Let me start off with a humble apology to the great Bilbo Baggins and his inimitable ghost writer JRR Tolkiens for the plagiarism of title. And to those unfortunates who do not know what a Biriyani is I hope the below account provides you the inspiration to look it up.
The premise : I went on a ride from Bangalore to Hyderabad and back, a ride of 1247 kms accomplished in 28 hours to eat the famed Kalyani Biriyani.
To the uninitiated, Kalyani Biriyani is an amazing Beef Biriyani that is the speciality of Hyderabad. I was first introduced to this gastronomic delight in 2013 by my friend and future Polituboro candidate Com. Anoop Sasikumar. I had gone to Hyderabad for the first time on a Quixotic quest which included eating the famed Hyderabadi Biriyani and to visit the Salarjung Museum. I had heard a lot about the museum from my father who had received his Airbus training from Hyderabad. So after the Hyderabadi Biriyani and the Salarjung Museum were ticked off from my quest itinerary it was rather a delightful surprise when my friend took me to eat the Kalyani Biriyani. Let me just say that tears were flowing from my eyes for two reasons as I walked out of the restaurant – due to the spicyness and because of the awesomeness that is Kalyani Biriyani. For the year since I have often mused about riding to Hyderabad just to eat the Kalyani Biriyani. Political and financial issues prevented me until last weekend, the 8th of November, 2014.
Some may argue that Biriyani is just an excuse for a ride. I will not disagree. It is true that I have been professing my craving for the Biriyani as a pretext to ride to Hyderabad. A true rider does not need a reason, he or she just picks a direction and off they go. Due to financial and mechanical reasons I am unfortunately yet to reach the hallowed chambers of those true wanderers. I had to come up with excuses, nay quests, to justify rides even to me. Besides wanderlust was bubbling and peaking in my mind for quite some time now. Except for occasional rides to and from Kochi, my home town I barely did any actual exploratory rides, and riding to and from Kochi can at best only be called a commute. So the opportunity was created and seized with full passion.
It was initially planned as a two day ride. I was supposed to set out from Bangalore at 0000 on Saturday, the 8th of November and to return to Bangalore by around 0000 on Monday, the 10th of November. That certainly would have been a more sensible plan of action. However we all know what is said about the best laid plans and God’s decisions on Man’s proposal. As I crossed Bangalore Airport and set out on the NH7/AH43/NH44 ( would the NHAI decide on a name already? ) I was thrilled in the knowledge that I was riding farther north than I had ever done in my life. It was somewhere after crossing the Andhra border that I started giving more notice to the huge signboards that spanned all the four plus lanes of the highway. At the first one I noticed “Delhi – 1935 kms “. A few kilometers later I noticed “Srinagar – 2695 kms”. You have no idea the impact these signboards have in the mind of a biker. Off went the mind imagining a ride all the way to Srinagar following this very same highway. As the imagination is given a free run naturally the mind starts to detour to more lunatic ideas. The ride was magnificent, the roads were very sparsely trafficked and there were even a few minutes when there was no single vehicle in vision, either in front or back or in either directions!
Tanking up at Anantapur ( Odo : 244 Kms) I started to get worried. Despite having tanked up at Bangalore almost 7.5 liters of petrol was used up for a 244 kms, for a mileage of 34 kmpl, that too on a steady speed of 80 kmph. That was bad. Besides I had already noticed that 24×7 fuel stations are far fewer on this highway than in the Bangalore-Salem-Kochi highway that I usually take. However all concerns were blown away by some of the sights I saw. Somewhere before Gooty to the leftside of the highway there is this massive lake. I had been riding by its side for quite some time when the bright full moon appeared from the cover of clouds. This was a stretch of time when me and my bike was alone on the entire highway as far as eye could see. It was a divine moment to watch the moon being reflected on the calm waters of the lake and watch the mists swirl around the distant hills.
