My family has been one of those who avoid train travel as far as possible ---why? ---because hubby dear hates the process of embarking on and off a train and also handling the luggage. SO its the car always for us ;I mean as far as possible .
We have travelled from Bhilai( where we stayed for 31 years)) to Ranchi,Kolkatta( 5 times) Pune Bombay(thrice) and of course those pleasure trips to forest resorts in MP and Maharashtra Kanha national Park,Panchmarhi, Ajanta Ellora Pench tiger resort and the lesser known Navegao Chikhaldhara , and those umpteen trips to Nagpur which was my Maika(the house of the parents of a married girl) then, and is my permanent address now .and the cars used by us were Ambassador mark iv ( a second hand one ,our first car ) Maruti omni (a new one ,our second car) and Tata Indica (new one ,our third car) now a Tata Nano has also joined us but we haven't gone on any long trips in this one .
You must have gathered by now that with so many road travels in our kitty we must have had at least some PERFECT ones .
Well to start with. the first PERFECT road travel was way back in 1980's when we had bought our first car, a second hand Ambassador Mark iv and it was but natural that our inaugural journey should be to the place of pilgrimage of my family --MY birth place .
Now let me mention a particular characteristic of ours, we always start our journeys at four in the morning for so many reasons; the official one being that it gives us a lot of time to cover more distance in day light.
But more importantly the actual reasons are that none of us can sleep the night before ---the kids can't sleep a wink due to excitement the two of us adults try to finish off all the work at night so that we don't have to do anything in the morning no last minute rushing, everything done properly the night before and thirdly we love to watch the sunrise on our way, through the forests and villages and rivers, its a beautiful experience and I pluck a lot of wild flowers and we love to have a proper picnic."Breakfast" which is always home made poori sabzi pickles bread. butter , boiled eggs and cake with hot tea from the flask ;this tea has 70 percent milk and 30 percent water because all the milk in the house has to be consumed .
Lunch may be at a DHABA or a roadside shanty styled restuarant in a village---- the adivasis of chhota Nagpur serve lovely chicken and rice and pakoras made of chanaa daal and springonions .whereas you get lovely bhajias in the villages of MP and Maharashtra and also poha ----..and the nationwide favourites any time anywhere are Jalebi and samosa perfect example of unity in diversity.
That much for the regular timetable of the Sinhas' before and during a journey .
Now about the first perfect journey.
This was when we started off at 4 a.m. for Nagpur which is 250 km from Bhilai and which even an old ambassador should not take more than 5 hours to complete; the picnic and stoppages included. But we took eight hours to finish this journey because just as we reached the ghat (its a small one but very steep with very dangerous curves) my husband whispered to me --"break fail ho gaya hai "( the breaks have failed). The first thing I did was turn around to see what the kids were doing thankfully they were asleep .Hubby continued to drive because with break failure. stopping on a ghat which has narrow roads is not very easy ---thankfully the horn was working so as he drove on with the horn honking I would hang out of my window and wave my hands at any oncoming vehicle just to make them alert that something was wrong with us and that they should be careful . Finally when the ghat ended and we reached a village we stopped the car and got the breaks repaired and proceeded on our journey WE of course did not forget to ring my brother from a STD booth and tell him that we will be late and they need not worry.( no mobile phones those days).
So this was our first perfect journey ---specially since it left me admiring my husband's driving capabilities and secondly because he fell in love all over again with me for not panicking and for having faith in his abilities.Not that I had any choice !!!LOL
The second Perfect journey was in december 2001 when we went to Ranchi my hubby's birth place and his Maika and another pilgrimage for us.The car this time was our New MARUTI OMNI .
We left Bhilai at 4 in the morning and after all those rituals of ours,the picninc ,the dhaba lunch, the plucking of flowers, .photography etc etc we reached Sambalpur by 4 in the evening--- ---because the roads were so nice .In fact we were astonished, we had never expected to find such good roads ---we had planned to stay overnight at Sambalpur but since we reached the place so early we thought we could proceed towards our destination instead of stopping there ---moreover two of my hubby's nephews( 24 and 22 of age) were also travelling with us so we had nothing to worry .
