Some of the high points of my hitherto mostly uneventful life are journeys from Bangalore to Mysore. They have always been special because Mysore means to me - holidays, lazing around, getting to meet grandparents and cousins and aunts, eating good food, and generally having fun.
And the journey to Mysore has always been sweet - the anticipation, the excitement....
My first memories of going to Mysore consist of getting up at unearthly hours to catch the 4 45 am bus from near our home, that went directly to Mysore, with a stop at the main bus stop. So my parents would pull us out of bed and drag us, half asleep, to catch this bus, telling me that I could sleep on the way (which I usually did). There was a corresponding bus (at a slightly more earthly hour) from Mysore back to Bangalore. These early buses ensured that we reached our destination very early, and had the whole day ahead of us. But the buses those days weren't as comfortable as they are now - but they would do - after all, it was a journey of just about 3 hours. I would sleep for the first half of the journey, and wake up when the bus stopped half-way at Maddur. I would then eat the sandwiches that my mother had packed, and then doze fitfully for the rest of the journey. My mother, usually travelling with two small kids and a fair amount of luggage, never got down from the bus during the ten minute stop. But when my father was travelling with us, he would get down to stretch his legs, and I would be paranoid that the bus would leave without him. I would be jittery and keep looking out of the window to keep him in my sight, and my pulse rate would come back to normal only when he got back onto the bus.
But the 4 45 bus service from near our house was discontinued, and then we would have to go all the way to Majestic to catch the bus. But since we anyway had to go to Majestic, we started going by train, because we enjoyed it more. Oh the excitement! Rushing in to the compartment and grabbing two window seats - one for my sister and one for me, better still if the window seats were west-facing (so that the sun wouldn't blind us as the journey progressed). Settling in, keeping the luggage away, removing our footwear and sitting on the seats, and looking out of the windows. Wait desperately for the train to start, and when it did, stare mesmerized at the huge city of Bangalore. Know that we have left Bangalore, at the stench of the city sewage canal. Watch the landscape unfold. The green paddy fields, the bushes and shrubs, and then the distinctive rocky landscape of Ramanagaram. Watch once again as the rocks fade away, giving rise to the same kind of hypnotic landscape, the sapota trees, the coconut trees, the toddy palms, the wild flowers, an occasional lake or stream, a hillock or two with a temple right on top, the stations, some small, some big, but all the same.
None of the stations held as much interest as that of the Maddur station, simply because of the vendors selling hot Maddur vades. How our stomachs would growl and mouths water at the tantalizing fragrance! But our mother would refuse to buy it for us, stating lack of hygiene as the reason. She would say that she would make it for us after we got to Mysore. We would just have to be content to dream about the hygienic Maddur Vades we would get at home, and do with watching our co-passengers gobble down the Maddur Vades and wiping their fingers on the oily paper. Once, just once, our mother astonished us by buying us Maddur vades at the station. We went mad with joy, and wolfed down the oily vades with glee.
But what she did buy for us regularly were the roasted groundnuts, peddled by a toothless old man, mumbling, "Kallekaaaayi, kallekaaaayi." We would buy heaps of groundnuts, and crack each nut laboriously, to eat the delicious nuts within. We would then wrap up all the shells carefully in paper to dispose of later. A few years later, a young boy replaced the old man, and we were told that the old man had died and this boy was his grandson. We bought the groundnuts anyway.
The landscape, meanwhile, remained unchanged, until, of course, we reached the island town of Srirangapatna. We would pass the Kaveri river twice with a deafening clanging, and we would peep out to see how many of the rocks in the rocky river was visible, and exclaim at how much rain or how less of it had fallen that year.
When we had passed the Kaveri the second time, we would grow dizzy with excitement and impatience, because it meant that Mysore was just a stone's throw away. And sure enough, as the first clumps of homes and buildings came into view, we would start putting on our shoes and taking the luggage down, and start jummping up and down. As the train rolled into the station and stopped, we would jump out and rush to the auto stand to find the auto that would take us to Ajji-Tata's house. The superb culmination of a wonderful journey.
But we've hardly travelled by trains in the last five-six years. With roads getting broader and better, and the cars getting faster, we have been driving down to Mysore. But my excitement remains unabated. I love getting up in the cool of the morning, loading things into the car, and setting out on the smooth drive, punctuated only by a stop at Kamat Lokaruchi or some other popular highway restaurant for a mouthful of delicious breakfast, and some steaming coffee.
I guess the journey to Mysore, for me, will always be sweet.