Sunday, June 14, 2009

Act of Random Kindness at Arkesh’s Mango Farm

Date: 02-03 May 09
Something struck me when I saw the closing dialogue of the movie Evan Almighty; I got out of the writer’s block and started to finish this post.
It’s easy to imagine that the ‘Ark’ in the Arkesh’s name stands for Act of Random Kindness. I have known him for a sometime now – as Praks father, soft spoken and charming, he always made you feel good about yourself after you had met him. So when I met him last Dec and spoke with such fervor about his farm off Mysore road, I made a note to myself to visit sometime.


We wanted to take the weekend at our pace – Raghu, Raji and Dhannya confirmed and Tima and Ragi dropped off. The only reason I wanted to detour to Melukote was because it looked like a beautiful place in Jani’s album. (yes, I see other parts of those pictures now, after I’ve finally moved on. In fact, I am now on the verge of the imminent. Well, the Noah's Ark was not a singles' cruise; was it?)
We started from Bangalore at around 7, Mysore road was expectedly busy, although it was second day of a long weekend. We drove in my Elantra, stopped at Kamath for the buffet breakfast. The drive after we got off the highway was the best, we rolled the windows down and let the countryside air fill our lungs. It was about 11 when we reached the Kalyani at the bottom of the Melukote hill.
After the must-do photo shoot at the pushkarni, we started to climb up the hill to the Yoga-narasimha temple. It was blazing hot and the climbing the all the steps up to the teimple was not easy. We also visited the Cheluvanarayana temple. It was packed with sweaty devotees and ‘devotion’ was definitely not top of mind when I got a glimpse of the deity.

Where it is:
Approach from Bangalore towards Mysore – Within 0.5k from Ramanagaram bus stop, turn left on Kanakpura road. Reach Railway over bridge within 0.5k, pass the bridge and turn right after the bridge on Bannikuppe road. Reach Bannikuppe in 8km, turn right at T-junction and an immediate left turn to reach Aralaalasandra
Approach from Bangalore towards Kanakapura – Reach Saatanur via Doddalahalli. Proceed on Channapatana road about 20k to reach Volagerehalli and 3km from there to Aralaalasandra
Approach from Mysore towards Bangalore – After Channapatna bus stop turn right towards Honganooru at Saatnur circle. At a fork about 4-5k later, stay on the tank bund and continue for about 5k to Volagerehalli and continue straight to Aralaalasandra
I never thought we could make it with those directions, but they were spot on and more accurate than the GPS (sloppy benchmark to start with).
It was right at the end, that we overshot the farm, thanks to Raghu’s misleading gut-feel and our not-so-local-language-conversant co-pilot, Dhannya. The Elantra was subject to a lot of abuse from the road (or the lack of it), but I was proud of the way it handled the terrain meant for the 4x4s.

What is it:
We had absolutely no idea what to expect when we reached the farmhouse. But as soon as parked there, we started to breathe, see and eat... Mangoes. It’s a 50acre farm – a 1000 mango tress and some delicious varieties – Alphonso (Badami), Raspuri, Totapuri, Kari raspuri and a few local ones. In the middle of the harvesting season, each tree had nearly about 100 mangoes to be picked.
Kenchegowda was the caretaker of the farm, was out to graze cattle. But his wife and kids and Chandrappa made sure we were comfortably settled in the rooms in the first floor of the farmhouse after a guided tour of the farm.

Mango Harvesting: Thanks to movies and beverages, we woke up late and plans of trekking to Devarabetta or Kabaaladurga had to put to shelved for another day. Arkesh uncle came there in the morning and everyone got on their feet (everyone, except Raaji). After a quick breakfast, the mango harvesting began. While Raghu and I joined the team and were soon finishing off an entire tree ourselves. The words - first time right, low hanging fruits and sap actually meant what they were and not some business jargon. Arkesh uncle taught us how to harvest, to keep the sap from burning our fingers or the fruit. It was a relaxing exercise – starting off with an empty carton and a full tree and finishing off with a full carton and an empty tree.
The repetitive act of picking the mango to go for next, carefully plucking it at the right spot, placing it gently in the carton and back till the entire tree is cleaned up, and just doing this over and over again, is what brings to it an element of relaxation.
Raghu and I got back to lunch after a while, but Arkesh and team kept to the task till we had some 60 odd cartons, all treated with Ethylene (?), loaded and ready to make it to Metro.
The girls were having a ball too, sharing the machaan (hammock) and some gossip, am guessing!!
All’s well, but it really didn’t end well. What with the traffic on Mysore road at the end of a long weekend!
The next trip to the farm is going to be on a different set of wheels and also looking to do those treks and maybe a run or two…
Want to leave you guys with this quote from the movie Evan Almighty:
God: How do we change the world? Evan Baxter: One single act of random kindness at a time.
God: [spoken while writing A-R-K on ground with a stick] One Act, of, Random, Kindness.”
Photos from Raghu and me

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Labor Day Labor

While on my trip to UK, of the things that I had picked up were a pair of tail-lamps, a crank brothers hand pump, spiral cable coil lock and a high-viz vest. And all of this had joined my Firefox that had barely been tested.
Bangaloreans are lucky to have Nandi Hills at just the right biking distance in our backyard. The Bangalore Bikers Club rides out almost every weekend to Nandi and I planned to join a group of mountain bikers to ride to Nandi Hills and back – a distance of about 100km from Hebbal. I pulled out of that and decided instead to join Sriram (profiled here) to ride 2 loops from the Nandi turn-off point off the highway. With Sriram, it would mean a much faster pace. But since we were to start off the highway, it would mean I would do a shorter ride.
A 4:30am weekend
This is becoming a norm now, wake up at 4:30am on a weekend. What is unfortunately becoming increasing regular is how I have to wait for people to show up. I was about 10mins early and Sriram was about 30mins late.
We started at about 6:40 from the Nandi turn-off point (23k to Nandi) and rode together one loop of about 10k and back. Sriram took off then, the next thing I saw was as I was approaching the point where we had turned off, he was racing some motorcyclists and was overtaking a few of them. The guy’s a freak.
I continued on and was struggling up the slope, yet to reach the foot of the hill, but already low on cadence and in granny gears. It was then Ignatius Chen Chin Fa, aka Iggy, the Kannada-speaking-Chinese-guy passed me on this bike. I met the die-hard RFLers – Rishi, Amrita and team, they had finished one loop and were getting ready for one more.
I started the ride up the hill – 7k of hill riding, the last 3k pretty steep. I lost Iggy and his friend within the first km or so.
I kept pushing the pedals for about 4k. The pedal clips help a lot in the uphills. You can pull up with one leg and you push down with the other. I had to resort to a lot of walking, jogging in the last 2k and just made it ahead of the runners to the top. I would have to work hard and try and get to scale the hill in one go sometime soon.
Rode down and back to the car in good time. I joined the Rishi and others at the dhaba for breakfast. Lotsa labor on labor day, I should say!