The Wrong Turn

The Wrong Turn

Supreetha had just got her driving license. It was a long wait of almost three years. It was not because of her poor driving skills, but Covid the culprit. It had kept not only Supreetha indoors but the whole world. Yes, the culprit was roaming free, while the innocent were forced to lock themselves. The lock down has been called off now. Not that the culprit is arrested, but we have more powerful ammunition.  We all are entitled to booster vaccination doses for armor.

“Babu, can all four of us go on a long drive. Let us go to Mysore and Coorg. It has been a long time since we have had an outing“. Supreetha proposed.

Dad was all eyes for it. “Yes, of course let us have a four day trip. I shall make arrangements for our stay. It shall be revisiting some sightseeing places, green hills and experience to improve your driving skills”,  said dad.

“One stone, too many birds”. That was Sheela, Supreetha’s elder sister.

So, Supreetha and mom joined them in the hall. There was collective laughter in the room. Sheela had laughed after a long time.

******

It was a long weekend, so the obligation of applying for leave, permission and explanation was not required. Weekend was sandwiched between Independence Day and Mohram. The concern, while traveling, would be traffic and lodging. 

Coorg ,the finest hill station in Karnataka. It is a part of Western Ghats with steep hills and lush green forests. It is well known for its coffee plantations and the spicy pepper climbers. Luckily they got an accommodation in a four star hotel.  Though slightly highly priced, two rooms, both facing the Ghats, were booked.

******

“The hotel package is also bound to have some good sightseeing areas. Afterall, the hotel will also make efforts to leave some long lasting memories in the minds of their tourists. It is only when we recommend this hotel, for food, hospitality and its natural beauty, will they get business. Make sure we don’t miss it . The free breakfast, lunch, yoga, massage, cycling, hike whatever was on the offer should not go unavailed”.  This was mom’s usual dialogue.

“Let us  put a proper itinerary in place. Abbey falls and Nisargadhama will be our priority this time.” That was Supreetha

“Some hike and stuff, which the hotel had as a part of their package, can  also be accounted for in your itinerary”. Dad intervened.

******

The car insurance paper, driving license, pollution check were all identified and filed  a day in advance. They filled petrol to the brim. Friday early hours around 4:30 am, they left Banglore.

Since it was early morning, “First you play  Suprabhatam” , the sloka awakening Lord Venkatachalapathy” , mom’s instructions.

It is always pleasant to begin the day with a prayer. Supreetha felt so  at heart, but her age factor you see, the teenager in her would not allow her to respectfully agree to the same. Sha gave a slight facial expression of unhappiness yet, played the song. The journey began.

*****

“Such early morning, the sun is still in his  bed. It Looks like the sun has ignored my alarm”.  Supreetha remarked.

 Sheela sat in the driver’s seat since it was very early and they would not want Supreetha to  take the risk.

“ Many thanks to Thomas Alva Edison “ Supreetha said.

 “ What is the context”? mom asked

“For giving us light”. Supreetha said.

“Then better thank, Benjamin Franklin too” , Sheela said with her hands on the gear, turning to Supreetha sitting to  her left  and slightly lifting her shoulder to make the point. “ Electricity is equally important, frankly speaking you see”, she continued.

Dad had a smile, a mild extension of the lips. Sheela has spoken,  in her original mood after a break of almost 8 months. She seems to be putting on a very bold face, but dad knows it isn’t so. Hope she overcomes the grief. That was his silent prayer.

The holiday intercity traffic had not yet picked up, there were very few vehicles on the road. Ever since Covid and these  social distancing norms, people prefer to move in their personal vehicles.

Sheela casually picks up the receipt from the tray beside her.

 Shecomments aloud ,”Aiyyo, petrol per liter is so much aaa”!

“The price of petrol and diesel is showing an exponential growth. Just not acceptable. This government….” That was dad,

Before he could finish, Why Jee, If petrol cost was unaffordable you should not be traveling by personal vehicle?  If you further  feel bus or train fares to be costly, then stay at home”. See ,see. See here this message, showing a message from her mobile and reading aloud, “The fight with COVID is not yet over. Venture out only if absolutely necessary”. That was Mom

Even if the message read, the price of petrol has been increased, to ensure minimum traffic movement, people would still travel. Maybe they won’t blame the government  then HaHaHa ! Sheela ‘s take on petrol hike.

Sheela’s loud laughter had taken dad to a different world altogether. He turned nostalgic. 

Since childhood dad thought that  Sheela was a happy go-getting girl. She very rarely missed being the class topper or a  topper in SPA ,sports and performing arts. During those times she was more determined to work back harder than grieve. She ensured that she won the very next time. The gut to face and win over the situation seemed to be missing now. How much he prayed, this trip would get her back the same fighting spirit.

