1200 Hours- Just off Mangalore, from the Mangalore – Mumbai Matsyaganda Express, Konkan Route
It was 7 in the morning when I reached Mangalore. The dawn reminded me, much to my disappointment, of Bangalore, the city I had boarded the bus from. The same grey sky, some drizzle and mist in the air. The plan had been to spend the day at Mangalore before going to Udupi by late evening and catching the train to Goa, my home, the following morning. But a first look at the sky and immediately I knew — my plan had backfired. What I hoped to leave behind, I had not. Gloomy morning was very uninviting and the sea, it was far away.
But hope remained. Something in me wanted to stay as per the original plan. And why not, I had waited for this trip quite a long time and had been looking forward to it. I managed to reach the nearest bus stop and asked for the bus to Ullal beach. Number 44, they said. I waited. Bus 43 came and Bus 45 went by. No luck. By that time the drizzle had transformed itself into pouring rain. Ah, I saw Bus 44 coming. It zoomed by me even though I had gestured for the driver to stop it. He gestured me to go away. Just go away. I think he even said that in Kannada.
The rain did not stop. I went back to the railway station, my base camp. Got myself a platform ticket. I prefer to eat at the railway canteen when I am alone in unknown cities. First, I can eat lavishly without thinking too much about the pocket. The food is never bad. Secondly and more importantly, I make it a point to strike up a conversation with someone from the canteen staff. They are the best people who can tell you about the city and since they talk to all kind of travellers, language is never a problem. As I ordered my tea and bread omelette, the canteen manager gave me, as I realised later, the most important piece of advice at that time– Take the first train from Mangalore to Goa, Matsyaganda Express at 11AM and GO HOME.
Cancelled my ticket from Udupi to Goa and decided to board the Matsyaganda express that was to start at 1100 Hrs and should take me home to Goa by late evening. And here I am, writing this on the train, leaving the edge of Malabar on to a journey to the Konkan Route, a known terrain to me.
1645 Hours — Just off Karwar, the last Karnataka station before the train touches Goa
A little after Udupi, sunshine welcomed me. Rather, I should say, I welcomed the sunshine. It was as if, the bus driver of route 45, the canteen manager and the rain gods conspired against me and made me come here. After being deprieved of sunshine for almost 3 weeks in Bangalore, it was a relief to see the Golden Globe. Droplets of sweat appeared on my forehead and I did not mind it at all.
Now, as the train goes through Konkan, the coconut tree count tends to increase, the tunnels, some as long as 3 Kms, come and go. My age old custom of switching on the lights of the compartment in the daytime, has been invoked.
The rivers are full of water. Greenery is in abundance. The Sun sprays it’s rays and the dust appears almost Golden. The train enters countless and seemingly endless tunnels and when that happens, the smell of dampness overwhelms me, and my new found friend, the future hotel manager who comes from Bengal. We continue to talk about topics ranging from Fish names to Ganguly’s woes.
Goa is an hour away. Coming to Mangalore and bringing along the rain with me was certainly a bad idea or not, I do not know. In fact, who cares, now I do not want to know.