Vroom, vroom…… off we go, full throttle. The car surges onto NH 22 which becomes a 6 lane a short distance further. Hazy mountain outlines hover into view then become large, dark looming shapes.The first glimpse of approaching destination is always an adrenaline rush. Strange as it sounds, this to me is love of country. Gripping patriotic mania. Nothing quite like a road trip to bring it on.
Needless to provoke & annoy with forced vande matarams & bharat mata jais? Do a ‘Bharat Darshan’ instead. The countryside is beautiful.
“Vindhya, Himachal, Yamuna, Ganga……
Punjab, Sindh, Gujarat, Maratha
Dravid, Utkal, Banga”
I could be on the road forever. Taking in colour & sound, meeting ‘real’ people – away from it all.
Whoever called us lazy? We are most industrious. Seriously. Imagine another country with our kind of weather & see if they could slog it like us.
I have seen Biharis break stones on the heights of Ladakh. Sleeping out in the cold, eating ‘khichri’, laying roads. Stretches of highway with milestones marking the distance to the farther most posts.
500 miles to Mana
In the cities traffic is chaotic. Adding to the cacophony is dust, heat, noise, pollution & people. Hordes of them. Men & women, full of zest, energy & drive.
Trust an outsider, a foreigner to point this out & who better than Kristoff, a third time visitor who revels in the chaos.
After getting his fill of madness he will return to the dreary orderliness of existence back home. The soap opera meanwhile…….
(He was outside an ATM, patiently waiting his turn, knowing fully well that the machine may soon run out of cash, as it had, all over Goa that season. Sundance, X’mas, New Year, peak holiday time – no matter.)
Step out of the national capital & notice the stark rural – urban, agro – industrial divide where Bharat, not India wins.
Ever seen a Maruti 800 or an aircraft upon a rooftop? You never will until you begin to stir out, for both these are prestige & décor items in rural Punjab. So is the truck parked inside a restaurant with headlights on. Free interior decoration tips, anyone?
Never heard of ‘Maruta’?
A contraption used by farmers, it is in effect, a cross between tractor & car – the ubiquitous Maruti once again.
Make no mistake both Bharat & India are changing – fast. Hop on to the bandwagon, join the roadshow, take a trip – physical & metaphorical & witness the change.
There is a new cockiness in the air.
A Rabari woman in Gujarat, begging for alms, gives up with a disgusted “eh, mara Babo ne chocolate aapo na”. Don’t miss ‘Babo’ – her darling son. And what does Babo want? Chocolates. Not milk.
In Chakrata, I go scouting for a medicine the lone chemist does not have. He cannot provide a substitute, nor does he think it’s available anywhere up in those hills.
Try Dr. Joshi, instead.
I walk down the road & ask for Rosave 20 or anything else the doctor can recommend.
“You won’t find it ”, says he.
“Because nobody here has high cholesterol. Take my word. ‘chiknai kam karo’.
And yet. Some things never change.
In the Prime Ministers constituency there is round the clock activity involving infra structure. All day one hears, the roar of engines going up & down the river, dredging & cleaning the Ganga & the ghats.
Getting off a rickshaw at Assi ghat, I ask, “ how much’?
Adjusting a mouthful of swish n swim saliva, he answers ——
“Don’t spit,“ I yell, seeing the intent “ you are not to spit”.
Yes, he nods in agreement & smiles.
And out comes the spittle. Jet like. Right there, next to me. Juicy red stains on the floor.
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