Skip to content

On failure

Failure is the stepping stone to success.

There was this guy in my class in school. I won’t take his name to “protect his identity” but just know that he’s real and not one of my imaginary friends. Yes, I have imaginary friends but he wasn’t cool enough to be part of our group. Anyway, cutting to the chase, the guy in question was a year senior to me and had flunked his finals, landing up in my class. School kids, as we all know, can be very cruel and we needlessly needled him for being a failure and the line above was his only comeback and since he occupied the seat next to mine, I ended up hearing this line a lot. A lot. And I always found it very irritating. Still do.

Failing stings. You can be optimistic as hell about it. But it stings. Your parents can be cool about it. But it stings. Your friends can be supportive about it. But it stings. Like Edison you haven’t failed, you’ve simply found 10,000 ways that don’t work. But it stings. And ultimately it really doesn’t matter (But you realize this fact only after a while). But it still stings. And you’ll probably want to mope around and be depressed and do “Dev.D” ish things to help you “cope” with this “life-altering” event but all you need to do is get off your ass, slap yourself hard in the face and get on with your life. The sun still sails across the sky, the traffic didn’t stop getting jammed and the stars still leave their daytime hiding places to twinkle in our eyes at night. Or to quote someone whose way with words is way better than mine,

Ob-la-di ob-la-da, life goes on, life goes on…

Lennon/McCartney

Failing hits us worse when we find ourselves wanting and it’s always easier to accept when it’s allegedly someone else’s fault. But failing’s failing and nothing changes that. Accept it and more importantly don’t hide it because in the immortal words of another immortal,” Nothing travels faster than the speed of light except for bad news, which follows its own rules.”

So in essence and in conclusion, Life’s a bitch. Always has been, always will be. But you’ll find that it has a way a sorting itself out, eventually. That’s your keyword right there. Eventually. Comedy is tragedy plus time. It’s sad now but I guarantee you’ll laugh about it one day.

It sucks that Life’s always a climb but the view is great. Keep the faith.

If you fall, get up. If others are ahead of you, follow them. Go swiftly but surely towards your goal, for yours is not to reach quickly but to reach at the right moment.

Advertisements

Jaipur

Iraq ki paani kam pi meri rani.

I’m surprised India has a high illiteracy rate. Education is free and all around us much like this sign on the fuel tank of a truck. Closer to home, I learnt the Hindi word for air-conditioner off the side of the AC bus (It’s vatanukul, in case you were wondering). Whenever Vikrant and I needed a laugh or a quick lesson, all we needed to do was look at the back of the truck in front of us. Aphorisms like no other. Ntziesche would have been proud.

On our way out of Nimach, we chanced upon the exit for Ratlam (For the non Bollywood fans, Ratlam is the station Kareena Kapoor and Shahid Kapoor get stuck at in Jab We Met. It’s a real place; I was equally shocked). We got lost in the aforementioned giant Lego highway set but were set on course by kindly truckers who looked down upon our dinky car with overt smirks. Bastards.

Made Jaipur in good time, courtesy the kickass Rajasthan highway, after surviving a near fatal almost-accident. Due to the paucity of breaks for U-turns on the highway, sometimes vehicles drive on the wrong side of the road to get to their destination faster since they didn’t want to drive all the way to the next U-turn spot which could be a few kilometers away. And these idiots drive only on the fast lane, not on the shoulder as most of you would think. So while we’re on our way this psycho in a Maruti 800 comes around a corner, doing atleast 100 km/hr, on the fast lane, straight at us while we’re doing a blistering 10 km/hr. (Mom, Dad if you’re reading this please note that we never drove above 10 km/hr for the entire duration of the trip). Since I’m alive right now and writing this, you know that there wasn’t a collision. Very narrow miss though.

Soon after we entered Jaipur we spotted, in quick succession, a Mcdonalds, a Café Coffee Day and a Levi’s store. Finally, civilization! The traffic is really bad with signals rarely followed and traffic policemen, non-existent. Driving around we chanced upon the RTDC office (where we learned about the Palace on Wheels; look it up, it’s pretty cool) which, like most government offices, was housed in a beautiful heritage structure replete with lawns, fountains and whatnot. The officials were really helpful but we distinctly remember the watchman who, it turns out, had lived in Sion for 30 years or so. He was so happy to meet us that he even invited us home for lunch. Throughout the trip whenever we’d mention that we were from Bombay whoever we were talking to would recount a story of when they were in Bombay or if they worked there or talk about some distant relative who stayed in Bombay or anything that remotely linked them to the city of dreams; as if they wanted to be a part of the city, even if it was a small one. Bombay holds an unusual sway on both, people who have known it and those who wish to.

