Madhya Pradesh : in Seoni
In the evening when I went for a stroll in town, I walked into a sweet shop and when I enquired about Laddoos and Sandesh, two different kinds of sweets, the merchant offered me a piece of each to taste. When I said that I was not used to such generosity, he insisted on my having them and further requested me to try a Kachori, a salted spicy snack. When I took a small piece of it, he insisted on my taking a larger one. When I asked if I could take a photograph of the shop, he was overjoyed and asked if he and his younger brother could both be with me on the photograph. When I was taking the photograph he wanted it to be with him handing me the Kachori. Then when I said that I would like to take a photograph of the front of the shop he came out with me and got the photograph taken with him. He also said that when I wrote a book to mention him in it. When I said that I was grateful to him, he said that he was grateful to me.
Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra : between Seoni and Nagpur
Later in the afternoon, as I took the exit from the highway towards Nagpur, I stopped to have a cold bottle of water. The merchant did not take the payment from me to reward me for my efforts. He also told me about “zero mile,” the geographical centre of Nagpur and of India.
Maharashtra : in Hinghanghat
When I was unavoidably blowing my nose (as I had a running nose from the cough and cold which I had acquired in Dabra in Madhya Pradesh) into the washbasin outside a restaurant a man sitting next to me reprimanded me for it. This led to an altercation. One doesn’t carry handkerchiefs or tissue on cyling trips so at times one just has to be practical but I had evidently crossed a cultural boundary. In the end I apologized sarcastically in order to defuse the tension.
Telangana : between Hyderabad and Jadcherla
It was intimidating to ride through Hyderabad to find the route towards Bengaluru mainly because taking the wrong turns meant expending that much more energy. It was interesting to ride through the High Tech City in Hyderabad even though I realized it belatedly and where one could discern analogies with Bengaluru, the High Tech City par excellence of India.
Telangana and Andhra Pradesh : between Jadcherla and Kurnool
The fields were looking very green and fertile through most of the way especially towards the latter part. I crossed the Krishna River at some point. Fewer and fewer people seemed to be speaking Hindi. I noticed the general disappearance of restaurants advertising the serving of Biryani which seems to be an integral element of Telangana culture – Telangana being the Telugu speaking region of the former princely state of Hyderabad.
Andhra Pradesh : in Kurnool
At a sweet shop I asked the price of a particular sweet and was told “bees ka teen” meaning “three for twenty” so I assumed it meant three sweets for twenty rupees but when I was about to pay up after taking three sweets, I was told that what was meant was twenty-three rupees per piece hence the cost was sixty-nine rupees. That was their interpretation of Hindi which left me rather perplexed.
Andhra Pradesh : between Kurnool and Gooty
The landscape again became very interesting with hills and lush green fields in the background. When I asked the receptionist at the Ravi Theja Hotel whether the people of Andhra Pradesh were happy with the division between Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, his response was that Andhra Pradesh was not the same without Hyderabad. On the train on my way back from Kanyakumari, when I asked a neighbour from Andhra Pradesh the same question, he said that the inhabitants of Telangana felt that they had been dominated by the people from Andhra Pradesh and thus wanted to be separate. He further stated that the Chief Minister of Telangana was in reality from Andhra Pradesh.
Andhra Pradesh : in Penukonda
In the afternoon, after taking a nap, I set out to take tea and to find an ATM machine. Near the machine there was a statue and nearby a fortified entrance to a street. As I entered it, I came across a multitude of temples, a fort, a lake and rocky hills in the background. It was indeed splendid and happened to be the historical remnants of the Vijayayanagar Empire.
Tamil Nadu : in Kovilpatti
After reaching my destination, I noticed a broken spoke on the back wheel. I went back and forth between different shops to get it fixed but they all kept turning down my request saying that they did not have the 28-inch spoke that was required. Finally, I was sent back to a shop I had visited earlier and I asked the mechanic to take a large spoke and to cut it. In any case, he fixed the spoke. The difficulty was compounded by the fact that communication was next to zero with my not knowing Tamil and the others speaking neither Hindi nor English.
Tamil Nadu : in Kanyakumari
In the evening, I went to the beach to put my feet in the Indian Ocean (Laccadive Sea) and saw the Vivekananda Rock and the statue of Thiruvalluvar. The next day, I discovered the Triveni Sangam which was the confluence of the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea and was effectively the southernmost point of India.
Return to Delhi
When I went to the Parcel Office at the Nizamuddin Railway Station to collect my bicycle at the end of my journey from Kanyakumari, the person entering the deliveries on the computer was overjoyed by my feat and took a group photo of all of us in the room and posted it on Facebook.