All of us then decided that since we had enough eatables with us we need not waste any time in eating instead we should proceed on the journey and eat whenever hungry we could also try some local dishes from the adivasi eateries en route . Hubby dear got down at a paan kiosk to by some cigarettes(very important for Night driving) for himself and paan for all of us . It was here that he heard about a new road constructed from Simdega to Ranchi it bypassed Gumla and emerged at Khooti to reach Ranchi.We unanimously decided to take this road because we had already been to Ranchi via Gumla and we might as well try this new terrain. Now this short cut made the journey really thrilling because it went through dense forests and kachchaa roads And though we had been through forests etc many a times we had never felt as if we were out of civilization BUT this time ... it was eerie and spine chilling ---and no one was in the mood to respond to the small talk which hubby dear was trying to create just to cheer us up .
The night grew darker and darker I served food inside the car no one had the guts to stop the car and get down to eat ----not a single tea shop or anything open and it was only 8 pm --the reason Naxal fear .We were surprised but the nephews told us that this had become a normal scene those .days because of the Naxalites . But even the boys were astonished as the scene was a little bit too silent .looked as if the crickets had forgotten to sing , the owl was not hooting and the bats were not flying why even the breeze had forgotten to flow .
But no it wasn't that bad ,life was alive, a snake crossed our path making my hubby screech to a sudden halt.
How unwelcome that screeching sound of the brake was !!.
Suddenly a Land Rover kind of vehicle passed us it was 10 pm they had guns and ammunition and were sitting with very stern and grim faces.The nephews who were not new to those areas told us that that was a police patrol But still we dared not relax .The vehicle crossed us and went away on its path again the dark took over .Some small talk some jittery laughter and again silence finally around 12 30 we saw a few lights shimmering in the distance and the elder nephew announced --"Ranchi ka light hai" --and we smiled in the dark letting out some giggles too .
At '1' o clock we reached my brother-in-law's house and when he opened the door for us he gave such a sounding to my hubby for committing the folly of driving through the night .He then turned towards his sons "You two why did you let him venture --he has left this place for the last so many years so he doesn't know the dangers why didn't you two stop him " we all went in with sheepish smiles only to be confronted with a tirade from my mother -in- law --- then bhabhi( sister-in-law) told us the reason for all this outburst --there had been a Naxalite attack in that area during the day time with heavy casualties.
Oh!! so that was the reason why the crickets were not chirping thought I and that was the reason why life had forgotten to breathe.
The Naxalites !! By God !! Ramesh Sippy can give these words to Thakur if he ever thinks of making SHOLAY Part II "So jaa Gabbar Singh nahi toh Naxalites aa jayenge "
Would like to mention here that the journey back on this same trip, too, was Perfect because while coming back by the same route (we were brave veterans by now--we were covering the distance in the day time) , the only humans we met on the way were 6 or 7 men who were walking very fast and had a sort of alertness in their eyes "Poor villagers just see how worried they look the Naxalites must have really scarred their lives to put that fear in their eyes and that stride in their gait " thought we .....
But was that the reason ????
Because when we reached Sambalpur we learnt that seven prisoners had escaped from Simdega jail that morning and a zonal commander of the mcc was also among them We looked at each other,
"were they "THE.....Y' ???"
You think I am exagerating all these Perfect incidents --here's a news item corroborating my narration
Now don't you think all these journeys were Perfect what with the thrills and frills , after all life should be adventurous We get just one life and it should be lived to the fullest ,no opportunities of thrill and enjoyment should be missed .What if we have not climbed the Himalayas or swam across the British channel but crossing the jungles in the dead of night or with failed breaks with two kids in the back seat is no less thrilling And the sense of achievemnt and relief after reaching your destination safe and sound is out of this world.
By the way these were not the only Perfect journeys that I have been on .I have gone through incidents of sitting on the road all night with headlights turned on and waiting for the tiger to get up and go away giving us way to proceed,this was in the late 1960's and the driver used to be my dad who was posted as mines manager in the interiors of MP and Maharashtra.
Then many a times we have spent nights on the road side waiting for the floods to subside with mosquitoes and fireflies giving us company only to discover that the so called bridge has been washed away. We have spent one full day stranded in the rains eating rain soaked parathas after heating and drying them on the glass shade of lanterns ( all this when I was a school girl and used to go from the hostel to my home in the manganese mines where my dad used to be posted and where we used to live in big British style Bunglows with all luxuries but to reach them and spend my vacations we had to go through all this adventure .