recorder machine in his head.
A few kms later, as we were leaving the outer limits of a nice looking village, he pointed straight ahead towards the right, and shouted :

Son : Amma, pots… mud pots… brown colour… in that shop. There are so many. You want to buy, no ?
Wife : Oh yes, this is the one. I can see they have a big collection. Please stop. Stop, stop, stop.

I was negotiating a sweeping right hander, squeezing between the slow truck in front of me and an oncoming Tamilnadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC) bus, so there was no way for me to stop immediately and we had surged a smidgen too far ahead to stop within a reasonable vicinity of the pottery shop.

Wife : Didn’t you hear me ? we lost the chance, we lost it. Why are you driving so recklessly ?
Me : What ? why ? didn’t you see, there was no way for me to stop. And look here, even here I can’t pull up by the side of the road, there is no proper shoulder. What can I do ?
Wife : You are always like this, will never bother about others’ needs.

Sensing that the air within the cabin was slightly heating up, my son decided to contribute his share of fuel, to stoke the fire.

Son : Amma.. I want mud pot for planting seeds. Why is appa not stopping ? Why appa why ? I saw some flower-pot pots in that shop, I could have planted some seeds and grown some plants. Why are you not buying it for me ?
Me : (surprised at the new dimensional twist to the problem) Whaaat ?
Son : Yes, appa, why won’t you buy me anything ? You are cruel… ngheee…nghee… waaa.. ..waa….

It was like someone had lobbed a grenade into our car. Within a space of a few seconds, the peaceful tranquility had changed into simmering anger. My wife kept quiet, mysteriously refraining from pacifying our son.

Me : Hey calm down everyone, we will return via the same route. I promise we will surely stop here and buy whatever you want.
Wife : What if the shop is closed when we are back ? Our return will be close to evening woudn’t it ?
Son : What ? shop is going to be closed ?…. oh no… aaaahh…. aaahh… planting pots… oh no.… aaahh aaahhh...
(out of nowhere, my son was rapidly building up steam for a mega tantrum)
Me : No.. no.. we will pass this place again in a few hours, it’s only 8:30am now, it’s only ½ hour to our destination. My guess is that by 12 noon or so, we will be back here, surely the shop will be open.
Son : no are lying and tricking me.. shop will get closed… ayyyyooooooo… ayyyyaaayyyyoooo…
(sensing an impending volcanic eruption, my wife swung into action)
Wife : No, my dear, it will not be closed, it will be open… ask your appa. Right, appa ?
Me : Yeah yeah, I know about these things, shops can’t close until midnight. In fact, I saw on the computer, how shops are not allowed to close before midnight. If they do, police will arrest them.

That did the trick - my son saw reason, and the rest of the journey was peaceful. We reached the temple at 9:30am after negotiating some city traffic. The well ventilated temple was virtually empty and eased our concern about spending time in a public place.

The return

The darshan of the deity was splendid, peaceful and fulfilling. My wife’s face had the resplendent glow of “mission accomplished”. We were done with our prayers and offerings in a little more than an hour, and it was time to start the return leg of the trip. Another 200ml of sanitizer consumption later, we cranked the engine. By now, it was almost 11am and the city had properly unloaded all its vehicle population onto the roads. Almost everywhere there was some road expansion/repair activity happening, and we were crawling. Reminded me of Bangalore in it’s pre-covid glory.

Immediately , a ‘sweets & savoury’ specialty store caught our attention. Somehow managed to park by the roadside, right in front of the shop. There was literally no space beyond ½ a foot, all around the car. Wife volunteered to do the purchase (such shops offer taster samples) as it would be prudent for me to remain in the car, in case some ‘parking issue’ cropped up.
Myself and son engaged in some interesting conversation whilst we waited.
Son : I’m bored.
Me : So am I, let’s hope she is back quickly, and we can be on our way.
Son : We will buy ‘planting pots’, right ?
Me : Of course we will. The car will not return to Bangalore without carrying ‘planting pots’
Son : I’m bored.
Me : You are 6 years old, at your age we were unaware that a word called ‘bored’ existed. Here, watch all these different vehicles on the road. Have you thought about how they move ?
Son : Yes, the wheels move in circles, so they move.
Me : What do you think makes the wheels move in circles ?
Son : What ?
Me : An engine. You see, there is something that converts petrol into circular movement….
(my wife was taking too long, it had been more than 20-25 minutes)
……. and that’s the difference between an open differential and a locked one.

