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Blessings of Arunachala: A Serialized Travelogue - Part 3 of 12

Parag is a software developer turned writer who loves travel, the open sky, animals, books, and writing.

No Head Lights

The drive on the Belagavi–Bangalore highway was uneventful except for a little diversion that had me driving in the service lane for a long time, causing a further delay in the journey.

I approached Tumkur a little after 6:00 PM. Google Maps indicated that Pyramid Valley was about 100 kilometers away. A little over two hours not considering the traffic. But peak Bangalore traffic was unavoidable, which meant it would take me a lot more than two hours. I just wasn’t sure exactly how much more.

Pyramid Valley’s reception office shuts at 7:30 PM so I pulled over to the side of the road to intimate them that I was running late. The person at the reception assured me that someone would be present near the rooms to give me the keys.

Relieved, I got back on the road only to find out that the highway which leads to Bangalore was a tollbooth galore. One tollbooth after another at ridiculously short intervals.

By now the sun had set, but the highway was ill lit. I suppose the companies that collected the toll only needed to maintain the road, not the lights.

I flipped on my car’s headlight switch.

What? The lights weren’t working. This was impossible. I flipped the switch off and on a few more times, but the headlights refused to turn on.

Damn hell. I was on the highway, way over two hours away from my destination, it was dark, and the headlights weren’t working.

I was in a real quandary. I had no clue why the headlights weren’t working. Could it have anything to do with jumpstarting the car in the morning? It was unlikely, but that guy had pointed to the circuit breaker and he had tried to tell me something which I wasn’t able to hear.

I pulled over to the side to call him. The phone rang, but no one answered. Maybe he was in traffic and couldn’t hear the phone. Since, I was already running late I did not want to waste any more time.

I wondered if I should look for a mechanic close by, but ruled out that option quickly. It didn’t feel like a good idea. I was in an unknown place. I did not know the language, and my car had a Maharashtra number plate. I don’t want to generalize, but I had heard stories of how unknown highway mechanics could deliberately mess up your car. I wasn’t sure how true those stories were, but it did not feel prudent to take a chance at this hour.

For a moment, I thought it was best to check into a decent hotel and go to Pyramid Valley the next morning. I could also get references from them to get the headlights fixed. Now, I just needed to drive slowly till I reached a hotel.

Wanting to drive in the slow lane, I noticed that the left-most lane of the highway was full of massive trucks. They drove slowly and steadily, maintaining perfect distance with the next truck. These guys also had very powerful headlights. I thought it might be a good idea to drive slowly between these trucks until I reached a good hotel.

I placed the car ahead of a truck that had powerful headlights. It was perfect. His headlights were well over ground level and illuminated the entire patch of road till the next truck. I did not know where these guys were going, but looking at the size of the trucks I had a feeling that they were going long distance.

An idea started hatching in my mind. I could drive slowly with the truckers illuminating my path until I needed to take an exit into the city. Once I entered the city, I could either look for a good mechanic or buy powerful flashlights and duct tape them to the bonnet. I already had one very powerful flashlight, so I only needed one more.

For some strange reason, this patchy idea helped me feel calm. I wanted to reach Pyramid Valley that night and wasn’t very happy about staying in a hotel. Seeing a ray of hope, I switched on the music and drove in the company of trucks at 50 Kmh in the slow lane.

With the mind calm and the car moving slowly, I replayed the conversation with the battery guy in my mind. He had pointed to the “circuit breaker”. I remembered that much clearly. Maybe that’s where the problem was. I felt like I should stop and at least take a look under the bonnet. I don’t know much about cars, but if the problem was obvious, then I just might be able to fix it. I could try calling the battery guy once again. Maybe he’d pick up the phone now.

I was also beginning to get hungry. I had skipped lunch to save time and had only taken a cup of tea in the afternoon.

After about fifteen minutes, I noticed a Kamat Upachar on my left and pulled into the parking lot. It was a good place for dinner. However, I wanted to check the circuit breaker first. So I unlatched the bonnet and stepped out to open it but the engine was way too hot. It was impossible to put my fingers inside so I poured a bottle of water on the bonnet and decided to have my dinner while it cooled down.

It’s only when I sat inside Kamat Upachar that I realized how tired I was. I felt completely exhausted and famished. After placing the order, I put my head down on the table and closed my eyes to get some much-needed rest.

The waiter returned after about twenty minutes giving me a decent enough time for rest followed by a generously sized meal.

A good Uttapam and Filter Coffee can bring any tired person back to life. Honestly, all those expensive energy drinks can’t hold a candle to Uttapam and Coffee.

I walked back to my car after about forty minutes. The bonnet had cooled down a bit—at least enough to open it.

Armed with a good flashlight, I examined the circuit breaker -- a white plastic box on the side.

There it was. The culprit in plain sight was an unhooked wire dangling below the white box. The battery guy had removed the wire to prevent another short circuit, as I later found out. This is exactly what he had tried to tell me when the auto-rickshaws with the blaring music passed us in Belagavi. It seemed he had also told me to connect the wire whenever I needed the lights and to disconnect it when I didn’t.

I would have saved myself a lot of stress if I had asked him to repeat the part I wasn’t able to hear, in Belagavi. Another lesson learned, the hard and interesting way.

I reached Pyramid Valley at 10:30 PM. Sharmaji, who was sitting on a desk between the rooms at night, helped me with the keys and in moving some of my stuff to the room.

I had booked a room in Pyramid Valley for two days, so there wasn’t any rush to wake up early.

Once again, all I had on my mind was to hit the mattress and sleep for the next twelve hours.

© 2021 Parag Shah 333

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