(Article first published in www.travelanddeal.com, edited by Siddharth Tagore & Paramjot Walia on 30th June 2014)
Manchinabele dam or reservoir or however you address it, is located just thirty kilometers away from Bengaluru. This distance-measure is to be done in terms of time and not distance, owing to an everlasting stampede called traffic, specific to this city. I am not describing the way you go there, but the pleasure of Manchinabele dam includes the ritual of going through a black hole called Bengaluru-traffic. Each case of congestion on the road, in the mind and mood clears up, once you are there wherein the earth and sky gets disconnected at the horizon line, as if viewed through a convex lens.
Perhaps for the same reason, this dam, which is now damned, is dam mindboggling. On Sundays when there is no traffic, all those enthusiast-aspirants eligible to visit Manchinabele are deep asleep at home and this reservoir stands alone, solitary, while being captured by the costliest lenses by those IT employees-turned-Sunday photographers, who know how to earn and spend, but do not know why they bought such a costly lens in the first place. A simple 3.1 megapixel mobile is sufficient to upload the dam’s picture on Facebook, you don’t need to buy a whole pig while a sausage packet would suffice (obviously I borrowed this phrase from somewhere where this phrase was burrowed; and by and large it is from a source similar to ‘Aunty Acid’).
Dead opposite to Nandi Hills, which is to the north of Bengaluru, Manchinabele dam is at a spot wherein one has to drive down after driving up for a while, as it happens with Ajanta caves – and as you drive away from it, all of it gets hidden at once! The ‘U’ shaped river dries out at the opening of ‘U’, further leading to a mini-mountain upon which is a military training center! The gap between the gap in U and the military-mountain is the actual picnic spot, which in fact is a dried part of the river.
On Sundays there are two kinds of people shooting at Manchinabele: The military training guns practicing; and the IT-costly-lensed-cameras-comradely-sausages shooting with their cameras, for the sole purpose of updating their fb accounts. When the tide is low, when the opening is dry, local farmers catch fish from the left over water which is plenty, cook then and there and feed you at a cost, rather reasonable one. Their culinary and sales skills have evolved to such an extent that they can even sell tiny fishes to vegetarians saying that those fishes have been challenged-size wise because they are pure vegetarians!
The view from there, the opening of U is picturesque, to say the least. Facing towards the ‘dam’-at-a-distance, towards North (often the word is articulated into ‘dame’, based on who is watching whom in a given situation of various groups who have arrived for picnic), with a rock-solid-military support to the back, the still water surrounding by hills to 270 degrees around that could recall Pokhran lake of Nepal – i.e. only if your imagination is as deep as the still water.
“At least one person has died every month from past ten years sir, trying to swim in this dam, sir”, the farmers-playing-fishermen-&-cook-role would inform, intending to add masala and spice to the fried fish at hand. He would not recurrently realize the adverse effect his comments have on those eating, who had planned to jump into water, immediately after consuming the fish. A woman always comes from nowhere, on a small theppa (rowing circular boat made of bamboo, found even in places like Hampi) and interestingly, it seems, even those who would borrow it for a ride in the water would often vanish off into thin water (air!) and the theppa would come back on its own, after a while. Hence nobody would dare to borrow it; but I thought what an ingenious method to avoid people borrowing her only possible vehicle that could open up the various facets of the dam to the hungry sight!
Manchinabele dam has the regionally famous Shivagange Mountains, of Hoysala fame, in its background. Imagine this mountain to be like the numerical ‘7’-like mountain and its vertical side to be 200 feet tall. Somewhere half way through, a small bell is being fixed along the reverse-slope. Nothing else exists around it to give us evidence or back-support to imagine as to how someone could fix a bell at that point! Vishnuvardhana’s Queen Shanthala of Hoysala dynasty committed suicide from this spot so as to make the king come closer to the second queen. Manchinabele that can be seen from the top of Shivagange acts second to this mountain, as a tourist site.
Dam(n), why do people not visit Manchinabele dam reservoir, despite being so close, so surrounded by nature which doesn’t exist even in the imagination of Bangaloreans? Often one finds all that a beautiful lake view consists of — the magnificence of the huge walls of the dam and absence of the threat of the gates being suddenly opened, in order to wash away the people. The water is transparent since it is still, inviting but also threatening, a few degrees colder temperature. The free floating objects at the edge of the water reservoir tell the stories of the urban-specific pleasures that people just found and shared in the premise of Manchinabele dam – plastics of both public and private types! Even private vehicles like cars and bikes get parked in the midst of the dam water, the military mountain and the surrounding enclave. The scattered houses, while driving along the basement of the dam seem as contemporary as prehistoric caves. These friendly and poor farmers live in the most air conditioned surrounding, for which those in the city just nearby pay heftily.
I had earlier mentioned that this dam is made up of what is availed on either side of it –Shivaganga to the north and the age old Big Banyan tree. Resultant of the British botanists — the big banyan tree is only the second biggest in Asia or Indian continent and hence India! You can appreciate it better if it’s introduced in a more familiar way: it’s the tree from ‘Eh dosathi, hum agar chodenge’ song from ‘Sholay’ film. This is the best reference point to the tree since the film which ran for twenty five years made popular the three hundred and odd years old tree.
Manchinabele dam is a pleasure to visit, provided you link up visits to Shivaganga and Big Banyan tree. Once you are there, nobody knows what to do, since most visitors are from the city don’t know what to do amidst nature, unlike their familiarity with four walls – malls, shopping centers and the like. Not many go there, but contains the wilderness that true nature possess, thrills that mortal beings undergo, settings that are ancient, views that are watercolor in shade and a time that can be frozen!//