As the hours spent away the air became chillier. My teeth were actually chattering as the dawn broke, a red Sun from the East and a pale white Moon still in the West. I stopped somewhere before Kurnool for a tea break and let me say my breath was not the only thing that “smoked”. After Kurnool the Telangana state started. It was amazing sights all around, vast fields with sunflowers and other assorted flowers, a panoply of colors stretching as far as the eye could see, all washed with the bright crisp rising sun’s light. By now my lunacy was reaching its crescendo and I had all but made my mind to return to Bangalore on that day itself. Last time such a lunacy presented itself was on my first Biriyani ride to Thalassery , several months ago. As I crossed the Iritty Pass I had an idea of heading all the way to Kochi instead of to Wayanad as I had originally planned. As I savored the Thalassery Biriyani from Hotel Paris I had made my mind and rode another 300 kms to Kochi. By then it was my single longest distance ridden in a single day, 700 kms. So now I was considering returning to Bangalore on Saturday itself, immediately after having the Biriyani. If I could pull it off it would have broken my own personal record of maximum distance ridden in a single day! But I more than anyone knew the risks involved and decided that a decision on this would be made only after I reach Hyderabad. After all even though I feel fresh now after 400 kms, it would take another 800 kms of riding on the same day if I have to reach back to Bangalore. So postponing the decision I rode on.
By around 1030 I had reached Shamshabad, the outskirts of Hyderabad City and the Odometer touched 600 kms. When I came to Hyderabad last year I had taken the Airport bus to Gachibowli and had not given much thought to the Express way. However this time I was affronted by the double standards. Apparently bikes are not permitted on this express way and for some reasons trucks and mini lorries are? What the hell? Thus fuming I rode through the narrow service road that winds along the Express way. I was thoroughly detested by the state of affairs especially when my already complaining posterior had to bear the umbrage offered by numerous speed breakers distributed at every crossing. But then came the Himayat Sagar Lake. The road went hugging the banks of the Lake and the ride was magnificent. Excellent curves, beautiful tarmac and an amazing view of the huge lake were definitely pluses.
The route to Gachibowli looked quite confusing at first but soon I figured out the logic of the route and in a short time by 1100 I arrived at my friend’s place near the Univeristy of Hyderabad. As I clambered off the bike I made my decision. I was riding back. I knew that it would take some persuasion to convince Anoop, he of the level headed variety. When I told him about the change of plans he immediately told me not to do it, to leave on Sunday. The wise man that he is he started talking to me about the other delicacies that I would be missing, the Bawarchi Biriyanis, the Karachi Bakery and of course the much vaunted Haleem! Unfortunately my good friend overestimated the effect of logic to the insane. So off I went to sleep so that I may be fresh for the assault on Kalyani Biriyani.
After a very restful 3 hour sleep, I was woken up by Anoop at around 1500 and after freshening up off we went to BHEL Junction and made our way to the restaurant. This seemingly non descript restaurant “Hotel Hyderabad – Chicken and Kalyani Biriyani House” apparently has a rich tradition and is quite popular to the local foodies. They apparently make three batches of Biriyani starting from 11AM till 11PM. They have been steadily raising rates at Rs.5 / 6 months for some years now and apparently 6 years ago a plate of Kalyani Biriyani cost just Rs. 40. Now however it costs Rs. 90 but still worth it. The restaurant was apparently still serving copious quantities of onions to its patrons even during the times when Onions were literally worth their weight in Gold. The Kalyani biriyani was as good as I had remembered and even better than I had oft dreamed about. The sumptuous quantity and rich taste ensured a blissful meal. Once done with the Biriyani I was still not full though I doubted I would have capacity for another whole Biriyani. So as per Anoop’s suggestion we ordered the Roti – Beef Fry combination, yet another popular fare at the restaurant. The rotis were certainly the best part, easily 45 cms in diameter these were one of the best Tandoori Rotis that I had ever had. Regarding beef fry, tasty as it certainly was my Malayalee sensibilities were tough to satisfy. To a Malayali foodie like me this Hyderabadi dish was not Beef Fry, but rather Beef roast. Beef fry shall forever remain unparalleled in Kerala cuisine.
Sated and satisfied we made our way to a tea shop on the other side of the Mumbai Highway. I am afraid I cannot recall the name but it is adjacent to an Andhra Bank ATM (Edit : Name is Capri, thanks to Anoop). This too is a popular haunt for the locals and another establishment introduced to me by my friend Anoop. We ordered tea and biscuits as usual and the waiter set before us a plate of delicious Osmania Biscuits. There is no better way to discuss politics and deride politicians than while drinking Irani tea and eating Osmania biscuits with a die hard Communist.
