HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
Firstly I’d like to apologise for not being regular and posting for two months. Hardly travelled and was busy with shifting home. Thought this would be the last time for a few years, but life had other plans. Made a mistake by not thinking it through and just hated the place, environment, vibes, water, air. When everything feels negative, there is something wrong. Like life stopped for a few months. So again decided to move and so moving into my new house before this year ends. I’m hoping 2019 will be different for me and more successful and settling. Just tired of all the upheaval and want to start life afresh. Chao will never come back and I promise to live life (not pass life) and be happy!
Kashmira called just one day before the roadtrippers were supposed to leave for this trip to visit the Statue of Unity – the World’s Tallest Statue at Sardar Sarovar Dam, Kevadia, Gujarat. She said one spot had opened up and I should join the trip. Avoid taking my car and carpool with her and Jay (her husband). I checked my schedule and immediately called Vineet. He checked with the other ladies for room sharing and they readily agreed to accommodate me last minute. And here I was heading out to Gujarat with some old & some new friends for the last trip of 2018. Sometimes the universe does favor last minute travelers.
Super excited, I could hardly sleep. Asha picked me up from Oberoi Mall with Kavita bhabhi (she has now become the universal bhabhi of our group) and Sheelaji in her BMW. Headed to the meet-up point at Lodha Dham as the sun emerged and it was going to be a beautiful day. It’s always nice to meet everyone else – Tapan, Yayawar, Chetan, Swati & Ajay. Reena was a new entrant along with Chetan in his Thar. After a quick briefing & chai session with the line-up decided, I switched cars and got into Kashmira’s Mobilio as our convoy of 5 cars headed to Ahura where another gang of roadtrippers were out for a day drive. I was supposed to be with them but I got lucky!
Kashmira was driving patiently and followed all the rules of the convoy never overtaking Swati & Ajay’s Ciaz which we felt was going very slow at times. We reached the breakfast stop at Ahura and ordered a sumptuous breakfast as everyone was hungry by then. Idlis, dosas, omelettes, Bun maska – good food. Soon we were joined by Tanmay, Pooja with Onkar (our youngest roadtripper – he’s only 4 months old) and a group of new entrants with our avid bikers Mithun & a few other new members. I was very excited to play with Onkar while we waited for Divya to arrive with her hubby since it was their wedding anniversary and its been a while since I had met her. They were having some car trouble and took some time to arrive. Was so so excited to meet her when they finally came. We had a long journey ahead of us. So after hugs and bidding goodbye, we finally set out towards Surat.
The drive on NH48 is quiet peaceful but we did get a lot of traffic. Till we had crossed Maharashtra and entered Gujarat, there were lots of vehicles on the road and after Vapi it started getting a bit easier. I switched cars again and got into Swati & Ajay’s car. Regrouping after tolls and chatting all along, 3-4 hours passed and we stopped at a Kathaiwadi Dhaba for some local Gujarati food. The Bajra rotla, sev tomato ki sabzi with typical Gujarati sweet dal was tasty and satisfying. Swati just relished the Undhiyo while Asha, Sheela & Kavitaji went for jalebi & fafda. It was way past lunch time and we were just so hungry.
The drive after lunch was uneventful and I switched cars again back with Kashmira & Jayaram. Once we turned from Karjan towards State Highway 161 Dabhoi-Bodeli Rd, the flavour of the country roads was far more scenic and diverse. I just feel closer to home when driving down these roads. The true flavour of our country is here, as we pass villages, small huts, bullock carts and simple village folk. While I took a short nap, after driving for 86kms, our convoy led by the Thar turned towards our stopover for the night – the Jambughoda Palace (A Home for Nature Lovers) discovered by our veteran roadtripper – Tapan Patel.
The rooms were beautiful adorned with traditional Rajasthani sheets and the whole feel was very native to old Gujarat-Rajasthan. Clean and spacious bathrooms and almost royal dignified decor. I was sharing the room with Swati and Reena.
