Starring: Mom, Dad. Bro, Bro’s wife (Sis), Scared Bengali Driver (SBD), Tata Sumo and Your’s truly.
Dateline: 5th April 2008
The Scene: It’s 9.30 PM. Yours truly and family are returning home from Shirdi in Scared Bengali driver’s Tata Sumo. Halfway home the road forks into two, we have the option of taking the Igatpuri route to Mumbai(straighter ,shorter road, pathetic condition) or the ‘Paryayi Rasta’ (Optional Route) via Jawahar (Zig-zagging ghat but good roads and virtually no traffic). We decide to avoid the cratered Igatpuri road and opt for the Jawahar route instead.
35 kms to Jawahar: The road looks very scenic, dense forests on either side of the road, perfect roads and NO TRAFFIC! We all agree it was an awesome idea to take this road.
33 kms- We notice that the road looks a lot like the ones we see in bad thriller movies like Kaal and Darna Mana Hai. Random Vivek Oberoi and Ajay Devgan jokes follow.
32 kms: The road is getting very curvy. I feel like I’m on a F1 track loaded with chicanes while bro imagines he’s riding on his imaginary Bullet. We hit a sharp, curve…Scared Bengali Driver brakes hard. The car comes to a standstill. SBD suspects a flat tyre. Mom and sis panic. SBD assures this wont take long. SBD and Dad step out to inspect the car. There is no flat tyre, instead something called a ‘balance rod’ has snapped. We are not quite sure what that does but realize we are in deep shit. The jungle road no longer seems scenic. We take back every joke we made about Kaal, Darna Mana Hai and every other bad horror movie. We see an Ambassador far in the distance and frantically wave. The Amby stops. It’s a ‘Maharashtra Shasan’ car. SBD and Dad explain situation to the driver who inspects the Sumo and confirms SBD’s prognosis. SBD seems proud of the fact that he is correct. Driver expresses helplessness as his ‘Saab’ is running late, he however mentions a gaon 4 kms away where can find a grill welder who might wake up and help if we request him. SBD says we can make it there provided we drive very slowly. We drive on.
28 kms: Almost half an hour later we reach a signboard which directs towards a narrower,curvier road , with absolutely no lights which leads to the gaon. Not eager to explore we keep going ahead.
26 kms: We keep moving ever so slowly on the road to nowhere. Every 15 minutes or so a truck passes by in the opposite direction, becomes smaller and smaller as it goes farther away, then finally becomes a tiny speck of light on the horizon and then disappears. Trippy stuff!
25 kms: Hurray! No Vodafone coverage. Maybe Dad’s Tata Indicom phone will have full network like the ads promise….Negative…no network again! Damn you Kajol!
23 kms: SBD is almost in tears. He says that the car is jinxed and that it runs huge repair bills every time he makes an outstation trip. (Great timing!). Mom contributes to the jinx conversation, says that the dress she is wearing is the same one she wore when the family (excluding me) missed their flight from Delhi to Mumbai. Bro rubbishes the jinx theory and says that they missed the flight because Dad took a 45 minute halt to have a plate of mix-pakoras. 5 minute argument about the pakoras.
22 kms: SBD says, “Hey look at that! What a huge snake!”. Mom doesn’t quite catch it at firsts and asks if there are snakes on the road. We unanimously deny. (The snake however was REALLY HUGE!)
20 kms: SBD goes into Nat Geo mode, says that ‘the biggest danger on this road are the leopards’ Mom hears him this time. SBD changes and talks about furry little brown rabbits which can also be seen on the same road.
19 kms: I have officially decided to make this into my next humor piece and start paying attention closely. The others think I’m crazy because I’m laughing alone in the backseat. Dad tries to divert mom’s attention and points to the Great Bear constellation in the sky. Mom however is more worried the possibility of real bears on the road.
17 kms: Progress seems smoother now. We reach a Police Naka-Bandi. The cops do not know whether there is a garage in the vicinity but assure us that we will find one at Jawahar….22 kms away! WTF!
