Having been associated with the Road Trippers Club now for a few months, I wanted to lead a trip and learn a few things, when lo behold Vineet suggested the same. After being featured in Mumbai Mirror, the club has got a lot of recognition and many like minded travellers are joining in. An NGO – Prem Seva Mahila Mandal had contacted Vineet and explained about children not having basic necessities. So after speaking to them more in detail, we combined the two – our love for driving and working towards a cause and decided to do a day trip to the Ashram Shalas visiting and donating books, clothes and other necessities. The trip details were shared on the respective groups and social media and thanks to the support, we were able to collect more than we had anticipated for the children of the Adivasis who live with meagre belongings.
Stella from the NGO had suggested a 1 hour drive from Kalyan but when the final call came from Chaitrali who had gone to do a survey to the village and find a school where all the kids can be accommodated comfortably, away from the rain, she said its 160km from Kalyan. So it became a 3 hour drive and time was of essence.
At 4.45am Chetan was in my building before time to pick me up. We loaded all the stuff for donations in his Fortuner while Poorvi joined us and then picked up Kirtee from Dahisar. We were still on time and reached the meeting point at 06:01 am. Slowly most of the road trippers joined in and it was lovely to meet Vineet’s parents, Mr & Mrs. Mehta, the vibrant Kashmira along with her husband and her daughter Harshala, the smiling Savitha with her really quiet daughter Akshaya. We were all ready to leave on time, just waiting for Madam Shilpa Jain who was coming from New Mumbai to join us. Apparently she was circling around the area without navigating and when she finally came in it was a relief. I gave her a quick hug and then jumped into her car with Poorvi (she’s a food blogger who is active on Trell and writes on www.rovinglensstories.com). I’m learning a few tricks from her to get some followers on my blog and Instagram. Phew!
Thus started our convoy onwards to Kalyan Mc Donald’s for a quick breakfast before starting the drive towards Murbad. We were running late by an hour and after a simple breakfast with some Brioche, hash browns, eggs, etc along with Mrs. Madhu Mehta’s amazing home made tea, we were joined by the pretty Chaitrali who led the convoy in her Ertiga. Her simplicity and seeing her commitment towards spending her life working towards helping others in need is really inspiring. Hope I can do that someday! Pawan joined us from here with his friend in the majestic Thar. The best part was that all the cars were loaded with clothes, notebooks and other stuff that we had all gathered.
The drive once we crossed the city of Kalyan was so scenic and calming. The green carpet all around with fields and farmers toiling in the incessant rain to grow crops to feed us. Maharashtra is the most beautiful in the monsoons and nothing beats that. We stopped on turns to ensure that everyone was on the right track. Most of the cars stuck together and once the roads became narrower, we were all in a single line following Shilpa. I found myself saying “Be careful” a lot of times. Ha ha ha! Was happy that this time there were quite a few female drivers – Shilpa, Kashmira, Savitha! Driving non-stop for the next 3 hours, passing by various bridges with water flowing almost over them, with mountains and lush green valleys spread out on both sides of the road, crossing various small villages and villagers trying to protect themselves from the rain, we reached the beautiful village Valhiware surrounded by nature all around.
We took a round of the premises with the village ladies taking us around. The first room was a huge hall which had small petis lined up against the walls. This was the room where all the kids slept and all their belongings were in that one small briefcase sized bag. A few clothes, some books – their most precious possessions. Life can be so simple yet we complicate it everyday always wanting more and more. Next was a room with a few sewing machines and the walls were adorned by hand paintings done by these talented kids. Unbelievable! Something to learn.
What is a road trip without some excitement and Shilpa hit a big rock so her rear tyre was punctured. While we were doing the rounds, Shilpa was learning how to jack the tyre and replace it with the Stepney.
I wanted to talk to the girls about menstrual hygiene and some other basics and how to differentiate between the right and wrong touch. Kashmira jumped in so confidently explaining everything to them in Marathi so they could understand everything. Watching Kashmira interact with them and Shilpa teaching them basic pranayama was so inspiring. It was therapeutic for me, just being there and watching the calm faces of these girls. Their expressions and smiles and their simplicity just touched our hearts. Kashmira is a natural and she even taught the girls a few steps of dance, becoming a little girl, giggling and laughing with them. All heart!
