The Diwali weekend of November 2007 saw us taking off to the hills of Bhimtal on NH 24. I was the only one of the lot to have gone there before. But that was on a hurried official trip by train to Kathgodam and thereafter by bus to Country Inn Resort. We’d stayed in pretty cottages and had pool-side meals. The location of Country Inn is pretty good.
We decided to drive up in our car and on the morning of Nov 9, we left Delhi while it was still dark and surprisingly foggy, especially while crossing Ghaziabad. The road was wide and in good condition after the toll gates for quite some distance. Romy and Pranjal were lolling around at the back half-asleep, as both are late risers. We were pretty upbeat at that point of time till we reached Gajraula. I remember stopping at a Sri Krishna restaurant – actually we had no choice because there was this long line of trucks and cars and all sorts of vehicles at a complete standstill. Initially we thought it was a rail crossing but someone told us that there was a Diwali fair up ahead in the village and the whole place was chock a block with people and vehicles. The guy Mintu spoke to seemed familiar with the area and said he knew of an alternate route to Moradabad. We decided to follow him rather than be stuck there indefinitely. So we made a u-turn and off we went, our Honda City close on the heels of his red Accent on another route which took us through small villages on a road riddled with potholes.
There wasn’t much traffic on that route and for some moments we wondered if we’d done the right thing. But there was no looking back. The two at the back were wide awake now—thanks to the constant bumps and jerks. And that was a foretaste of things to come.
Mintu drove like a mad man despite my protests. His only mission was not to lose sight of the red car ahead. Our very lives seemed to depend on it. Suddenly we found ourselves driving on a narrow road that led off the main road along a dry canal on the right and green fields on the left. It was a straight road that went on and on for more than an hour, occasionally interrupted by a main road. Each time we hit the main road we thought “Ah, at last…” but the red car continued straight ahead. We were all pretty ravenous by then but on that lonely road there wasn’t a sign of people leave alone a dhaba. We did pass a few villagers now and then and an occasional tractor or a few houses but that was all.
Just as we were wondering when this straight-as-an arrow journey would end, the red car came to a stop. We pulled in too and the boys got down to investigate. The hood was up and there was smoke emanating from the interiors.
Oh great! There we were – far away from civilization and our saviour had a breakdown. Things couldn’t have been better. After a couple of futile attempts, it was decided that we would continue on our way with one of the occupants of the other car and drop him off at a mechanic’s.
To cut a long story short, the infernal straight road did finally end and we were back on another highway leading to our original route. We dropped off the fellow at a mechanic at a place whose name I can’t recollect and we were on our own now – lost and hungry with no idea of how long it would take us to get back on the Kathgodam highway.
Due to lack of signages, we had to stop frequently and ask passers-by how to get to our destination and I must say they were pretty helpful. They all said that we should head for Gangaji ka pul (literal translation: Ganga’s bridge). But getting there wasn’t that easy. There were people milling around everywhere probably because of Diwali and once an elderly type even offered to take us to the bridge himself. His overenthusiastic thumping on our car to stop us and perhaps earn a lift deterred us and we fled before a whole horde descended on us. God! The chaos and mess that is India.