2019 arrived and I had no inkling that life was going to change so much so soon. Started the year on a dull note, totally lifeless and not knowing what direction life was moving in. Was shifting into a new home I thought, but that also did not happen. Like there was some jinx and something was not allowing me to move on and settle down. But my inner universe told me that this year would be the turning point of my life since Chao had gone. Not knowing where to go, I shifted with my full baggage to Lonavla, my home and felt so much ease. It felt like I was finally home. For 2.5 years I had tried to find a life in Mumbai and there had been a constant inner struggle. I felt calm being back home. As I was unpacking, 3 days later, I got a call from Raj and Shilpa Shetty (had worked with them before and done their wedding) with an offer for me which I couldn’t refuse. I had been waiting for this call for the past 6 months and the Universe had granted me my wish. In 2 days everything was finalised and I had no option to say no. Mumbai was not going to leave me.
Back in Mumbai from end of January and after joining work from February, I was missing being on the roads and the weather was also playing havoc. Thought a change of environment would be good, so decided to go on this trip with my lifeline The Roadtrippers Club. Didn’t care where they were going as long as the company was good and I had a car to carpool. My Dhanno was not with me and I was not fit to drive recovering from a throat infection. I was told the trip was sold out but I knew that a slot would open up for me (God’s will). They have always supported me and accommodated me even at the last minute. It was meant to be and Rahul (The Wanderer) was kind to let me into his Honda Jazz, so I was sorted.
I was super excited to just meet everyone, hit the road, travel to a new destination, breathe the clean air, carpool with Rahul and be with myself. Didn’t even imagine that this one would be one of the most exciting, memorable, hard-hitting and thrilling trips of my life. And that was going to be the highlight!
Was so thrilled that could hardly sleep and was up at 4.00 am and ready by 4.30 to be picked up by Colonel and Sanjay, his grandson. They arrived earlier than 5.00am as they live very close to my mom’s place in Kandivli and we were on our way to the assembly point in Kharghar in their fully automatic new Honda CRV. So kind of them to allow me to carpool with them. Sanjay doesnt talk much and was a safe driver. He drove comfortably in no hurry and we reached Kharghar perfectly on time at 6.00 am. Tanmay, the genius had found this chai stall which would be open so early. It was so good to see Vineet, Deepak, Rahul, Ankush, Arunava, Aldrich, Tanmay, Nikhil & Ashwin. Got a lot of congratulations for my new job! Excited about that! And was happy to see some new faces – Karishma, Asmita and Neal who have recently joined RTC, Reetika, Madhuri & Utkarsh with Ankush (they were the big surprise) and Shweta on the bike with Tanmay – our drive Captain. First time Vineet & Deepak were traveling together. A drive briefing and rules set, convoy lineup decided and we were on our way. Arunava, Tanmay with Shweta pillion (for the first time, Tammy kisiko nahin le jaata apna saath jaldi se), Aldrich & Ashwin on their bikes went ahead since they would be taking the old highway (bikes are not allowed on the Expressway). RTC Scorpio leading the convoy followed by Thar, followed by Honda CRV with Colonel and tailed by Rahul and me in his Honda Jazz. Rahul was wondering if I would enjoy his company or not. The road will tell!
As we drove towards the breakfast point, Rahul and me got chatting. We always chat so much anyways, but its on drives like these that I get to know them better. So Rahul is getting married this March and congratulations are in order! His to-be-half is also an avid roadtripper like him and that will be so exciting. Its always so much fun if your partner also enjoys driving and travel. Me and Chao would not need anyone for days – our favourite roads, our love for each other and our Dhanno. Life was beautiful. So wishing Rahul and Kavita lots of happiness and thousands of kms in road trips. Ha ha! Rahul was good company and is a good driver and his simplicity touched me immensely. Being the tail car, there were times when we were left behind but Rahul drove at the pace he was comfortable, not racing at all. That’s my kind of driver.
The drive was excellent and with music and chatting, didn’t realise how the time went by. Breakfast was a disaster at this food court that we stopped. After Pune we stopped at another meeting point, where Arpita & Subendu joined us with their daughter Pramiti and Pankaj in their Mahindra TUV. After Satara, we turned towards the state highway inwards where the scenic roads were a welcome sight. Karishma picked up some strawberries which were very tasty. The last few kms towards Chandoli Resort were so scenic and the lake view was just outstanding. We stopped for a few minutes to click pictures. Finally after a drive of about 370 kms, we reached Chandoli Resort. Lunch was served as we were all famished following which the check-in was done.