16/21kms: Dad , who suggested we take this road in the first place, recounts the days of his youth when he frequently traveled on these roads. Memories of trucks skidding off the ghats, cars breaking down and adivasis attacking and looting motorcyclists are fondly recalled.
15/20 kms: The jungle seems to get denser. Dad talks of a time where he had to spend a night in the jungle with no one by his side but for our dog Rambo. Rambo had to be given up as he attacked my cousin sisters one time too many. Dad and bro sigh in his remembrance. We consider getting a dog again.
14/19 kms : We see 3 villagers dressed in white overalls walking in a straight line going God-knows-where. Just what we needed to complete the horror movie scenario! On a brighter note, Vodafone coverage is back!
13/18 kms : SBD spots another animal. ‘Is that a wolf?’ he asks. With the help of quick word-play, mom is made to believe that it was a dog.
12/17 kms : Another animal spotted, this time by me. I see silhouettes of two men and a horse. As we turn and get a closer look, I realize it is actually a cow.
11/16 kms : We see a signboard which confirms that it is indeed 11 kms to Jawahar and not 16 as it would be according to the cops.
11 kms: About a kilometer later, another signboard says that we are 11 kms away from Jawahar. I suspect that we are driving in circles.
10 kms: Mom is very worried. Bro suggests that she should do some of Baba Ramdev’s KapaalBharti (She took lessons for the same all of last week). Mom however cannot distinguish KapaalBharti from Vividh-Bharti.
9 kms: I receive an SMS from IDEA that sounds more like a threat. ‘Uninterrupted roaming is a good idea. To continue enjoying coverage…switch your network to IDEA NOW!’ I cannot afford to mess with IDEA and promptly search for it on ‘Phone settings’
8 kms: IDEA does not show up as one of my available network options. In fact there are no options. We have no coverage again! YAY!
7 kms: IDEA shows up on list of available networks. I hurriedly select it. 5 minutes pass and IDEA still won’t let me use its network.
6 kms: BPL Mobile shows up as another option. I switch to it. Screw IDEA!
5 kms: Mom wonders who won ‘Star Voice of India: Chotte Ustaad’ – Aishwarya or Anvesha?
4 kms: We see signboards which say Jawahar is farther than we think it is…AGAIN! Who the hell does these measurements anyway? I also need to pee.
2 kms: A new signboards contradicts the previous two. Since it mentions the shortest distance, I stick with it. Bro and sis are hungry. Dad says that the nearest dhaba is at Char Roti Naka. What irony no?
2 kms: We’ve definitely driven more than 2 kms. I’m getting a feeling that the signboard was wrong again.
2 kms: Yup, it was wrong!
1 km: We spot a petrol pump. Woohoo, we can get the car fixed and they’ll probably have a loo as well!
At the petrol pump: They, in fact, have no mechanics on hand. I get down to go to the loo. There isn’t one. The guy at the pump points to the back, which is a wide open ground… Man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do! I hear a dog barking ferociously not so far away. I guess man’s best friend isn’t amused by what a man’s gotta do! The guys at the pump assure us that we will find a mechanic at Jawahar
At Jawahar: We reach the village and ask a few locals where the mechanic lives. They deny the existence of any such creature. We drive ahead and ask other locals the same question. They point to a bunch of garages…all with their shutters down.
We find one with the door slightly open. Thankfully the mechanic is awake and has the parts needed to fix the vehicle. As he starts to hammer away, his neighbour walks out to see what’s causing the commotion.
The neighbour is none other than the driver of the white amby! He apparently lives here. We ask him what happened to his saab. He says his saab is in Mumbai and that the guy who was in the car was a random stranded fellow whom he helped! On a normal day we’d punch the living daylights out of an idiot of his caliber but we make an exception today.
6th April, 2008. 0300 hrs : We arrive home almost 4 hours behind schedule.
7th April, 2008. 0056 hrs : I have just finished writing the article!