A road less travelled the better

Going home crossing three states in a car with friends should have been a breeze. But potholes and truck pile-ups in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh made it a nightmare

Windows rolled down, wind in your hair, music in the background as you stare at the ever changing colours of the sky – that’s what a road trip looks like. Well until you actually take one.

Like most others, the idea of a road trip with friends was enticing, to say the least, but remained elusive due to perennial constraints of time. Now with the ongoing pandemic allowing us enough time, we decided to hit the road – Delhi to Kolkata and return.

Mind you, I am not completely uninitiated with road trips, with the occasional drive down to Himachal Pradesh or Uttarakhand from the Capital. But the never-ending distance to Kolkata is what I was unprepared for.

Setting out early in the morning, the four of us, two of whom know driving, were quite pumped up. With enough snacks packed, seats reclined to our comfort, I connected my phone to the Bluetooth of our Toyota Innova. I couldn’t help myself from playing the ‘Journey Song’ from Piku, as we all smiled, visualising our ensuing journey as shown in the movie.

A few hours in, and it dawned on me that perhaps all that magic shown in Piku is nothing but fiction. While the sun burned us, the distance on the map seemed to be crawling, and Kolkata felt like a distant dream. None of us had any music downloaded in our phones and we had to rely on the intermittent networks of our phones.

To avoid contact with people since we were travelling home, we decided to travel straight to Kolkata without any stop. We did stop for dinner and a few loo breaks — the search for a hygienic one too was quite an effort.

Since Uttar Pradesh was in lockdown over the weekends, it ensured a smooth ride for us. Crossing Bihar wasn’t all that smooth as the potholes and innumerable diversions, made for quite a bumpy ride. However, the only stretch of the journey that is worth rolling down your windows for and enjoying the view outside, is Hazaribagh in Jharkhand, which we unfortunately crossed at night.

Yet the journey to Kolkata, albeit boring, strenuous and back-breaking was still quite smooth. We travelled 1,500 km in 24 hours, three hours less than what the map showed us, all thanks to the innumerable Red Bulls we gulped down.

Green fields and hills of Hazaribagh

It was the journey back to Delhi that has me convinced I will never take another road trip home. Our mood didn’t help either, as none of us wanted to leave Kolkata.

Taking it a little slower, we were chilling and cruising through the beautiful stretches of Jharkhand, and stopped occasionally for smoke breaks. The skies were playing along and offered us multiple brilliant shades of blue and grey.

Everything was running smooth until we hit Bodh Gaya in Bihar. Multiple trucks had lined up with no signs of moving. On inquiring, they informed us that they were stuck in the same spot for the past four hours. With no options left we took the wrong side, and to our surprise found another line of trucks stuck there too.

Thankfully, both my friends had good control over the steering and managed to filter through the traffic, taking risks at every cut. The stretch of 7-8 km took us a good one and half hours to cover and the sun had already set before we could cross half of Bihar.

Trying to rush through the next few 100 km was also futile as the roads were in a terrible shape. Our next hurdle came near the Bihar-UP border, with a similar truck situation. Forced to take a U-turn, we tried to cross a stretch of divider that was dug out and our car got stuck. A few tries later, we fortunately got it out and it took us another few hours to cross the stretch.

Numerous detours and wrong sides later, we finally reached Kanpur when the skies started changing colours and dawn broke. It seemed even Red Bulls couldn’t pull us through anymore. The journey seemed endless and all we wished was to be magically transported back to our apartments.

It took us another six dreadful hours till we were finally home. While the 30-hour journey did leave us with everlasting memories, it’s one that I would not like to relive ever again.

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