Wednesday, February 17, 2016

My first NWKRTC Express journey..

Disclaimer: This is not about a recent journey. This trip happened quite a long time ago - in June 2015 to be precise.

I've always heard great reviews about the driving style of NWKRTC Expresses (Vaayavya Karnataka Sarige, as they are called). I am generally not a fan of non-AC buses, especially when I've to travel over a couple of hours.

I was appointed as an external examiner for practical examinations at a college in Chitradurga. It was about 4 hours away from Bangalore - too short for an overnight journey, and a bit long for a day-return journey. I did not want to travel overnight - since I'd anyways lose my sleep, and decided to leave early in the morning from Bangalore. A quick search on the KSRTC website did not throw up any reservable services leaving Bangalore early in the morning. I wanted to be in Chitradurga by around 0930hrs, so that I can start the exam by 1000hrs and depart back by one of the Volvo services in the evening.

I kept an alarm for 0300hrs and hit the bed the previous night. Like always, I tested the length of alarms the next morning, and woke up quite late. I left home very late and reached Majestic (the central bus station in Bangalore) sometime around 0445hrs - 45minutes behind my planned departure time. As I entered terminal 1, the cacophony of conductors calling out different destinations trying to attract passengers got clearer. I could hear calls for Davanagere and Chitradurga among them - There were a couple of NWKRTC buses and 1 KSRTC bus in the departure day. I did not look at the KSRTC bus - just headed to the conductor of one NWKRTC bus and asked him if goes to Chitradurga - he replied in affirmative. The bus, KA, of Hubli Mofussil-1 Depot was heading back home.

I got into the bus and took a seat somewhere in the middle of the bus, on the left side - a window seat. The bus started moving out at 0457hrs - the conductor continued calling out Hubli.. Hubli.. Hubli.. as the bus picked pace and headed towards Navarang. It was quite cold outside, and I left the windows closed as the bus crawled through the empty roads of Bangalore. The ticket cost was Rs. 212. The bus kept stopping time and again to pick-up more passengers on the way - we stopped at Rajaji Nagar, Navarang, Govardhan Talkies, Goreguntepalya - you name it. We turned off from Tumkur road, and rushed towards the new Peenya Satellite Bus Station (Basaveshwara Bus Station), reaching there at 0523hrs. The conductor got off to get his waybill signed, and just made a couple of customary calls before we started off again (0525hrs) - the bus station was deserted, with just a few nomads sleeping at the bus station, and security staff around.
The ticket.. 
The driver kept slowing down at every important junction. We finally crossed the last point in Bangalore - 8th Mile - at 0535hrs. Lights were switched off - it was still very dark outside - a feeble night lamp was the only light inside the bus. The driver picked pace, and really meant business. My gps consistently recorded speeds in the range of 80~85kmph all the time. I slept off soon after we crossed Nelamangala toll. I had a fairly nice and long sleep. I woke up only as the bus pulled into Sira bus station - past Tumkur - at 0710hrs. I was quite surprised seeing an APSRTC Pallevelagu of Madakasira depot there - I wasn't really aware that AP wasn't very far from Sira. We started from Sira at 0713hrs.

The driver was quite fast on the highways - he kept speeds in the 80s range all the time, and made great overtakes. He was quite calculative and did not make rash cuts or sudden turns. People kept alighting at isolated places along the highway. We pulled into Hiriyur bus station at 0750hrs - the crew announced a 15 minutes break for food and walked away to the sole canteen in the bus station. Hiriyur was a typical rural bus station - a small waiting area, a public comfort station, a small canteen and a stall selling miscellaneous stuff. The canteen - although small - was very clean. It had just enough seating for the people who arrived by this bus - and it appears this was the regular break for this bus. The people at the canteen were ready with breakfast - I had amazing Puri Subzi - slightly different from the Sagu that you get in Bangalore. The chutney served along was spicy and rich in taste. After a quick breakfast, I walked around the bus station a bit.
The bus I traveled in.. 
We started off at 0804hrs from Hiriyur - the crew just stopped outside the bus station - and we filled in no time. The bus was packed to the limits as the bus exited Hiriyur town limits. More people joined the bus at every stop we made - all the passengers looked like office/school/college goers - a lot of them had concession tickets as well. We finally reached Chitradurga at 0856hrs - 4 minutes before the promised arrival time of 0900hrs. The journey was good - the driving very stable, and really an eye-opener about the driving style of express buses in Karnataka. I am used to seeing the crawling buses of KSRTC on Bangalore roads - this bugger was very different! He just ripped. Seating layout was slightly tight - not to my liking, but the seat itself was comfortable.