(wife opens door, enters and plonks 2 bags of ‘stuff’ onto the front passenger seat)
Wife : What are you people talking about ?
Me : Nothing, just some boys’ matters…
(smile from my little one. A smile that will melt the parental heart)
(Father-son hi-five follows)
Son : Amma, do you want to know what I and appa were talking about ?
Wife : Yes I want to know…
Son : No, you can’t…. it’s “boys’ matters”.. you are a girl…. hehhheeee ….

It had become 11:30am and we made haste, to exit the city and quickly re-enter the now familiar undivided highway (the same highway with those earthern pots that were waiting for us, how could it be any other) in the opposite direction. By around a quarter past 12, I promptly stopped slightly beyond the pottery shop, where there was indeed a safe shoulder to park on. My wife stepped out for the ‘shopping’, while myself and son waited in the car, discussing “boys’ matters”.

30 minutes later (it’s impossible for women to purchase even a matchbox, without spending a minimum threshold duration) , my wife and the shopowner lady, each carrying a stack of 4-5 ‘earthern equipment’, knocked on the bootlid. I promptly opened it from where I was sitting, and went around to see how much ‘bulk’ was getting added to the house. It was considerable - 3 types of frying/boiling vessels, 4 ‘planting pots’ for my son’s doctoral research in horticulture, and a sort of porcelain looking shimmering tiny pickle jar. I ensured that they were all safely arranged in the boot, with liberal usage of used newspapers and car cleaning microfiber clothes, to ensure that momentum transfer between colliding vessels is elongated in time. Crumple zones.

We resumed our journey, and by now, the same route had transformed from soft-sunshine and chirping birds, into blast-furnace heat & increased traffic. Saving the car from the oncoming cavalcade of murderous TNSTC buses assumed greater importance than hitting the apex and powering out of the corner exit. Some of the bus drivers were fully committed into overtaking trailer trucks, in totally blind turns. I had to be razor sharp with my reflexes on numerous occasions, and there was no ‘enjoying the journey’ on this route anymore. The contrast in mood between the onward and return directions was huge.

After listening to the life-story of the pottery lady and after learning the nuances of earthern pot cooking (it’s amazing how two women, who are complete strangers, manage to exchange vital information from their lives, without inhibition – no wonder it took ½ an hour for the ‘shopping’) , it was time for the hunger pangs to strike, after a 7am breakfast that felt an eternity ago. And promptly it did, as we retraced our way back into Namakkal town whilst the clock struck 2pm. It was an easy decision to buy the takeaway lunch from the same restaurant (A2B) and be on our way. And we did. We found a nice shady tree before we joined back on the northbound NH7, and stopped in it’s shade.

And immediately got into a heated argument.

The restaurant had packed our lunch, in three separate ‘ready-to-eat-sealed-with-a-transparent-lid-plate-cum-tray-extrusion-polymer’ thingies (alongwith a pair of plastic spoons each), which were so convenient to eat off from, and dispose off after. A very clever solution that doesn’t involve any mess. Now, my wife was adamant that she wouldn’t let herself or our son, touch the thing without dousing it in ½ a litre of sanitizer. I had to use science and a firm voice, to convince her that the coronavirus can’t live on the hot outer surface of food-grade polymer that was carrying food that was well above 100 degrees C. Then followed a small lecture in thermodynamics, explaining that such packaging will eventually have reached a temperature very near to the piping hot food that it carried within, owing to it’s much lower heat capacity compared to cellulose, fibrose and water (which are the building blocks of food) inside it.
Me : Touch it, do the lid and the box, feel super-hot ?
Wife : Yes.
She reluctantly agreed that bringing sanitizer anywhere near food (packaged though it may be) is wrought with danger.
Me : So let’s eat the food in a way that’s the de-facto method to eat, when packaged in such a manner.

(silverback gorilla 2 , special forces 1)

Hungry that we were, we wanted to finish our lunch in a jiffy. However, the amount of heat carried by the food, ensured that it took 45mins by the time we were done. That said, we didn’t have to call upon the elaborate set of cutlery that we had brought from home. Those plates, tumblers and spoons enjoyed a liberating 640km journey, instead of sitting stifled in a boring kitchen shelf.

Tummies full and spirits uplifted, it was well past 3pm, when we joined the northbound NH7 towards Bangalore. ~220km or so to cover, so all hopes of a 5pm arrival in Bangalore was shot. Nevertheless, we trundled on, and despite the constant rain that accompanied us for the last 100km stretch, we managed to reach, by 6pm, the tail-end of the traffic jam that had formed at the first Electronic-City signal. We were knocking on the doors of Bangalore city. I immediately realized that standing 2km away from a traffic signal, doesn’t mean you are anywhere in the same pincode as the signal, thus mentally preparing for a long crawl until the time when we would cross it.

