Thursday, July 25, 2013

THE PERFECT ROAD TRIP

So what comes to your mind when I say the four words - THE PERFECT ROAD TRIP?
•    Probably an open jeep or a convertible?
•    Exquisite weather?
•    A beautiful companion?
•    Lovely music collection?
•    A trip to Goa?

Unfortunately THE PERFECT ROAD TRIP of mine had none of these, yet it turned out to be just perfect. How? Read on...

Let me now pull you away from the dream points I have listed above, and throw some light on the real situation I was in. So, I was driving a rented Maruti 800 which seemed to be at least fifteen years old. The weather was hot and humid, just as it usually is in any coastal belt during the month of March. My companion was Ankur, a hitchhiker I had met just a couple of minutes ago. The only music I could hear was the cacophony generated by the rickety parts of the vintage car. And, I was headed to Pune from Shrivardhan (a small beach-town in the Konkan region of Maharashtra).

It all started three days back when I, with my fifty odd colleagues, had set out to Shrivardhan for a project get-together and team building session. To cut a long story short, after last night’s bonfire party, I was so sloshed that I do not remember what happened after the last jig I performed on Yo Yo Honey Singh’s latest number. I opened my eyes today morning to find myself lying in a corner of the beach, with none of my colleagues in sight. When I called up one of them, I was informed that they had already left for Pune an hour back. So all that I could do was rent a car using my resort owner, Mr. Gaekwad’s contacts, and here I was on my way back home. The deal was that I would be contacted by a guy called Rajesh in Pune, and he’ll bring the car back to Shrivardhan. As soon as I entered the car, it was very evident by the whiff inside that it belonged to a local fisherman who used the vehicle to ferry his day’s catch. Seeing my frowned nose, Mr. Gaikwad pulled out an Ambi Pur freshener from his car and generously sprayed it inside the Maruti.

“Here you go. It’s as fresh as new,” he said. To my surprise he was right, and the fragrance was lemon, which matched perfectly with the wedge of lime I was licking to cure my bad hangover. I drove out of the resort, unsure about how long the junk car would hold its ground.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

My fear was no mean exaggeration, and that was proven by the fact that the car’s engine stopped no sooner had I touched the highway. I should have taken the bus, but the uncertainty of getting one had made me decide in the contrary. I stepped out and opened the hood of the car – not because I had the skills to detect or fix whatever was wrong there, but with the sheer hope that some passerby might stop to help, seeing my broken down car.

“Just staring at the engine with your arms behind your back won’t help, buddy. Need a hand?” I heard a voice from behind me. A tall and well-built lad in his mid twenties stood there. He was carrying a huge backpack, and the way he constantly chewed on a gum as he spoke lent him an American accent.

“The darn car won’t move. Do you mind pushing it a bit as I try to get the engine started?” I put forth my request.

“Why not,” said he and shoved his backpack into my car. “A man needs to pamper his car like a girlfriend, which you obviously haven’t been doing.”

“It’s a rented car,” I said irately.

"Oh! So she's not your girlfriend. That gives you all the more reason to pamper her" he added stroking the roof of the car with an affectionate expression.

I did not smile.

Immediately he rolled up his sleeves, stepped behind the car and gave me the thumbs up sign. After putting in a lot of sweat and patience, we finally managed to get the car started.

As I thanked the stranger who helped me, I noticed that although he looked like a traveler but he did not have any vehicle of his own. “Where are you off to?” I asked.

“Pune. I was hoping to get a bus from the next bus stop on this highway,” he said pointing towards the road ahead. “Can you please drop me there?”

“Hop in dude! I am going to Pune too, and I can do with some company for the road.”

So that is how I ended up in the current situation that I was in.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It usually takes a little less than four hours to drive from Shrivardhan to Pune. But taking into account the upcoming combat between the rickety car I was driving and the mountainous terrains, I was expecting us to conclude the entire journey in roughly five hours. The initial two hours passed by pretty uneventfully during which Ankur told me a lot about himself. I did not grasp much of what he was saying, apart from his name and the fact that he was a stand-up comedy artist who juggled his time between Mumbai and Pune.
No wonder he was such a chatterbox! But one good thing that came out of his constant blabbering was that it prevented me from dozing off.

“Would you like to drive for an hour?” I interrupted him with the sole intention of grabbing a brief nap.

Thankfully he agreed. But my plan of dozing off fell flat on its face, as the chatterbox in Ankur did not take a back seat even after I handed him the control of the steering wheel.

“So what’s your story?” Ankur asked as we whizzed past a small tea shop before I could tell him to stop. I didn’t mind having a cup of tea and something to eat. It had been many hours since I had had my last meal.