Chandoli Resort is a beautiful hidden gem with a variety of rooms available from double storey chalets, single cottages and a tent that can accommodate 6 people. The chalets are tastefully done with a swing, wooden furnishings, and a rustic character. I was in the tent with the girls – Karishma, Shweta & Asmita. Like on every road trip, I thought everyone would settle down in their rooms and some would go for a quick nap. There was no electricity and so it was hot inside the rooms. One group settled around the lobby area and started chatting. I wanted to take a quick nap since I hardly slept last night, so I found a spot where our new gang of Reetika, Madhuri, Utkarsh had started their daru session with Ankush.
I settled down on the grass under the shade of the tree. It was a nice cosy spot and I was comfortable in the space. Little did I know that with their ramblings and crazy laughter coming in bits and pieces, sleeping would not be an option. In between Utkarsh’s singing and Ankush’s banter, I managed to take a few winks. But what masti they were doing. They just kept on going about Gully Boy and the rap songs. Woh kehte hain na – jab daru andar jayegi tab masti bahar aayegi. The song from “Karma” was totally apt for the situation. I thoroughly enjoyed myself getting to know this Hard group and learn some Gully boy language – bantai bachi bamai, mucha, bahut hard hai and the hard-hitting lyrics of “Meri gully mein”. Yeh pantar log faad rahe they. Now I wanted to watch Gully Boy as soon as possible having heard so much about it. Had no doubt about Ranveer Singh’s acting prowess but the rap was just overpowering. Very very interesting! My husband Chao would always say – dekhna ek din filmon mein jo apna asli hindustan hai woh dikhayenge yeh log. Kya ghanta jaante hain yeh 200 crore wale problem dikhate hain TV channels pe. Har gully mein zindagi kaise jeete hain log, chhote shehron mein, chhote chhote sapney hote hain, yeh sab jaldi hi aayega, apna time aayega. And was so happy to see that happen. He would have loved this new genre that we are seeing in our films and TV series – Mirzapur, Sacred Games & Gully Boy – this is us, our country, our India. Kaash!
Coming back, I went looking for tea to the lobby area where another group had already had their cuppa and were listening to some music while a few others were in their rooms. I told them that they were missing all the fun. So this group decided to go down to the lake and I joined them. We took 2 cars and went exploring the nearby surroundings. We spotted a few peacocks and went down to the water near a bridge. A few pictures were clicked, but we couldn’t find the lake. It was dark by the time we got back. By then, it was starting to get cold and the other hard group was already a few bottles down. We gathered around the spot where a fire was lit to keep us warm. From here, the evening just skyrocketed into something that we will all remember for a long time. And the craziness begun!
We commenced with our patent Road trippers introduction round which started with me. I am one of the oldest members of RTC and been with them almost for a year now. And its been a beautiful journey. RTC is my lifeline which brought me back from my depression and made me realise that I missed driving and these road trips shouldn’t stop now that my life partner, my husband is no longer there. He would want me to continue living, traveling and be happy. I have my 10year old Zen Estilo and have driven at least or more than 1 lac km since I started driving.
Everyone else continued their introduction and I shall try to encapsulate some of it. You have to come for one of the trips to be a part of this craziness. Arpita and her husband are from Pune along with their daughter Pramiti and are working professionals. Didn’t interact much with Subendu, but Pramiti was hooked onto the DSL camera brought by Neal and clicked tons of pictures. Hope to see them soon. Arpita is bindaas and very clear minded. She loves to travel, but hates to drive. And she wants a new car – she kept saying to Subendu. I wonder why? Pankaj accompanied by them works in Germany with an IT firm. He’s here briefly for a break. Colonel and Sanjay (his grandson) have joined us for many trips before and he has been a part of the 1971 Indo-Pak war. I’m sure he will have lots of stories to share. This trip I got to spend more time with them. Nikhil is a great friend, always smiling and an avid biker. Arunava is a bike lover again, very helpful and a pleasant personality who has become a good friend in 2 meetings. Aldrich, always on the bike, doesn’t talk much but is a simple fun loving person. Have to chat with him more. Ashwin is also the quiet one, on his bike and keeps filming on his go pro. Shweta, so thin, was mostly quiet and slowly came to life in the evening singing songs with us. (1-2 drinks down) That’s about the bikers!
