Usually it takes an enormous bribe or dire threats to get me agree to a road trip.I am quite content to pack the picnic basket for others and receive picture postcards or photographs in return. One of the main reasons for this is that traveling in diesel cars on rough roads has never been much fun for me. I keep rolling the windows down to take a bout of fresh air to combat my queasiness, while those around sit on the edges of their seat waiting with supplies such as sickness bag and cold water in case I throw up. Not exactly anyone’s idea of a “FUN” outing. So it was with much reservation that I chalked out the route for a day trip to Channapatna, Mallur and Melukote with my sister and daughter-in- law - something do-able even for a terrible traveler like me and close enough for us to turn back if my tantrums got really uncontrollable. The plan was to leave by 7:30 and return by 5:30 p.m.

Armed with adequate supplies of water, gelusil, Eno, churan varieties, lemon drinks, paper bags and music CDs, we left home by 7:30 a.m. We were to stop for breakfast at Kamat Lokaruchi at Janapadaloka in Ramnagaram which, according to blog reports, serves unlimited quantities of idly, Vada, dosa, akki roti, pongal etc. apart from fruits, juice and coffee/ tea for a mere 80 bucks. It seemed worth making the trip just for this. Thinking of this breakfast had made us quite hungry but it was 8:45 by the time we were actually there.

Our driver Suresh must have been an ambulance driver in a previous avatar as he could not bear any other vehicle between our car and the destination. Although the car did not have a siren he compensated for it by honking all the way despite our vociferous protests. I explained that we had all day and we were in no hurry to get to any of these places. The idea was to see what was possible within lunchtime and then head back. It seemed that his desire to get ahead of all vehicles on the road had nothing to do with our plans. It was just the way he operated. But for this he was in control of the vehicle and knew the way to all the places we had in mind.

Breakfast was nothing exceptional but definitely value for the money paid. The dining hall had thatched roof and was surrounded by trees. The place was swarming with monkeys who seemed not a bit threatened by the hordes of tourists.
The toilets were wet but clean.

Once our bellies were full we became serious tourists looking out for places of interest on our way. One such was a board pointing to a road leading to the Government Lacquer ware Craft Complex where we decided to stop on our way back. The idea was to visit the temples before they closed for the afternoon. In a few minutes we were at the Shri Aprameyaswamy Temple at Doddamallur. It is an ancient temple about 1500 years old. One of the priests informed us that Lord Rama stayed here and had worshipped Lord Aprameya. Hence the deity here is known as Sriramaprameya. His consort here is called Aravindavalli. Both the idols are very beautiful, especially the way their eyes were done up was very alluring. The other main attraction at this temple is a very beautiful idol of Lord Navaneetha Krishna in the form of a crawling child holding butter in his hand. At the shop outside the temple we saw pictures of the idol decorated with butter and in another dressed up as a king. There were just a few other visitors at the temple. A couple had come with a prayer for a child. Before performing the special prayer for them the priest asked them to pledge that they would return to the temple with an offering of a toy cradle after the child is born. We saw many cradles hanging from the roof of the sanctum.
It is said that Saint Purandaradasa composed the song ‘jagadhodharana” inspired by the form of the crawling Krishna (Ambegalu Krishna) and outside this shrine is a stone on which the song is inscribed.
Despite its ancience and associations with Rama and Purandaradasa, the temple has managed to remain relatively less touristy. We did not see many tourists probably because it was a weekday. It seems a lesser known destination even to people who have lived in Bangalore for generations.
By 10 am we were back in the car and asked our pilot Suresh if we could reach Melkote by 11. He readjusted his fingers around the horn and feet around the accelerator and happily nodded. It helped that the road was good until 30 km. before Melkote and then we had to turn into a mud road which slowed us down a bit. Undaunted, Suresh jumped over sugarcane and straw spread over the road and zoomed through the curves and narrow lanes so we were outside the Tirunarayana temple a little past 11. This is a very sacred shrine for the Vaishnavites as Sri Ramanujacharya had stayed here for a few years and worshipped at this temple. In fact both the main image and the one used for processions are supposed to have been lost and restored back to the temple by Sri Ramanuja. Again the images of all the deities are extremely beautiful in this temple. The temple has a beautiful tank or Kalyani Theertham which has featured in quite a number of kannada films. (We were told that the song “Barso re’ from Guru was picturized here.)
Melkote has another important temple for Yoga Narasimhaswami which is on a hill and which is reached after climbing 250 steps. Legend has it that the deity was installed by Prahlada. There were too many partitions in the Darshan area forcing the visitors to crowd together to get a good view of the shrine. And although there were about 4 or 5 priests, it was surprising that none of them would oblige us with the holy water despite our repeated requests. It seemed that all of them were having a bad day.
From the top, there is a nice view of the town and its neighborhood.

All the way down there were beggars on the steps, some singing Bhajans and some just begging. We made a brief stop at the Temple tank before heading back towards Maddur for Lunch at Adiga’s Hotel. Although I was quite pleased with the behavior of my digestive system so far in the trip, I decided not to push my luck and settled for a Roti and Corn masala and helped myself to some payasa and gulab jamun from the South Indian and North Indian Thalis ordered by others.

