Imagine walking on a half-broken wooden bridge where you can feel the nuanced balance between your weight and it’s breaking point that makes you extremely careful with each and every step.
Taking our rickshaw from Coimbatore to Ooty felt exactly the same way. There is just enough power to carry two adult men with their luggage but you better manage that gear and accelerator extremely carefully lest you will be on a free fall, literally! Luckily, I am traveling with the most experienced driver one could ask for. Rakesh deftly took the R’shaw most of the way and I took it over from Connoor to Ooty. After few stalls, you realize, second gear it is.Try going to 3 or 4, your engine will give up.I used the Indian safety system to the maximum, the Horn. After an hour and half of non-stop workout,it needed some rest and said,”I am down screaming for you”. We found a local mechanic and he duly fixed it.
Getting into crowded traffic signal reminds me of American football.Every motorbike, bicycle, Car, SUV and Truck, fight for every inch. They move forward occupying the tiniest of places between your vehicle and rest of them.And to escape that huddle unscathed means you haven’t earned your Indian driver badge. I earned mine as a big SUV brushes our lovely CoCo(yes, we call our R’shaw CoCo and considering the Mach 1 speed it goes, we are praying most of the times GoGo). Now that dent is out of our way, we don’t have to bother about our pretty girl anymore. She has become a wan with enough dents to show for in a man’s India.
Even though we lost precious time climbing the mountain, the beauty of Ooty more than made up for it. Although every hill station has its beauty, considering the weather and flora, Ooty is truly India’s Hawaii!
As we got down Ooty and went through Mudumalai, a tiger reserve,the toll gate person stopped us. I spoke to him in Tamil hoping the language bond will get us through but instead it had the opposite effect.He couldn’t give a rat’s ass about us as rules are rules. This is something that you find everywhere in India. The end result never matters. Following the rules is what counts. No wonder the non-rebels get screwed royally in our country.We switched our language back to English, being the foreigner, and spoke to local forest officer who let us go.
In hindsight, I understand the reasons for not letting Autorickshaw in forest preserve. It is loud, tends to breakdown often and above all, if an Elephant herd chases you, you have no way in hell of speeding away. If the toll guy had said the reasons for not allowing are these risks,we would have happily obliged. Nevertheless, we continued the journey through Mudumalai . As Rakesh warned about getting out of this area soon,I noticed we were pretty much on our own,inside the forest,surrounded by animals. We saw few Elephants, Peacocks and lots of Monkeys. No Tigers were spotted by us and I wasn’t particularly disappointed about that while sitting in a Rickshaw.As luck would have it, the rickshaw stalled while enroute to Bandipur. The 5-litre petrol container that we had carried saved our skins.
As we were driving along the Mysore road, we were constantly being chased by an orange fellow. He was constantly distracting me as I could not concentrate on the road. Rakesh sensed my distraction knowing I can’t ignore him and drive. We both finally got down and shot him to our hearts fill.Yes.It’s Mr.Sunset who has been thrilling us with his views for the past two days. While first day, it was his reflection over a canal at Palakkad, yesterday, it was over the western Ghats. I really hope Rakesh got that wonderful picture as he was going down on the mountain.
I hope everyday we get to see those sunsets over every part of India. Call it biased or perhaps the tropical environment, the Sunsets in India reminds me of a time that was young, pure, filled with awe and hope for all things to come.It’s not all doom and gloom now as we are able to experience that again and through us, hopefully you too.