Everyone settled down in their rooms and while we were all getting to know each other some more, dinner was served. Fruits and vegetables are grown organically on the farm and the simple home-made food was nice. Everyone was tired after driving almost 460kms and by 10pm, most of us retired to our rooms including the men. They had the chance to have a couple of drinks in their rooms but were tired. First time I think in the history of RTC, 10pm everyone was in their beds asleep. (We are always up till 1-2am chatting so far in all the trips that I’ve done with RTC.) Swati, Reena and me got chatting for a bit.
Swati works with special kids – kids who have autism, cerebral palsy, genetic conditions, ADHD, learning disabilities and others. It’s her own school and she has dedicated more than 25 years of her life doing this. This work requires total commitment and so much patience and I was shocked when she said that she sleeps by 8.30 every evening and is up at 5am. It was so inspiring and motivating. I do intend to visit her school “Asmita” soon and maybe it will change my life for the better. Working for these kids can surely be a life changer. Going to do this as soon as possible.
Reena is a French teacher and a single mother with an adult daughter. It is unbelievable, she herself looks so young, I thought she was joking. She teaches in a school as well as conducts classes from home. I’m going to take her help to improve my Spanish language skills. It needs a lot of work and Learning a second language offers proven benefits for intelligence, memory, and concentration and lowered risks of dementia and Alzheimer’s plus a good workout for the brain. Cant wait to get back to it. Totally invigorated by these two wonderful women, I fell asleep.
Woke up early at 6am and as usual went out for a walk. It was chilly and I waited for the sun to come up a bit. At leisure just walked around exploring the Palace property. It has a swimming pool, a nice restaurant, two big lawns, about 20 rooms and plenty of parking space. You can take a nice walk in the property itself, no need to venture outside. My favourite spot was the swing near the restaurant where I did my morning prayers in peace. Hot tea is a necessity in cold weather and my Chao would have refused to come out of the blanket without it. So remembering him I had 2-3 cups of hot masala tea talking to him and showing him this wonderful place through my eyes.
Slowly everyone was up and ready and after a hot filling breakfast, we started our drive to see the World’s Tallest Statue – Statue of Unity, recently inaugurated by our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. I got into Chetan’s Thar with Tapan leading the convoy and kept capturing the scenic roads with my mobile and video camera. We tried to play some music, and Tapan who likes to listen to old songs, was super amazed with Chetan’s selection of disco and remix songs. In 2 hours, we reached and after parking, got into the queue for the bus to take us to the statue.
Located in Gujarat’s Narmada district, the Statue of Unity is a colossal statue of Indian statesman and independence activist Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel – the Iron Man of India. With a height of 182m, it is almost 100ft taller than China’s Spring Temple Buddha, which was the tallest before this one got made. The Statue was built in less than 5 years and inaugurated on October 31 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with much fanfare. To be able to get a bird’s eye view of the surroundings of the site from a height of about 400 feet, you need to buy a viewing gallery ticket, which also gives you access to the observation desk. This ticket costs Rs 350 for adults and Rs 200 for kids and takes you to a platform along the chest of the statue in high-speed elevators. After waiting for over 2 hours, when we went up, and it was a total disappointment. The observation desk is just not worth the time, effort or money and I would strongly advise anyone against wasting time for that. The magnanimous Statue is best visible from afar.
Inside the venue, there is another huge statue and a lot of information about our independence and the life of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is depicted in pictures. Along with me, a lot of people believe that India would be so different & far more ahead of our times if Vallabhbhai Patel had become our Prime Minister. I got a lot of time to read all about it and go through the pictures and capture them. All of us were famished and stopped at another Kathiawadi place for lunch. The drive back to the palace was quiet and serene. Just loved the roads encompassed with trees on both sides making it look picturesque and soothing.
