Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The journey

After an initial set back, I got an opportunity to visit IITM. It had been seven months since I left Insti, five months after I started my corporate life. It was Diwali week. I was taking a bus to Chennai, the first time to travel by road to the place. During college days, it was always Pinakini express that carried me back and forth. Besides the fact that train journey was fast, we didn’t have buses plying between Ponnur and Chennai. I used to look at the highway running beside the railway track, and wished that I was traveling by bus. I don’t exactly know why I like it, but it has more to do with the fact that a road trip takes longer, and one can get to see different places more closely than what is possible in a train. It may be also due to my liking for the Dhabas on highways. They may not be great places, but a brief stop at a Dhaba will make me feel that I have got a little understanding of the place, its people and most importantly, the way they make tea. Funny it may sound, but it’s only the need to refuel myself periodically with tea that makes me look for a Dhaba and I have sampled tea from quite a number of places, from Bidar to Sullurpet, all during my long road journeys. With all this enthusiasm, I embarked on a journey that was supposed to take ten hours.

In order that Murphy’s Law is fully obeyed, and reiterated, the bus was late. With the joy of going back to Insti, I didn’t care about it. It was mostly an eventless journey, but for the fact that we had a brief stopover at a Dhaba near Sullurpet. I had a sudden feeling that the world has become very spacious. Having been on the crowded and cramped Hyderabadi roads for months, the highway seemed to be very wide and free. There weren’t many vehicles, except for the cargo trucks and buses. One tea at the Dhaba in the cool breeze of the place made me feel fresh. I sat through the rest of my journey watching the landscape change from hilly to plain terrain, and become more.

As the bus was nearing Chennai, I was immediately able to recognize the village that I had once visited as a part of my NSS activities. I was then told that the road led to AP, and now I was able to link up facts. As we neared the city, the roads started getting congested again. We passed through the industrial estates of north Madras that were once the subjects of my study for the pollution and health hazards they caused. After a few traffic jams and delays, I was at Chennai Central by 11am. First I walked to the book seller beside the subway, bought a few books and then took a local train to Guindy. The first signs of being in Chennai were already showing up, I was sweating profusely in winter. However, the trademark Chennai effect came only later. I tried hiring an auto from Guindy to Insti and for a distance that was hardly six or seven kilometers, they demanded sixty rupees. That killed away the feeling, the special feeling that everything is good in Chennai. As I got into a bus to Insti, the feel good factor restored. I realized that seven months is very short time to change the notorious auto drivers of Chennai to good law abiding citizens carrying people for normal meter fares.

A sense of emotion gripped me as I entered Insti. I looked around to find acquaintances, and the first one I saw was the security guard who used to be in Tapti hostel during my second year. I went and spoke to him. He inquired about me and my job, and after a small chat, I left. There was a battery van in the bus stop, and the driver was sitting under the trees whiling away time. I understood that it was going to take some time before the bus would start, but gave up plans of taking a lift. I sat there in the bus stop, looking around, at all those things I hardly noticed during the four years of my stay there. The small garden at the entrance, the Institute emblem standing on a pillar, bus stop, everything seemed invaluable.

The brief ride to the hostel was so exhilarating that it brought back memories of childhood trips to my mother’s home in a village, some fifty miles* from Ponnur. As a child that was the most awaited part of my life. During holidays, my uncle used to come to Ponnur and take me there. We had to change buses at a town in between, and the last leg of journey was most exciting. I used to sit beside the window and wait and wait, as the bus rolled forward slowly on the dusty road. I had a similar feeling now, and understood how emotional attachments change over time. As a child, I was more attached to my grandmother and her village, as I moved to Hyderabad; it was Ponnur I craved for. Now, Insti took the place. It was the same emotional attachment, the same old feeling of happiness. As I passed through GC and Cenlib, memories came flooding by.

As I got down at Gurunath, one of my hostel juniors met me with a smile. I walked to Tapti, the place that has become my home for three years, and still continues to retain the same status. Nothing much has changed, expect for the new dining hall for residents of Taramani Guest House, which was set up in Narmada hostel mess. I walked into the hostel, ignoring the question mark faced security, and banged the doors of my wingies open. Ahak was awake, and I put up a small fight to wake up Venky and Bombay.

It’s good old days; again.

* Now that I am reading R K Narayan, the old English has caught my fancy, and hence the miles instead of the SI system.

{For readers who may not be familiar with the names, here is the legend. Ahak, Venky and Bombay are my hostel mates pursuing their final year dual degree. GC, Cenlib and Gurunath and places in IITM, that come in the same order while traveling from main gate to hostel zone.}

5 comments:

Corporate Whore said...

kummaasthunnaavugaa! :)

Musings of a wanderer said...

Nice one and a reminder of what we lived past, for all of us who now are shut in their impervious casements!!!!

deepthi said...

nice blog perhaps i may feel d same next year exception is i may not get tat opportunity so soon

Shankar said...

you gen went to iitm???? i want to visit it sometime when i get back

Sri Vallabha said...

@ shankar

ya man, gen went there, to feel the difference again.