A misstep was the first step towards the journey. It threw a wrong hint for sure. I am talking about a missed train, something that happened just because of a 30-second delay after a 90-minute wait at my then hometown Dhenkanal for a train to Bhubaneshwar. I had to board in a general compartment for the next train enroute to Tirupati, making it a three-hour wait from then. I consumed so much tea during the 7-hour journey and the wait that, if it were petrol in a vehicle, it would have gone on for a comfortable 100-200 kms.
The first instant of finding a Telugu-speaking person in the compartment ensured great relief. It was like listening to an Ilayaraja 80’s melody after torturing past Yo Yo Honey Singh’s numbers in college for a good five months. The train crossed the Orissa border. I almost screamed with joy. I had my own worries as well. It was a five-day trip yes, but there was every chance of it being a potential recipe for boredom. As I was safeguarding my tablet and listening to the songs in my ear-phones, the Telugu-speaking crowds multiplied at each station. I was inching closer.First came Srikakulam, followed by the stunning Vijayanagaram and the moment arrived ! Visakhapatnam, the yellow backgrounded sign-board with black-coloured text read.
Duvvada.Kurmanapalem.Maddelapalem.Patha Gajuwaka.R K Beach.Jagadamba Junction.Poorna Market, RTC Complex, 38 K, 400 N and the list continues. These were and are merely the areas and buses of Visakhapatnam,one would say. But at least, the vivid memories that these places have offered me over the past 6 days won’t get washed away like the structures after the Hudhud massacre. I was alone these days.
Saying that I rediscovered myself in this trip would be an overstatement,but I can confidently state that it refreshed my soul about travel. As every journey does, it gave me new, unknown perspectives about myself. How I enjoyed company sometimes and how I was best left alone, the other moments. Like I was unexpectedly told to go back to the railway station all alone in front of 4 street dogs at 5 am in the morning on the last day. Like how I was lucky in being left aloof in the nights, when my family friend’s room-mates had project commitments to fulfill. I had guidance all along on what time I reached the room again and how well did I plan my day, but blaming that for someone trying to control me would give a wrong idea of how well they treated me.
The fact that I watched films like PK and Gopala Gopala in the recent times,I was reminded of the hard-known truths about temples being businesses and swamis being collection agents. I really felt that in a few instances here. From the coconut I was forced to break by the shopkeepers sitting in front of the temples to the ‘shighra darshanam’ schemes, I didn’t quite know if I did any good to myself by going there.I wasn’t complaining much as the supposedly holy sites gave me opportunities to travel and do some soul-searching.
I guess I had no proper lunch on any of the days. It was munching up a few samosas, biscuits, bread slices that kept me going. The evening snack/meal was dedicated to Sri Sairam Parlour right in front of the RTC Complex in Vizag. Mom was complaining but I didn’t find time or a better alternative.
The Jagadamba Junction, which I grew really fond of in the trip, was named after the theatre there and was a Koti equivalent in Hyderabad. From eateries to malls to theatres to book-stalls to annoying pedestrian-blockages in the form of ‘Take anything for 100 Rs’ stalls, it had everything. The spirit of a festival atmosphere, precisely one of the reasons I went to Vizag, was truly omnipresent. It was closer to the railway station, the bus complex and the beach. So, the transportation wasn’t much of an issue either.
The same Friday, sadly, my last in the town had earned its own touch of uniqueness as I fulfilled my age-old quest of watching a black-and-white film in the theatre in the morning. It was NTR’s Aggi Barata directed by Vithalacharya. A gentleman whom I bought a glass of Badam Milk from advised me to take care of my tablet and wallet as I entered this theatre called ‘Poorna’. I don’t find such people who really take some time out of their lives to care about others in metros anymore. I needed to admit that Visakhapatnam had a delightful mix of urban and rural atmospheres. It had glimpses of modernity but the populace was very rooted to its place.
The slang was wonderful and I was coming to terms with it. I could literally grasp the essences there. It was beautiful. Apart from travelling to some well-known places, these were priceless bonuses. To be a little kinder to myself, I witnessed the smaller needs and the bigger picture. I wished I could’ve visited more places. May be, an extra person tagging alongside me mattered here. As it was a ‘me-me-me’ trip everywhere, somewhere, the desire to explore more places died down.
I had a fuss-free stay in a place called Rajiv Nagar, a sub-area of another wide area called Kuramanapalem (read as Kurmannapalem- Sri Kurmam-Tortoise). Coming back to room each day took easily an hour from the bus-stand, which I cribbed about initially. Later I realised, I after all need a human outlet, in the form of my family friends to drain my feelings out.
All this made even greater sense as I was scraping past Gopichand’s Asamardhuni Jeevayatra and Bapu-Ramana’s Kosaru Kommachi in my journeys leaning alongside my window seats. The mind and body were in unison.. Especially, that of Gopichand. In my limited experience as a reader, nothing hit my soul as much as that. The regional-links were very appealing and I really understood what writing in a native language meant. These works could have been wonderful in English as well, but it wouldn’t have touched or affected me much. The story was significant yes, but Telugu meant that it was like a neighbourhood granny patting my head and preaching a learning experience from her own life. The recognition was instant and wasn’t in a third-person’ly fashion.