The watchman in question

Found a decent hotel after a lot of searching, a hotel called Teej, which Vikrant would insist on pronouncing as “tease” just as a lout would, just to irritate me and, unknowingly, also the concierge. All settled in we set out for a bit of sightseeing. As soon as we got into a rickshaw the driver asked us if we were tourists (Don’t ask me how he knew; maybe it had something to do with the fact the Vikrant asked him where the Hawa Mahal was). A tip. Do not tell a rickshaw driver that you’re a tourist; it’s the fastest way to waste money. Anyway this guy turned out to be pretty decent and, since he used to be a tour bus driver, offered to show us all the sights for a fixed sum instead of us running around on our own. In case you were wondering, we never took our car for sightseeing because, for one, continuously asking for directions is a pain and two, we wanted to experience the local transport system everywhere.

Once again there was the demarcation between the old city within the fort walls and the newer city outside it. The traffic is even worse in old city given the narrower roads. The whole place is basically one huge market with shops of every kind on the ground floor of every building, all of which weren’t more than three floors high, with residences on the upper floors. The dominant species inside the old city is Sus scrofa domesticus. Pigs. Big, fat, filthy pigs doubling up as organic garbage removal units. On inquiry as to why there were so many of them, we were told that they were bred to be sold to the 5-star hotels for meat. Well, if we are what we eat then those 5-star patrons are full of shit.

Vishvas’ Fun Fact: Did you know that Jaipur isn’t called the Pink City by accident? Apparently there’s a state law that dictates every building in the old city to be painted that particular shade of pink and that particular shade of pink only.

(I only hope the authorities weren’t listening to the Aerosmith song when they made up the rule)

Pink when I turn off the light, pink is like red but not quite.

–          Pink, Aerosmith

One thing that immediately hits you is the decrepit state of scores of old buildings strewn around the old city. When will we learn to respect and preserve our heritage, instead of trumpeting to the world its existence? Apart from the few famous tourist spots most of antiquity is disregarded. A real shame and a complete waste.

“The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.

–          Sir Winston Churchill

Wasted Time

That night we headed for the famed Chokhi Dhani which, for the uninitiated, is a faux Rajasthani village, recreated as a resort. For a steep entry fee you can spend the whole day in it, enjoy the décor and the various shows, something like a mela (There were magic shows, puppet shows, various daredevilry, dances, plays etc). Since there were so many things to see and a map to help us, I distinctly remember Vikrant and me ardently studying the map and covering the different sections systematically. We ended up losing a ton of money playing against each other on those evergreen “shoot the balloons”, darts and archery stalls. We even memorized the route of a huge maze they had built and then hung around challenging kids to beat us (Yes, my 8th birthday is due soon; thank you so much for asking). The food was something we were really looking forward to since Rajasthani food, despite being vegetarian, was beginning to grow on us. Unfortunately our gustatory expectations were not matched. But the place is completely worth the money based on the ambience alone.

Back in the city we stumbled upon a late-night kebab place where we devoured the equivalent of a dozen chickens, having been devoid of non-vegetarian food since the past five days. We even attempted to sample the nightlife, stopping by a “club”, the name of which deserts me because I think my brain has automatically deleted the traumatic experience to protect me from nightmares. There was one girl and about twenty guys in a space that could have accommodated atleast 200 people. The music was bad, the liquor was worse. I’m sure there are better clubs in Jaipur and a little pissed that the one we stopped by wasn’t one of them.

Ended the night with a cup of hot chocolate at Café Coffee Day (Another one of our pet peeves on the trip).

Ab Dilli door nahi hai.

Chittor

Soaking in our country’s history is a fool’s errand. The depth, width and magnitude of the layers of the Past that need to be sifted through are incomprehensible. The true beauty lies in the fact that this history is interwoven and not as disconnected as most would think. A series of dots are joined by invisible lines across the nation and bind us in time and space. Case in point, Chittor or Chittorgarh as some call it. Chittor used to be the principal fort of Mewad, up until Udaipur was founded and they shifted base. More interestingly though, Shivaji (He of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport and Chhatrapati Shivaji museum fame) also spawned from the same line as the Mewad Royal family.