It was around 6am,while they crossed Channapatna. Most of the places looked deserted. The family was in Mysore five years back. They had hired a taxi ,up and down Mysore.

 Supreetha recollected, ”We took right somewhere here only naa, the lovely wooden toys which still adorn our hall, showcase. They are coloured using vegetable dyes. I loved that multi colored caterpillar.”

Why did you not pick it then”? Mom asked.

“I was feeling childish to pick it up”. Replied Supreetha  

“The oldest lady in the family”. Sheela said. All of them roared  into laughter.

“Let us see while we return, I shall pick them and a few more this time”. Supreetha said.

“And nobody better stop you, not even the old lady in you ”.   Sheela replied.

They stopped at Maddur for breakfast.

“ I shall have one masala dosa”, Sheela said. 

Supreetha in action, looking at the waiter and pointing her index finger up and nodding her head .She signs one masala dosa for her. He nods in approval.

 Dad goes through the whole menu,” Get me one plate puri-chana . 

“ I think I shall try, Mysore dosa”, we can find  out  what special about it ?

”. Mom said

“ At home, this Idli dosa for breakfast seems to be the worst choice. Serve it with sambar ,coconut chutney and potato curry, still it feels yuk,  but once you leave your home, there is nothing like Idli and dosa . Not just for breakfast but at any point of time to satisfy hunger”. Mom continued

Both masala dosa and Mysore dosa had potato in it. In masala dosa, there was a lump of potato curry, but in the Mysore dosa, potato was well mashed and smeared over the inner layer of the dosa like  butter in a bread spread. They packed the delicious Maddur vada.

Now, Supreeta wanted to drive. The Sun was shining bright, and  flowers along the National highway looked majestic. 

“Look out, there is a toll ahead. Slow down”. Dad cautioned.

“Now, what is this toll doing here? Supreetha blutered.

“Toll tax is levied only on certain specific tollways. For instance, national or state highway roads for their maintenance and covering the construction costs. It is for the roads under NHAI whereas the road tax is for the state roads. Road Tax is collected at the time of registration and it supports internal state funding.” Sheela explained

Dad was overwhelmed by her clear response. Will this trip give her the strength to recover from the setback she is going through. Would it be right to call it a setback?

If I should ponder over the years of my behavior and attitude  with Meera, I don’t think I can give myself a pass. How thoughtlessly, I have burst out on her. She was as qualified as me. Had an job in a multinational company. She married a man about whom she had no idea. She in fact resigned to walk in with me. There are times when I have mocked her as a house wife in front of my brothers, just to appease them. Last week also ,I had mocked her .

 Somewhere deep down I had an inferiority complex, when it came to Meera, it was an acceptable fact she would prove to be better than me in all walks of life. I told her to be a housewife, and insulted her when she wanted funds, calling her good for nothing. 

She did not argue or raise her voice, she ignored. Off late she has stopped making any demands, not even grocery items. I need to check the requirements myself.  She has been hurt and is reacting without reaction. A great sense of maturity. Oh my God, I have realized it just now. Dad’s thoughts reeled.

Hey !12 kms to Srirangapatna, Supreetha screamed.

“Yes, this girl has been driving  between 80-100 kilometers an hour” .

Supreetha’s excited screams got dad to the present state.

“A 5 minute darshan of Ranganath jee. I can see the gopuram. Let us have his darshan , let this visit not go in vain.” That was mom. 

We had darshan of the Lord.

“Mummy now  don’t start darshan of  Goddess and all that. We have not come here on a pilgrimage tour”. Sheela commented.

*****

They headed straight to Coorg now. Dad reconfirmed the vacancy of the rooms and informed them of the time of arrival. 

“We will be there by lunch. Kindly keep our rooms ready” dad informed, calling up the reception.

Dad took over driving from Mysore to Coorg, this gave Sheela and Supreetha a lot of time to gaze through the car window. AR Rehman was playing music, too.

Enroute there was plenty of greenery. Tiny hills and cliffs were spotted. There were plenty of pepper climbers embracing the silver oak tree.

We decided to stop for some selfies.

“Your face looks tired. May be we can freshen up and come down.” That was mom

Yes, we need to check in, it is almost 2:30 pm now. Let us finish our lunch also and  then come this way”. Dad added. 

All of them back in the car. It was a slight zigzag path, for our hotel was up the cliff.

The scenic view was getting better and better.

They entered the room. Post lunch all were busy with selfies and pictures from their balconies itself.

Supreetha was too tired after driving that long distance. She fell asleep. Sheela was lying beside her. She was not asleep ,her eyes were wide open, in deep thought.

