It was time to keep my promise made to Yamanappa last Thursday. I was not sure when I promised that I would recover to make a 62K ride on bicycle within a few days of Marathon. For the uninitiated, I used to meet one Yamanappa on my morning runs, he walks to the temple at Yamanur every Thursday on foot, a distance of 32KM. We used to exchange greetings and last Thurday we joined the Mutual Admiration Society. I promised him to make a visit to the temple today.
The connection between mortification of flesh and spiritual progress is a recurrent theme in all religions. Be it fasting or walking long distances over inhospitable terrain, this has been the defining feature with all great religious leaders. Take Shankaracharya’s crossing of Vindhyas, or Guru Nanakdev’s trek to Mansarovar the physical stamina or endurance and spiritual growth are somehow interconnected.
Let me continue mortifying my flesh in the hope of ennobling my soul!
I was feeling good after coming up to date on my blogs yesterday night. I woke up early and after listening to Sai Aarti, took Biscuit for an early walk at 04:30 AM. Credit to Biscuit, he is really flexible about his walks, the sooner the better for him. He had an extended tour of the Golf course, plenty of sniffing and digging, but, he did not download, maybe, not enough time for his digestive system to produce results. He promptly went back to sleep still confused about the change in routine.
I grabbed two bananas, 500ml of water and dressed in jeans, slippers and normal T-shirt slowly unlocked the bicycle (it’s no Harry Potter firefox, it’s a humble ladybird of about 10 years vintage) and started after setting the stopwatch on, the time was 05:25 AM.
It was biting cold, the moon was competing with Kareena in a race to achieve size zero, but, the street lights kept the route illuminated till the HDMC limits at 3KM. The sudden darkness which engulfed me after the street lights deserted us was scary. I was reminded of a fellow DMer’s experience with dogs. I kept pedaling on saying my beads. The fog cover was very thick and the thought of a rash truck driver from behind was unnerving. The fields and the moon appeared to have gone into a soft quilt to protect them from the biting cold. I could barely make out the petrol pump at KM 5. Sai baba temple came and went and so did the Anup point. I was seriously hoping for some company, even a truck from the opposite side would be welcome. Sun may have a late start at work today.
Unexpectedly, I turned to a call of a child from the steps of the Urdu school after KM9, he must be one of my regular acquaintance from my morning run. I enthusiastically returned the greeting though I could not recognize him in the fog. Few intrepid persons with their coloured plastic pots were doing duty for collecting the precious fluid. No life in the mosque either. I did not hope to and neither found Raghavendra nor Shaheed. After crossing KM 15, I felt like what Murakami says about crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, unknown territory. I got down for a water and biological break. My limbs were stiff and back hurt a bit. I stretched and after a short break, resumed the ride. Having gotten used to running with the traffic approaching you, I was feeling exposed having to ride on the side of the traffic. Some of the drivers of the ‘Kolaveri’ variety took pleasure in getting me off the highway.
Time being past the usual sunrise hour, I was sure the Sun must be up and diligently melting away layers of fog, much as a family head unwillingly shovels away snow at the doorstep to clear the pathway for going to work. A student was walking with only a few books in hand, on enquiry he informed he was off for tuition. Some things never change. I stopped by to admire the cobs of corn neatly laid out to dry on one side of the road and shelled corn lying in wait for the unsuspecting Sun on the other side of the road. It was as if the village folks had done their bit to show the initial stages of the process of making cornflakes to yours truly. I took photographs on my mobile for record. I ate one banana and had a sip of water. I reached Hebsur a busy town at KM 20 and assured myself that I was indeed on the path to Yamanur. I tried to get the name of the temple by just sounding the initial ‘R’, it took me the printed word on the temple entrance in Hindi to finally clear the mystery of Rajabaghsavar (did the king really ride a tiger?)
