Muddu's first road trip from Bangalore to Hyderabad was fraught with hectic preparations. First there was a trip to the vet — Muddu is our naughty 14-month-old Labrador. What did you think? The vet brought him up to date with his vaccinations and advised keeping anti-nausea tablets in case he got car sick. Muddu was already giggling under in his jowls — car sick and me!!!! What nonsense!
We set out at six in the morning, after Muddu's morning walk and petit dejeuner (or chota haziri considering he is Muddu Ustaad) with chew sticks, various toys and a immense hard rubber bone apart from his many bowls in different shapes and sizes.
Muddu is a little unhappy to get into the car because early morning drives with luggage usually indicate a drive to the airport which equals seeing us off and fills his doggy heart with deep dismay.
He gets into the car in good grace being a good sport, figuring out any ride is better than no ride at all. His worst suspicions seem to be confirmed as we head out of town towards Devanahalli. He looks surprised and raises his eyebrows as instead of taking the left to the airport, we proceeded straight on NH 7.
Muddu sticks his head out of the window and lets his ears flap in the breeze as he watches the car swallow mile upon mile of grey highway. The big, mean, SUVs, the sher da puttars of the highway storm by in blinding flashes of coloured chrome. Muddu's eyes stream in the wind (should get him a pair of shades then he would look like Mutley from the TV show “Mac & Mutley”) and he finally settles down on the back seat arbitrarily pouncing on his rubber bone or the rugby ball.
Our first stop is the toll gate at Bagepally. Muddu, curious about everything, pushes his snout out of the driver's window much to the surprise of the toll collector. The toll collector calls him and Muddu immediately gives a friendly grin indicating he is stuck with humans who insist on going about in a tin box on wheels. The other toll collector comments that Muddu looks like a lion (“singam laga unnadu”) and Muddu looks mighty chuffed.
We take Muddu for a run and pack a stack of oil-less rotis from a dhaba, where again Muddu graciously gives audience to the cook, the helpers and the little chai boy. We are off again.
We couldn't figure out the reason for Muddu's restlessness till we realised there was no music. More than six GB of music and we had not even turned it on! The moment Abida Parveen's vigorous voice filled the empty highway, Muddu settles to chewing his bone. Abida is followed by that western Sufi master, Bob Dylan (the player was in shuffle mode) and then there is Scorpions singing about Black Outs, Noel Gallagher about winding roads and Bruce Dickinson on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Muddu unfortunately takes exception to Len Cohen's “Hallelujah” and throws his bone out of the window looking like he wants to climb out after it. He settles down after we quickly skipped Mr. Cohen and Robert Plant sings of mean ole levees.
The highway is disconcertingly bare with the tollbooths (seven in all) providing the only break. Muddu stretches his legs and exchanged pleasantries with the sprightly highway dogs. The high-up signboards announce our progress — from Penukonda, Anantapur, and Gooty to Dhone and Kurnool.
By the time we stop for tea at Hotel Munavar in Jadcherla, Muddu is quite the highway star (yes we were listening to Purple too) and merely winked at the collector at the last toll booth.