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Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Banyan Cluster

26 & 27 Aug'07 :
Reached Bangalore by Island Express 26th morning. Gopu received me at Cantonment Stn. & drove me home in their new purple passion Zen Estilo. Weather was cool & cloudy- typical adorable lazy Bangalore climate. Was received at their Hoysala Apts by Pushpa & Uthara and I was immediately administerd a large mug of steaming hot South Indian coffee - its strong flavour pervading my nostrils and exhiliritating & energising me at once.
After breakfast of idlis & some more coffee we decided to motor down to Ramohalli, a picnic spot, around 35 kms away on the Mysore Rd. At the 28th km we had to turn into a dirt track for a 7 km stretch- the Estilo's suspension stood up well to the rough rigours of this drive. Enroute we stopped briefly at a roadside nursery and the Gopu's picked up some nice flowers & plants to decorate their home. We finally reached our destination, the botanical garden at Ramohalli village, and were greeted by the largest Banyan tree cluster in Asia - one of the most amazing & awesome sights I have ever come across. The magnificent "monument" was protected by a flimsy fence, entry was unregulated, there was an apology for a watchman, urchins were freely gallivanting inside, stray dogs & monkeys had free access too. The 3 acre premises has been well landscaped and is maintained by Bank of Maharasthra which was the only saving grace. There was a paved pathway & cement benches on either side. We learnt from the watchman that the cluster is around 400 yrs old but the parent tree has already met with its tragic demise and its obituary written some years ago.
This property deserves "National Heritage" status and the govt. should preserve, conserve,maintain & protect the place suitably. It has the potential to be developed into one of the most attractive tourist spots in Karnataka - by building good roads, providing regular shuttle services & through proper promotion. This site is must see for any visitor to Bangalore - the earlier you visit the better. However with dishonest, selfish and greedy politicians at the helm of affairs of the state,one cannot be too sure of the future of this heritage site. It will not surprise me if I find privately owned farm houses in place of this magnificent Banyan cluster during my next visit.
On our return we decided to take a different but longer route via Tavarakere. The road was definitely superior. We briefly stopped over at the Tavarakere Sunday morning bazaar, a typical dusty village environment with a lot of hustle & bustle. On sale were vegetables, ground nuts, fruits, meat, fish, poultry, sheep & a range of miscellaneous items. My camera shutter kept clicking away and I succeeded in getting some delectable shots of a typical Indian countryside.
We had delicious lunch at "Nandini" at Jalahalli before returning to Hoysala. Around midnight Shobha arrived from KL by Malaysian Airlines & received by I and Uthara. Parking facility at Bangalore airport is totally inadequate and chaotic conditions prevailed. On the return journey, roads were deserted and devoid of traffic-probably the best time to drive peacefully in this city. Uthara drove the Estilo comfortably and confidently unlike many other lady drivers I have seen.
Next day was Onam. After breakfast Gopu drove us to the Rozarios where Shobha had to deliver some parcels. While Shobha meandered on about Mira's antics & achievements, Gopu sat silently with a staid expression on his face.When we returned Pushpa was getting the Onam Sadya ready. Pushpa & Uthara were dressed appropriately in mundu nerithu/white sari for the occasion After quickly downing a couple of Martinis we settled down on the polished floor to enjoy the Onam sadya served as per South Indian tradition on plaintain leaves. The spread included semiya payasam, thovaran, avial, thair pachadi,sambhar, rasam, nendran pazham, chips,pappadam,pickles & curd. A thoroughly delicious and enjoyable meal - truly a gastronomers delight ! It was a memorable Onam.
Evening we visited Jaya Chiitis newly acquired penthouse, came back for a round of cinzano based cocktails & then departed for Coimbatore by the night bus.