Here is what I said in my previous blog post on this ride.
“A drive to meet a great person, in person and congratulate, which turns into a decent adventure cannot be described in few words. What happened? How was my experience of wanting to meet a person who laid trees 45 years ago, not even sure if he is alive? How was the village?”
So after doing a few back and forth, and back and forth rides, this time I was sure I was getting close to meeting ‘the’ man. But alas! I was told that I was in wrong path and needed to go back again. But this time I asked several questions and confirmed I was off only by a short distance and actually recollected seeing the turn that was suggested. Also to my disappointment, Annarigudem was not quite there yet and quite a bit of distance yet!
It was getting hot now, as the morning sun started moving up in the sky (I know it is actually the earth moving in a circular, okay, oblong motion!). I had a sense of comfort that I still had not consumed any of the 2.25 liters of water in my hydration bag. And should there be a need, I also have small pack of peanut jaggery cake (chikki) to pump in some immediate (jaggery) as well as delayed release (peanuts) calories. I take the new road now.
The road seems long and empty. I mean really empty. If only I would have a flat tire, that’s it! It would be end of fun. Looks like I will only be lucky if I come across a soul on that road. It was a mud road with plenty of fine dust and mud. The land on both sides of the road was barren. No such thing as agriculture. It was hot. Then there are some twisty turns and loose gravel. I was in no mood to take those twists at high speed and enjoy the bike leaning over. A bit risky and unknown roads. And, did I say it was hot? It sure was hot. For a change now, my goal is not travel itself, but reaching the place. And sooner the better. I am not worried about it being hot. I have enough reserve of my water. As long as there is enough water, heat is not such a dangerous thing. Food also comes secondary. But I was concerned that if I didn’t turn back in time, I would need to ride on these loose gravel, muddy, twisty, empty roads in dark with only my bike light supporting. No, I am not in favor of that. I do not like taking risks, or believe in chances, while they may have their merit, as some people like to call ‘calculated risk’. I am averse to that.
Now I hit a junction where the horizontal road appears more prominent. But my gut feeling and the phone map suggested to go straight. And I took it. There was a woman, who herself was trying to find out from me so she could meet her lost colleague. So no point asking her (but I did). Another stretch of loose gravel and muddy, twisty narrow road with thorn bushes waiting for an opportunity to brush me. And I move on.
Here I am. And I knew for sure, this must be it. No need to ask anyone. This MUST be the village. Something changed the moment I landed there. It was cool and very pleasant. And as I lift up my head to confirm, there was a large banyan tree with some writing on granite stone next to it. It is Annarigudem. Finally, I had arrived!!
Look at the way, the village opens up. A typical, thoughtfully designed yet simple. Repeated in most villages in India. There was a small wall where travelers can sit and rest for a while or villagers chat in the evening. A large banyan tree (45 year old to be precise) providing ample shade to visitors. There is a resting bench under the tree.
The writing on the granite slab declared, Gudipudi Subba Rao dedicated this tree planted in 1970, to Shankar Jaikishan, the two music directors of yesteryear’s Bollywood. The slab doubles as a back rest.
Having been through a long, and hot (did I say it was hot?) ride, sure I wanted to rest here for a while. God! Why didn’t I do that? It was so pleasant and inviting. I could drink some water (I did) and rest. But the little devil in my head called rationale told me I could do that during my return (which never happened). First I had to meet this great person, and make sure I start back well before it was early evening so it doesn’t get dark when I have to pass through those mud roads.
And voila! Even under that hot summer mid day (it was exactly noon I think), I found a human soul. I asked him if he knew where Gudipudi Subba Rao was. My question was also double meaning (at least in my mind), if he was alive and I could meet him. The guy tells me he didn’t know but I could check with the Sarpanch. Oh! Yes, there is this concept called Sarpanch, right? You dumb urban city man! I could surely check with the Sarpanch. I moved on after a couple of snaps (which didn’t do full justice anyway; my head was hot and muggy).
The road was clean with palm trees lined up on one side. And a good village name sign at the entrance. Felt good.
I go around. Take some snaps here and there. Watch some children playing the Indian sport, Kabaddi. Take their directions and go to Sarpanch home only to find he is not at home. I ask his wife, if I could meet this Gudipudi Subba Rao with a double meaning question not even sure if I was alive. She also responds with double meaning, “Yes, he ‘is’ there. And so and so adjacent house is his home”. I find the house to have multiple main entrances, an old not cared for building. It was locked all over!
Long story short, she then redirects me to his son’s house, another adjacent one. In a village, every other thing you are looking for is only adjacent!
Hesitantly, I peep in. One of the three gentleman, walks up and confirms he is the son of the Great Gudipudi Subba Rao. As he came to know the purpose of my visit, he was amazed that I had come all the way from Hyderabad on a motorbike, and traversing through a longer and harder route to his native place, just to congratulate his father and personally see this village. The amount of hospitality he then offered is, something I will never forget in my life. However best I may try, I cannot do justice to it, through my scribbling here.
