BANGALORE: T he sun is barely up and the four boys on bicycles meet. The checklist is taken out and one by one, the contents of their bags are struck off: Bread, butter, jam, knives, spoons, paper plates, water, kerosene...." They mount the bicycles, the excitement begins. They're off on a picnic. This time, it's Pearl Valley, the gentle waterfall some 40 kilometre from the city. The ride, of course, is part of the outing.
After some huffing and puffing up the gradient and humming and singing down the slope, they find that they can’t keep the song on their lips with the growling stomach interrupting them. So they veer off the road into a casurina grove and settle down for breakfast. After savouring the scenery and the buttered slices, they're off again, leaving the stray dogs to fight for the crumbs.
After two more hours of hard pedalling, they arrive. The only sound being the wind through the trees and through the nostrils of the gasping boys. After locking their bicycles, they walk down the irregular steps into the valley, with another sound getting louder with each step. It’s the trickling waterfall.
They are all to themselves and can't wait to take off their sweat soaked clothes and jump into the gurgling stream. After a couple of hours of splashing, swimming, climbing trees and the steep hill sides, they are hungry again. They dig a little hole in the ground and fill it with dried twigs and light a fire. The aroma of the dish cooking in the aluminium bowl, the fragrance of the casurina and the eucalyptus and the strong kerosene fumes fill the air. The picnic is rounded off with generous helpings of the preparation.
The boys return home and brush off the bur from the socks and empty the sand from the folded jeans. The sister sure is glad to see them, for she spots the aluminium bowl in which she had been feeding the cat, in their picnic bag.
For Bangaloreans, Pearl Valley, Nandi Hills, Sangam and Savandurga or any obscure lake, hillock, grove, stream or farm just on the city’s immediate outskirts, a picnic always meant being close to nature. Far from the maddening crowd never meant going far out of the city. Till, of course, these picnic spots were “popularised” and “developed”.
So, they set up their restaurants at the once unspoilt locations. Soon, vehicles honked for space, the madding crowd was not in the city but here. And instead of sand and bur, 'picnickers' now remove glass splinters of broken liquor bottles from their feet.