Many a times I, like all of you out there, have travelled umpteen times by rickety state-run as well as private operators’ buses and the indelible Indian railways. Most of the journeys were to and from my home town Bhadravati – to Mysore or to Bangalore or a dozen other places surrounding this tiny town next to the Bhadra river. And every time I travelled gazing out of the window was the done thing. And I did too -unwary of the wind in my face I watched, with childlike wonder, as the landscape whizzed by – sometimes they were green paddy fields or coconut groves, or they were dry, sometimes by placid lakes and gushing rivers. Some other times it was through villages made up of only a few huts and an assortment of domesticated animals and birds. The view was clear because of the speed breakers by every village. At other times one would only glimpse the milestones and the lone marker on the road pointing to a dusty road leading nowhere. The names were sometimes unique and familiar and sometimes, there were roads that had no name tags by it.
I would gaze upon these roads leading away into nowhere and wished I could just stop the bus and get down and take the path and see where it led to… Perhaps a cosy village by a river, or just a dusty hamlet with a huge peepul tree where people sat by the stone platform built around the huge trunk of the tree ruminating and gossiping of the goings on in the village and elsewhere, the light of a flickering lantern.
Just once I wish I could take that road and yet I never did do it in reality.
And I realised that it takes a different spirit to do what you want to do and this came upon me – again when I was travelling.
I had been to Mumbai and was travelling back by train. And due to a derailment, the train changed its course and chose to take the Miraj line which passes through Kolhapur, Miraj, Hubli and elsewhere. However instead of going on from there to Davangere and on to Bangalore, the train moved on to Hospet aiming to connect to its original line. I was tired and decided to decamp from the train as Bhadravati was quicker from Hospet. This city incidentally is also close to Hampi.
I boarded a red KSRTC (Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation – Phew!) which would take me to Shimoga and there on to Bhadravati. It was filled with local denizens colourfully dressed and, equally talkative and noisy. I also noticed a middle-aged foreign couple in the bus engrossed in their Lonely Planet. I knew they had probably been to Hampi and were on to another exciting spot in Karnataka. I closed my eyes and tried to sleep but the heat was stifling. The area around this region is dry and vapid and even the villages are far flung from each other. It was getting dark. Around half way to Shimoga, I noticed that in the middle of nowhere the foreigners were talking to the driver as he pulled the bus to the side. They were gesturing to their book and mouthing some words that I could not hear. But I could see that a few other passengers were able to comprehend them and pointed out to a dusty almost non-existent path leading away from our road. It reminded me of the many roads that I had gazed upon.
The couple got off the bus and fortunate for them a tractor happened to pass by and turned into the very lane. The bus driver bellowed out to the tractor’s driver who signaled that he would be glad to take them.
The last I saw of the couple was as they sat in the loader behind the tractor. Light was fading fast and they made a very strange sight. Two individuals far away from their country treading on a lonely path, seeking something that the books had mentioned. They seemed quite unperturbed by the darkness or daunted by venturing out into the unknown. They were in search of adventure, excitement or was it just a old crumbling temple or fort?
As our bus made its way back to civilization, I could only marvel and tell myself, next time, it will be me.