Post-lunch we went to meet the Painted storks and pelicans at Kokkare Bellur. We followed the directions on the signboards and were surprised to see one board which just said Kokkare Bellur with no arrows pointing anywhere. So we looked around for a lake which is where we expected the birds to be gathering. Not finding one, we casually looked up and found them right there – perched on the trees. As we walked around the narrow street we saw every tree covered with hundreds of them and a few babies in their nests too. They were beautiful and seemed completely at peace among the residents of the village who were having a noisy prayer to drum beats at their temple. I could not get much information on why the birds chose this particular spot for migration every year. One reason could be the proximity to the river Shimsa which might supply them with all the fish they need. The trees were nothing special – ordinary tamarind trees. So that doesn’t offer any explanation. The villagers seem to consider them as harbingers of good luck and the bird droppings acts as good manure for their crops. Apparently the villagers treat the birds as their own and prevent them from being harmed. So perhaps the birds feel secure here. I wish they would open their beaks and speak.
A few children ran to our car and pointed to other trees with birds. One of the boys showed us a wounded Pelican and said that it ate 6 kg of fish everyday and drank huge volumes of water, I forget how much. Then he asked me if I could give him some pens. He looked about 6 or 7 and so I asked him what he would do with a pen. He said he needed it for school work and a three year old next to him nodded. I knew for sure that they did not use pens for school work but took out the three pens from my bag and handed it to them, By then more children had gathered demanding pens. One girl even offered: ‘Give me money, I will buy pens from the shop’. We did not want to give them money so we gave them some biscuits and they were happy. It was also funny that they kept calling us "teacher' but at least that is a sure sign that they all go to school. or is it?

Passing through Channapatna, we stopped for tea and some shopping for the famous Channapatna toys. There were a few shops on the highway but when we went in they did not seem very interested in selling stuff to us.
Since we did not particularly fancy anything either, we decided to look for them in the government craft complex but at another time. My experience so far even gave me the courage to announce: ‘I think we could drive down on our own.”

So we started homeward stopping briefly at the Kengal Anjaneya temple at Ramnagaram on the highway. We could not take the road to Kanva reservoir about 5 km away due to road repair work. We looked at our watches. It was about 3:30 and getting back home before the horrible city traffic started sounded like a great idea. So we let our driver Suresh step on the accelerator while we dozed in our seats. At 4:45 we were already home drinking tea.

A very short and pleasant day trip via the NICE road and the Bangalore-Mysore expressway (SH17). The drive is quite smooth except when you drive through the villages to reach the spots. Food is not a problem. There are plenty of restaurants. Fill up the tank, pack water and music, fasten seat belts and just follow the road signs. It is that easy if you are in Bangalore. I can’t believe that I did not do this before!

when a 52 year old Indian woman walks into the branch of an international Gym chain in a Bangalore suburb:

Ok, I can hear you thinking 'what exactly were YOU doing there?'
So let me start at the beginning. It was my birthday sometime last week.Yes you may wish me, thank you.(presents will be accepted till end of the month and yes, I accept cash.)
So dear daughter-in-law decided to gift me a gym membership knowing that I'd never do it on my own. She also knows that I won't cheat on exercising when money has been paid.
So that is how I ended up in the gym today afternoon.

As I climbed up the stairs to the gym on the first floor, the guard smiled and told me: "Beauty parlor on the next floor."
In return I gave him a warm smile and walked inside.
There were three girls at the reception who stopped their conversation abruptly and looked at me as though I had walked into a men's restroom. (What do you mean, how do I know that? I am 52!I have done every stupid mistake there is to do. So you better believe it when I say that is how they looked!)
So I waved my receipt at them and while they were dealing with the truth I made my way to the changing room.
The two handsome guys who were on treadmills lost interest in me the minute I came out in my exercise clothes. The trainer was examining my shoes with interest particularly the area that had been chewed up by Zoozoo, my puppy on prozac.
Remember I already told you, I am too cheap to spend another 3.5 thousand on a fresh pair of shoes while I can still slip my soles inside this pair and tie the strings.

I fell in love with the trainer when he said that I need to consume 150 more calories each day. I almost called him "mother!". Who else has ever told you that you must eat more?!
He asked me what I hoped to achieve in these 4 months. Frankly all I had hoped to achieve was to extract maximum value for the amount that D-I-L had spent. I had no other nobler goals or ambitions. But this was my Miss India moment and I had to think up a smart, winning answer. So I said "I want to be as fit as I can possibly be at this age".
I could say he was impressed. Or perhaps he is paid to look impressed. Then he launched a lecture about how fitness is most neglected particularly among older women in India and how losing weight is not the same as being fit blah blah. He spoke of carbs and proteins and diet supplements and mutivitamins and...
Oh ya ya.wn -I lost him midway and started looking at all those fancy equipment and wanted to go and try each one like a five year old in a play ground. He asked me:"So that is my recommendation for you. Are you with me?" I hadn't understood half of what he said but enthusiastically agreed with him just to go and use the tread mill. Finally.

'Poor cardio-vascular and weight resistance; needs a lot of improvement' he muttered as he led me for what he claimed to be the toughest challenge. I could not believe that anything could be tougher than what I had already been through. As I waited for him to ask me to lift weights of 100 kg or some such thing he simply asked me to lift my knees and bend my hips and so on like school P.T. exercises.
'Ju ju bi' I said to myself as I twisted my arms and turned my body , and bent forward to touch my toes. Years of yoga and stretching were not a waste after all.
"I have never seen a person of your age who is so flexible. you could pass for a 30 year old" , he said with disbelief.
And I said: "show me a thirty year old who can touch his toe".
Sweet revenge!

So tomorrow if the guard tells me that the parlor is upstairs I intend giving him a feel of my oneday -toned arm with a nice punch!