The Rajasthan segment of the highway is really spectacular because of the way the tarmac snakes through the terrain (The desert interspersed with the Aravallis; large scale stone quarries are also a common site) and also because most of the highway is elevated to almost 20 feet off the ground to prevent locals (Bipeds and quadrupeds) from crossing the highway. The roads are literally intertwined, crossing and cutting each other, making the whole spectacle look like a giant Lego set. Or like live roads playing Twister.

Reached Chittor by afternoon. Drove down Chetak road, turned at Chetak railway station, drank Chetak beer, bought a Chetak shirt, admired a statue of Chetak, overtook a Chetak scooter and parked next to a Chetak truck. Apparently Chetak is the most popular name for horses, vehicles, people, monuments, foodstuff, dogs, cows etc in Rajasthan. Seriously. Chetak is written all over the place, on the back of every truck and when we left Chittor, someone had spray-painted it on our car. Ok, not really, but it would have been something, no?

Basically there’s nothing in Chittor except for the fort (Which probably supports the economy of the entire town), which can be seen for miles around as a result of the surrounding low-lying area and it’s size. On our way to the fort we were stopped by a guide (Literally, they followed us on their bike and flagged us down). At first we employed evasion driving tactics thinking they were cops. When we finally spoke to them they wove the customary guide spiel. As with anything that costs money my first reaction as a half-Gujarati was negative. I’m cheap. Cheapness runs in my blood, so much so that my RBC count is only one million. Finally, after a little bargaining, we hired him (His name was, you guessed it, Chetak) because the fort is 13 km long and it’s much faster to cover with a guide.

A little background about the fort. It’s shaped like a fish, and the two entrances represent the fins. It’s divided into three parts – one is where the locals stay, one is open for tourists and one has been converted into a deer reserve. The area for the locals is the same place where people stayed when the fort was active, and the current residents are their descendants as houses inside the fort cannot be bought; only inherited. Places of interest within the fort are the Meera temple, the Vijay stambh (A nine-storey tower) and Rani Padmini’s palace, which is also a jalmahal. Most of the fort has been reduced to ruins by invading enemies. A colossal waste of history.  A truly interesting sight is a fresh water spring on the mountain face, around which a gomukh (Cow’s mouth) has been built, which continuously spouts water supplying the whole of Chittor. The water is considered to be holy as no one knows where it comes from. Me, I think that they want to believe it because their faith is comforting. Like some higher power exists to take care of them.

Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?

Douglas Adams (1952-2001)

So long Douglas, and thanks for all the fish.

The fresh water spring

Vijay stambh

The view from the top of Vijay stambh. Below is seen the "blue city" - Chittor

After touring the fort we bought some handicrafts which are made using an age-old technique and not made anywhere else, which we realized later is what every handicraft store in Rajasthan says. We then set off for Nimach (Acronym for North India Mounted Artillery & Cavalry Headquarters), a town which is basically on the border between Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and 50 km from Chittor, to spend the night at my friend Nidhi’s house. Interestingly, Nimach is the birthplace of the CRPF and one of the largest producers of opium in the country, but we didn’t get to see the factory. Damn!

That night a party was thrown by someone to celebrate the birth of a child in the family, which was basically an occasion for everyone to come, eat and socialize because the baby himself turned up after everyone had left. About 300 people, almost all of them Marwaris, turned up at the outdoor venue which had bonfires all over the place on account of the cold. And the clothes, oh my god, the clothes were… no… Must. Not. Make. Fun. Conscience too strong. But the Dark Side is resisting…

What follows is a conversation between the author’s conscience and his dark side:

Conscience: Don’t make fun of people. They have feelings too.

Dark Side: But the clothes were so bad. It’s so tempting, almost like they wanted me to make fun of them.

Conscience: No means no.

Dark side: Please?

Conscience: Shut up!

Dark Side: No, you shut up!

Conscience: Oh, real mature…

Dark Side: You copied that from the Simpsons.

Conscience: I know. But it applied here. Now be quiet!

Since my conscience won, I’m trying to turn over a new leaf. I don’t want to slam the clothes people were wearing at the event, something that had Vikrant and me laughing and gasping for air throughout the evening. The clothes were bad. And leather jackets seemed to be the dress code. Let’s just leave it at that.

