"All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware." ~ Martin Buber


The Last Mile

Kalyani Mirajkar shares her excitement of the three day road journey through 1,600 kms as she heads home to Gurgaon from Pune.

Four days and three nights. The unending tar and mortar stretching ahead. The mountains melting into the sea that breezes into the desert, morphing into lush green and yellow fields of mustard. Travelling through 4 states. Traversing 1600 kms. A road trip to end all road trips thus far.

As I took the last exit, a heady feeling caused me to push the peddle full throttle. Full speed ahead. There was no stopping me. I could see the traffic signal flashing bright red but the brake eluded me. Logic demanded slowing down, excitement demanded pressing on...60...70...80...scrreeeech...0. Slammed just in time to avoid hitting the car ahead.

Mumbai to Mussorie
Mumbai to Ladakh
Mountain Biking


Pilgrim's Trail

Welcome to Jatland and the noise of the horn
Welcome to the dust and assholes to the manor born
Welcome to majority rule, the drivers of the cab
Welcome to the land of the flashy and the drab
Gurgaon! Like a nagging sweet pain from a half broken thorn
Welcome home

reaching home through miles of tar

I wanted to get out and climb on top of the car. Hold my hands high over the head and embrace the skies. And let out a loud scream. I AM HOME. No one just gets up and walks away! And I just did. Well, almost! Packed my bags, bid farewell, got into the car and drove away! I DROVE 1600 kms to get here. On a Saturday morning people woke up and went about the humdrum of weekend chores, bliss of a holiday and all the regular mundane minutia. On a Tuesday afternoon, the weekend blues have set in and the mirage of the upcoming weekend is too distant to be of any real consolation. And in between these absurdities, there was me. Waiting for a red signal to turn green, signaling me onto my new life of being footloose and fancy free. For how long, no idea! But this is here and now. This is real. This is life. And this is home. Gurgaon is home...that's what this is...home!

Three days ago. As excited I was about getting home. There was a hint of withdrawal at leaving behind the life of the past year in Pune. I would miss the weekend grocery shopping followed by cooking chicken for 4 hours. I would miss watching movies, solo. I would miss driving on the Khandala Ghat. I would think about the drunken musical nights waning into mornings. I would miss Mumbai and my new found familiarity here. Maybe I won't miss the work or the people at work. I won't miss missing home. I will miss the things missing from home now, gone in the past year. All meaninglessness has a meaning...

Leopold Cafe

On that note, on a misty morning, 6 am beckoned me to the road to Mumbai. This time the destination was Gurgaon. All the way. Nonstop one would want to say, but we intended to make stops. When, which city, which hotel, no idea. No plan! I planned to be on the road. And that was the only plan. Nothing else was known. Just drive on. First halt: Mumbai. Leopold cafe.Terror tourism? Iconic place to be ticked off the list. Call it what you will. The place lived upto its expectation. Mojito and fish for brunch. Old Mumbai; Fort, with its imperial buildings; the sea-face. Crossing the Hotel Sea Green and Marina Hotel on Marine drive, places of Godse's stay before the most famous assassination in India. Random haggling over banalities with hawkers on Colaba Causeway. Just one pending action item: capturing on lens South Mumbai during rains. Keep something to come back for.

One hears of places being mentioned and credits them with more than their reality perhaps. Imagination does tend to do wonders. And with such misplaced imagination and against better advise from better half, we land in the remote corner of Indian shores, a lesser known union territory called Daman. Here's some interesting trivia about Daman that I can tell you from first-hand experience and hence full confidence. You can google it if you prefer.

  • Daman is not an island. How do I know...duh! I drove there

  • Diu is not the same as Daman. In fact Daman and Diu are far apart. Why does one say them like they are Siamese twins?

  • Daman is a haven and heaven for its neighbours from Gujarat. It may offer little to other tourists but for the dry state of Gujarat, it is Paradise.
  • on the road again

    The weather is pleasant, the night is young and if the countless flashing signs screaming "Cheers! Grab some Buds!" are to be believed, the weekend has arrived in Daman. Loud blaring karaokes shout for attention amidst the flashy lights and the calm sea. The neighbors have descended. But in all this clamor, there is no quiet corner to enjoy the cool sea breeze, reminisce and try to obliterate yourself from the immediate surroundings. During countless hours in boring meetings one manages to escape into a quiet mindspace? Why not here?

    Knowing that one is travelling on NH 8 creates a sense of safety and calm. The roads will be good, there won't be hooliganism on the roads, there should be plenty of pit stops. But nothing can prepare you for the road post Ahmedabad. As you move from Gujarat onto Rajasthan there is an almost miraculous change of scenery. It is still green (yes Rajasthan is green) but a curious phenomenon starts dotting scattered hill tops. Tiny forts! Unbelievable! Out of complete nothingness these forts emerge reminding one of the majestic past this region once had. Beyond Udaipur you can spot the Chittorgarh fort. Undoubtedly a proud and majestic past.

    The road itself is spectacular. I would pitch it as the best in the country though I cannot statistically validate it. A smooth 120 kms/hour appears to be going slow. You can see the straight road upto the horizon and drive full throttle. Stops are aplenty and the food is delicious, no matter which state. For lunch it was the state's vegetarian delights followed by a pack of Parle G for the mutt. There's always a mutt to look out for. Pay close attention and you will find one. And when you do, keep a Parle G handy...the wagging tail will last well beyond sunset.

    green fields on either side Travelling 1600 kms to the north of the country gives you a sense of how vast and different our country is. How can a tourist from foreign lands claim to have been to India after just visiting Delhi or Mumbai, Kerala or Goa! Anyway can Goa be India? Between miles, the dressing style changed, the language and dialect changed, the landscape changed, the weather changed. From misty Pune weather to hot Mumbai to cool Daman and Ahmedabad to chilly Jaipur and finally cold Gurgaon. All in 3 days. All in 1600 kms.

    Jaipur always remains a city which is a stone's throw from Gurgaon, which can be reached easily, which is familiar enough to wander about in. So when one reaches Jaipur it takes great will to take a logical halt here, instead of driving on for the night. And when in Jaipur what better than Laalmaas. And no matter where you have it, the last one you had is always better. This time it is memory that plays the trick on the palate. Leave Jaipur with a sweatshirt on and enter Delhi/Gurgaon with a jacket. That's winters for you. Just as with the approach of Jaipur the greenery gave way to a dusty deserty feel, with the approach of Gurgaon you get a more Punjabi-Haryanvi look, if you will. What with lush yellow sarson growing everywhere. This could be a scene straight out of a quintessential Yash Raj movie.

    Three days! 1600 kms! Home! I don't know of many people doing this. Here's to NH 8 and the last mile home! The light turns green and the engine whirrs on.

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    Editor: Romola Butalia       (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.