While this bus strengthened my belief about NWKRTC drivers being rippers, another set of journey later changed my perception about KSRTC Expresses as well :)

Sunday, February 07, 2016

All the things I love in Bengaluru - street food

Bangalore... er! Bengaluru, as the city is now known, was once known the Pensioners' Paradise, for its calm, relaxed and peaceful environment. However, with the dawn of the IT era, the city lost its calmness, and became crowded and infamous for traffic snarls. An average Bangalorean spends more time on the road than at home, goes the saying. For all its ills, I in love with this happening city. The unpredictable fever friendly climate, roads that resemble war zones during the day and desert during the nights are all factors that make me fall in love with this city.

I travel across the city on a daily basis - commuting to office from home by public transportation. Street food is a vital part of Bangalore. A lot of people depend on street side vendors for their daily meal. I thought of compiling a list of some street food items that I devour quite often. A few of them might not be really street food though. Here goes my list:

1. Countless fruit plate stalls on streets!
Bangalore loves its fruit plates. These fruit plates are generally made up of the fruits of the season, and generally include Watermelon, Muskmelon, Papaya and Pineapple. Banana is used as a filler to make up the volume. Sapota (Chikku) is often added as well. A generous amount of salt and pepper is sprinkled on the top layer. Some sellers add a solution which they call Honey as well. The average cost of the serving is Rs. 15~20. The serving is generally filling - but comes with a lot of health risks related to cleanliness. I generally prefer sticking to vendors who have been around for a long time.

2. Mirchi Bhajji at Roti Mandir, Kempegowda BS. 
Raw, crisp, capsicum fritters served with a generous quantity of coconut-mint chutney. This would be an apt one line description of the Mirchi Bhajji at Roti Mandir located near Platform 4 in Kempegowda Bus Station aka Majestic Bus Station (the city service side). Served at Rs. 15 a plate, they give out 4 pieces of Bhajji. I would suggest opting a mixed plate - which would give you a piece or two of every fried fritter they made that evening.

3. The countless vegetable bhel sellers on streets
Another not-so-healthy snack. Puffed rice garnished with onion, carrot, coriander leaves and some fried namkeen, topped with sev. Generally a spicy chutney and a dash of lemon is added for the flavour. The item is generally prepared fresh and cannot be retained for long since the puffed rice gets soaked if its kept for long - it tastes best when its crisp. A serving generally costs Rs. 20.

4. Idli-Vada soaked in Sambar!

Idli-Vada is the most eaten breakfast item in hotels across Bangalore, if I am right. The cost varies according to the type of hotel -  a roadside darshini will charge about Rs. 25~30, while a slightly upmarket darshini will charge about Rs, 40~50. Idli is one of the most common breakfast dishes in South India. Idli is a steamed item made of Rice and Lentils. The accompaniment - Vada - is a fried snack made of lentils. The most common form of having this item in Karnataka is to dip it in hot Sambhar. Coconut chutney is a great accompaniment for this concoction.

5. The cold Badam Milk at Nandini outlets!
No better drink to down all the sin you did at the food stalls on the roadside! Badam milk is a very common drink in Karnataka. Badam milk can be drunk cold or hot. Both items are equally popular. I am a fan of the cold version though - which generally costs about Rs. 20 at roadside stalls. Nandini is the brand name used by Karnataka Milk Federation. Nandini stalls are present everywhere in the city. This cold drink is filling, cooling and a health alternative compared to the colourful bottle drinks.

This is just a beginning. I plan to write more similar stuff in the coming days.. stay tuned.