Monday, April 01, 2013

On the Chalukyan Trail: Part 1 of the Badami Travelogue

The Red Rocks of Badami

Ruined temples restored to their former glory. Red sandstone against the blue sky. Monkeys jumping from one tree to another, framed black against the dusk sky. Fields of jowar and sunflower. A few minutes of unexpected prayer inside a dark temple. A sunset of blue and orange.

These are the things I'll remember about the trip to Badami, the ancient capital of the Chalukyan kings.  It was the perfect trip in many ways, though it didn't begin particularly well.

A bad beginning, thanks to Meru Cabs

The best train from Bangalore to Badami is the Solapur Express, which leaves Yeshwantpur station at 7:45 PM and reaches Badami in twelve hours. It's a slow train when you consider the distance, but a convenient departure time and a convenient arrival time make up for the delay.

We booked our Meru cab for a quarter past six, calculating that traffic is always heavier on Friday evenings. Usually, Meru cab drivers call about fifteen minutes before the pick-up time, to confirm the pick-up point. We didn't receive a call. 

So we called them up, and were told that they had cancelled our booking. That's right - we had a train to catch in ninety minutes, and they had cancelled our only means of getting there. Without even bothering to inform us, whether by a call or a message. 

We would have loved to chew out their brains over it, but we didn't have too much time. So having promised to raise a complaint at the highest levels, we grabbed our suitcase and ran. 

Unfortunately, it's tough to find free autos around that time, especially those who'll agree to travel such a long distance. We finally found an auto twenty minutes later, at six-thirty. We told the auto driver to gun it. 

He said, "Sir, seven forty-five only no? Aaraam se." 

Despite ourselves, we believed him. After all, it was only eighteen kilometers from our house to the station.

Sitting in the auto, Nikhil fired off a tweet about what had happened. Since he has 7000+ followers on Twitter, Meru Cabs couldn't exactly afford to ignore him. Almost immediately, we received a call from  them - it seemed like the caller was some poor boy at some back-office. Nikhil explained what had happened politely (read: yelled at the kid) and ended with a rhetorical question, "How are we supposed to get to Yeshwanthpur station by 7:45 PM?" 

Believe it or not, here's the reply: "Sir, you can't."

Wow. Clearly, they need to train these kids better. Though I don't really blame the kid - his ears must have got burned by the kind of shouting he received.

Meanwhile, our tension levels were rising higher and higher. After all, we were in the middle of the traffic hellhole that is Bangalore on a Friday night. We got stuck in traffic jam after traffic jam, till even our auto driver's optimism started to wear out. To make matters worse, there was Metro construction happening all along the road leading to the station.

At seven-forty, we were stuck at the signal just before the Yeshwanthpur station. With luck, we calculated, we would be able to make it if we ran. So we waited for the signal to turn green. We waited. And we waited. And we waited some more. 

Incredibly enough, the signal just by-passed our road entirely - the signal for the road next to ours turned green for the second time. 

"Wow," I thought fatalistically, "Even the traffic signals don't want us to get on this train."

Our auto driver, who had become infected with our tension levels by this time, decided to just gun it, red signal or no. We joined a roaring honking stream of vehicles, all trying to enter the narrow road leading to the station. If you've ever been to that station, you'll know that the road leading to it is a sort of market, with shops on either side and vegetable carts right on the road. 

When we finally got off at the station entrance, it was 7:50 PM. By this time, Nikhil had started cursing everybody and everything - including the Meru cab guys, the traffic on the roads, even Bangalore city as a whole. He had almost decided to quit his job and start farming in some lonely piece of land in Kerala. 

We paid off the auto guy. He wished us luck. We RAN. 

Inside the station, we found our first piece of luck of the evening - the train hadn't left yet. Though Yeshwanthpur was the train's starting point and we were almost ten minutes late by this time, it hadn't left yet.

The bad news was that the train was on Platform 5. We ran all the way, with poor Nikhil dragging our heavy suitcase behind him. Up, across and down the foot over-bridge we ran, with people staring at us as if we were crazy.

8:00 PM - We actually made it. Breathless and panting and thirsty - yes. But we made it. We exclaimed over how unfit we had both become, and collapsed onto our seats. 

And thus began the Badami Trip. Next edition tomorrow!

A Carving on the Upper Shivalaya (Temple) in Badami

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Ninja said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ninja said...

Badami eh? Nice place. And I have "encountered" the train you just caught :)

Do give this a look when online
Link 1 -

Link 2 -

DR said...

@Ninja: You should post some of your BTP posts up on your blog - they're worthy of a larger audience than some motorheads. :P