I was also injured that night when I made a running leap into the moonwalk (Yes, they had a moonwalk and candy floss at the party, their only saving grace). Unfortunately I didn’t know that they were deflating the moonwalk from the other side so instead of air, hard concrete cushioned my fall. Somebody got a hurt real bad.

It felt nice staying and being pampered at Nidhi’s house after the Udaipur hotel .Woke up the next morning to be greeted by our future nemesis for this trip – the fog. Had to wait till it cleared to leave for our last stop in Rajasthan. Jaipur.

Udaipur

This one might seem a little long. Try holding on till the end. As a reward there’s a steamy sex scene in the finale.

Did you know that isn’t any kind of gate, archway, tollbooth or significant barrier of any sort while entering a different state? This was something I was looking forward to, some kind of large board of the “Welcome” at the front and “Goodbye, visit again” at the back variety. Nothing. Nada. Bummer. But you don’t really need it in India because the change in landscape and people’s clothes are extremely striking and fun to observe too, as a sort of Know your country quiz. In Rajasthan’s case, the immediate shift from green fields to deserts was spectacular. Something extremely odd is the presence of cacti fences all over the place used for demarcating patches of barren farmland. As they say in fencing, what’s the point? (Pun intended).

Usually while driving we’d pick a particular genre of music, and more often than not a particular artist, to listen to for that segment of the drive. For this segment we had Led Zeppelin. Fabulous driving music, especially White summer/Black mountain side and Fool in the rain. Always make sure you stock up on a wide variety of music for any road trip. And also remember to carry your guitar in a hard case because our luggage was doing the two-step on the backseat.

We’ve come to the conclusion that the trucking industry is the most technologically advanced one there is. All trucks have been fitted with virtual reality programs which allow the driver to imagine they’re driving Ferraris. That’s the only explanation for the fact that every truck drives in the fast lane at the insanely crazy speed of 30km/hr and refuses to budge, so much so that we felt like we were driving through an obstacle course of trucks.

Made it in good time. These old cities are built quite interestingly. There’s the old city which is situated inside the fort, whose walls still stand (crowded, dirty and historical). Then there’s the new city outside the fort (comparatively spacious, cleaner and modern). On entering the old city, we chanced upon the vintage car collection of the Maharaja. Drool. Mercedes, Pontiac, Alfa Romeo, Chevrolet, Ford, Jeep, Rolls Royce. Drool again. All in perfect working condition (apparently the Royal family takes the cars out every two weeks). There was even an olden style Shell petrol pump. Ok, stop drooling please you’re wrecking your keyboard.

We then made our way to the City Palace, the nerve centre and crown jewel of the entire city. Towering above Udaipur, it is imposingly massive. It’s been divided into three parts – One part is a hotel, one is where the Royal family stays and one is for the tourists. I would suggest taking an authorized guide for the tour because the palace is too big to navigate and has too much history to be absorbed. The only problem is that we weren’t fluent in Marhinglish, the language of the guides, which is the illegitimate child of a threesome between Marwadi, Hindi and English. We had absolutely no idea what the guide was saying most of the time and kept asking him to repeat everything. And he kept repeating this line time and again – The mountains the Aravallis, the city the Udaipur. The palace is soaked in Rajasthani culture displaying the valour, extravagance and lifestyle of blue-blooded folk. They even had parking spaces for elephants. The light and sound show in the evening was equally impressive, tracing the history of the Royal family from it’s inception till the present day. Got me thinking, what if we could make a show like that of our own family tree, highlighting the cool stuff in true 70 mm style? Would it be as impressive? Aren’t we being cheered by the spirits of our ancestors who survived this bitch of a life so that we could exist today? Don’t they deserve a tribute?

Finding a hotel in the old city with parking was quite a task due to the severe paucity of space but the aforementioned guide helped find one, Hotel Vinayak, whose address was Kalaji Goraji, Old Udaipur. Seriously. The temperature had also been steadily dropping as we travelled northwards and I wanted to try fighting the cold, something Vikrant took as final proof that I was ready to be institutionalized. So we (actually just me because Vikrant refused to comply) wore shorts and T-shirts at night, drawing funny stares from the locals.

