The sun rose in its usual sunny way on the 6th of June – finally it was time for me to get going. Satheesh, my brother, Eapen and Gopi (my friends) came in time to ‘flag off’ the Champion (car) at 7.45 am from Alfa Serene, my dwelling in Cochin. I had an important appointment in Bangalore – it was Anita’s birthday. In advance we had decided to meet over dinner. That was the only urgency to make haste to Bangalore. Otherwise, it was a leisurely drive and I was most relaxed behind the wheel. The road, as usual, was bad and indifferent between Trichur and Coimbatore – the Tamil Nadu portion because of the on-going capacity augmentation works, which is acceptable. The stretch between Mannuthy and Wadakkancherry is in perennially bad shape. Some time one wonders if the roads are bituminized to ensure that it comes off faster than it takes to put it in place! And, the strangest part of road resurfacing is that most of the work is done just prior to the monsoon rains; in most cases, the work is left unfinished as the rains set in. to top it all, despite the poor condition of the road nobody steps in to stop the realization of tolls. There are innumerable Public Interest Litigation cases these days, but none seem to have addressed this ‘extortionist’ activity.
As I was nearing Bangalore Anita rang up to say that we would meet at her place for the ‘birthday celebration’. She said that her brothers, George and Shaji, would be there too. Arrangements had been made for my stay in the Railway Officers’ Rest House on the 6th. As I was settling in Ajay came to the ORH. After a brief rest and a wash we set out for Anita’s house on Sarjapura Road. The Navfree App helped us get there without too many glitches; rush hour traffic certainly delayed us. By the time we reached there everyone had settled down with there choice of beverage and short eats – there were Single Malts and other beverages to choose from. The star of the collection was the Single Malt from the Amrut stable – it has been adjudged one of the finest in the world by connoisseurs of spirit and alcohol. The short eats were delicious, particularly the kebabs, pork jerky and sausages. Conversation centered on the GQ drive and the captains of industry and business. The verbal fact sheets on Indian and Global business leaders provided by George, Joe and Shaji were illuminating, to say the least. The dining table was stretched to capacity with vegetarian and non-vegetarian items ranging from prawns to chicken and much more. I could barely stand to sing the ‘Happy Birthday To You’ song for Anita with all the ingested food. And then the rich cakes followed. By this time I was ‘high’ not from the alcohol, but all the calories. All the restraint I had placed on the diet since my fortnight stay at the Nature Cure Centre vanished in a trice. The party broke up shortly thereafter and Ajay and I headed back to the ORH for a good night’s sleep. Fortunately the road was freer at that time of the night and we got back to the ORH faster than we had got to Anita’s house.
After the usual breakfast of idlis and vada at the Sree Krishna Café the next morning, Ajay left for his hostel. I was to meet the owner of an educational institution in Bangalore to explore the possibility of a professional engagement. Despite considerable traffic hassles I reached the appointed venue ahead of the hour decided on. I waited and waited (was told that the person was with his Doctor). After a while he walked in and was told by his Secretary that I had been waiting for some time. Through the Secretary I was informed that I would have to wait some more to meet with him. I have a fetish for time and it infuriates me when appointed times are not kept. I expect that we respect each other’s time. It is a matter of discipline and dignity of the individual. I walked out after informing the Secretary that I have no time further for people who cannot meet their scheduled meetings. I considered that as an opportunity to assess the environment. I refused to take the person’s calls any more.
After that unpleasant exchange I decided to check into the hotel in Yeshwantapur, which had been reserved for me. It was a couple of kilometers off the Tumkur highway, within the Bangalore Municipal Corporation limits. The only disadvantage of the location was a railway level crossing gate between the highway and the hotel. I mentally noted that in case it is closed in the morning when I set out it would add to the overall time of the drive. The hotel was very basic in its setout and aesthetics. I had to change two rooms before I found one to my satisfaction. I decided to relax for the rest of the evening and turn in early. I even skipped dinner. I suspect that I was the only occupant of the hotel, for I did not meet anyone else during the 12 hours I was there. Fortunately, I was able to get the car washed by the hotel staff. She looked gleaming and ready after the thorough cleaning. I arranged luggage appropriately inside the car – the food basket, with items in familiar places, was strapped to the front passenger seat, bottles of water within easy reach on the left hand side footrest, camera on the seat, the video recorder and the mobile phone on the windshield, face towel on the hand rest, money for tolls in the appointed slot, an overnighter with change of clothes just behind the driver seat, the log sheets on the passenger seat, the rest of the luggage compactly arranged in the boot and a picture of Our Lady within handholding distance of the steering wheel. I went over the arrangement at least 10 times – for I could not waste any time to stop en route to get any of my requirements, be it food or prayer. Finally, by 7 pm I thought I was ready. I was mentally and physically ready for the arduous 96 hours that lay ahead of me from the next day.