Have any of you just barely missed a murder, been abducted, witnessed a terrible accident, (etc.)?
Answer by Raakhee Venugopal:
Okay this account did not even remotely get me to miss a murder, an abduction or an accident. Or maybe it did. I don’t know.
This happened when we were traveling in India in the state of Karnataka, around 3 years ago. We were a family of five (plus our driver) in a Toyota Innova car, a tourist favorite for long distance drives.
We were at Kukke Subramanya temple near Sullia in Dakshin Karnataka. We planned to go to Madikeri from there after darshan. The usual road to Madikeri was bad due to incessant rains and we were advised to take an alternate route. It was during the monsoons and as usual, the Kumaradhara Bridge, that connects the town of Subramanya with the alternate road to Madikeri and other areas, was submerged under the river waters. When I looked up the route on Google maps later, it made no sense. Anyway. Just to get a better idea, here’s what the bridge looks like on better days…
And this is what it looks like in the monsoons…
This is a regular occurrence every year, but unfortunately we were not aware of it. It was just 6pm and we had planned to reach Madikeri, which is about 75km away, in about an hour or two at the most. We’d even called up the hotel and told them that we’ll be there by 8 and that we’d like our rooms ready by then.
It was only when we were asking for directions to the Kumaradhara bridge that we were told that we’d have to take some other route to get to the other side as the bridge was submerged.
And then it started.
Our driver knew only the usual route and he had to keep asking for directions every now and then. No, there was no GPS signal at most places. The people we asked directions for spoke only in chaste Kannada and we didn’t know the language either. We were communicating mostly in sign language.
Time passed like crazy. We kept driving. Clearly we were lost. And yet our driver was certain that he was on the right road. We started to feel hungry and there were no highway restaurants anywhere. Suddenly, we saw one lonely highway restaurant and drove in. The car had been running continuously for like 4 hours and the driver was tired too. There was no one else in the restaurant except us. Maybe it was psychological, but I felt uneasy with the way the handful of staff were observing us. I just wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. They brought us some stale parathas and some vegetable curry which looked clearly reheated. Thank God I didn’t die of food poisoning! :-S Dad asked the creepy guy at the counter which place this is. He looked at us women over Dad’s shoulder, sized us up, looked at my dad and said ‘Sakleshpur‘.
‘Let’s get out of here’, my mom said.
I had half expected those guys to follow us and probably rob us or even do something far worse. But nothing happened. We were on our way again. It was 11:30pm and we were in the middle of nowhere. There weren’t any people to ask directions for either. Barren roads. By now, our driver had also started to feel a bit uneasy. We’d definitely lost our way. And then after a while, I managed to read a signboard that read ‘Belavadi Industrial Area, Hunsur road’. Jesus Christ! We had reached the outskirts of Mysuru! A full 190km or more away from Subramanya!!! Okay, time to take a U-Turn. We looked for any signboards and thinking that we’re finally on the right road, we got on a bit of a tree-lined highway. That one strip – of say 5 or 6km (not sure) – was the longest and scariest drive of my life. It was pitch black all around for miles ahead, miles behind, and on either side. Complete, total darkness. We couldn’t even see what lay on either side of the road. There were no street lights. There was just our car racing at top speed. Anything could have happened. Ghosts? Dacoits, definitely maybe. I have never been so scared ever in my entire life. The time was around 1:30am. Everyone in car (the driver included) were tensed and not saying anything. We didn’t even know whom to get angry at.
Somehow we kept our wits together and kept driving. We had been constantly trying to connect to GPS and as a result all our mobiles were on 10 or 15% charge. Wonderful! None of us could even bring ourselves to sleep. After a couple of hours of driving, we found ourselves on a rough road in the midst of what looked like coffee or tea plantations. There was a lonely light in the distance and we drove towards it. It turned out to be the tea estate manager’s cabin. He was (obviously) asleep. Probably he too feared night robberies and refused to open the door. We saw him peeping out the window. My sister and I had stepped down to stretch our legs. Probably he saw women and that’s why he decided to turn on the light bulb hanging outside the front door and asked through a crack in the window,
‘What do you want?’
‘We’re just asking for directions to Madikeri town’ replied my Dad.
‘Keep driving straight on,’ he said. ‘Beware of lonely elephants though. They come down to go to the water springs at this time.’ And he rudely shut the window and switched off the light.
All of us froze! ELEPHANTS???!!!
The driver looked like he’d go into a nervous breakdown any minute. He told us a few days later that he is paranoid of wild elephants. It was around 3am and we didn’t think it was really safe to be standing there in the middle of some tea estate. So we decided to take the risk and started driving cautiously. the road was really bad – muddy, uneven, narrow and filled with potholes, and we even saw occasional elephant dung here and there on the roadside! Eep! :-S
We finally saw the twinkling lights of the town after about an hour or so of nerve-racking but uneventful driving. By the time we reached the hotel, it was just past 4am. When I saw the hotel, I thought I would just burst into tears. We decided to never ever take night drives to anywhere after that one incident. Scared the living daylights out of us alright! :-S