I want to raise a toast to the joys of mobility! There’s such a thing as the right to mobility, part of a larger right to freedom of movement. Tied to the right to mobility is also the question of being able to move in the first place.

In the last few years, I’ve had to contend with several challenges to both my ability to move and my right to mobility. Both physical and mental health have at times made it acutely difficult to move, and this reality predates the COVID-19 pandemic. Once the pandemic and lockdowns set in, the right to mobility was overshadowed by the duty not to move, so to speak.

Imagine then a travel opportunity when you can take a morning walk without aches and undertake long road journeys with few traffic snarls. As an added treat, you also get to eat stuff that may or may not be Mastercheffy but is deeply satisfying, whether in the company of friends and colleagues or on your own. Even a bout of retching out something that didn’t agree with you can’t take away the satisfaction; neither can the masks, sanitizers, and sterile flights on either end of the travel.

I write this almost a week since I completed a weeklong work trip to different places in Karnataka. There could be much to write, but I’d rather share through photographs. Sample some here, and do think about sharing your photo-stories with Varta.

This long shot taken from a moving car shows a small plant on a dry patch of hay in front of vast green farming land. A rocky hill in the background behind the field is partly covered by a tree branch projecting from the top left corner of the image. The barren hill is interspersed with shrubs as well as small trees at the foot. The alternating green and parched areas of land lie at the backdrop of a blue sky on a sunny day. The photograph was taken during a 12-hour road journey undertaken by the author from Raichur to Bangalore. Photo credit: Pawan Dhall

This is a mid range daytime shot taken from a moving car. In the foreground is a villager, a farmer or labourer, on a bicycle passing close by the car, moving in the opposite direction. The villager is dressed in a white vest and what looks like a tucked-up ‘lungi’, and has his head covered with a piece of cloth for protection from the searing sun. Right behind the villager is a hillock, partly covered with dry shrubs and a palm tree (only part of the trunk is visible). The higher parts of the hillock are covered with eroded basalt rocks typical of the Deccan plateau. The highest point of the hillock has a striking formation consisting of several tall rocks that were probably once a single unit before being eroded vertically in several places. One of the rocks even has what looks like a boulder placed on top, which can topple any moment. The rock formation stands out against a light blue sky filled with cotton white clouds. This photograph was also taken en route from Raichur to Bangalore. Photo credit: Pawan Dhall

Scenes from a 12-hour road trip from Raichur city in north-eastern Karnataka to state capital Bangalore on February 16, 2022. Raichur district is known for its rich history since the medieval period, the Raichur Fort, and gold reserves. What I had time for in a rushed visit though was to admire the region’s amazing topography from the car window – when I wasn’t dozing off or losing myself in memories of past journeys.

This is a combination of two photographs. The main photograph is a close-up shot of a variety of spices, condiments and salt filled in small aluminum and plastic containers placed in a large round aluminum platter. The spices are fiery red, brown and peach in colour. The platter is placed on a table in an eatery in Alur, a place close to the Andhra Pradesh-Karnataka border. A small inset at the bottom right of the main photograph shows the name of the eatery where the photographs were taken. The name, Lingayithi Hotel (Pure Veg), is written in Telugu and English on a large banner on top of the entrance to the eatery. Images of food items and Hindu gods are also part of the banner placed next to or below the name of the eatery. Photo credits: Pawan Dhall

Part of the journey from Raichur to Bangalore is through Andhra Pradesh. Lunch was at a small eatery in a place called Alur. Where else will you experience a spicy riot of colours for lunch but in Andhra Pradesh?

This is a long shot of a row of stately coconut trees planted along a highway, with smaller shrubs at the forefront and a glimpse of a blue sky and white clouds above. The trees extend further into the background in what looks like a dense coconut plantation. Two white electric poles connected by three cables run along the front row of trees. The image was captured from a running car, allowing a blurred view of a white poster that reads Hotel Anagha Grand in bold red text on the extreme left of the photograph. The photograph was taken during a road journey undertaken by the author from Hassan to Bangalore. Photo credit: Pawan Dhall

This vertically-oriented photograph was shot from the front seat of a car travelling on a highway, and shows a luxury bus painted in bright primary colours moving ahead of the car. The photograph was taken at an angle, allowing the left side and the rear of the bus to be visible. The upper rear part of the bus has an image of an attractive-looking man, possibly a popular public figure in Karnataka. The rear of the bus also shows a steel ladder that can be used to climb up to the roof of the bus. Much further ahead of the bus are several cars with their red tail lamps glimmering as the daylight fades into a grey sky above. Right in the forefront, is a part of the dashboard of the car from which the photograph was taken. The dashboard is lit up with a golden yellow hue – it shows the time of the day as 6.47 pm and the car moving at a speed of around 70-80 km per hour. This photograph was also taken en route from Hassan to Bangalore. Photo credit: Pawan DhallOn February 17, I was on the road to Hassan city in southern Karnataka, comparably much closer to Bangalore than Raichur. Hassan is named after goddess Hassanamba. This journey was through a much more verdant countryside. The scenes above and to the left are from the return trip to Bangalore.

This is a horizontal panel consisting of three photographs placed together in a collage. On the left is an angular daytime shot of the outdoors of a highway eatery called Kadamba, en route from Hassan to Bangalore. The brown and white signage on top, bilingual in Kannada and English, says that the eatery offers only vegetarian food. A graphic of a steaming cup of tea or coffee indicates that it serves mostly light foods. The front of the eatery has a welcoming appeal with a display of food items, customers and staff interacting with each other, tables and chairs placed on a raised platform with a glass railing, and a row of medium-sized plants growing along the railing. The second photograph, on the right side, is an angular mid-shot, primarily of the signage of the iconic Koshy’s restaurant in the heart of Bangalore city. Almost the entire photograph, taken from just below the signage, consists of different sections of the signage displaying the restaurant’s name and food brands available at the restaurant, and large billboards of other products placed above the signage. The left corner of the photograph shows a part of the sky and some trees. The third photograph in the collage is a small inset placed at the top centre where the first two photographs seem to merge into each other. The inset is a close shot of a plate of dessert consisting of an intricate chocolate creation the size and shape of a medium-sized muffin, two servings of orange coloured water melon sorbet, a dash of a similarly coloured jelly, and caramel crumble sprinkled on the plate. The photograph was shot at Salt restaurant in UB City, Bangalore. Photo credits: Pawan Dhall

The photo panel above doesn’t even begin to sum up the diversity of food experiences Karnataka has to offer. But it’ll have to do because, well, I have only one (already very pampered) stomach and I couldn’t have been eating all the time. The Kadamba outlet (on the left) en route from Hassan to Bangalore served some good coffee and cookies. Credit goes to Shridhar, the car driver, who insisted I should stop by at Kadamba and nowhere else for a break.

On February 19, I revisited the iconic Koshy’s restaurant in Bangalore after nearly 17-18 years (photo on the right). Sandwiches, noodles and beer with friends and colleagues helped hit just the right note after a packed week. Dinner, the same evening was with more friends at Salt, UB City in Bangalore. Dessert was an intricate chocolate creation and water melon sorbet to balance out the sweetness – yes, very Mastercheffy (see inset in the panel above).

About a day later, I was back on Kolkata soil – thankful to have had the opportunity to travel again and take in a bit more of the unending experience that India is; also ready to tuck into some home food.

About the main illustration: Upper panel: Road journey from Hassan to Bangalore (February 17). Lower panel: Spinach-infused neer dosas at Go Native restaurant in Bangalore (February 20). All photo credits: Pawan Dhall