When you travel light, you spend less time packing. I usually do the packing the previous night for an early morning departure. This time I managed to procrastinate even further. Did the packing at morning 0545 hrs for a 0630 hrs departure. Thanks to this, realized that we had started a 2000 km car journey, sans the car’s papers! We shall pray to Allah that the Karnataka cops don’t find anything hanky-panky in a red Chevy Beat carrying an old man and 3 young girls!
I somehow had assumed that the entire road to Bangalore has been 6 laned. Realised that it tapers off into the old 4 lane territory after Satara. The advantage of a 4 lane is that it requires a more gamish approach – as you go left and right all the time whenever you encounter the trucks sticking to their right side of the road. The game had an interesting pause point just after Karad – when one onion overloaded truck loved the right side so much, that it decided to go to sleep right there. When we reached 2 puny cranes were trying to change her sleeping position so that instead of the entire two lanes, she would just lie on one of them. Traffic jams are nice social occasions. All your competitors become sympathizers. Chatted up with a lot of fellow drivers – and gave them live reports on the crane operation.
Goa trips by car used to be a regular affair some years ago. My compulsory stop those days would be Satyawati Palace, just after Nippani, where the Azra / Amboli Road branches to the right. For nostalgia’s sake, we decided to stop there for lunch. The guy at the counter remembered his old customer – and we had a good light lunch there. Ever since I had an incident with a motorcycle who broke past the median, as I was enjoying my post prandial drive in Bhilwara en-route to Srinagar, I have been wary of heavy lunches. We activated Google Maps Directions assistant at Nippani. It started off by asking us to take the entry point into Sankeshwar in the Bangalore direction. But with a few more wrong turns, we realized its intent – and then reached Badami without asking any human googles.
The route was surprisingly green, given that it is peak summer. There were a lot of pineapple fresh juice sellers on the way. Stopped at one to sample his wares. Most juice sellers charge you a premium price if you want to enjoy an ice-less glass. Having paid our 25% premium for that, we realized that the specs should have also included sugar less. The overdose of sugar in the juice ensured that the juice was more sugarcane than pineapple. We were forced to wash it down immediately with some coconut water – to which thankfully you cannot add sugar or ice!
My trusted friend as far as hotel selection is concerned is Tripadvisor.com We had booked Hotel Sanman Comfort near Badami Bus stand. I usually short-circuit brokers by googling for the hotel contact number after reading the tripadvisor reviews. They are happier to accept bookings without advance in such a case. With a nice bar below, the girls were apprehensive of the room quality. But on checking out the rooms we found them clean and spacious. The staff was amazingly helpful. They helped in getting the car into the small parking lot in front of the hotel – no mean feat, given the traffic density. The center of the market location meant that one could go fruit shopping and enjoy the VFM restaurants around the bus stand. The linen quality, though, was not up to the mark. The pillows were also designed for boxing practice – and funnily enough they had a video camera installed in every room!!
After having landed up at 1600 hrs, we decided that we could start our tourism right away. We were informed that the famous Badami caves remain open till 1800 hrs. So we drove down the 2 km from our hotel and did a dekko of the caves. The caves are carved into the sandstone hills that surround the town. In fact the color of the sandstone – yellow badam like – gives the town its name. In fact sandstone, being soft, is a sculptor’s delight. So this area was also the training ground for the sculptor guild in the Chalukya rule. What is interesting is that the caves are actually autographed by the guys who made them. Coming back to the Badami caves, there are 4 of them (and also one natural one). I would guess that there were 5 natural caves – and 4 would have been filled in by the temples. These have been done at different times – dedicated to the Gods who were in fashion at that time. From a management perspective, it is interesting to note that tally marks were used to mark attendance. Needless to say, these marks were sculpted into the stone.
There is a fort at the top – which is most famous because one of its occupants was the great Tipu Sultan. The valley of the cave hills overlooks a lake. We did a parikrama of the lake and did a dekko of the temple at one end.
There was also a museum to see, but ASI in its wisdom closes the museum at 1700 hrs – and opens only after 0900 hrs. The caves and other monuments, in contrast, are open from 0600 to 1800 hrs. One thing that I usually do – but did not do this time – is to do my HW before my monumental tours. You kind of don’t appreciate stuff without knowing context.
We discovered the VFM Anand Hotel next door for dinner, which was also our haunt for breakfast the next morning. Managed to raid the local fruit bazaar – and get my desserts in place for dinner and breakfast.
Left next day for Pattadakal, …, a temple construction training school. There are about 12 temples in the complex – in varying styles. Am still trying to come to grips with the difference between the North Indian and South Indian style of temples. The South tends to have more layers – whereas the Northern temple spire is more parabolic. In any case the purpose of temples was not to impress the Gods, but the king’s subjects. Interesting point to note was how work on the temple wall statue starts off. With a line drawing – which is chipped off. A cuboid is chosen with width equal to the foot or stomach of the statue – whichever is greater. Then the chipping starts.
