Whenever we got an opportunity abroad, we found ourselves planning trips to various countries because traveling is something we love. But, after many trips we found that we were mostly visiting all the cities of various countries and most cities, we noticed were similar. Cities are mostly cosmopolitan and you never will know the culture or the heritage of that country just by roaming in the cities alone. The real country lies in its countryside. Haven't we often heard that the real India lies in its villages? I have always wanted to travel to many villages - maybe because I hail from a town called Ammasandra, a little over 100 kms from Bangalore!!
There are always some places in this world that appear to be more beautiful than the rest. For all the traveling we did in the past two years there are some places that stand out in our memory. We have not traveled extensively in and around this beautiful country of ours but we have always wanted to go to the beautiful countryside with its carpeted greenery and simple life. So, when we got some time off sometime back, we jumped at the opportunity and planned to drive down to Ammasandra - a little town nestled amongst nature. Ammasandra stands out in our memory not just for its beauty but also for its nostalgic feeling. I was visiting this place after 13 years!!
Ammasandra is a small township where there is Cement Factory - a Birla group company. This place has people working in this factory and its office and people live here in the company accommodation provided. The children study in the Company School and play in the park and garden all of which are maintained by this Birla group Company. As long as I lived there (for nearly 18 years) I never really appreciated the beauty and serenity of this place but after 13 years of separation things were different.
On that particular day, we started quite early and drove lazily to this small township. For the first time in our life, we were driving without a map. Although this bothered us, we thought that we would never find the route to this place in the road map. We drove with our general sense of direction. We headed to Tumkur - a 45 km drive from Bangalore. Our drive was very simple. Not many sign boards to confuse us. The roads were not very good. After about 30 kms, the roads started narrowing further and it ran through some very small villages and we started fretting. We stopped midway for breakfast and resumed again. The roads were now completely submerged in rainwater and we had to maneuver our way.
After a good hour's, we reached Tumkur, a small district of Karnataka. Tumkur is a big Town and has all the makings of a city. It took us roughly about half an hour to cross this Town and further our journey. After asking for directions, we headed right towards Ammasandra via Gubbi. Slowly and steadily, we were heading to our destination but there was some strange excitement in my stomach. It was like meeting someone after a very long time. I was now tracing the familiar tracks - the roads, the people and the shops. Everything was so similar yet different. The large fields, people working oblivious to their surrounding and the trees - especially Eucalyptus. This tree grows in so much abundance in this area that it had become a part of our lives. We were so much used to its smell and its season of flowering and its growth. We sort of lived a symbiotic life.
We reached Ammasandra after a good hour's drive. The road was bumpy and we were now in the town. We stopped near the co-operative society from where the entire town buys its household things. We got off the car and took a deep breath. This was the place - that familiar air . Next to this society is the Birla Mandir - just like how you would get to see one everywhere except this one is not made of marble!! Right opposite to this temple is a huge gate, which leads to the President's Bungalow (not the President of India but the President of the Cement Factory!!) Two security guards stand here day and night and keep a watch. Private vehicles are not allowed to enter through this gate. There is another gate that leads to the township of Ammasandra. As we entered through this gate we found the Cinema Hall that looked just like the one 13 years ago - I wonder if it was even whitewashed once in the past years. Anyway, this was the very Cinema Hall that we had access to and we could get to see only old films!! Further as we drove we came to the Town Square - rather Town Triangle which sort of symbolizes the center of the town. Here most people would get together and talk. I don't know if it is still the meeting place . Further down, we came across the building where we stayed. This building looked so old - as if it had had enough. It looked really old and I wondered how it was still braving the onslaught of time.
I visited my old school. It looked so much the same. This building must have witnessed so many students getting groomed. This school is one of its kind in the entire Taluk of Turuvekere as it an English convent!! A little further from the school is the Birla Park. This park was inaugurated in 1985 and at that time it hardly had any plants or trees to add its beauty. But the past years have been good for this park. It has now become a beautiful garden flourishing in all its glory. The park is really small and also accommodates a children's play area.
A little away from this park are the huge gates that lead to the factory and the Office of this cement company. Previously people were allowed to visit the factory on special days like the Ayudha Pooja day during the Navrathri Festival. The entire area here is filled with rough cement and the area surrounding the cement factory is filled with dust and cement. In fact it was told that the Eucalyptus trees were planted to counter the pollution caused by this factory. Sadly enough today the township of Ammasandra is a sad witness to the brutal murder of many such elegant looking eucalyptus trees. I searched for those trees on whose trunks I climbed and sat and lingered as a child. Sadly enough there weren't any. Man's greed overtook emotion and today this beautiful township that danced in greenery looks bare and ugly. It no longer is that township which boasted of mini forest like areas!
A little away from Ammasandra is Dandinashivara - a small village where many people from the town visit . This town is known for Honnamadevi temple and also for its market from you can buy fresh fruits and vegetables for a throw away price. People throng to this place especially during the onset of spring and also during Navrathri. During these periods the village bears a festive look and many pujas are performed in this temple. The temple is now under renovation though the beauty and simplicity of the Goddess remains the same.
We also visited this temple and also walked to the market nearby. We bought flowers for unbelievable prices and met some of our old friends. We returned with lots of goodies like fresh vegetables and fruits right from the fields. We never wanted to leave the place but all good things come to an end.
It was now time to say good-bye. I stood there wondering if ever I would return after all it was my hometown. But, I never wanted to come back to this place if it were to remain barren with all the Eucalyptus cut down. I walked to one of my favourite trees now cut down fully. I could only see its stump. My heart ached. As I walked closer to the tree, I saw small stems growing out of the stump with tender leaves. I prayed God and hoped to return one day to see the tree in all its glory- perhaps with my Grand child!!