After a very long time the travel stars in my life shone briefly enough to let me go on a short trip to Bengaluru. My last visit to Bengaluru was sometime in 2013 I guess. Though Bengaluru has many charms the chief attraction it holds for me is the bunch of bookstores on MG Road where I have found many good titles on earlier visits. On my previous visit to Bengaluru I spent hours browsing in Blossoms, Select, Bookworms, and another store whose name I cannot recollect now and ended up buying about a dozen titles. It is enough to make me wish, almost pray, for a chance to visit the city. Last week this wish was granted when Hari asked me if I would come along in his car to Bengaluru.
After more than an eight-hour drive, driving at a sedate 80 kmph which Hari maintained, and with breaks for breakfast and lunch, we reached Bengaluru at around four in the afternoon. The weather was warm and sunny enough to put anyone in a good mood. However just before we reached Bengaluru I got some news on the phone that took all the excitement out of the trip. Later it improved a little after I went straight to the bookstores on MG Road and hauled in five books.
After picking up a book at Bookworm and before visiting Blossoms I sat in the India Coffee House and had a coffee and leafed through ‘Hunters in the Snow’. The coffee was nice but it did nothing to lift my moods that were down after I got the phone call. After spending a few minutes in Blossoms I noticed it was raining outside which further dampened my moods. I looked at the thousands of titles on the shelves with a desultoriness I do not usually experience in a bookstore. Even in that dark mood I managed to find a few titles worth buying. With the rain showing no sign of abating I realized that I wouldn’t be able to visit Select and the other store after I was finished at Blossoms. I decided to spend all the time at Blossoms and increase my chances of finding more books and so stayed put there. I found a few more titles and decided I had enough.
Clutching the precious haul of five books I stood near MG Road metro station waiting for Hari. Afterwards we waited in vain for a pre-paid autorickshaw. After a long wait we got one and got back to the hotel. It was still raining and it did not look like it would stop until the morning.
However it did not rain the next day. The next day, a Sunday, we decided to have ‘benne dosa’ at MTR which wasn’t very far from where we were staying. After a short wait outside, we were led to a table which we had to share with four other men. The waiter took a long time to appear. We had to sit for an even longer period for him to bring our order. There was no ‘benne dosa’ waiting for us at MTR. For the first time in my life I ate idli with the ‘saag’ that is normally eaten with puris. At least, it is eaten that way in Hyderabad. We were told that all the sambar in MTR is finished by eight in the morning and anyone who comes after eight is condemned to eat his idli/dosa/wada without sambar. So we had the dosa we ordered without the sambar which is like eating biryani without the salan. However we ended up eating ‘Chandrahaara’ which is a sweet dish that we ordered after the voluble Marwari guys sharing our table told us that it was available only on Sundays. It was wonderful and though we couldn’t have ‘benne dosa’ I was glad to have tasted ‘Chandrahaara’ which I plan to have on my next visit to Bengaluru.
On the way back we stopped at Anantapur for lunch. Luckily, we could locate the hotel (Sanman) where I had eaten lunch on a previous official trip sometime in 2006. We had ‘olige’ and jowar roti which are the local specialties. The lunch at Anantapur made the detour from the National highway worth it. After a short distance we came upon a crowd of onlookers, people from cars, trucks etc who got down to take a look at something on the road. It wasn’t difficult to guess that there had been an accident that had taken place only a few minutes earlier. From the expressions on the faces of the people returning back to their cars etc I knew it was a fatal accident and that someone had died. As we drove past slowly I saw the body of a man lying on the ground, a pool of blood under his head. Beside the body was an overturned SUV and a short distance away we saw another badly dented car with the inmates checking under the hood. The sight of the body put us in a grim mood and we drove quite slowly for a while.
Later we got caught in high winds that rocked the car a little so we took shelter in a Reliance outlet for a while until the wind had died down. Later we saw the hail, marble sized pieces of ice that lined the road. I wondered if the body that we saw had been covered or was still lying in the rain. But it did not deter me from doing something risky. Hari took a break from the driving and I took over. Despite being told not to go over 80 kmph I pushed the Hyundai i10 beyond 100 kmph. There were too many cars overtaking us and there was one whose driver gave me a contemptuous glance. I wanted to overtake him at least once and that made me go too fast. But just when I was thinking that I was doing great I heard a rattling sound coming from the front and felt the car wobble a bit. Luckily I was able to bring the car to a stop. The front right tyre was shredded to strips. The tyre had burst on the newly laid BT road. When I touched the tyre it was very hot.
We managed to change the tyre without getting swiped by the trucks and cars that sped past at great speed. We made it to Hyderabad in time to have dinner at home. It was such a brief trip I wondered the next morning if I had really made it to Bengaluru. But the sight of the book haul, the dull ache in the arms, and the memory of the taste of the ‘Chandrahaara’ at MTR that seemed to linger in the mouth confirmed that it was a real trip.