Monday, April 03, 2006

Atop Royal Enfield - The 'dhaaba'

The time: Early morning about 6 am
The road: The wide and inviting ECR(East Coast Road) from Chennai to Pondicherry
The vehicle: 500 cc, sturdy, suave and smooth Royal Enfield

What could be better than a bike trip to the idyllic town of Pondicherry on a Saturday morning, whilst taking a little 'sculptured' diversion to visit Mahabalipuram on the way?

Starting off early in the morning, me and a friend of mine made it to the ECR road, unobstructed by the yet-to-rise traffic of Chennai within half an hour. Once on the road, it was as smooth as it could get. I fished out my camcorder and began shooting the lovely sun, who had begun acccompanying us on our journey. Since he was the most gorgeous amongst the three of us, it only seemed appropriate that he get more frame time than the both of us put together. Over the shoreline, punctuated by green fields and Tsunami rehabilitation camps, the sun travelled by along our side, hiding occasionally behind the picturesque duplexes, the numerous varied colored theme parks and vast expanses of coconut plantations.

The road was a delight and the bike a fantasy. Both made for an ecstatic ride, fast and fabulous!! While on the road we stopped at the ECR Dhaba. The name creates an impression of a small place that serves some Punjabi spicy stuff accompanied by the ubiquitous cola offerings. But what we saw was so much more than just another eatery...this place was like a restaurant with a mini zoo of sorts, having the distinction of being one of the breeding grounds of the rare Emu.

It was the first time then that I heard that name...Emu...and then I saw it. I don't know what it was about that bird - its ostrich-like appearance or the fact that it wa such a rare sight or its black egg but it instantly caught my fancy. Emu, they say is a wonderful option to livestock, its meat has low fat content and its skin and feathers could be used for decorative purposes. A native of Australia, it is striking in its likeliness to the ostrich though it is not as tall. There were about a dozen over there in a cage and from the looks of it they seemed to be very peaceful, laidback creatures.I took an instant liking to them and caught one of the camera friendly ones on tape.

Now I could have spent another half an hour atleast recording their moves, but my wiser friend had the smart suggestion of moving on to explore other areas of this unique dhaba. I found that they had a basketball stand and a beachball net put across in the middle of a garden bordered by majestic sunflowers and other wild varieties of flowers I was unable to put a name on. However I couldn't help appreciating their beauty and the charm that they cast around them as their dewed petals glowed in the infant sunshine of the morning.

As if the emus weren't enough, the dhaba also had hens, pigeons are barned up. There was just so much life around in that place that I didn't feel that I was only one of the two individuals inside that place, barring the caretaker who rested outside. After the animal farms, we moved on to the actual 'dhaba' place. It was stylised like a hut with wooden stalks supporting the conical roof and little groups of low chairs arranged around small tables. Right outside this hut in the far left corner there was a mock truck setup, doubling up as a place where you could order a meal, cleverly setting the tone of the Punjabi ethos.

As we moved around the hut, we came across a wooden bridge, under which there were fish tanks, housing many colorful species of aqua life. All the tanks were set in a semicircular arrangement, beautifully maintained and adding yet another diverse element to the already fascinating place. I thought I had seen it all but threw a little cry of surprise when after the land - borne and the water - borne, I set my sight on a whole lot of twittering air -borne bundles, chirping in their cages. For a sudden, I had the rushing desire to set them all free but decide otherwise. In vibrant colors of pink, red, green, yellow and purple, they were quite an alluring feast to the eyes.

The entire ECR Dhaba experinence was so sudden, unexpected and satisfying visually that I had to be reluctantly pulled away from there to move on to the next part of the journey. However not before I made myself a promise, to come back someday again....and this time have a meal before leaving....

Next Stop : Mahabalipuram

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