Having done an early morning sojourn at Pattadakal and enjoyed the antics of the langurs next to the Malaprabha river, we moved on to Aiholi. There are hundreds of monuments in Aiholi, not all of which are under ASI. We watched the first two ourselves – and had a self appointed guide showing us the next two. He was accompanied by a gang of kids who imagined that all tourists only served one purpose – the providers of chocolate. One of the young friends even pickpocketed a packet of cashew from us – and it took quite some dexterity to get that out from him as he sprinted away with his new found treasure. He returned to the group merrily after surrendering his booty to another friend. Well, we realized that might is indeed right in Aiholi – and there is a close battle between the simians and humans in this regards.
After another two monuments, we realized that we need to wind up as it was getting too hot. The hors de oeuvre of Aiholi are the Durga temple and Lad Khan temple. For those who are curious about the religious integration of Islam and Hinduism, Mr Khan was an official in the Bijapur kingdom, who converted the temple to a residence. It has since been more famous known by his name. The Durga temple was quite unique in the sense that it had a semi circular front. The Lad Saheb temple was used more as a mangal karyalaya – which is to say an assembly hall for village functions.
There is a quaint museum on the premises, which tells us that this site has been in inhabitation for a few lakh years. There have been old stone tools found on the river bed of the Mesolithic age. Having exhausted the last of the monuments, we took off for Chitradurg, our target being to reach it by evening. We had lunch enroute at Idukki, and reached our Amogha hotel by 1900 hrs. The hotel was in the old congested part of the city. We were pleasantly surprised to find car parking in the building basement. Next day morning, we also found half a dozen monkeys enjoying the basement, along with the car. About a km away was the Chitradurg fort. As a result of monumental sicknesses on the kids’ part, we avoided the fort. Instead did the usual fruit shopping at the local market.
The high point of the Bangalore trip was a trip to Priti Rao’s place. Taking the NICE road was a good idea – as we reached the other end of Bangalore in an hour and 105 bucks toll. Her house is very close to the toll exit. The builder of the society in which she stays, Good Earth, is renowned for making environmentally friendly housing.
We could see that immediately on entering: Brick buildings, rainwater harvesting, gardens for every house and terrace. Priti tells me that the society is cooler than its surroundings by at least 2-3 degree C. What also helps is that there is a river which flows close by. What strikes you as soon as you enter Priti’s house is the simplicity. The big drawing room has just two objects: A sofa made of water hyacinth rope – and a compact 4 stooled dining table. What you see below, btw, is her building terrace.
We met with Tejas and Priti’s mom-in-law, who happened to be at home. Her husband, Hari, works in IBM – on the other side of town. Tejas is a bright chappie, and looks at becoming a good all rounder. He plays a mean guitar, and is a regular at soccer. He goes to a Swaminarayan school close by. Priti stayed in the UK for some time – and was impressed by the school that they had there. So she decided that if she found a branch in Bangalore she would put her son there.
We went for a conducted tour of her society. There are two conventional wells that have been dug for rainwater harvesting. There is extensive use of stone for the exteriors. As the society is still being built, we could see the specialized stone craftsmen at work. There are more than 250 species of local plants that dot the gardens. In fact, the gardens get built before the buildings. She showed me a shrub which is a butterfly magnet. Indeed, we found 5-6 butterflies hovering over each of those shrubs.
Her mom-in-law is a great cook. She reminded me of Venkatesh Rao’s mom because of her Hindi. She does not know it too well, but she makes good attempts to speak. She made us some great dosas for lunch. Followed by a 5 course regular South Indian meal. Immediately on completing the extensive meal, Pinki declared that she is going for a siesta – and she went on to sleep for the next 1.5 hours.
Next day morning had a COEP breakfast meet at Pravin Pathak’s place. Pravin has been a Bosch lifer. He started his career in Bosch at Nasik – and hopefully will be back in Nasik after a few years. Has been in Bangalore since 2015. Before that he had a 3 year stint in Germany as well. He has spent most of his career in Production – but now has been tasked with a kind of IoT project at Bosch. He stays in a lovely apartment, owned by Bosch, bang opposite Ulsoor lake. We started with a one hour ride to Cubbon Park.
Pravin’s wife, Kojagiri, dished out a lavish spread, which ensured that we did not have to worry about lunch. Incidentally Kojagiri is also a part of the coaching sorority. She comes from a family of teachers. Grew up in Sadashiv Peth. She used to run a Math-Science tuition in Nasik. Worth discussing one very interesting practice that she had in her coaching days, She works with children from the neighborhood slums. She coaches them in the same batch as her other students. She ensures that only first names are used in her class – so that there is anonymity about the background of the students. Also though she takes full fees from all students, the poorer slum parents receive a full refund, with a condition, that they don’t let their kids know about this. Hats off to Kojagiri for her novel initiative.