Monday Musings 245 -The road trip
On a sudden whim, which most termed as a mild case insanity, I undertook a 2000km odd drive from Mumbai to the place of my birth in Jharkhand. The journey meandered on the east west corridor of the network of national highway, what folks of the road know as the Mumbai – Kolkata NH6. It went past Nasik on its eastern sojourn, met the dying place of Emperor Aurangzeb, now christened as Aurangabad, moved to the fort town of Akola where I took the first halt for the night at the end of 630 kms. Day 2 zipped past on the slippery four laned high way from Amravati, via the capital of vidharba Nagpur to enter the young state of Chhattisgarh via the two cousins Bhilai known for the earliest steel plant of India and then Raipur, its capital. This stretch had world class road although it was not uncommon to see a lazy dog and his master taking a stroll on the highway unmindful of my beast whizzing past. The bruised body and the vagabond soul began Day 3 by entering western part of Orissa and crossing the fairly abandoned forest areas, although mesmerising in its greenery, via Sambalpur and reaching the mining city of Keonjhar where a north eastern turn made it enter the southern tip of Jharkhand. Waiting across the border were the best roads I had encountered in my 2000km journey in the most backward part of India. (Surprise surprise – someone seems to be working after all).
There are things that one prepares for and then there are things that happen on a road journey. I have always found air travel a very clinical form of travel – it is high on functionality and extremely low on character. There is no experience in it – it’s like a bland dish. It can satiate hunger but it cannot satiate the soul. Road travel, particularly the longer ones has something for all senses.
The road has the festival of sights for the eyes. The sight of topography changing clothes effortlessly is ethereal, from the colour of the soil to the abrupt eruption of the mountains, from the lush expanse of paddy fields that dot the countryside to the agony of barrenness for miles altogether.
The road trip has the smells to lighten you up. The early morning smoke bellowing out of huts, the aroma of dust in the wild is not oppressing, the moistness of the air during the day as you pass the forests and the soundless chill of the night when the only company is the arc of the headlights (even that dies just a few feet ahead) creates a quiet that is uplifting.
The road trip has a stillness that is reinvigorating. The cities whizz past rooted as they have been for years, may be yearning for movement. May be they want to wander but cannot. The villages show the least bit interest in you for they are content or resigned in the way they are. They cannot fathom what the fuss about the long distance road journey is! The caravan of trucks that ply the highways move in a serpentine rhythm. They are like aggressive beasts on the prowl.
Then there are questions that hum in your head. They are existential perhaps. What is most important - is it the sheer craziness and the audacity of the journey that matters? Is the quality of the roads that make a journey worth its while? Is the unpredictability of the journey that adds a zing to it – the fact that you cannot see beyond the next bend prepares you well for all journeys – for isn’t it true that in life too one cannot see beyond the next bend? Is it the direction that matters – and then the quality of roads are just incidental – in which case one is bound to reach the destination sooner than later?
A few asked me if the 2000 kms on the road was tiring. I am tempted to answer that it was a good rest.