Sheela has been having a tough time. Her marriage was on the verge of breakdown. It was not the Indian style of receiving horoscopes, match making and other, traditional styles. She had met him during her college days. They had been friends for almost 6 years, known each other’s likes-dislikes and then took a call. A very cautious call indeed. Even the families knew each other well.

Knock ,knock. Sheela opened to see who it was. It was the customer service, checking in with a bowl of fruits. It was their way of welcoming guests. That disturbed Supreetha’s sleep. She woke up. The room service guy was knocking on their parents’ room now.

 All four of them settled down for a cup of Tea! Soon after, they were out for a walk. Strolling here and there admiring the plants around it soon turned out to be dinner time.

They decided to join the guide, the next day to go  around their property

*****

The next day ,after breakfast

The aroma from the white coffee flowers was very soothing. There were some jackfruit trees, silver Oak trees and papaya trees. Mostly it was the pepper climber. The climber was not at all spicy with her neighbor. She seemed to be very cordial ,humble and highly welcomed by them. 

There was a strawberry farm, they were allowed to pluck fresh strawberries from there. Yummy, they picked four hands full.

There were plenty of bee hives, and the could get insights to extraction of honey and related information from the localities.

*****

It had been a long time since they had done swimming. An hour after lunch ,they went swimming. Mom sat beside the pool watching the other 3 swim. Taking photos of them and some selfies too.

The turn of events  in Sheela’s life, brought a lot of thinking in mom’s mind too. She was herself a good swimmer. She did represent her school, during competitions. She wondered if her husband or children were even aware of it. She had a  four wheeler driving license too. This information was kept a secret from the matrimonial forum during her wedding.

“A twenty seven year old chap, you can not  expect him to own a car at this age. He has just begun his career. Once he nears forty or so and becomes a manager, he will be able to afford. I was able to afford when I was forty five years and you  were sixteen”. Dad has advised

 She knew swimming, this information was withheld, it was difficult to judge the mindset of the groom and his family. What if they turn out to be an orthodox family?  Once again dad’s point of view.

The peace in the family was always maintained at the cost of women. The male ego and domination carried on. At Least here the father has realized it and supported his daughter’s initiative for a divorce. 

But then there were a few families , where the understanding between partners  looked good. Wonder if this act was only a cover up, like hers. Mom wondered. 

All were done with swimming ,they wanted a quick nap. They had spent two nights at the resort.

*****

The Abbey falls and later the Nisargadhama dam was full and flooding. It was a great site to see water gushing with full force and roar. There were plenty of tourists. Sheela distributed masks and asked Supreetha and her parents to wear them. Seeing them wear masks, other  tourists started pulling out their masks.  Almost all of them had their masks in place. 

“It is nice to see everyone showing concern for each other’s health and safety.” Dad said

“If we  should have rains for another two more days, then the dam will be opened”. The locals were discussing among themselves”. We overheard the conversation.

 “ Like river water in a flow

 Sometimes right, sometimes left

 Knowing not where, when she trips,

 Sometimes struck by boulders big,

She analyses but does not crib, 

From beside the boulder, she steps  and slips

In her roar she screams and spells

 For whatever life throws at you

Fight back and celebrate!”.       That was Supreetha, the poetess.

Her words were ringing in everyone’s mind. They returned to the resort, silently with some old hindi songs breaking the silence.

Post dinner ,everyone  bid each other good night. Not that they wanted to sleep, but were trying to analyze the situation at hand. 

Supreetha’s poem had ignited the torch.

*******

Sheela was in the driver’s seat as they left the hotel. As they neared Mysore ,they decided to have a break and breakfast. 

Even before anyone could get into the seat, mom occupied the driver’s seat. She travelled a few meters and returned. 

Everyone was surprised.  Mom developed the courage to show them her efficiency in driving. She stylishly pulled out her driving license and showed it to them. Dad had no comments and children were full of praise and awe over their mom. 

 Dad had decided to stop his patriarchal attitude and give mom the respect and space. 

Sheela and Supreetha were back to their old ways of life, quarrelling over which song to play , who is the most handsome among the Kapoors. 

Every wedding is not  a cheerful destination, there can be exceptions. Sheela concluded in her mind. Her experiences taught her, marriage is not the destination of life. Being able to celebrate day to day things is.  It is always better to walk away from an uncomfortable environment, if it costs your peace.

Mom took up pace with ease. She was following the google map and sometimes the name board on the streets.  Rest of the three were busily drowned in their mobiles. Past three days, they never went through it.   Suddenly, there was a similar  sounding, loud noise. 

Was not the Bangalore -Mysore road a straight lane? When did she take the wrong turn?

 “How was I to know, this was the wrong turn? I was following the google map”. Mom said aloud winking,

“To Balmuri falls ” All screamed.
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