Ankush our expert DOP (Director of Photography) works in the film industry along with Reetika (she’s a part of the Sab TV creative team working on 2 shows for them), Madhuri (she’s a fashion stylist, not working currently) and Utkarsh – he’s a Project Head working with Peninsula Pictures with lots of experience and very versatile. This one was the Hard gang, full of masti and madness. I have travelled with Ankush so many times, but havent seen him so full of life till now. He was so drunk and singing the Gully Boy songs over and over again. How do you describe the madness that you experience with these people? I have no words to sum it up.
And then we have the RTC team – Deepak who’s always so much fun, always seeking attention and yeah super talented and so handsome (that’s what he always says). Vineet always smiling and in Deepak’s words – always crashing into something and a disaster waiting to happen. He has been a great support for me. Tanmay – iske baare mein kya bolun, I think everything was said there. He is the one who will stand by you always, never get agitated, who’s an expert planner, superb navigator, so knowledgeable with all the routes and always finding these hidden gems for RTC. And he can sleep anywhere, on the road, in the bushes and loves his bike. He has taken over the reins of RTC Mumbai since a few months and that has helped RTC grow by leaps and bounds with 17 chapters. And he has been instrumental in bringing more and more people to join the club. And we have Karishma, Neal and Asmita who are new entrants but working diligently to help RTC grow further. And they are each an asset to the team with their various talents.
So as the daru flowed, there was lots of laughter, cheering, smiles, shouts, singing, dancing, emotions, a common love for the roads and therefore this banter. As dinner was served, we took a break from the dancing and enjoyed our meal. After dinner, I was feeling very very cold since I was just recovering from a stomach infection and did not even bring too many warm clothes. So I went into my room and it took 4 blankets with my tshirts, sweater and shawl to keep me from shivering. After a while, again the insanity started and I could hear the music and shouting for a long time as I drifted off. Apparently they slept around 2am and the girls did not sleep all night. Bravo!
A small group went for the early morning safari at the Chandoli National Park and they spotted a few birds, peacocks and deers. I was up early but did not have the mental strength to fight with the cold. So gave it a miss. It was a bit warm by the time I went outside for my cup of tea. The RTC gang had created history with their hulla gulla last night at the resort. Thankfully it was fully booked out for our group. After breakfast, I asked Reetika to click a few pictures for me and she happily obliged. My best pictures have been always clicked by my husband and she clicked some wonderful photos for me being so creative and bright.
Oh I forgot to mention that Ankush had all throughout yesterday started calling me Meeta maa and decided that he will inherit my Lonavla home in return for the Thar. Maine kaha – dono rakh le vats. Maata ka aashirwad sadaiv tumhare saath hai. Jab Mercedes aayegi woh de dena. Ha haha!!! I think I hadn’t laughed so much in a while! After breakfast we got our mandatory group shot and then the convoy left for the journey home. We stopped for another few pics at the scenic lake point where I got my first shot on the road. From here, it was adios to the bikers who were setting out ahead of us joined by Rahul in his Jazz. I continued with Rahul for a bit till we hit the National Highway where we did a stopover for lunch at a Dhaba selected by our Captain. After lunch we all bid our farewells to each other. Our convoy of 4 cars stayed together almost till Pune after which we left the group since I had to stop over at my place in Lonavla to pick up a few things. Colonel, Sanjay, Shweta and me took a 1 hour halt at Lonavla after which I took over driving from Sanjay who was exhausted from all the driving. I had missed driving so much and I just loved driving the fully automatic CRV all the way home!
All in all to sum up this journey I’d like to borrow lines written by our gorgeous Reetika on her Instagram post – Travelling. The feeling of not knowing where you are heading to or who you are with. That feeling of exploring all of it at once with the company of these beautiful people; wanting to learn about their intriguing lives. It is one of the most wonderful things in the world. Being present at places you only imagined existed. Accepting the company of people that teaches you the value of life and that shows you that there are bigger things than you and the problem around.
People who open your eyes to various situations in life which makes you a better person. New beginnings. New cultures. The roads are endless. With so many turns and every turn is worth exploring. And that’s exactly how I felt with this group of the unknown to now, the known. They felt like family. They felt familiar. They felt like magic.
That’s what travelling is. And that’s what every person in their own world is; we are magic!💕
Couldn’t have said better than this. These people are my family, my life, my support, my friends, my reason to live! Bahot hard hai yeh sab bantai! Thank you once again Roadtrippers Club for the fabulous work that you are doing! Always miss Chao and I know that he is watching from somewhere and he would have loved each one of you the same way I do.
Keep reading, sharing, subscribing and liking my posts and love for the roads. Till the next road trip, its adios from Your Rearview Mirror!