harrowing experience

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

44 Thoughts on “A Harrowing Experience that Turned a Routine Road Journey into a Nightmare

  1. OMG… these protests /bandhs . have become such a nightmare. Thank god you all are safe. A few months ago the NH1 that connects Delhi with Haryana, Punjab, Himachal and Kashmir was blocked cars burned and the police just watched. There are even subdued reports about rapes and rioting but no action so far.

    The authorities just act when the damage is done, so painful to read this is happening in all parts of India.

    • Yes, l’d read about them. They were horrible. And l can see how the mob can pretty much do what they want in such situations. It was just too painful to experience the trauma. Just happy that we were unhurt.

  2. So sorry to hear about your experience Rachna! Glad that you are back home safe, the scenes of burning etc look really scary in the pics.

  3. Glad you are all safe Rachna. Violence, from close quarters is absolutely chilling. We were once caught in an anti-reservation protest and I still remember huddling together in the train while protestors pelted stones. Bandhs and protesting can take such and ugly turn that they spare no one – not the innocent bystander nor even small children. What’s worse is that often the real cause is quite lost to the mob. So glad you’re all home safe and thank goodness for the generosity of that family.

    • Terrible memories and the fear one experiences is unparalleled. I think the mob just takes the opportunity to rub it in. I saw a few of them almost gloating, grinning at our misery. And then they expect our empathy.

  4. Phew! You made it home!
    Now, let’;s see how Friday treats us.

    You’re luck to have friends like her 🙂

  5. Thank God, you are safe, Rachna. I don’t understand what violent protests or burning cars etc, achieve. This is just vandalism, not protest and the people who have no part in it bear the burnt. So, sorry the kids had to see this but I’m so glad you all are safe.

  6. I can only imagine your ordeal! I still don’t get why harassing people like you and me and burning public vehicles that garners little sympathy for these protestors has become the norm!

    • Me too, Purba. I saw them gloating at our misery. I was so frightened for the kids and us. Sometimes things have a potential of going wrong just like that. I was so angry. Still feel despair and helplessness.

  7. Despite knowing all the details about your ordeal already, reading it again here is giving me the chills. So grateful that my in laws were close by and you managed to reach their place. God bless you and your family.

    I really hope the government sits up and takes notice and does away with these kind of riots which achieve nothing. Not sure how they’d do it but putting innocent lives at risk makes no sense whatsoever.

  8. I heartily agree with the penultimate para of your post. Thank God you all are safe. Riots are ugly and rioters are mostly paid goons working for some political or other vested interest groups. Hugs.

  9. I know how bad it could have been; getting stuck in Kashmir in July brought it close and personal to me.

  10. So glad that all of you are safe and back home. This was crazy. I don’t understand what pleasure protestors derive from troubling innocent public. I can’t imagine what the boys might have been through. So glad that Shailaja was of help. The world is still a better place to live because of people like her. Take care, Rachna.

    • Thanks, Rekha. Indeed. What purpose does this harassment serve? I don’t know what to say. Shailaja’s family was godsend in this crisis. Good bless them.

  11. Glad you are all fine .. and reached home safely.

    what is mind boggling is why are the people who are protesting doing this to the rest of the public. burning private property is like putting others in an ordeal.

    and that is pathetic police saying they cant do anything .. They are the POLICE for crying out loud..

    I dont think these bandhs and all the chaos has ever brought anything good, still people do it … SAD.

  12. That must have been a particularly scary experience especially for your children. Glad you reached safe, and thank God for the good samaritans who exist in our lives.

  13. Oh goodnes…thank god you all are safe. you never know what these kind of incidents lead us to without any fault of ours. Glad that Shailaja’s family was close by. Hope you are feeling better now.

  14. Scary experience, Rachna! So glad you’re safe home! 🙂 Hugs!

  15. Really dreadful! But glad to know you are now safely home.

  16. Man!! This is so scary and so unsafe at the same time! Shailaja is truly a noble person and thank God, her in-laws were near by! Such riots do nothing but only create feud. Why to have such futile attempts when they give nothing and only take away?

    Happy to learn that you were home safe!


  17. Glad you made it safe Rachna! But this is sooo disappointing. Bangalore was my home for 25 years… and this is so upsetting. As it is the reeks with other issues, of traffic and garbage pile ups.The bandh just makes it an agony for the common man!

  18. Gosh! What a scary experience. Glad that you are back home safe and that you had help from Shailaja! The attitude of police is so pathetic. These bandhs totally cripple everything for the common people. And Bangalore has been having so frequent bandhs!

  19. Unfortunate. Usually they serve some few people’s political objectives and don’t serve anyone’s real needs

  20. I am so glad you have safe back home!! this is such a scary experience… specially with the kids. I hope they are doing well and are not too shocked. These Bandhs are becoming more and more violent and the commoners suffer for not fault of their own. Take care.

  21. Monday evening. Just read your post after seeing your earlier tweets. Glad you are safe. Prayers.

  22. Glad you all returned safe! What a horrifying experience it must have been…I can’t even imagine. I have never understood – maybe because it is not a thing one can understand rationally because it isn’t rational – why some factions end up creating such huge riots and ruckus over something that can never be addressed using such irrational measures. It only vents out irrational anger and sadly there are groups among our politicians who are always ready to cash in or provoke such mass/crowd rowdy behaviour for their own narrow, greedy, selfish ends. Crowd can behave in such crudest infra-rational manner. And unfortunately, our media only fans such anger! Horrifying indeed. I followed a bit of the news about what the last few days have been in Bangalore. Gandhian satyagraha has totally gone awry in the hands of ruffians who rule the city corporations and state assemblies these days. In a way these water wars between two states is a sign of things to come on a global level as water becomes more and more scarce resource. But how many people are even concerned about it!! That’s the question, no serious thinker is asking, and isn’t that a shame!
    Well, it is a relief that Shailaja’s in-laws’ house was nearby and you could stay safe.

    • Thanks, Beloo. None of it makes any sense. If anything, this kind of behaviour turns people away from the cause. But then we don’t know the complete picture. Who is behind the agitation and with what motives?

  23. Just now read this. Glad that it all ended well. That must have pretty scary and distressing. Thanks to Shailaja for being there !

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