Finally with the principal quests having been accomplished we set back to Anoop’s place. As I reached there I had made up my mind for good. It was 1700 and I was returning to Bangalore then and there. After donning my gear I bid adieu to Anoop and set off to Bangalore. The sun slowly setting gave a fit adjoinder to the sunset of a wonderful ride to Hyderabad. As the sun set I exited the city and set off for the 600+ kms ride back to Bangalore.
Mileage remained a foremost worry in my mind at this stage. I knew that fuel bunks are quite few on this highway from the onward journey and the tappet noise was also getting to be worrisome. My riding discipline came to the fore and I maintained a steady 70 kmph till I reached Kurnool where I had planned to top off the tank. After tanking up I decided to fix the matter of my fuel economy and adjusted my idle speed from rich fuel mixture to lean fuel mixture. That certainly seemed to have made a difference as at my next fuelling up after Anantapur I registered a mileage of 40+ kmpl with a steady speed of 80 kmph. I crossed the 1000 km mark a few kilometers before reaching Anantapur and finally when I halted for tea break at Anantapur the time was 2345 and I had ridden 1214 kms in a 24 hour period.
However by now fatigue was starting to make itself felt and I started let my lunacy free rein. On long solo night rides like these one gets a lot of time to think. Several are the existential crises that can be resolved on rides and nights like this. One of the scenarios that I came up with to amuse and prepare myself was like this : Realizing that I am now quite fatigued, how would I react if I hallucinated due to sleep deprivation and imagined a female ghost placing her hand suddenly on my shoulder. Imagine this, you are riding alone on an empty highway and suddenly you feel someone place a hand on your shoulder as if they are seated on the pillion. How wildly would you react? If you had never imagined such a hypothesis I bet the reaction would be spectacularly wild with the end result of potentially your organs seeing the light of the day. It is not a wild hypotthesis either. Sleep deprivation and extreme fatigue are common causes for hallucination especially for long distance drivers. Countless are the stories of sights of such ghosts shocking tired drivers into veering their vehicles off the cliffs. So I definitely knew that I too could be susceptible to hallucination. Now if you know you could hallucinate is it not smart to prepare yourself for that eventuality? I mean, if I can already imagine a ghost startling me, if a ghost is indeed manifested by my hallucinating mind I would not be quite as startled? My conundrum however was on an altogether different matter. On being presented with a situation like that should I immediately stop by bike and rest and thus get rid of the hallucination or should I take that as an opportunity to engage in some interesting conversations with a hitherto unmanifested aspect of my psyche and thus refresh my mind and get rid of any lingering sleepiness! I must admit I never reached a conclusion on that question.
I had finally reached the 1100th km of the day and now was about 20 kms before Dodaballapur when I stopped at a roadside truckers’ stop. Now this was one of the shadiest and most suspicious of all truckers stop I have seen, and I have seen quite a lot of them. Let me just say there were too many trucks and too few truckers, the shop keepers were rather niftily dressed and made up for such a ramshackle place at 0200. Also far too many inquisitive local youth arrived in pairs on motorcycles during the 10 minute halt I made there. The characters were quite familiar from the caricatures we all have heard and read and seen about in various media. After hearing a couple of mentions of “Royal Enfield” made by the agitated and equally nifily dressed older boss woman to some guys around I decided it wise not to wait to reach a conclusion about the place.
Finally I reached Bangalore Airport, then Hebbal and finally MG Road. I admit I had never ever seen the road from Infantry Road to Brigade Road so empty. But life has a lemon store of its own. At the times when you are most contemplative it throws cogs at you or in this case a crazy dog. I was riding at a sedate 45 kmph after crossing Brigade road when this stupid dog suddenly came chasing at me. I thought I had weaved it off when I suddenly found it trying to nick at my left shins!! Can these bloody dogs really run at 45 KMPH ? God save us bikers from these canine horrors.
Finally at 0400 I reached my home at BTM 2nd Stage, Bangalore and the odometer read 1247 kms. I had done what I dared myself to do. I had broken my own previous record, the only sort of record I ever care breaking. After all the only competition worth its time is what you do to compete with yourself. The only one I ever need to prove anything to is to me. And I certainly need the proving, afflicted as I am with countless insecurities that would be a therapists’ delight. If I can do such a ride when I am so out of shape, I now have the hope and belief that if I put in some preparation even the destination of Srinagar would be within my reach.
I wonder what the local delicacies of Srinagar are. After all it helps as a good excuse for a ride!