Had dinner at Natraj. Famous place and rightly so, the food was top-notch though Vikrant couldn’t enjoy most of the spread because most of them had chana in them and he’s allergic. We had a traditional Rajasthani thali which is some sort of gustatory illusion. There are lots of items in really small utensils which makes you think you’re going to get real good value for money. But the food is so rich and heavy that you can’t manage more than two helpings. An incident occurred there that has stayed with me. One of the busboys came to take my plate and he already had a large pile of plates in his hands. So I just picked up our plates and placed them on the pile and held the door of the kitchen open for him, an act which drew profuse embarrassment and apologies from him. Serving in a hierarchical society had made obeisance a way of life for him, something that made me feel despair rather than melancholy. When will we have a society that has respect for all labour?

We retired to the hotel after dinner after a fruitless search for any nocturnal activities. Ended up just walking round the city, something we did quite often on the trip. We found out later that Udaipur does have nightlife in the new city due to the large student population. At night we would argue because he’d want to sleep without the fan, so I’d wait till he fell asleep and then switch the fan on, after making sure the switch was on my side of the bed. *cue evil laughter*. The next morning we took a boat ride (Udaipur is also called the city of lakes) which takes you around Lake Pichola, the principal lake of the city, in which the Lake Palace and the Jagmandir are situated. Unfortunately they’ve stopped tourist visits to the Lake Palace, which is run by the Taj Group of hotels. We did get to go the Jagmandir, another island hotel. It’s really something with a huge garden, restaurants and rooms on it. Apparently it’s very popular for wedding parties. The island palaces were built as summer residences for the Royal family as the surrounding lake kept the mercury down.

Some of the places we couldn’t visit due to the lack of time or interest or both were Sajjangarh (the monsoon palace), Udaivilas (the Oberoi hotel, said to be one of the best hotels in the world) and Jagdish Mandir.

Well that’s it. Sorry I conned you about the steamy sex scene but at least you know what motivates you.

Chittod, here we come.

Ahmedabad

This entry begs the forgiveness of my friends Anahita Mehta and Rinki Varindani, who hate Amdavad more than is humanly possible.

Woke up late. Blame the drunken Taboo. Left late. Well, that’s our fault. The temptation of an unlimited Gujarati thali for just Rs. 50 was too strong to resist. Isn’t it funny how food always tends to taste better when it’s free or when you feel like it’s really cheap and value-for-money or, conversely, also when it’s insanely expensive and you can’t bear to say it was bad? But I digress.

As soon as we crossed the Gujarat border I could feel it. My Gujarati heritage was shouting to be let out. For those who don’t know I’m half Gujarati. But please don’t ask me which of my parents is Gujarati. You’d be surprised how many times I’ve been asked that question. I put on my tackiest shirt, started discussing dhokla recipes and yelling in ultrasonic frequencies. Poor Vikrant.

We kind of underestimated the distance to Amdavad. This might sound weird but there seems to be some sort of time-distance warp in Gujarat. Went 90 km in two hours and then went 260 km in ninety minutes courtesy the second best road of the entire trip – NE 1, which incidentally is the first road of the Golden Quadrilateral project. Six lanes of pure, unadulterated ecstasy. Wow. Just, wow.

It was already pretty dark by the time we reached Amdavad and we still had to find a place to stay. And that day happened to be Makar Sankranti, which unknown to us is the biggest festival in Gujarat when everything is shut. Just a quick rundown on how we’d roll. We’d search the net for the details of the Youth Hostels and YMCAs in the city, check for vacancies (which we would find most of the time). Our second choice would usually be a Tourist Department Corporation hotel (these are state-run hotels which are decent and comparatively cheap). When all else failed we’d just check into the first hotel with parking that we could find which wasn’t a brothel (which is quite common actually). Luckily Vikrant’s dad had a friend in Amdavad who was willing to put us up for the night.

This stop also gave me an opportunity to try my abysmally bad Gujarati (you’d be proud Mom!), which is interesting to hear because every time I attempt to speak Gujarati, fluent Marathi comes out. Funny thing is, when I try to speak Marathi, nothing comes out.

Moving on, our trip to the house turned out to be quite eventful. We were caught by the cops (surprise, surprise!) for not having a vertical strip of yellow tape on our headlights. Apparently it’s compulsory in Gujarat. Settled for 300 bucks since we played the doctor card (and also, I suspect, because of my attempt to communicate with him in my personal dialect of Gujarati).

Anyway, we continued forth on our noble quest of finding a memory card for the camera and a car charger for the iPod, which turned out to be harder than we thought considering that Amdavad is a big city. Spotting an electronics shop, we parked outside a mall when we were stopped by this security guard who said, and I quote,” Modi saab ka rule hai, idhar parking allowed nahi hai.” Narendra Modi is God in Gujarat. His face is on every hoarding, be it a political campaign, an advert for a steel firm and even on a baby food advert!