“Story... what do you mean?”

“Are you usually so grim and quiet?” Ankur reiterated his question.

Seeing a small restaurant I signaled Ankur to stop the car, and this time he applied the brakes just in time. As Ankur parked the car I thanked my stars for finding an excuse to dodge his question, and getting access to some grub at last. As we entered the roadside restaurant, Ankur’s phone rang.

“Please order a sandwich and coffee for me. I’ll attend to this call and join you,” said he before picking up the call.

There was a huge list of items in the menu card but the attendant shook his head against every option I asked for.

“Sahab, you’ll only get vada-pav and poha at this moment,” he said after listening to me patiently for a while. Irately I ordered poha and tea for us.

“Will that be all, sahib?”

My scornful look drove him away.

Ankur arrived at the table after five minutes, and so did our food.

“I asked for sandwich,” said Ankur peeking into the tray as it was being placed on our table. I repeated my scornful look for Ankur and he got the message.

“Ditch the sandwich,” he said. “I need a favor from you.”

I looked enquiringly.

“My very close college friend from Mumbai, who’s an assistant director, is in Lavasa today for a film shooting session. Can we divert from our route a bit, as I would really like to meet him?”

“A bit?” I exclaimed. “That’s almost an hour off track!”

“Please... please...” Ankur pleaded. “It’s a Sunday today, and we’ll reach Pune well before sun down.”
I desperately wanted to enter my house as soon as possible and hit the bed, so tired was I. But I gave in to his request.

The truth is, the prospect of meeting a movie unit excited me.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

With the sun in its scorching best, March is not the ideal time to visit Lavasa. In fact it isn’t the ideal time to step out of one’s house in the first place. The drive to Lavasa was quicker than what we had anticipated, thanks to the almost nil traffic.

I was the one driving in this leg of our journey, and Ankur directed me towards the lake beside which we could see the set up of a film unit. Parking the car at a distance from the nearest tent, we walked towards the unit.

“There you are, you bugger,” screamed the guy wearing a red cap and came running up to us. Ankur and his friend took a while to catch up before I was introduced to the assistant director.

After we exchanged greetings, I was seated under a huge umbrella with a spot boy being called over to serve me snacks and drinks, which I readily accepted. Sipping from my glass of lemon soda I admired the picturesque view of the lake as Ankur and his friend chatted up at a distance. I tried my best to locate the actors but, to my disappointment, failed to spot any recognizable face.

“Sandy has a proposal for you.” I did not notice when Ankur had walked up to me. His friend was standing next to him. I looked towards Sandy, the assistant director.

“Let me get to the point...” started Sandy. “We have to shoot the next sequence in fifteen minutes and for that we need an old, tattered Maruti 800. We had fetched one from the garage and dented it to look real, but after our director saw your car, he feels that it fits the bill better!”

“But how long will that take?” was my instant reaction.

“It may take a while,” Sandy stated apologetically. “But please do not worry... we will make arrangements for your stay in the best suite of the lakeside hotel.”

That sounded tempting. What sounded more tempting was when he added, “We’ll also pay you fifteen thousand rupees as a fee for using your car.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

As I relaxed in the bathtub of my suite, Mr. Gaikwad, the resort owner called, “I hope you have reached Pune safely, sir. I would like to apologize yet again for not being able to arrange a better transportation for you.”

“You couldn’t have possibly found a better car, Mr. Gaikwad because you got me the best,” I said with a smile. “Please do me a favor, will you? I will wire transfer fifteen thousand rupees to your account tomorrow... please give it to the owner of the car with my compliments when you return the car to him.”

There was a moment of silence from the other end of the call. After about half a minute, I heard Mr. Gaikwad's voice, “You’ve got to be kidding me, sir! Was the car so good?”

“Let’s just say that it smelt great, and that made my road trip just perfect!” I said with a smirk.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

4 comments:

Sangeeta said...

Ha haha! Great story you got there!

Barnali Biswas-Ray said...

Ok..So after reading many of the entries for the AMbi Pure contest I stumbled upon urs. Just as i was getting frustrated of reading 'real life' events stated blandly as ever, yours was something I would have written as an entry to such a contest. Its refreshing with the right amount of fun quotient thrown in. Loved ur narration. Wish u all the best for the contest.

Subhasis said...

Thanks Sangeeta - glad you liked it :)

Subhasis said...

Thank you Barnali for your kind words! I just tried to write something which I myself would like to read without getting bored. It's good to know that I have succeeded to some extent :)