Reading a long write-up about a trip is obviously an old/unusual method compared to the usual showcasing of an outing in terms of photo and video uploads in this facebook era. But, you might understand my purpose after reading till the end, so let me begin the story now.
It was in the middle of the week during a regular phone conversation with my family, I told my mom that I am going to this place in the weekend. Mom replied “Oh! Is it? It’s a great place, capture nice pictures for all of us to see”. I said “Sure”.
Friday evenings can be crazy to any extent in Bangalore traffic, but thanks to the flexibility that our companies provide. The namaaz prayer by the rickshaw driver before playing both sides of the late 90’s bollywood blockbuster cassette Mohra, reminds me that we started from BTM layout around five in the evening. I still remember the poor look on driver’s face to extract more money from us showing the spot on the mirror which was cracked by a stone from somewhere before we got down in our usual assembly point in Malleshwaram at six. It was a nice feast at Kodial before taking the next auto to the private bus pick-up point on the race-course road. With some difficulty (as always), we spotted the bus a few minutes before the start time - 8.30pm and took some snaps in the comforts of the lovely multi-axle driven Volvo bus. I think we were the last in the bus to decide to rest our eyes after rounds of calls to family/friends and some chit-chats.
1.15 am in the night, suddenly the lights are switched on! Disturbance slowly continues with speakers testing. With hardly few blinks, though everyone preferred to continue sleeping with the lights on regardless of the fact that wherever the bus may be, here comes an annoying voice with a surprise announcement – “Bhayya Namaskara, Welcome to Tirupati!!!”. He is our guide Lokesh and here on he is known with the first word he uttered – ‘bhayya’ (meaning brother in Hindi). He has mastered his job so well that he conveys the urgency in a way - it seems like any sleeping souls can be awakened at any time in this world. Suddenly all are so energetic; I have never seen people so active at that part of the time. Everyone got inside their respective cottages to freshen up and assemble in the guest house lobby. You believe it or not, breakfast is next in line! It was for the first time in my life I had breakfast with Idly, vada, pongal all in one round plate as early as 2.30 am. But believe me, nothing seemed forceful. People can hate bhayya only for one reason – he didn’t allow us to carry any electronic items with us including camera!!! We had to leave all our baggage inside the bus and board the then hired local government bus which is certified to climb the upward roads leading to Tirumala temple. For being the last one to reach the bus, I had to sit on the engine as all the seats were filled by early birds; and bhayya was standing between me (engine) and the driver.
It was around 3.30am that we got down from the bus to enter the main gate of the temple and then on it was a combination of sitting and standing alternately in the long queue until we got the glimpse of Tirupati Balaji at about 7.30. Now don’t ask me how we spent those four hours of waiting, because even I don’t remember it! Yes, I remember how restless I was waiting for half an hour in the queue to get my voters ID card done in a post office. But here its completely effortless wait with all curious people in the queue to see the Lord. Definitely this place has hidden power for sure! This is not all, there are numerous places inside here. There is a golden well showcasing the richness of the place, there is a ‘write-your-wish’ stone where you can write your wish which will turn true if it is genuine, there is Godess Lakshmi’s feet which upon touching with a currency (coin/note) will duplicate it to an unimaginative figure! The enthusiasm with which people seem to believe and follow them, suggests that these things can be very practical if you have the right mindset. But it was unnecessary to keep a security guard to prevent people from touching the Godesses feet so that the golden material is not worn out.
It was a good mix of cool breeze and the freshly risen sunshine which set the tone for our next destination – Padmavathi temple. This time I was a little early and was privileged to sit in the only vacant seat in the bus parallel to the driver in front of the rear-view mirror. It was a needless for all of us to wait for an hour for four of the missing co-passengers who did not return to the said spot. The driver was so perfect in taking the steep turns which reminded me the Agumbe roads in the Western Ghats back home. Someone rightly says that the purpose of Tirupati visit is incomplete without visiting this Padmavati temple after seeing Lord Venkateshwara. This time it did not take long and we were all set to go back to the guest house for lunch. The trip is over by 10am! Yes, we finished our lunch and drove back to Bangalore around eleven in the morning! Bhayya’s co-ordination ensured that the four missing ones were also a part of the return the journey.
It took a while to convince my niece who was upset for wishing her on her birthday so late; as bhayya dint allow us to carry mobile phones earlier in the day. I was successful in explaining to my mom about not keeping my promise to take pictures; before we reached back to BTM layout by five in the evening. This is how I came up with the fitting title for this outing - ‘Trip without a clip’. However, the trip was so satisfying with the right company of three wonderful people – Kanthi (one who got us tickets on a very short notice), Shubha (one whose prior experience to this very place helped us a lot) and Pooja (the main head whose energy made this trip possible and so eventful). This trip by all means is registered in my memory.
To end this on a high note with bhayya’s dialogue – “Bhayya ek baar sab bolo – Tirupati venkatramana govindaa………..GOVINDAAA”