Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Lonely Planet

It was late May. The plains and plateaus of central India were literally melting hot. Dust storms locally called “loo” swirled up the powdery crust of baked earth and thrust it into the nostrils and eyes. But braving this harsh climate, we were berserk enough to drive all the way from Thrissur in Central Kerala to the steel city, Bhilai in Chattisgarh, then part of Madhya Pradesh in a good old Ambassador of 1962 make. Father had recently bought it from a cousin who had bought it from a doctor and the possession had made father a proud car owner, a breed that was not so common then. So he promptly started on this wild adventure of driving over 2000 Kilometres with a mechanic , a cousin who had a passion to drive, my mother and myself, a tomboyish 12 year old.
Our routemap went through Palakkad in Kerala , Coimbatore in Tamil nadu, Bangalore in Karnataka, Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh , Nagpur in Maharashtra and Bhilai in Chattisgarh touching all southern states of India.
We started after breakfast,waved off by uncles, aunts and cousins. Some could still not believe that we were taking this journey at this time of the year. The driving craze cousin was newly married and his wife was already expecting and she was really sad that she could not accompany us! They took a long time to say ‘goodbye’ to each other.
We filled up and moved on. Nothing untoward happened in the first leg of the journey. We halted for the night at Bangalore. The city was really quiet for its size and it was really a garden city, not the IT city we know today. The Yelehanka Air force Station brought back memories for father. He had missed selection to Airforce because he faltered badly in the shooting test when he saw a spider in the crosswire. He is still scared silly of spiders. Our aim being to reach Hyderabad the next night, we could visit only the Lal Bagh. We bypassed Mysore and drove into Andhra. Now the real test started for man and the machine.
Unending stretches of barren landscape stretched right upto the horizon. Some times we overtook a solitary truck with a turbaned Sikh or an ebony tamilian as driver. Always, they waved and we waved back, each relieved that they were not the only souls on this lonely planet. Once a while we saw clusters of houses, some of bricks and tiles, more with thatched roof. A sight of a single man on cycle with water or firewood gave a clear indication of nearby hamlets. Often one saw paths suddenly disappearing into nowhere. We had to stop now more often as the water in the radiator quickly reached boiling hot conditions. And on a lonely stretch, we had our first flat. As the mechanic, father and cousin got to work of changing the flat, my mother and I stayed put in the car. There were no trees nearby to give any sort of shade. Also, we ran out of water. The car and the people were all thirsty. The barren landscape showed no visible signs of human habitation or more importantly water. Meanwhile none was able to loosen the bolts of the flat tyre. My cousin had a slight fever. The climate was taking its toll. Along came a National Permit Truck and they pulled up right ahead of us. Without us asking for help they asked the three men to move over. The burly Sardarji and his aide swiftly changed the flat tyre. They also gave us their last chagal of water. We were so overcome with surprise and gratitude that we couldn’t thank them before they disappeared as quickly as they had arrived.
The whole episode left a nagging rain of regret in our hearts. Because, though we waved at the truck crew many times, our conversation had always lingered around the shabbiness and immoral and shadowy character these people are said to have. We were ashamed of ourselves and soon as if to make secret amends everyone had something good to say about the truck drivers in general and our saviour in specific. Like how they traversed long distances to reach goods for people in far flung areas and how they helped fellow travellers on road and how their duty sent them far from home and hearth.
This incident was the only ‘happening’ for us in the whole journey and it made me wise to look the other side of any person before evaluating him or her. Appearances and general views may be deceptive.


  1. A beautiful piece of write-up. Really enjoyed reading it...But, the last sentence, coming from you, I am kind of suprised! Remember the conversation we had that day? ;)

  2. Nice post..Yea, it is so difficult to make out the real character of people..In my opinion, we will never be able to understand a person 100%...Human beings are mostly unpredictable I suppose...

  3. You write very well and the interest was kept up throughout.But one swallow doesn't make a summer.As Novice Writer has mentioned human beings are unpredictable and how they react would depend uopn situations ,whether one is alone or with others.There are very good men too

  4. Destinys child
    A person has many faces.

    Novice Writer
    Its really a gamble- judging people

    Unpredictable humans are. But we can be open minded