He showed me the photograph of his father. Thank God! He is very much alive. As I came to see him in Annarigudem, he just went to Hyderabad for a short visit (no, not to see me!). While it certainly was a disappointment to not meet him in person, I was glad that I was able to meet his son. He explained me how his father was concerned of governments not being concerned about greenery. He called up his father over phone, after a few repeated attempts and had me to talk to him. Mr. Gudipudi was busy, as I understood based on his tone, nonetheless was happy to know I had come to their village. He spoke about his interventions and suggestions that went vain in stopping a saw mill coming up, not having some trees in the local Police Station to which there are at least 100 visitors every day and have no shade to rest. He complained that while the Government sanctions funds and also plant saplings but they don’t cage the sapling. In its absence, the very next day an animal would walk by and eat away the sapling. He was concerned that governments aka political parties, look for immediate gratification or publicity, and miss the long term benefit. In the process, the allocated funds too get wasted.
Mr. Subba Rao’s son actions led me to conclude one other time, nothing equals that of a village for true hospitality. Something we Indians should be proud of. He insisted that I had lunch at his home. His hospitality was so overwhelming that the very shy person that I am, particularly in eating at others homes had to succumb to the invitation. He insisted that I had at least one bite before I left his home. At the table, understanding my reservation to having an egg curry as a vegetarian and brahmin, he offered hot/fresh lemon rice cooked by a pure vegetarian neighbor. And he would have all of the thick, buttery, delicious curd from authentic village buffalo milk, dumped on to my plate insisting it was hot outside and I needed this. After the lunch and some pep talk, he had one of his men accompany me and show over the village. He also ensured the accomplice rides with me to a prominent junction which would have an easier pass to highway. It was much easier route with no hulla-bulla of off-roads during my return. I was blown away by the way he treated me with so much respect, appreciation, and above all affection!
This man was no ordinary man himself! He practices in the High Court of Telangana State. He is a criminal lawyer. Among his prominent cases known to common people like us is Paritala Ravi’s murder case and the other one where the opponent was killed in the car at point blank shoot from rear seat. He received numerous awards. He was felicitated by the High Court Chief Justice, and also none other than Chandrababu Naidu, the then Chief Minister of united Andhra Pradesh. He also contributed to the lawyer community as Secretary of Bar Council. I now realized I had chanced upon an opportunity to meet and talk openly with an advocate as esteemed as him. But for all his stature, who stays in Hyderabad and only occasionally visits Annarigudem for recreation and relaxation, he was very humble and down to earth. Based on the conversation, I also realized they are basically a wealthy family, even if they appeared too simple. The person who accompanied me during the village go-around, was praising a lot of this person for being caste indifferent, something that we usually expect in villages.
So after having a not so well spread out but nevertheless stomach happy small lunch (I only had a handful of lemon rice), I went around the village. The village wasn’t anything different than one would expect. To be honest, the village also did not seem like it had a lot of greenery or large trees. It did impress me though there are some nice benches in public places for people to rest. There was this one extremely large Banyan tree at the exit of village (or shall I say the other entrance of village). This was the picture I had in my previous blog. Whenever I see large trees, I get nostalgic. They are so good and heavenly. They provide shade not for one or two, but several several living beings, from birds to animals to humans. Although my mother did mention that large trees consume large volumes of ground water which otherwise would be available for human consumption.
My misunderstanding of the greenery in the village got clarified when I left the village. On account of non-consistent variety of trees mixed with bushes and plants, the village did not give that picture of many trees. But as I saw the village to my back when I exited, I was able to notice the village was filled with trees while the bordering area wasn’t. There was some beautiful lush paddy field by the road. I rested for a while and conversed with the farmer. I understood there was no shortage of water, something we rarely get to hear at least in cities. Agriculture was doing well. I could see that a true balance of hot climate coupled with lots of trees and adequate ground water existed here. Left to itself, nature knows how to manage itself, and well!
My return wasn’t anything particularly exciting or worth writing. I had my number plate come off twice. Is there a Royal Enfield that never gives any trouble? I didn’t have lunch that I was intending to during my return, due to the tummy being filled with thick curd anyway. My hydration bag water had become hot water. Gulped it nevertheless so I remain hydrated. Did I saw it was hot? (I know I said it for n’th time). The restaurant I was hoping to get some evening snacks, ended up providing my only tea with a horrible price tag. I didn’t feel like staying back overnight either in Suryapet or any place in between that I was contemplating when I started this trip. The city drive was horrible back home as may be expected. But the memories planted in my mind forever, as one of the best adventurous rides I ever had.
Losing your way sometimes can be good. Think about it!
Here are few other pictures as a slide show for your appreciation for a picture is worth ‘thousand words’. Or if you wish to see all the pictures (and there aren’t too many), you may watch them here. Also it would be nice to have your comments or a ‘like’ only to know the reach of my blog posts.