The unending tar and mortar was stretching in front. The mountains seemingly melted into the sea before heralding the desert landscape which morphed into lush yellow sarson farms. Travelling through 4 states. Traversing 1600 kilometers, in 4 days and 3 nights. A road trip to end all road trips thus far.
As I took the last exit which would bring me home, a heady feeling pushed me on to press the gas pedal to a maximum. Full speed ahead. There was no stopping me. I could see the traffic signal flashing bright red but the brakes eluded me. Logic demanded slowing down, excitement demanded pressing on…60…70…80…scrreeeech…0. SLAM! Just in time.
Welcome to jatland and the noise of the horn
Welcome to the dust and brawns to the manor born
Welcome to majority rule, the drivers of the cab
Welcome to the land of the flashy and the drab
Gurgaon! Like a nagging sweet pain from a half broken thorn
I wanted to get out and climb on top of the car. Hold my hands high over the head and embrace the skies. And let out a loud scream….I AM HOME. No one just gets up and walks away! And I just did…well, almost! Packed my bags, bid farewell, got into the car and drove away! I DROVE 1600 kms to get here. On a Saturday morning people woke up and went about the humdrum of the weekend chores, bliss of a holiday and the entire regular mundane minutia. On a Tuesday afternoon, the weekend blues have set in and the mirage of the upcoming weekend is too distant to be of any real consolation. And in between these absurdities, there was me. Waiting for a red signal to turn green, signaling me onto my new life of being footloose and fancy free. For how long, no idea! But this is here and now. This is real. This is life. And this is home. Gurgaon…home…that’s what this is…home!
3 days ago… As excited I was about getting home, there was a hint of withdrawal at leaving behind the life I had for the last 1 year in Pune. I would miss the weekend grocery shopping followed by cooking chicken for 4 hours. I would miss the solo cinema hall excursions. I would miss driving on the Khandala ghat. I would think about the drunken musical nights waning into mornings. I would miss Mumbai and its now familiar roads. Maybe I won’t miss the work or the people at work. I won’t miss missing home. I will miss the things missing from home now, gone in the last year. All meaninglessness has a meaning…
On that note, on a misty morning, 6am beckoned me on a road to Mumbai. This time the destination was Gurgaon…all the way. Nonstop one would want to say, but we intended to make stops. When, which city, which hotel, no idea. No plan! I planned to be on the road. And that was the only plan. Nothing else was known. Just drive on.
First halt…Mumbai. Leopold café. Terror tourism? Wannabe South Mumbai? Call it what you will. For me it was just an iconic place to be ticked off the list. The place lived upto its expectation. Mojito and fish for brunch. Old Mumbai…Fort…with its imperial buildings, with its sea-face. Crossing the Hotel Sea Green and Marina Hotel on the Marine drive, places of Godse’s stay before the most famous assassination in India. Random haggling over banalities with hawkers on the Colaba Causeway. Just one pending action item…capturing on lens South Mumbai during rains. Keep something to come back for…
One hears of places being mentioned and credits them with more than their reality perhaps. Imagination does tend to do wonders. And with such misplaced imagination and against better advise from better half, we land in the remote corner of Indian shores, a lesser known union territory called Daman. Here’s some interesting trivia about Daman that I can tell you from first-hand experience and hence full confidence. You can google it if you prefer.
– daman is not an island. How do I know…duh! I drove there
– diu is not the same as daman. In fact if google maps is to be believed daman and diu are very far apart
– daman is a haven and heavan for its neighboring state. It may offer little to the other tourists but for its neighbors its Mecca- Madina, Jerusalem, Kaashi, all rolled into one.
The weather is pleasant, the night is young and if the countless flashing signs screaming “Cheers! Grab some Buds!” are to be believed the weekend has finally arrived in Daman. Loud blaring karaoke shouts for attention amidst the flashy lights and the calm sea probably drowns itself in all the noise. The neighbors have descended! In this entire clamor, you can attempt to find a corner where you can sit, enjoy the cool sea breeze, reminisce and try to obliterate yourself from the immediate surroundings and slip into a realm of your choice. After all haven’t we all done it at some time or the other during countless hours in boring meetings? Why not do that here.
Knowing that one is travelling on NH8 has a sense of safety and calm. It is presumably the best maintained road in the country. The wide roads will ensure there is minimal to no road rage. With it being a connecting highway between the 2 major metros – Delhi and Mumbai – it should have quite a few decent pit-stops. Despite this knowledge, nothing can prepare you for the road post Ahmedabad. The road is buttery smooth with minimal traffic and clear directions. One can drive in auto-pilot and catch a nap without breaking into sweat! As you move from Gujarat onto Rajasthan there is an almost miraculous change in your scenery. It is still green (yes Rajasthan is green, my friend) but a curious phenomenon starts dotting scattered hill tops. Tiny forts! Unbelievable! Out of complete nothingness these forts emerge reminding one of the majestic past this region once had. If you look further down off the Udaipur by pass you can spot the Chittorgarh fort too. This one is definitely worth a detour.
The stops are aplenty and the food is delicious no matter which state. For lunch it was the state’s vegetarian delight followed by a pack of Parle G for the mutt. There’s always a mutt to look out for…pay close attention and you will find one. And when you do, keep a Parle G handy…the wagging tail will last well beyond sunset.
Travelling 1600 kms to the north of the country gives you a sense of how vast and different our country is. How can a tourist from foreign lands claim to have been to India after just visiting Delhi or Mumbai, Kerala or Goa! The dressing style changed, the language and dialect changed, the landscape changed, the weather changed. From the misty Pune weather to the hot Mumbai to the cool Daman and Ahmedabad to the chilly Jaipur and finally cold Gurgaon. All in 3 days. All in 1600 kms. And then can Goa be India?
Jaipur always remains a city which is a stone’s throw from Gurgaon, which can be reached easily, which is familiar enough to wander about in. So when one reaches Jaipur it takes a great will to take a logical halt instead of driving on through the night. The aroma of the Laal maas though is good enough to demand a halt. No matter where you have it, the last one you ate is always better. Memory does play the most tasty tricks on the palette. Leave Jaipur with a sweatshirt on and enter Delhi/Gurgaon with a jacket. That’s winters for you. Just as with the approach of Jaipur the greenery of Gujrat gave way to a more brown,sandy look, with the approach of Gurgaon you get a more Punjabi look if you will. What with lush yellow sarson growing everywhere till the sight can see. This could be a scene straight out of a quintessential Yash Raj movie.
3 days! 1600 kms! Home! I don’t know of many people doing this. Here’s to NH8 and the last mile home! The light turns green and engine whirrs onwards