BANGALORE: My first trip to Sabarimala was an extremely uplifting experience. Those of you expecting any divine revelation can stop reading now. I say uplifting because in 1993 (I was 6), my uncle, the expansively named EKN Varma, did the heavy lifting, hoisting me up on his shoulders and walking up that not so blessed path.
This uncle used to work as the estate engineer in the not-so world famous Gandhigram rural university near Dindigul and one day it was decided for me that I would spend my vacations there—my opinion was neither asked nor given. My mother, fortunately dead scared of my uncle, did not raise any objections- not that it would have made a difference. And so off we went.
To say that the 4 am wake up time poured cold water over my initial enthusiasm is to do disservice to the pain I felt at that day. This man clearly did not sleep. Somehow I let myself dragged to the KSRTC bus stand hoping to get a long sleep on the bus. I was sadly mistaken. One of the many inconveniences that my uncle loved putting himself through (and thereby whoever travelled with him) was to take the most painful, circuitous route to a destination humanly possible.
Not for him were the luxuries of a direct bus or train, that was for wimps, curs who did not enjoy travelling. Any journey that had less than four stops where we had to change vehicles, modes of transport or the route itself was considered a trip not worth taking.
One of the things you immediately notice when you travel from Kerala to Tamil Nadu is how the colour of the vegetation changes. Despite the best efforts of everyone concerned, Kerala still has that lush greenery that is quite inimitable. Tamil Nadu has its moments, but the route to Pollachi clearly does not feature in them.
However, one of the not-so great things about road travel in Kerala is that unless you are in a Range Rover or a Patton tank, your insides are going to take a beating. Mine did, and so did pretty much everyone else’s in the bus. Except of course, my uncle’s.
The only bright spot in travelling with my uncle was that he believed that young boys should eat well. So we stopped for breakfast at some shady hotel in Palakkad and proceeded to wolf down a feast that included coffee, a set of puttu, two masala dosas, and three ghee roasts. My uncle sat across from me and chuckled happily and paid the bill without any complaint.
I had not taken three steps from the hotel when I realized that something was wrong with my stomach and I needed a toilet, urgently. Hesitantly, I informed uncle of my predicament and asked for directions. He casually pointed in the direction of some trees. I did not utter a word or move an inch and instead willed my stomach to behave. Every time the bus went over some pothole -- and there seemed to be no shortage of them -- I expected the worst. I hugged my bag and prayed for deliverance. My uncle slept.
And so finally, via Shornur, Palakkad, Pollachi, Dindigul, Ambathurai and about three hours after we started, Gandhigram.
When I saw my aunt sitting at the front porch, I ran to her and almost cried in relief. If I could have run away, I would have.
But that’s the damned thing, you know. I would go with my uncle for many more trips, and I never contemplated running away ever again.
Today, I rue the fact that I didn't go on more such trips with him, where the only thing you had to worry about was your bowel movements and watch the world and people pass by leisurely.
(Hrishikesh Varma blogs at hvrhome.blogspot.com)