My relationship with train journeys started when I was 3 months old and my parents bought me back to Mysore by train from my maternal grand parents house at Kurtakoti, which is a remote village in North Karnataka. I was unaware of the travel then but for years we have traveled to the same village every year during summer. We used to travel in almost all types of transport available. First it would be an auto or a tonga from home to railway station. Then hop on the train to travel up to Hulkoti. As broad gauge was not available the meter gauge engine would chug slowly stopping at every single station it crossed. It was as if the train would start at a station and even before the last bogie would leave the place, the engine would be nosing into another station to stop! It took almost 24 hours to reach the place, which is approximately 460 kms away. At Hulkoti we would disembark to be greeted by the Sarathi/driver of our next transport…. the bullock cart. The bullock cart would be specially prepared for our next journey of 12 kilometers on the instructions by my grandfather. It would have a hood and a cotton bed with white covers to sit on and bolsters and pillows would be lined on the walls to avoid bumping our limbs as we rambled on a mud road leading to our favorite summer destination Kurtkoti. The tinkling of the bells tied on the neck of the handsome white bullocks was music to our ears. Once we saw two king Cobras standing up to 2 feet with their hoods up and hissing at one another. I wish we had a camera in hand then. A helper would accompany the cart by running beside the moving cart. He would lift the wheels of the cart if it got stuck in between rocks or slush. God bless them!
The memories and adventures of reaching the place are unforgettable. My sister and myself would keep our heads stuck to the windows in the train and watch the beautiful countryside go by munching yummy goodies prepared by mom. We would observe all kinds of birds sitting on the electric lines running beside the railway track and count them. Maybe the interest in birding was kindled then. The next morning the landscape would have changed from palm/mango grove and paddy fields to plain lands with patches of red and black soil up to the horizon.
We would be so excited going to a small village to spend time with uncles, aunts and of course cousins. Good food, laughter and away from city life was a wonderful summer break. Coming back to Mysore we would reminisce and narrate the journey and time spent there to friends for days, we stopped at nothing to make them feel that we had been to a paradise. Why we felt like going there every year? The answer is simple…we did not have a choice like now, but even if we did have we would have chosen only one place and that is Kurtkoti again! It is the hospitality and the upbeat aura of the house that used to attract one and all to spend memorable days there.
Now, it takes around 7hrs of straight driving to reach the place. Broad gauge, good roads and bus services now connect the village. But the memories of the lazy train journey and the bullock cart rides are still the best and everlasting.