Trip to Dharmasthala - Childhood Nostalgia - Part - 1
I always loved going out of station when I was young as I was eager to visit new places. My parents played an important role in catering to my interest by taking me and my brother out at least once a year. One such trip was the temple tour of Karnataka when I was 11 years old.
My Chithi (mom's younger sister) lived in Bangalore for some years and so, my grandma wanted to visit the different famous temples of Karnataka. My mother thought it would be good to go on a tour with her and we planned the entire trip. We decided to go to Bangalore by train and from there take a car to the different places. My father could not join us and so it was me, my brother, my mother, grandma, Chithi and cousins. My Chithappa would be joining us now and then as he had an official tour in the same places.
We were planning to start at around 3:00 P.M as our first destination - Dharmasthala was about 5 hours drive from my Chithi's place. Enroute to Dharmasthala we had a couple of tourist spots and temples to visit. My mother who is good at planning for tours, made us all get ready on time and we all boarded the car punctually. Me and my cousins were too excited to travel together in spite of the itinerary filled with temple destinations!
When we finished visiting the tourist spots, we decided to drive to Dharmasthala without stopping anywhere, so that it would be ideal to have dinner and take some rest after reaching our destination, but fate had another plan for us. After an hour or so, its started raining cats and dogs and we had to stop the car as it was impossible to drive in that weather.
It kept raining and raining for more than 2 hours. It was already 8 in the night and my grandma suggested that we have dinner in the car itself, as we had packed dinner for us. The driver parked the car inside one of the nearest petrol banks so that we have a restroom nearby. My cousins were younger to me, the boy aged 6 and the girl aged 2. The Rain God was relentless and we could not get out of the car at all.
We finished our dinner in the car itself and the rain finally stopped at around 9:00 P.M. We were supposed to have reached the temple by this time. We resumed our drive. Me and my cousins fell asleep in sometime. Suddenly, I heard a lot of noise. Half asleep, I opened my eyes and saw my mother's panicky face. I rubbed my palms on my eyes and when I peeped out of the car window, I could not see a thing. It was so dark and I could see trees here and there in the feeble light. There were a couple of locked houses! It appeared to me like a scene from one of the scary movies.
From the conversation my family was having with the driver, I deciphered that we took a wrong turn somewhere. The road was too narrow to take a 'U-turn' and the driver was driving on and on for the road to become broader, which eventually never happened.
The driver could speak only the local language and only my uncle knew the language properly. My mother, aunt and grandma were in peak tension. They were so worried as it was well past midnight and we had no idea how much longer it will take for us to reach Dharmasthala. The delay could also have an effect on our itinerary, cutting off a couple of places from our plan.
The driver had no option but drive the car in reverse gear for nearly 5 kms, we were only worried that there should be no other vehicle coming in that route. Luck favored us in that way and we finally made it back to the fork bend were we took the wrong turn.
My uncle lost his temper and started shouting at the driver for taking us in the wrong direction. The driver lost his mind and shouted back in local slang threatening to drive the car into the slopes of valley when my uncle got off for the official tour. My aunt then pacified my uncle and we finally reached the destination at 3:00 A.M in the morning.
The place did not have any decent hotel to stay and we had to stay in this big hall which was built by a rich devotee for other devotees.