When N & I got married, we promised each other we would never stop wondering. We felt it was a coincidence that the words ‘wondering’ & ‘wandering’ were so similar… Over the last eight years, we have explored much of India!
We pick up our car & drive away at the drop of the hat. Yet, there’s much left to be seen, heard, smelt, tasted, felt & experienced, for India is truly incredible… Travel has given us a chance to experience new cultures, heritage, and food!
More importantly, it’s reinstated our faith in humanity when we have been warmly welcomed by strangers.
We have completed road trips in Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Daman & Diu…
Road trips bring about a heightened sense of experience. They are our preferred mode of travel! Any road trip opportunity excites us. An affection for vehicles, a steadfastness for traffic rules, a sense of amazement, and a flair for writing & storytelling make us perfect for undertaking road journeys…
We document our travelogues in our humble effort to popularise even further the behemoth that Incredible India is! Having said all of this, none of this would have been possible without a partner who seldom says no.
We have always been proud of being unattached to material possessions. It is not that we do not value our belongings, but we do not attach undue importance to at least 90% of our possessions. We thus usually do not get heartbroken if something breaks/ tears occasionally. Or even while decluttering – we are happy to give away things we have not used for quite some time.
We were then caught by surprise when we felt a sinking feeling in our stomachs when we had to sell our car. A beautiful Hyundai Verna, it was running smooth & strong even after eight years. But thanks to vehicular rules in Delhi NCR, we could not continue with our diesel car once it touched the 10-year mark.
We were surprised to find ourselves sad because we have never been sad before when any of our vehicles parted from us. On brooding further, we realized it was because the Verna had been an integral part of our marriage.
When we had first met, N had later dropped P home in the Verna.
N’s ‘barat’ came in the Verna & P’s ‘vidai’ happened in it.
The Verna took us to all our date nights.
It tolerated all the narrow lanes that Google Maps pushed it into.
Most of our road trips happened in the Verna.
It conquered some horrible roads on our travels.
We stuffed truckloads of luggage in the ample boot space of the Verna.
We argued a few times in the Verna. We joked many more times.
It saw us through the seven – year itch!
There will be another car, but it will not have the same memories as those we had with the Verna.
Our throats still get choked thinking about not seeing that gorgeous beast in our parking. You will always have our hearts sweetheart!
Continuing from Chapter 2, a few kilometers before Nathu La, I switched to the other car. I was in for making new friends. A group of Rajasthani couples was on holiday to Guwahati, Shillong and Gangtok.
When I say Rajasthani, I mean ‘proper’ Rajasthani. The men wore dhoti – kurta with pagdis; the women were in ghoonghat. All middle-aged folks, they first assumed I did not know Hindi. I hastened to correct them, and we got chatting.
One of the gentlemen was an ex-farmer, now a linesman with the electricity board. He had educated his children who were now doctors and engineers. The pride was evident in his voice. And then, of course, my interview followed.
Indians are such a curious bunch. They wanted to know if I worked, if I was married, if I had children, why I had moved to their car etc. but, surprisingly, they did not seem astonished that I was traveling alone. I loved interacting with them. N calls me antisocial, but I am pretty social when not overshadowed by his incessant chatter!
The tourists from Rajasthan were also proud of the fact that they had traveled to Guwahati in a ‘plane’. It made me realize how badly we take for granted the things that are still luxuries for millions.
They asked me about the pollution in Delhi; I bared my heart to them – my wish of not returning to Delhi but of settling down in Gangtok itself. Maybe, take up organic farming. I wish it was as easy as talking about it…
Chatting and laughing, we were at Nathu La. From the drop-off point, the climb was not too much but the lack of oxygen made every step difficult. I am unsure where I found my courage from. I marched ahead of others and was soon at the top. And I was stunned!
A rope marks the international boundary. It is easy to crossover to China, except that the Chinese would dislike it. The building on the left belongs to India, the one on the right to China. Even neighbors in the posh colonies of Delhi have higher fences & boundaries.
A Chinese soldier walked out to click a photograph. He looked like a teenager in front of our tall and strong Dogra regiment jawaans. But, underestimating them would be suicidal.
Having contented my heart soaking in this piece of my personal history, and having saluted the Indian tricolor, I started my descent.
Let me not make you think the climb was easy. Everyone struggled. A few senior citizens abandoned their plan of going all the way to the top. Walk slowly, take deep breaths, and travel light. In any case, camera, mobile phones and handbags are prohibited. Sip frequently on water. If you feel faint, do not proceed.
A 15-minute visit causes such tribulation to us; imagine how our soldiers man their posts 365 days of the year, in any weather. They are definitely made of superhuman elements.
On my way down, I picked up a warrior certificate; one that says I was brave enough to visit Nathu La. Yay!
Once back down, I realized my co-passengers were still making their way down. I had some time to click photographs. While doing so, the cab driver paid me a rare compliment – that I was the first Dilliwala he had liked. He wanted me to stay back in Gangtok and was ready to lease his land to me for organic farming. I smile every time I think of this.
It is uncommon for the people of the plains to extend innocent friendships; anything remotely friendly seems creepy to us. This cabbie was not the last person to become friendly; I was to encounter this again and again in Gangtok. I realized that it was just openness towards a guest but the cynic in me questioned their motive, even if my demeanor remained friendly. It is sad that the people of the metropolitan cities have completely lost their goodness. For us, everything seems to have an underlying agenda.
Coming back, a last note on Nathu La – carry an identification card (any government – issued one except a PAN card).
We made our way to the Baba Mandir where my own cab awaited. I bid a hearty goodbye to the Rajasthani tourists but I was to bump into them again.