The roads in the city are also quite impressive. Wide and smooth. A distinct feature of the city is the presence of the BRTS buses, an award-winning local transport system. There are dedicated bus lanes and the bus-stops are air-conditioned, enclosed and demarcated .One of the first things that strikes you about Amdavad are the number of roundabouts and that each one has a different statue on it, so much so that the directions that you get are in the form of peoples names – “Go straight and take a left at Rani Lakshmi Bai then straight from Lok Manya Tilak and then right at Rajiv Gandhi.” The locals know what the junctions are called so that’s how they talk and no problem with that except for the fact that it was nighttime, the statues are black and we don’t know what the heck these people look like! So we ended up slowing down at each intersection just to get a look at the plaque below each statue. And doing that in Amdavad traffic is quite an achievement but we found that if you can drive in Bombay traffic, you can drive anywhere.  But the best moment was this:

Us: Which way is Nehru Nagar?

Man #1: Go straight and take a right.

Man #2: No no! Don’t listen to him. Take a left. (While pointing vigorously to the right!)

We finally found the house and the family there were really nice. We went to a nearby mithai shop to sample the local sweets. That’s another thing Vikrant and I decided; to eat only the local food wherever we were, even if it was vegetarian. We chatted with the elders of the house for a bit after dinner and like everyone else we met on the trip, they were quite enamored by the idea of our journey. One uncle we met there, his sons had driven cross country in the USA. New York to Los Angeles and back. Respect.

Woke up early the next morning and pushed off. This part I was looking forward to because we were on our way to the Sabarmati Ashram. Now, religious I’m not but spiritual I am. There’s something about that place. It gives you a glimpse of the kind of man Gandhi was and the amount of respect that frail body commanded. On the banks of the Sabarmati, the ashram is huge and thankfully well-maintained. In a word, serene. You could walk around for hours just soaking in the history though the pictures and exhibitions. One thing that was really impressive was a 6×6 poster of Gandhi’s signature along with the words Forsake not truth, even unto death. Kind of sums up the man’s life, doesn’t it?

And on that note we left for Udaipur.

Silvassa

Hardly slept last night and woke up all groggy. Kept waking up through the night either to check my bag or I’d suddenly remember to pack something or that I just too excited, scared and nervous because no matter how much we’d planned for this thing we had absolutely no idea how it was going to pan out and it wasn’t really helping our parents blood pressure that we weren’t really worried; blame it on the foolish (over)confidence of adolescence.

My dad came to see me off in the morning and he was a little apprehensive when he heard Highway to Hell blaring from my room, whose first line goes “No stop signs, speed limits”. But then I kind of calmed him down by playing Roadhouse Blues which went “Keep your eyes on the road and hands upon the wheel”. He helped me load up the car and his parting words were (and I love this because he’s so chilled out and Yoda-like),” Have fun. Be crazy, not stupid.”

I picked up Vikrant and had to stop at Pooja’s house to pick up my music system panel which I had forgotten at HRC the night before (talk about unlucky beginnings). We were set to go. Go pick up Nandita that is, because we had a third road tripper till Silvassa. The car was a little cramped with all the luggage but we made do.

Even though it’s just 180 km from Bombay our first stop was Silvassa for two reasons. Firstly because we had to drop Nandita off there as she would be interning there for two months. Secondly we wanted to get a Hudson’s Bay start to the whole adventure, a concept I learned from the writings of Robert Fulghum (if you haven’t read him, please do; it will change your life. It did mine)

When explorers from the Hudson’s Bay Company started on their expeditions they would only cover a few miles on the first day. There they would rest, check their equipment and basically set the tone for the rest of the trip so that if anything was missing they could always go back and get it.

Lesson learnt (oh God, I’m doing it again, aren’t I?): the road to Silvassa is from Virar, not Thane. We made good time despite the detour. Most people would think, and some told us sneeringly, that driving at a constant speed along a monotonous highway would be quite boring, but for Vikrant and I there are few things in life worth more. With the wind blowing or more accurately screaming in your ears, racing along a road that stretches, quite literally, up to the horizon is something else and is one of those things in life that cannot be described and need to be experienced. And no, the Bombay-Pune expressway isn’t the same thing.

