With a heavy heart, we bid the vacation goodbye as we headed home. The younger son had a wonderful day on his birthday, and we were all looking forward to reaching home. We started after 10 last morning with not a clue that we would not be getting home by the night. Man proposes; God disposes. In this case, it was groups of men who disposed of our carefully devised plans. As we headed to Bangalore from Coonoor through the pleasant winding roads of Mudumalai wildlife sanctuary (in Tamil Nadu) and then crossed over to Bandipur wildlife sanctuary (in Karnataka), all was well.
We even saw a herd of elephants, some spotted deer and a langur who climbed on top of our car. With scanty traffic and beautiful landscape, it was a pleasant journey.
By afternoon we halted in Mysore for lunch. Bangalore was just about 150 kms. away. In the morning, a friend had mentioned on twitter that there may be a bandh on the coming Friday when we were all looking forward to attending a friend’s book launch. As I had not been following news stories, I was baffled, as just last Friday we’d had a bandh.
Bandhs till now were just a nuisance, a day we spent indoors to avoid trouble. It had touched me only from far. We were unaware that we were about to get caught in the melee of protestor trouble very soon. Just a few kilometres on the Mysore-Bangalore highway and we found certain routes shut down. Baffled we took detours to get back on to the Highway unaware that the entire region had erupted in huge protests.
Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have had a long history of strife over Cauvery water sharing and the recent SC directive had apparently started the current one. We were transiting through Mandya district which was at the centre of agitations by farmers. As we tried to take KRS road to the highway, we saw the narrow road blocked with some tree barks that were set on fire by a small mob. We immediately turned the car and took to Google maps to find another detour. We were still not aware of the gravity of the situation. On to that detour, we took a circuitous route into a village and again got on to the KRS road when we came across another roadblock with similar scenes of burning tyres and tree barks. That was when we felt some panic. Stuck in the middle of nowhere, home was still far away. We thought of heading back to Mysore.
But with roadblocks both ahead and behind, we did not know how to go anywhere from KRS road. While the husband reached out to a few friends in Bangalore to get a better understanding of the situation, I called my friend, Shailaja, in Bangalore to ask her what the situation was and also to tell her about the soup we were in. She calmly listened and suggested that we try to go to Mysore, else (luckily for us) her in-laws stayed close by.
She didn’t hesitate a moment to offer us to stay with them. And in that sticky situation, we saw no other choice. I gratefully accepted her offer. The kids were frightened and so were we. Never had I seen rioters on the streets burning property so up, close and personal. We even approached a police van and asked them to help us. While they were sympathetic, they said that it being a strike, they could not do much. Imagine the police saying that! It was nerve wracking.
Our ordeal was far from over yet. The protestors did not allow us to go to my friend’s relatives’ place either which was just a distance of about 5 kms. as another roadblock stopped us. The mob was swelling, and we backed off. Trying to go through kachcha roads and hamlets (God bless Google Maps), we finally reached their home in about 1.5 hours avoiding and skirting other mobs and roadblocks.
Shaking from the experience and grateful that we were unhurt, we collapsed into the house of her in-laws who welcomed us with warmth and hospitality even though they had never met us before in their lives. They made us comfortable and shared a lovely homecooked meal with us. We spent a very anxious night following up the news articles on the internet to keep track of the situation.
We took a call to start early this morning hoping to beat any rioters. Luckily, this time around we were right. We started around 5.30 am and only heaved a sigh of relief after we had passed Mandya district which was the troubled spot yesterday. Enroute, we came across lots of burnt remnants from yesterday’s troubles. We touched home this morning at 8.30 am without taking a single break on the way.
Distressed and exhausted we were home. A news item which would have merited a rant tweet or FB status came to hit us rather personally. My gratitude that we reached home safe and to Shailaja who helped us without a second thought when my mind was growing blank with fear and panic. So much to be grateful for in life. The Universe does come through for you when the situation seems bleak.
We will remember this experience for a lifetime. I tremble to see in the news that trouble has started again in that region and so many innocent travellers like us will be caught again without any fault of ours.
Pic courtesy: DNA