(Pic Courtesy : Likhith Raju )
In a Student’s life, the most exciting journey would be one where he or she can experience some mind-blowing fun coupled with the silver lining of knowledge that would help him/her add another layer to their foundation of education.
Spring had almost come to an end and the warm breeze had taken the place of the fresh and cool currents, as I stepped out of the auto-rickshaw, at the College gates. After handing him a couple of crumpled notes, I unloaded my luggage…a backpack and a trolley-case. I had tried to pack light, as my Dad always advises me to, but my mind can’t help but think up a hundred things that I may need in all those *hypothetical* situations (also my brainchildren).
A few of the students had already gathered before the rendezvous point…and I walked towards them. We were a group of fifteen students from each functional semester along with one Professor selected to go a certain rural site to study the locality, get our measured drawing skills sharpened and work on improving the site’s conditions.
It was about 9.00AM by the time the whole party got stuffed into the jeep we had booked. The sun had perfectly positioned itself to turn the AC-less jeep into an oven. There were three people in the front row, six girls (including myself in a double decker style (three on the seat and the other three on their laps), And the nine boys somehow managed to fit themselves with the equipment (just a few roles of sheets, stationery, architecture goodies)…thankfully we were able to tie up our luggage over the roof of the car.
The ride was quite smooth with the radio playing Regional songs until we crossed the highway luxury limits and took a turn leading us to the rough terrain. Apparently villages don’t wait for you alongside the highway like train stations along the train track. By this time, our laps were numbed. We made a quick pit-stop at a Breakfast House…the perfect south Indian set up where we bought ourselves steaming idlis-dosas and filter kaapi…though it was Kannadiga Style…
We reached Hanchihalli an hour before lunch-time where we were greeted by Architects from Udbhava…a firm that works on rural projects and urban, alike. The village was ages away from proper electricity ,gas supply and pipe water. They still existed in the stage of Wells and a single tank supplied by the Government. It was surrounded by tall hills and endless fields on all sides…cutting it away from the rest of the civilization. Pretty picturesque in the evening but during the day, the dried up fields gave us the illusion of sand…
The Road Trip just got two shades better when we were allowed to discover the village on our own. In minutes we were all headed in different directions. With only my back-pack I set off towards the ‘Chawadi’ …the region which acted as the heart of the village…it had arched colonnades (stone-cut, looked pretty ancient) .
Interestingly, the village stood along the ancient trade route to the Vijayanagara Empire…a once fabled Empire for its riches and well-planned towns and temples. Also , we discovered these huge fort walls…it was said to have surrounded the whole village ages ago.
As soon as the heat and noon-sun caught up with our excitement, the Professor and Architects decided to take us to our special boarding arrangement. What we didn’t know was that it was mile or two hike away from the site. So by the time we reached, our hair was almost on fire and we looked pink as ripening plums. Two little houses standing beside each other, facing a little orchard and a fantastic pond (with the water-lilies, undergrowth and moss)…
We were relieved to see fresh glasses of lemon aid and ‘lassi’ awaiting us. In moments we got rid of our footwear and sat around the pond, with our feet dangling in the water, drinking up the almost-unlimited supply of traditional drinks. After a quick home cooked lunch we were asked to saddle up (so to say)…we carried our sketch-pads, pencils, cameras and water bottles and walked back to the Village. We were divided into five groups of three…and handed special tasks. We had to estimate various plans, sections and elevations of selected parts.
(Pic Courtest : Saikat Ray)
My team got to sketch a whole spectrum of elevations and work on the Ancient Temple. Despite the murderous sunshine, we managed to get half of the work done before Sunset (or should I say, until we ran out of water).
Only on reaching our campsite was the news broken to us that electricity supply would last only until 8 pm and it was already six. Even before the care taker could end his sentence, we all rushed into a blur of motion… grabbing chargers and phones!
But we were soon summoned to the front courtyard where the faculty decided that Dinner was going to be prepared by us, as a team. We ll took up responsibilities. Some of us began with the prep work, while some started laying out bedding and dinnerware outside. Candle-lit dinner, it was. While the vegetable pulao cooked, we got to play a special game where ….
Three of the seniors were asked to sketch up a random piece of felt tip pen art and then we divided the A1 sized sheet into numerous, equally sized rectangles. Though this was not my idea of camp fun, I joined in…because nobody knew what exactly the Senior Architect had in mind!
The pieces were jumbled and all of were handed a piece, each. And then we were given exactly 5 minutes to draw whatever we could fathom.
I quickly drew what I thought The Kingdom Of Poseidon looked like…with the King with trident overlooked at his kingdom from a window from high tower…
Dinner was absolutely delicious. There were no courses…just one main dish, salad and some leftovers from lunch.
Bon-fire came next! The Senior architect told us that there had been sightings of Black bears and leopards in the vicinity and thus none of us should stray off on our own, in the course of the night.
When we reached the back yard, the senior boys had already started a fire…but it grew larger…almost as tall as the house, itself! That’s when we spotted a low wire hanging over it. And all of us went berserk THAT was the wire that brought us the magic of electricity. If that snapped or melted…we’d have to do without mobiles and laptops for the next two days! So we all joined in the effort to bring the flames down. When the current went off, and the village and the vicinity were drowned in darkness, the fiery flames licked up the night-air, breathing warmth on our faces and creating dancing shadows on the trees and house wall. We turned on one of the laptops and got the music playing while each one of was asked to perform random tasks. Some turned into jesters while some turned into singers and dancers. One of us also got to become a model advertising face packs! I had to give an introduction composed into the melody of Rolling In The deep. It was the song that one me my first College Fest. It was a crazy, crazy night! Laughter rung in the air as we imitated professors, made fun of each other and sang at our own pitches!