Silvassa isn’t much to look at. Quiet little Gujarati town. The booze is cheap, being a union territory and the beach is too far away. But then coming from Bombay, my view is warped. It’s a curse really; it spoils you for other cities.

“Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a partner, sometimes I feel like my only friend is the city I live in, the city of angels.”

We met two of Nandita’s friends who were also interning there and then all of us went around searching for decent accommodation for the girls who had to stay there for two months. With the help of a true-blue Gujju guide, whose car had the coolest upholstery (it was pink, black and gold and screamed Gujarati; no, actually we literally heard it screaming), we finally zeroed in on a hotel where we spent the night. By the time all this was done which also included finding the actual location of their internship, some godforsaken farm somewhere, it was already evening so we just freshened up and went out to find a decent place to eat to non-vegetarian food. Ha ha ha. A non-vegetarian place in a vegetarian community. Catastrophic, to say the least. After finding the only place that served non-vegetarian fare (which I’m convinced only exists so that the locals can painfully exterminate anyone who wants to eat meat) we went around searching for a wine shop, which took all of 30 seconds because as soon as we expressed a desire to drink everyone in the vicinity pointed exactly at the wine shop and also gave us a printed list of nearby ones, classified by name, price an availability of stock. Welcome to small town India folks. We also picked up a cake because it was Nandita’s friend’s birthday which turned to be something-formerly-known-as-cream-cake.

Don’t know why every time I’m in a smallish town all I do is sit in a hotel room and drink. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Silvassa is emptier after 9 pm than Ballard Pier after 5 pm. We stayed up most of the night playing drunken Taboo (the girls had brought it along to keep them sane through their long internship and, which I must admit, was a lot a fun) and listening to music. Good thing we had Nandita and her friends for company. Could have been a lot worse.

Introduction

Get your motor running, head out on the highway, looking for adventure and whatever comes our way”                           –                                                                                                                                  – Born to be wild, Steppenwolf.

Words to live by, so it may seem. So I did. Live by them, I mean. Got my motor running, headed out on the highway and all that. Two guys. 26 days. One country. One car. My personal tribute to Che.

Well, Che is the one who got me started on this whole thing anyway. Che as in Ernesto “Che” Guevara (Roshan gifted me a copy of Motorcycle Diaries for my 22nd birthday). Che and a big-ass map of India that my friends gave me as a joke because my geography is a little sketchy. To see our country all at once, to be able to compare, sample, experience a variegated slice of history. Well, to be honest, this isn’t really a trip across India. I’m only going along a major highway and the cities along it, so it’s more a trip across (relatively) urbanized India. But still, for a kid born and brought up in Bombay, anything outside of it is an eye-opener.

One thing I didn’t realize is how difficult this trip would be, not only planning it but also to convince my parents, who fortunately shared my enthusiasm but not my insanity. Truth be told, they were quite cool about the whole thing, all they needed was a little prodding. But an adventure of this proportion requires a lot of preparation in way of car care, supplies, information and research. Due to a few cancellations, it ended up being just Vikrant and me, a fact that both our parents were a little apprehensive about. But when in doubt, go corporate. We made an entire PowerPoint presentation about the trip detailing the itinerary, costs, equipment and preparations (we actually considered giving the presentation in suits but then thought that it might be overkill). Got the car serviced. Took a crash course in auto-mechanics. Shopped for supplies (including a 10 meter long rope, to tow the car in case it broke down). We took my trusted Santro (Hyundai better give us some kind of reward for this) and don’t anybody dare laugh; that car’s got soul and as Roshan says, it’s an extension of my consciousness in a 4-wheeled form.

A lot of people asked me why just the two of us went. Well, it’s quite simple really. To undertake a trip of this magnitude, you need to do it with people who you’re comfortable with (because a LOT of adjusting is required) and, more importantly, who want the same things. Vikrant and I were primarily interested in the driving part and the eating part and since the both of us aren’t big on touristy things, everything worked out pretty well.

And another thing. You could try it yourself and I assure you, it will make your vacations far more enjoyable. After the second day, we didn’t look at our watches for the entire duration of the trip except to note the closing time of monuments and such. We slept when we were sleepy and ate when we were hungry. For a rough estimate of the time and direction we used the position of the sun because we always knew the basic direction we needed to go in. Try it. It’s something else.

So on the 14th of January (which incidentally is the most unlucky day for Vikrant and me, a fact that I realized just now) we started off. To be continued.