The sarpanch had arranged for all the little kids to gather in one large room and welcomed the Road Trippers Club for all their contributions. Vineet’s parents are already doing something similar with kids in Mumbai and it was so cute to see uncle with the boys, cheering and laughing away. We distributed the books and compass and the chocolates to all the kids who were neatly seated in 8 rows. Their faces lit up when they were given chocolates and most of the kids were saving them I guess to share with their siblings or friends. So disciplined and so innocent! These kids are our future and I really hope that we can do much more for them. We lost track of time playing with them, becoming a little child again with them, posing for pictures, etc
The homely lunch prepared for us was tasty and simple, totally organic and from their farms. Bhakri, dal, sabzi and jalebis. Filling and satisfying. It was pouring while we got into our cars with the assistance of the local staff and started our journey back to civilization. Felt a huge bump just outside the gate of the school. Realised our dearest Shilpa had put the whole rear wheel in a nalla (rivulet) and somehow got out of it as well. Hahaha! A few kms down the road Vineet pointed out the puncture of the other side rear tyre. So we had no option but to drive slowly as the stepney was already used and till we find a garage, nothing could be done. The local village car traveling with us offered to get the tyre repaired. So we parked the car near a village with a beautiful view and the guys together removed the tyre and took it for repairs. This is the advantage of traveling in a convoy. Help is close-by and I’m always wary of traveling alone (I guess I should learn how to change a tyre) though everyone might not have the inclination to be able to do it.
We girls wandered down to the village along with a farmer bringing his goats back home. We requested him to get some tea made for us and his daughter-in-law obliged. His earthy simple home had a room for the goats and some barks of leaves ready for them to munch on. A bike was parked inside the hut and the kitchen had a few pots which they used to get water everyday from the well closeby. We sat down chatting with the Adivasi bahu and she was all smiles boiling some water for us in a vessel over a chulha. No gas and as the wooden sticks burnt, the water boiled and she added lots of sugar and some tea. She didnt have goat milk so we were just happy with the black tea that she offered in simple cups. Was so touched by her kindness and that cup of tea was filled with love as we girls did a cheers – to life! We offered her money which she refused to take – Athithi Devo Bhava – that was her motto. All heart!
Shilpa, Poorvi and me just kept chatting and obviously they had never witnessed something like this before. I have been to hundreds of homes like this and even cooked a few meals with the farmers as they meet to discuss problems and solutions for farming with my husband as we offered our video services pro-bono to them. Would like to continue some of this work again, though it doesn’t feel the same without him. We always learnt so much meeting these farmers – will share that in another post for everyone to imbibe. By then, the tyre was back, all repaired and in a few minutes we were ready to head back. In the meanwhile, all the other cars which had managed to reach the main highway, were waiting for us to join them enjoying the oodles of chai and nashta at Hotel Rainbow (from where the view of the waterfalls was so stunning). We finally joined them – but the excitement was not over yet. There was yet another noise coming from Shilpa’s car. We all laughed heartily at this irony and the never-ending adventure. The men took trials of the vehicle as Shilpa was flabbergasted at her car behaving like this. She was so worried but always cheerful! (Main aur meri gaadi aaj ghar pahunchenge na!)
Finally we told the others to leave as Vineet (he is always so helpful and patient) and Mr. Mehta decided to show her car in a nearby garage and then proceed further. I carpooled with Waqas and Farah and Kirtee joined us as we all lived towards the western suburbs. Finally at about 6.30pm we were on our way towards Murbad and then Kalyan. On the way we were enjoying some nice Hindi songs and Farah remembered every word of these songs. Quite a film buff! It was also nice to know Krunal a bit more as he kept offering me packets of Moong Dal, mixture, kurmura, biscuits etc. In all this conundrum, I had forgotten that I was hungry. Krunal was funny and cute and kept us entertained all along. Checked with Shilpa about her car and apparently the noise had stopped on its own and they weren’t far behind. That was a relief! After struggling with the Killer Kalyan traffic, we finally got home around 11.30 pm.
My first road trip leading this group was highly memorable, thrilling, giving, satisfying, gratifying filled with blessings and the support of all the beautiful people who were part of this journey which I shall always cherish. Found new friends in Shilpa, Poorvi, Kirtee, Savitha, got love from Mr & Mrs. Mehta and Vineet’s parents and confidence from Kashmira. So so happy for these little gifts that the universe bestows on me. Thank you once again to each and everyone who contributed to the cause and a big thank you to the Road Trippers Club!