Rest of the journey was the unchanging sight of hordes of plastic pots bearing men and women going about the task of fetching precious water. Any water body, mostly the canal feeding the fields was accosted to yield the liquid. Future generations would remember us for mismanaging water resource and it could well be cause of the fall of this civilization. The omnipresent telecom major’s billboards and paintings on walls of buildings and houses suggest a way that we may outsource this intractable problem to Mr. Sam Pitroda for resolution.
It was 07:42 AM and I entered the sleepy town of Yamanur, on enquiry I was directed to the source of the sound of mechanized drumbeats to be the temple of my seeking. It was quite grand and well maintained. I left the cycle, one banana, my slippers and my cap in the basket trusting the deity to take care of my belongings and proceeded to the temple. I met one muslim gentleman coming out and tried to introduce myself invoking the name of Yamanappa as the gentleman who walks every Thursday from Hubli. He acknowledged me and directed me to have darshan of the lord and also allowed me to take pictures of the temple and the deity. The main deity was of a man (must be the king), it also had a slab covered with green cloth and the bunch of peacock feathers used by the priest indicated that it was a fusion temple of Hindu and Muslim faith. I had more respect now for the king. A local was trying to get the priest to intervene with the deity for an audience; he was told the price was Rs. 51/-, he sought credit card payment saying that he will get it later. Some things never change. I allowed myself to be patted by the peacock feathers, praying for safe return and taking a few photographs of the sanctum sanctorum for proof of having visited started back for the return journey.
The sun was out but appeared very weak from the effort of cutting through the fog. He seemed to have run out of light and was looking like an overgrown moon; only the perfection of the circle and blemish less interior spilled the beans about the likely identity. I wished he would shine soon to warm up the chilled bones.
I saw a majestic patch of sunflowers in full bloom very close to the highway on the way back, I stopped to take pictures, and I must have missed this in my anxiety not to overshoot the temple town. I tried making small talk with people on the road; they were awed at my having cycled from Hubli. I could not get the name of the settlement in most places. There were the usual scatterings of school kids waiting for the town bus. The grind of water collection continued.
I now looked for Yamanappa to tell him of my successful trip, I found him (in fact he spotted me earlier) after I crossed Hebsur, between KM 20 and 19, the time was 08:45 AM. SO he must have been walking for close to 4 hours already, he looked overjoyed to see me. He asked me if saying his name opened the doors of the lord to me. He warmly shook my hand and gave me a few dried grapes, maybe advance payment from his offering to the lord, before proceeding on his onward journey. I realized that he was not carrying any water or eatables; you just cannot beat faith when it comes to providing endurance for effort. Here I was with the assistance of 2 bananas, 250ml of water and on my steed looking beat when he was fresh as a rose.
People were working in the fields, I spied an all women party sitting in a circle for their mid day meal in a chilli field. I was curious to see what they were eating, I could make out plain rice, but, the accompaniments were hidden from my view. Looks as if picking chillies requires nimble fingers. Pedaling furiously and with the warmth of the now widely awake sun, I crossed entered into within 15K of my destination. On another field I found a group of farmhands harvesting wheat. One of them called out to me asking why I had come on a bicycle, looking closer I could recognize him to be one of my contract killer character; his scant work clothes made it difficult for me to place him. I told him of my visit to the temple and promised him that I will back on my feet the next day.
Cycling and if the vehicle is not one of the fancy geared ones is not as easy as it appears, particularly, on gradients. I now looked at cyclists crossing me from the opposite side with more respect. More private mini buses loaded with students and people going to work to Hubli crossed me from behind.
I have always had a different take on the scare crows after i saw the movie, ‘The wizard of Oz’, I could sense the loneliness and fear in them standing alone in a field day and night. I was pleased to find a field manned by a scare crow couple; I was warmed to see the thoughtful gesture on the part of the kind farmer.I realized that I was too late to meet any of my school kid friends. The mystery of if they cracked my birthday puzzle would have to wait another day. I reached home at 10:30 AM a little shy of 5 hours by my stop watch (4 hours 59 minutes and 25 seconds to be precise) with aching and sore body.