Once every few months the travel bug bites my wife and she in turn starts biting, no, bugging me. “I am fed up of this routine. Cook, wait for you, eat, sleep and watch TV. This has become my life. I spend half a day in the kitchen and the rest in front of the TV and most of the programmes are horrible. I hate the kitchen and hate this TV but I am tied to them. You are always busy in your clinic or with your other activities and this fellow (our son) forgets home if he goes to college. (My son had been hearing this all through his student life and now that he is a lecturer in the same college, will probably continue to hear these words for the rest of his life). I need a change. Let us go somewhere. You Plan something.”
The onus of finding a place which suits all of us (there is no such place in this world) and making the necessary arrangements is on me. I start thinking about possible locations. Flight is too expensive, train tickets are never available at short notice and my wife does not travel by bus. So, it is imperative that we travel by car. My son prefers his friends and his bike but he had to be included for the sake of the family feeling. He agreed to travel with us if we were avoiding the highways and driving through interior roads where he could enjoy driving and test the capabilities of our car. According to my experience most of the interior roads are bad and I hate bad roads. If these restrictions are not enough, the place which we intend visiting should not be very close, nor very far, not very crowded, have good hotels and preferably be good for shopping. (The last requirement is actually the first. It is never mentioned but I am required to keep it in mind all the time.)
As I have said earlier I know that a holiday destination which suits all of us does not exist but I try to find one. I give up and declare that the place where we are at present is what suits us best. Then my wife and son grudgingly compromise a bit and put me on a renewed search.
After eliminating other destinations, this time we shortlisted Coorg and ‘Malnad’ areas in Karnataka. My wife did not like the mention of availability of traditional Coorg fare- predominantly non vegetarian with a preference to pork- mentioned in the websites of hotels and home stays. So, ‘Malnad’ it was. There were other plus points in ‘Malnad’. A possibility of avoiding staying in hotels - we had relatives (whom we had never met of course) on whom we could force ourselves for a day or two - and a ‘Mutt’ or ‘Matha’ ( a religious establishment) which we had been planning to visit for long. I planned a route avoiding the highway as much as possible, hoping that the interior roads would be good enough for driving and had the car serviced.
Then one of my patients, who had had her wisdom tooth removed in my clinic, developed some complication. This complication threatened to jeopardize two things. Our trip and more importantly her (patient’s) wedding, which was due two weeks later. Fortunately the surgeon who had done the surgery managed to get things under control with the help of half a dozen gods to whom I had sent prayers and the patient was almost normal a day before our planned start off. I filled the tank and we were ready to leave.
We had planned to travel to Tirthahalli, sort of epicenter of Malnad area and visit few places around the small town which are not on the usual tourist map. We started on a fine November morning and decided to travel till Sagar, another small town near Shimoga in Karnataka and stay there for the night. By lunch time we had crossed Karwar and Ankola and were near a place called Yellapur. Having found a shady and clean spot by the side of the road we decided to have a leisurely lunch which we had packed. We spread the carpet and were about to ‘set the table’ when the herd of cattle that were grazing on the other side of the road decided to share the lunch with us along with their friend, a dog.
Just then I also spotted a group of monkeys which were on a tree a little distance away, watching us and eager to join the guest list. The idea of a leisurely lunch was abandoned, and while two of us managed to shoo away our guests my son managed to recover the lunch and we ate a ‘darshini’ type (eat fast and get lost) lunch in a hurry and proceeded on our way.
The road from Yellapur to Sagar was narrow but smooth with hardly any traffic and abundant greenery all around. Travelling was a pleasure. The pleasant surroundings elevated the mood in the car and even our family of three began to enjoy each other’s company.
We were nearing the town Sirsi, when we saw a narrower road leading away to our right with a sign board saying ‘Sonda Vaadiraja Mutt’. The famous Sodhe or Sonda ‘math’ was one of the eight mathas established by the saint Sri Madhwacharya and was set up in the village of Sonda by Sri Vaadiraja, one of Madhwacharya’s followers.God Vishnu is said to have taken the form of a horse (god Vishnu in this form is known as Hayagreeva) and accepted the offering of cooked grams which Vaadiraaja had reverently offered by placing it in a plate on his head. Sri Vaadiraja is said to have entered ‘Brindavana’ here while still alive (A ‘Brindavana’ is a small religious structure built on the place where the mortal remains of the head of a ‘Matha’ are placed - the word buried is not used here).
It was not possible to travel past Sodhe without paying our respects to Sri Vadiraaja. So we went slightly off track to pay obeisance to Sri Vaadiraja and were back on our road within an hour.
Soon afterwards we drove through the town, Sirsi, stopping half a dozen times asking for directions and as we left Sirsi the sky was turning orange with the sun setting beyond the green fields.
When we arrived at Sagara it was about seven in the evening and was already dark. We checked into the hotel, had our dinner and called it a day.