Tapan could not sleep the whole night due to Yayawar’s snores and said that he would leave for his factory, but we convinced him to sleep in one of our rooms and stay back. Thoda maska maarna pada, but it was worth it. He also didn’t want to leave actually, and finally agreed. Hot tea was ordered and then we started the game of Dumb Charades. The 12 of us were divided into two groups and rules were explained. I had seen other people playing a few times before but never played myself. Kavita bhabhi was also shy and didn’t want to participate, but we all had to play. Asha & Reena were experts and were divided between the teams. Tapan, Chetan, Asha, Jay, Neeraj and me were one team and Kashmira, Swati, Ajay, Reena, Kavita & Sheela were the other team.
Now I have to say – the next 90 minutes were the best I think of 2018 for all of us where we all laughed, giggled, shouted in excitement, made fun, imitated, bonded and enjoyed the company of each other whole-heartedly. Humne poora palace sar pe utha liya tha. Saw the funny side of Chetan with his never stopping one liners, commenting on every action trying to guess the name of the film. This was the 4th trip with him and I had never imagined that he would be such a fun person with a wild sense of humour. When it was his turn to enact the film, he just kept giggling and couldn’t do it. His gujarati lines just kept all of us in splits and I don’t think I have laughed so much since Chao has gone. Asha was the expert always anxious that we couldn’t guess the most simplest names. Reena was struggling with her cold, and was guessing most of the names, clapping at all Chetan’s remarks. Swati was the quintessential leader of the opposing team and the squabble was interesting to watch. Sheela managed to get through, but Kavita bhabhi was a surprise – enacting the most intelligently to explain the film. I managed and enjoyed the process as well learning something new. Tapan was equally bad at explaining the name and Ajay & Neeraj also just sailed through. Kashmira was like the drama queen and so unabashedly expressive and Jay was equally hilarious. Jay would get a kiss from Kashmira every time he guessed the name right. It didn’t matter who was winning or losing, just the camaraderie (the Roadtrippers Club likes to call it) was astonishing. And the arguments whether the film existed or not were comical to watch.
The magic of these lovely people continued as we played antakshari. This was again high-spirited, extremely amusing and boisterous garnished with tongue-in-cheek humor by our funny man Chetan all along. As we sang mostly old songs with different akshars, Jay would suddenly hum the tunes and start singing the music. Kashmira was vibrant and entertaining. Swati would say the words of the song never once singing and that was amusing too. I opened up after a few songs and tried to sing as well as I could. Ajay sang all strange songs and Chetan would immediately say – “hum log ye sab dance bar wale gaane nahin gaate.” And everyone would be laughing. Sheela & Kavita bhabhi remembered a lot of old 60s & 70s melodies as well as Yayawar. Its so strange that we listen to all the latest songs so often but when playing antakshari only the old songs are remembered. The craziness continued till dinner time after which we all crashed. This was one evening that we all will cherish all our lives. Thank you RoadTrippers Club for this!
Next morning everyone was upbeat and we clicked photos in different groups. Swati & Ajay had already left early morning. I pulled out my video camera and did some interviews with all the roadtrippers. Will edit a video soon. After breakfast, we said farewell to Tapan who was leaving for Anand and started our return journey home. Our convoy of 4 cars – 2 majestic Thars, Kashmira’s Mobilio and Asha’s BMW. I even drove the Thar for some time and driving is always soothing for me. After lunch, we all decided to head our separate ways. Hugs and bye-byes done, I got back into the BMW with Asha, Sheela & Kavitaji for the return journey. These 3-4 hours with them were good, chatting and getting to know them more. Reached Fountain Hotel at 6 and because we hit peak traffic, we took longer to reach our respective homes. (Hate Mumbai for this very reason!)
All in all, this was one of the most exciting road trips that I had been on in a long time. Ending the year on a high with this vivacious group was the best thing I did. A big big thank you to Kashmira for inviting me last minute! And for everyone to allow me to carpool in their cars especially Asha for dropping me home in Goregaon! Always feel sad when a road trip is ending and didn’t feel like returning to my empty house. Wishing the New Year will bring new joy, new hope, new inspiration, new goals and new achievements with new taste of life for all of us.
Farewell for now and see you in 2019 on another road trip, with another mad bunch of fellow trippers as we live some more and capture moments and reminisce them in The Rearview Mirror!!! Adios!