The story of Strange Benefits is the story of a road, a road so beaten that we shall place a wreath by its side and mourn its tragic demise. It lived a short but useful life, but it left much to be done.
The road is known by many and adored by a few as NH-17. This veritable life line runs through the heartland of industrial coastal Karnataka connecting its major ports and industries. We, the students of NITK, know and adore this road for we cross this sliver of land every day. Small shops and eateries line this road on either side giving it the atmosphere of a home long remembered and seldom visited. The line of shops punctuated liberally with seedy bars serve to relieve the working men and women of their daily grind. The cool breeze from the beach cools the afternoons and evenings from the blistering tropical Sun. Lining the road are trees of all sizes giving a touch of cool colour to the sore dust filled eyes of the travelers. But, the road is not healthy. For it suffers.
The stepping in of the National Highway Authority of India to relieve the road of its pain was met with much protests and litigation over land acquisition. We would widen the road said the Authority. We would loose our businesses said the people. In the end, the Authority prevailed and the land was acquired. The land so acquired was flattened and a bed of gravel was laid. And all the while the students of NITK were but mute spectators.
Near the gates of the campus of NITK lie various small shacks that serve as kiosks serving coffees, teas, various crisps and, most important of all, cigarettes. Realising this, one starry night filled with lifting colours drifting along with our minds, we arrived at a consensus. We shall help the Authority, we said. The road was dying and we needed to save it. We shall be more than mute spectators, we said. And our pledge? We would donate our lungs to the cause.
How would that help, you might ask. But, you see, copious smoking fills your lungs with tar. Enormous amounts of tar. And we asked ourselves, enormous enough to help asphalt this stretch of land that has stolen our hearts? Perhaps. Perhaps enough to transform this tiny road into a highway worthy of the "National Highway" name.
The Road is dead. Long live the Road.