A walk to Sridharashram

This trip preceded the Ramanashram trip by two weeks, again on a weekend. All indecisive events for a week led me to conclude that the trip isn't going to work out due to various reasons, except that I'd been feeling a strong call from Varadahalli since a month. I tried tossing coins to decide, checking ticket availability in vain, amidst some bogged down state of mind. On Thursday night, I decided not to go, only to revoke it on Friday morning when Sriram called in asking me to accompany his drive back here on Sunday. Immediately, I called the travel agent and in minutes a one-way ticket was ready. All this to assert: thats how the Guru calls!

Cutting to the chase, I stepped out of the bus at Sagar bus stand at 0700 on Saturday. The weather was chill, but seemed pleasant. I took a walk in search of an auto rickshaw till the junction that cuts a left towards Honnavara. Although I did find an auto willing to take me on a ride (pun intended) I decided to walk on.

I started noticing that for being the biggest road around in Sagar, still its so quiet and calm in comparison to our so-called cities. This highway isn't all that busy and therefore, atleast for now, can afford to be thin. After having walked for a while, I started wondering how far it would be. The last I recalled walking was on our trip into the Himalayas, last August, while trekking to Yamnotri. I thought I'll know only when I reach the village road that forks towards Sridharashram. Passing by were some early birds who had stepped out for a stroll or a jog, prompting my memory to question my jogging plans that never hit reality! Not that I ever expected them to, but its always good to have a plan that will hardly come alive. It gives ya a lot of bandwidth to fool around. As I passed an old man, I asked him if the left road I was near to went to Varadahalli; he and another chap started telling me that it was the next one. Then the ajja told me that a bus leaves for there at 0815. "Well", I said, "till then... ". "Oh good, walk, walk", said he. I was glad to see that expression of selfless happiness that we hardly see these days among us. In these thoughts, I drifted on the highway further in search of my village road.

It didn't seem very soon that I saw a small sign that said the left branch led to Sridharashram in 6kms. So, I'd walked around 2kms by then and there I was, with a backpack and a sleeping bag buckled on, the latter shifting sides. The village road was calmer still, with vast lands thrown open in front of you, the sun shining on the mud that rose from the morning breeze. It was not only a good sight but it smelled equally fresh. I patted myself for not having taken the rick or the bus. But I judged that I wanted to reach earlier than the bus though I walk slow. Every sound of the vehicle used to fool me of the approaching bus, only for me to check my watch. "Ah, not even 0800", I used to utter to myself.

I saw some of these villagers stepping out of the bath or their daily rituals in their simple tiled-roof houses. I began thinking that someday soon, I'll be in their place and someone else standing on the road would watch me over so. The very thought felt good, easing the heavy breath a little. Every hundred yards or so, batches of school kids caught my attention. There's something about kids' expressions that I like so much that it topples any mood into a smile.

Save a few overspeeding motorbike causing momentary disturbance, all seemed slow moving and peaceful. If you have shifted from Bombay kind of hectic lifestyle to other cities, you'd know exactly what this feeling was! Its like feeling young and innocent again, or as if you're going to live longer at that pace of living!

After having walked much zipping up the jacket thus far, I was beginning to perspire. I got to know from a kid cycling to school that I was on the right path. Surprisingly, he also said that the bus passes by this route in a while. Did I look that exhausted or did he think that city folks don't walk, I'm not sure; but I was glad about the caring attitude of the villagers.

The scene had changed to less trees and more houses and schools around, but now the forest had begun to thicken again. I turned around a couple of times at vehicle sounds to make sure that its not the bus. I somehow thought again that I wanted to beat the bus and reach before it surfaces on the road! It seemed quite a foolish challenge; it was too. The road had begun to take a steep curve into the hills. I knew I was near my destination but wasn't sure how much. Soon, I saw a boy cycling with a girl on the pillion, both on their way to school. The kid in the back seat got down since the road was steepening for a cycle ride. While she was walking towards me, she gave this beautiful smile and asked where I was from. I'm always faced with difficulty to answer this question. At various times, I remember answering Bangalore, Bombay and Honnavara! I said Bangalore this time and asked her how far Sridharashram was. Both confirmed it to be around less than a km.

I suddenly felt energetic and blissful again, pacing up to reach earlier. I wasn't going any faster, I felt, since it was the hills I was walking in. Soon enough, the dharma-dhvaja rose up on one of the hillocks and in minutes I was at the entrance of the ashram. Marked to the left was a board that showed 2kms down the way to a devi temple. I recalled that this was the temple I couldn't make to last time and perhaps, I'll have to wait till another time to visit again. There was a little commotion at the ashram that indicated some upcoming festivity I didn't know of. I never know of any events anywhere, so thats not surprising! I signed in and went through the routine to end into a blissful stay till Sunday afternoon, followed by a good drive back to Bangalore. Needless to mention, when I checked in, there was still no sign of the suggested bus!
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