God knows at what our we called it a night. I had decided to sleep in the front yard…open-air…giving me the breath-taking view of the clear night sky with the twinkling stars ….though my heart beat a little faster every time I heard any weird noise from the wilderness that surrounded our cottage. The night got colder and the insects began to buzz into our ears…everyone had fallen asleep except me and the Guard dog who had secretly crept up and perched itself next to my feet on the quilt. That’s when the fireflies turned up. It had almost been half a decade since I last saw their kind. City life deprived you of the creatures of the night.
On a lighter note, I must tell you about the Crazy Guard Dog! It was meant to warn us about any wild Bears that may stray into our territory. But it turned out that it barked for every beetle and butterfly making us all jump at odd hours of the night when we were trying to sleep! It was really comical seeing the Professors and students sleeping *on the rocks* (that was the other option available) … get infuriated by the canine, cuss at him and try to fall asleep again!
I was woken up by the sound of footsteps as the first rays of the sun announced it was Dawn!
‘Woke up, eh? Get ready for some Bouldering!,’ said Sathya Prakash Sir who had caused all the noise, as he fumbled with the door handles.
I crawled out of my bedding and went over for a quick wash. None of us had brought shoes along. And hell, I didn’t seem know what bouldering meant…
Everyone soon got ready and as a team we began the hike to the foot of the hill…and damn, was it huge and tall. Doubt rose in mind, there were no easy pathways here, you had to climb your way to the top.
‘Let’s go up and be bck home by noon, kids. We don’t wanna get roasted up there. Trust me, it gets hot. But it’ll be worth it.
I was the only one with a 2 litre bottle of water. I’m always scared of being stranded without water. A few metres of climbing and I began panting, already. Stamina…what a joke it played on me. Thankfully, one of the senior boys asked for water and ties the bottle on his head (so to say)…
It took us almost forty five minutes to reach the hill-top…all we crossed were chameleons the size of mongooses, thorny bushes, huge and coy boulders and ashes…remains of the small natural fires that heat caused.
There were a lot of dicey spots where I required a hand, a pull or a push (oh God, there were even spots where I almost felt like giving up, but I had a point to prove).
And on reaching the top, I realized that Life only had meaning when we gave it a certain direction. And though it may seem hard and almost deadly at times, reaching the final destination, was almost transcending. And there are countless Final destinations in our lives. And every experience knit you into an intricate pattern of Life! So just enjoy the view while you can
Once we all assembled at the top and got lost in the hill top view, Sathya Prakash Sir got us to work as a group…we were asked to walk in random circles in the constricted space without nudging into one another. And as the speed increased, we began getting a sense of the space we were working in. And that was exactly the motive behind this crazy expedition. Coming down was relatively easy though were all parched, dying with eat, scratched by thorns and shrubs…Though I muss appreciate the Liveliness and agility that Sathya Prakash Sir showed when we climbed downhill…and it was great talking to him! He exuberates a sense of wisdom.
The first thing we did on reaching the Cottage was plunge into the pond! And that , my readers, was true heaven! Lemon-aids and lassis were back. Lunch was a faraway concern! After a quick lunch and some documentation work related to the previous day’s work…. we were back to the Village site where we resumed our tasks.
The temple was an absolute marvel. An old woman sitting before a hut told us that the Temple dated almost three centuries old. Stone slabs were used as roof, and intricately places posts and lintels…. an ancient stone figurine of a Lingam and few other unidentifiable statues…the size of our palm stood in the main shrine. The temple was about 1.5 meters high and from outside it had a trapezium like elevation which tapered towards the top. Rubble masonry and stone slabs were the major construction practices that had been employed to construct the temple ages ago and it still stood strong.
After spending the rest of the day taking in the tiniest measurements and sketching every facet of the temple, we began visiting the other village spots. An abandoned Madarsa (where Islam is preached to its followers), an ancient school, age-old and crumbling houses…remains of a tiny fortress…and the Chawadi.
The Village was almost ethereal with its ruins and mysterious History.
As our little trip was coming to an end…our bonding increased. We spent the rest of the evening exchanging numbers, going over our sketches and turning them into Auto Cad projects, laughing over our experiences and taking in as much of the rural landscape as we could. As the last rays of the Sun disappeared from the sky and Dusk tombed over the land, we began loading our luggage onto the jeep. The landscape was just beautiful…and he stars began to appear. We climbed into the jeep after bidding farewell to our Senior Architects and care takers. I knew I’d miss this village a lot, in the days to come. It was like a sanctuary…a hideout…away from the bustling city-life.
Silence reigned over the Jeep atmosphere as we were submerged in reminiscence. I secretly glanced at all the sleepyheads that had dozed off. The stars were sprawled all over the sky…and the silhouettes of the tall hills played hide and seek behind the trees that flashed by us. This was a Road trip, to remember. Every now and then when the interiors lit up when we passed by streetlights and shops, I’s steal a look at a dear friend I had now made, seeing her sleepily gaze at the window…
We reached college by 9:35pm, and so we dined at a nearby restaurant…all fifteen of us and what a feast we had to celebrate our successful expedition. We then caught autos to reach our respective hostels and houses…or wherever we stayed.
What happened when we reached the hostel at 10:00pm that night is another crazy story, altogether….but that’s all for today.
The Roadtrip to Hanchihalli….was one picturesque, peaceful and almost magical journey! And I felt so glad to have experienced it