The rain was pounding heavily and the circus of ‘see-gap-fill-gap’ was well underway. Everytime the vehicles ahead moved half a feet, there would start a who-has-the-best-reaction-time contest, where the difference between victory/defeat literally meant ½ an inch closer/further to the vehicle ahead, than your neighbor vehicle competing for the same ½ inch. It took 45 mins to cross the signal and then I discovered the root cause of such a 2km long traffic signal tailback. The road ahead into the city, was reduced from 3 lanes to ½ lane, owing to the excellent rainwater drainage planning from the BBMP corporation. Construction work occurring in every nook and cranny, had ensured that all the drainage passageways were blocked with cement/concrete, as a result of which, the main road couldn’t drain it’s water anywhere. It was proper ½ to 1 feet deep water in most of the non-available parts of the road. Buses were refusing to water wade. One Mahindra Thar tried, and quickly gave up and returned to the I’m-chicken queue, fighting over half the width of a single traffic lane. The giga-urban-megalopolis called ‘Namma Bengaluru’ had well and truly laid a warm ‘welcome back’ for us, after a whole day of sitting in the car. To cut a long story short, it was 8:30pm by the time we reached back home. A grand total of 2.5 hours to cover the last 6 to 7km of a 640km journey.

(silverback gorilla 2 , special forces 1 , Namma Bengaluru 100)
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Old 11th September 2021, 12:05   #2
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re: Poor man’s travelogue | Photo-less & nonexotic

Lovely one Venky. To be able to write like this and not have pictures is something else!

Rockfort temple took me back to my school days where a weekly visit was in order.

Where did you manage to park your car, given that the Main Guard Gate area becomes so crowded

Also, there used to be lines of ice cream shops on the way to the temple. Are those gone nowadays?
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Old 11th September 2021, 12:42   #3
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re: Poor man’s travelogue | Photo-less & nonexotic

I completely enjoyed reading this.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Hah? Your thousand words reeled like a movie in my brain as I read along.

Offerings to the almighty, so called venduthal is like once in a white moon to my mom. It is something that Indian ladies(No offence meant) are fond of, I guess!

Last edited by Jagann13 : 11th September 2021 at 12:46.
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Old 11th September 2021, 14:02   #4
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re: Poor man’s travelogue | Photo-less & nonexotic

They say "a picture paints a thousand words", I say "your words paint a thousand pictures"...

Thank you for sharing, really enjoyed reading your travelogue.

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Old 11th September 2021, 14:17   #5
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re: Poor man’s travelogue | Photo-less & nonexotic

Originally Posted by jkrishnakj View Post
Also, there used to be lines of ice cream shops on the way to the temple. Are those gone nowadays?
I am sure Michael's will still be there. They were there in 2019 and given the legacy don't think covid would have hit them enough to shutdown.
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Old 11th September 2021, 14:58   #6
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re: Poor man’s travelogue | Photo-less & nonexotic

Thanks for sharing your travel experience!
Nice writing skills @Venky, enjoyed reading your travelogue on a boring Saturday afternoon, could relate very much to many of the thought processes and experiences while on a long drive with the family.

Hope you also got your second dose of the vaccine ?

Last edited by NPV : 11th September 2021 at 15:00.
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Old 11th September 2021, 17:22   #7
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re: Poor man’s travelogue | Photo-less & nonexotic

Originally Posted by venkyhere View Post
(silverback gorilla 2 , special forces 1
I am amazed at the writing skills of so many fellows on this forum. You are truly one amongst them Venky, truly gifted!
Loved reading the entire travelogue. Just the title had me laughing for a couple of minutes.

Just curious, did your wife proof read this
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Old 11th September 2021, 17:30   #8
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re: Poor man’s travelogue | Photo-less & nonexotic

Excellent travelogue. I liked the humorous content and your unique style of writing. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Eagerly waiting for the next travelogue.
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Old 11th September 2021, 17:40   #9
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re: Poor man’s travelogue | Photo-less & nonexotic

Did you notice that we were carried away by your narration of the journey and felt ourselves to be a part of your family trip.
Those readers missing Pictures must know that Steering Wheel does not come with Camera Controls, so either he could drive or take pictures. And to drive safely with all that backseat hurdles, is no ordinary feat.
Bravo !
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Old 12th September 2021, 00:29   #10
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re: Poor man’s travelogue | Photo-less & nonexotic

Whoa! I reluctantly opened this thread as I love seeing pictures in travelogues, without which it becomes boring for me.

