Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bicycle expedition to Somanathpur

My daughters made the trip (in a van) with their group Sunday and brought this digital image. This post resulted from the instant inspiration to recall my visit to that historic site almost three decades back.

Our cricket team used to gather in the evenings for 'katte sessions' (somari katte) by Geeta Road. One evening (June 1981) on the katte, it was decided that we should go on our bicycles to T.Narasipura and Somanathpura which are about 30 kms east of Mysore. Those who had bicycles were eligible for this tour. I had my old Robin Hood. It had been fitted with new tyres (Dunlop Roadster - Cycle Rickshaw quality!) a few months before. So 60 kms of journey was not a problem. Roads were very calm in those times with sparse traffic.

Earlier, in the mid 70s, I had wandered off to Mandakalli Airport with another set of street friends to see the airport. It was actually a sleeping little airstrip (not a port!) with hardly any activity. My disappearance from home and in the street with the bicycle had made my grandmother tense. Mandakalli was only 5 miles but it meant 'very far' for me. That was my first (ad)venture on a 'long' ride on my Robin Hood.

Look at the majestic Robin Hood!

Permission for this longer trip was sanctioned from elders at home as I was now older and experienced. Nine of us had our plan chalked out. First we would go to Somanathpur via Bannur and then on the return leg, we were to come via T. Narasipur where a confluence takes place between rivers Kapila, Cauvery and Guptagamini . The places are towards Mysore's east.

The trip day closed in and I was ready with my Robin Hood in ship-shape in all respects. I had borrowed my friend Girish Nikam's box camera that could take twelve exposures. So a film roll was bought out of the budget of a few rupees! I was ready with my cricket hat (in fact, I used the one - out of many which I was to stitch later!) and my great-grandfather's goggles. Just read this description of the goggles on this bill here:

"Superior smoked neutral tinted crest pillared half-crape side-eye preservers with nickel turn-pin frame" bought through B.Kristnaswami Chetty, Optician, Madras in 1898 through an acquaintance in Shimoga. The cost was Seven Rupees and my forefather was then 30 years old. May be a group of three had ordered one each for them for a total of twenty one rupees.

These are the very goggles that protected my eyes during the journey.

Someone got the food boxes ready early in the morning in two heavy boxes (rice-bath and curd-rice). This was to be our fuel!

Everyone met at our Katte at the stipulated Sunday morning time, filled with excitement. Kashi had an American bicycle which he was not using for sometime but he had readied it for this trip. The journey was flagged off by half past six. It was a smooth start.

Just as we were about to leave Mysore border, this American bicycle chain gave way, much to our dismay. Two of them went in search of bicycle mechanics and since it was a Sunday, it was unlikely they would find one and that too so early in the morning. So the rest of us had to rest there before the rest of the journey!

We sat on the road kerbs parking our bicycles in front of us waiting and wondering with fingers crossed. There were no mobile phones then, to communicate in such crises! We depended on praying and telepathic communication!

After an hour or so, it was a heartening sight to see the two of them returning - with a smile as wide as the road and an alternate 'desi' bicycle for Kashi, leaving that 'foreign' one back in his home. This 'foreign bike' became a good topic to tease Kashi later on.

The delay was accepted and there was a 'restart'. Our tool kit was equipped with other common things but not to handle a 'chain link snap'!

The ride was smooth, as the road was 'motorable'! There were a few who wanted to show how fast they can ride despite having been agreed that we must be within range in case of eventuality. The one (Madhukara, my neighbour) who was carrying the tools sped off at the wrong time when one of our friend's bicycle tyres had a puncture half way up the route! Someone had to ride faster like in a race, to get hold of him. When we were making signals to him to stop, he thought we were challenging him and rode even faster and went out of sight! Eventually this little 'eventuality' was set right in 10-15 minutes and there were no further stutters.

We reached the destination by 9 am and it was time to open the food boxes and taste. We had a light re-fueling session before entering the beautiful Hoysala style temple carved by Jakkannachari in the 13th century. I was delighted at its neatness in design, symmetry, upkeep and its numerous lathe-turned stone pillars, beautiful idols, panels, ceilings.....

There were 12 exposures on that roll of film. I exposed 7. Some pictures I enjoyed taking:

Picture above is the group Raju, Madhukar, Raghu, Ravindra [top], Devkumar, Venkatesh, Kashi and Murali.

Someone's mischief with the camera as we reached Somanathpur temple. Now I thank him because a couple of our bicycles are seen. I was unaware of this till the roll was printed a few days later.

Beautiful carvings - each one has an individual posture.

Pillars on foreground at the edges make a beautiful view.

After sometime, we left for nearby T.Narasipur and there was an opportunity for us to be in the river waters and for yet another 'refueling session'. After the boys enjoyed the water for more than an hour it was time for the return journey as we had to reach back home before dusk. I cannot recall why I did not take even one picture at T.Narasipur!

Return journey was the toughest. The strong wind that was blowing at our chests was pushing us backwards. It is always windy (blows from west to east) in the month of June-July. At times our pedal-power was neutralized and we had to get down and push the bicycle, even in downward gradients. One Raju was blown down by the sudden wind caused by a passing truck. Luckily he fell slowly on the side of the road and not in the way of another truck that followed the first from behind! We were shocked for a moment.

We puffed and panted as we pedalled with great effort. It was so sapping that we had to rest by the roadside often in order to regain the breath. Some were heavy from 'overfueling' as well. The food boxes were empty but the tummies were full! The wind took out much air out of us!

Finally, it was a great relief to see Chamundi Hill getting bigger and bigger from our view as we inched closer to home. We reached home well before sundown. After all, it was an enjoyable trip. We again regrouped at our Katte for the evening session and expectedly, the main agenda was the trip and laughing at the funny incidents. We had quickly recouped ourselves and the tiredness in legs was felt only the next day.

Despite having ridden hundreds of miles on the scooters that entered my life later on, the Robin Hood still finds preference whenever the opportunity presents itself. A place in the verandah is alloted to my Robin Hood. Bicycling is always fun and a healthy mode of transport. The thing is, we must slow down our ways to know how beautiful a bicycle ride can be.


jothi's jottings said...

Wonderful days they were,weren't they?Those days, we often trekked up the steps of the Chamundi Hills. It was a great experience each time.

Look at today's kids zooming around on their Scooties,and bikes.They hardly exercise! Don't you think this generation is missing quite a bit of fun?

wineye said...

Great Post !! As i read I felt that I was a part of your cycling gang :) great story telling !!

YOSEE said...

Wonderful reminiscences ! Its true that not many have the luxury of such leisurely outings these days !:-)