Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Country Roads Take Me Home

If I look back at 2013, despite all the personal and professional milestones, the one thing that stands out would definitely be the amount of traveling I have done this year. Eight new countries, fifteen new cities, close to a month of traveling across Europe and Asia in different modes of transport, with different kinds of people, under different circumstances and extreme weather conditions: it has indeed been a year which opened my eyes to the wider world out there. From the human atrocities in the Killing Fields and Auschwitz, the architectural wonders of Angkor Wat, the old world charm of Prague, the artistic appeal of Vienna, the historical allure of Berlin to the natural intimidation of the snow-clad Matterhorn peak in Zermatt, I have been to some of the remote corners of the world which didn’t even exist in my narrow world defined by the borders of Hirandandani.

Appropriately, a year which began with an impromptu trip to Ajanta Ellora, ended with another quick getaway to Himachal Pradesh over Christmas. For someone who is extremely accident prone, I have been blessed with friends and family members who simply love to get behind the wheels, put on some good music and drive for miles, while all I have to do is peacefully sit and criticize.

The moment I reached Delhi on Christmas Day, my kid brother (no longer a kid) took charge of the proceedings, as the two of us, along with a couple of friends, hit the road, and for the umpteenth time, I realized that it doesn’t really take much to be happy: good company, good music, good alcohol and good humour will do the job more often than not! The six-hour journey to the sleepy town of Kasauli was a breeze as we swept through three states, stopping by the occasional roadside dhaba for chai, parathas and lassi. My last roadtrip was almost two years back from Bangalore to Mysore and Coorg, and I couldn’t help noticing the great divide between the north and south of India at so many different levels: be it the food, the people, the landscapes, the weather, the way of driving or the choice of abuses.

Kasauli was pretty much like any other hill station: a heady mix of cold weather, warm people, long walks, breath taking views, lots of food, cheap alcohol, bonfire, music, “deep” conversations and the lamest of jokes. Being the prejudiced Arts graduate who looks down on engineers, it wasn’t easy being the only non-programmer amid a bunch of software geeks, but this was our very own desi version of the Big Bang Theory. (P.S. I even got a BBT tee shirt as a birthday gift)

The next day, we drove further north for a day trip to Shimla, my second visit to the place after a decade, when we had traveled across Shimla and Kulu Manali. While I was captivated by the first signs of snow, it was still not my idea of the perfect paradise on earth: somehow the crowd, the commercialism and the touristy nature wasn’t something that I cherished on a holiday. To spice things up, we lost our way while returning and as my brother navigated through dangerously sharp bends in the dark, I held on for dear life, wondering if I would safely reach Kasauli for my birthday celebration.

Once we managed to reach our resort, we went berserk, so thrilled were we to survive the highway to hell, piling on the cheap local wine and plates of junk food till it was time to unleash the cake.

Except for a quick trip to the police station for unlawful parking and some damage to the car after being hit by a truck, it was a fairly uneventful trip and we all returned back to Delhi unscathed and in our senses.

Each time I have got lost this year, the country roads have always taken me home; eventually…

4 comments:

Rachit Aggarwal said...

Nicely described.

Loved reading every bit of it. Anyways, Happy New Year.

Regards
Rachit

Nefertiti said...

@rachit

thanks! and happy new year to you too...

Suravi Shome said...

This was the trip your comment talked about. :) On the fly roadtrips are the best! And there is something about these small hilly towns. You should put Turkey on your travel list. Went last year and was by far, one of the prettiest places I have been to! In terms of scenery, warmth and so many other reasons!

Nefertiti said...

@suravi

totally agree about the roadtrips bit. and yes, I did read your posts on Turkey and I think I also left a comment. I had visited it a couple of years back, but did not cover all the places you went to and limited ourselves to Istanbul and Capadoccia. May be it's time to go back again :)