But dude, I have to say, not for once did I get bored. Infact, I was picturising the scenes in my mind just by reading what you wrote. Absolutely brilliant writing!
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Old 12th September 2021, 00:49   #11
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re: Poor man’s travelogue | Photo-less & nonexotic

This travelogue has to go down as the most vivid and hilarious travelogue I have ever read. Your opening paragraph just pulled me into one big whirlwind typhoon, so much so that even after finishing it, I was laughing all along for the next hour or so. Curiosity got the better of the Special forces commando in my home and she found the source to understand my state of mind. 15 minutes later, we both were chuckling together

That description of the Pulse meter will stay with me for the rest of my life. Man, you should write more often. Thank you for this little gem on a gloomy Saturday evening venkyhere, couldn’t have spent it better then reading this wonderful log.


P.S- Do tell us about how to make veg biryani in an earthen pot next time
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Old 12th September 2021, 06:50   #12
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re: Poor man’s travelogue | Photo-less & nonexotic

Amazing writeup, you really have a way with words

Originally Posted by venkyhere View Post

Wife : Didn’t you hear me ? we lost the chance, we lost it. Why are you driving so recklessly ?
Me : What ? why ? didn’t you see, there was no way for me to stop. And look here, even here I can’t pull up by the side of the road, there is no proper shoulder. What can I do ?
Wife : You are always like this, will never bother about others’ needs.
I got flashbacks to all my highway runs with my wife and family, be it pots, plants, ladies selling fruits, inflatable pools, I was never able to stop in time at any of them safely. I had started thinking there was something wrong with my driving after all these years. Glad to know I'm not the only one who has this issue.

Last edited by Aditya : 12th September 2021 at 17:45. Reason: Quote tag fixed
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Old 12th September 2021, 08:18   #13
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re: Poor man’s travelogue | Photo-less & nonexotic

Originally Posted by venkyhere View Post
all going well, until we hit the ‘Thoppur ghat’ descent
- not so long ago, this stretch of road gained notoriety - a cement carrying 18-wheeler lost his brakes on a downslope and rammed into a large number of vehicles
- an infinite number of 6 inch long x 1 inch wide x 1 inch deep trenches, neatly carved into the erstwhile butter smooth tarmac, at accurate 1 inch transverse intervals.
- six parallel square waves with 50% duty cycle and 1-inch amplitude
- will shake the bejeezus out of any suspension system
- pièce-de- résistance is a set of pole-mounted loudspeakers, every 100m, that are screaming “SLOW DOWN” in a loop, at 120 decibels
Great narrative, @venkyhere. A picture is generally worth a thousand words, but in your case, you've proved that a thousand words can sometimes be better than many pictures.

I did the same stretch in a humble Tata Nano last year, and that was a few days after that horrific accident had taken place.

Here is a video of the loudspeakers. The highway was designed with a steep descent, and there is only that much that can be done to control damage. Honestly, I didn't find the loudspeakers having any impact on any driver going downhill.

The rumbler strips and an associated video can be seen here (Return of the James Bond car - 4,100 km in 46 days in a Tata Nano)
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Old 12th September 2021, 08:49   #14
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re: Poor man’s travelogue | Photo-less & nonexotic

Can’t remember the last time I read a travelogue without any pictures. You sir, have a unique way of narration. Loved it.

If you don’t mind, may I know if you write professionally? With my pedestrian level skillet in writing , can’t imagine how you guys manage to pen down such terrific stuff.

Last edited by SoumenD : 12th September 2021 at 09:12.
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Old 12th September 2021, 16:11   #15
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Re: Poor man’s travelogue | Photo-less & nonexotic

Originally Posted by jkrishnakj View Post
Where did you manage to park your car, given that the Main Guard Gate area becomes so crowded
Didn't go to RockFort , this was in-n-out thing to the temple we wanted to visit.

Originally Posted by NPV View Post
Hope you also got your second dose of the vaccine ?
I did

Originally Posted by warrioraks View Post
Just curious, did your wife proof read this
... no

Originally Posted by vigsom View Post
Here is a video of the loudspeakers. The highway was designed with a steep descent, and there is only that much that can be done to control damage. Honestly, I didn't find the loudspeakers having any impact on any driver going downhill.
Probably they installed the loudspeakers first, and seeing that no one slowed down, they converted the surface in the downward direction into the Frankenstein monster. Probably this video is from the 'loudspeaker only' period.

Originally Posted by SoumenD View Post
If you don’t mind, may I know if you write professionally? With my pedestrian level skillet in writing
No I don't. I have a blog though, "venkyhere-at-wordpress"
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