Day 6 began really early. A 5am start required waking up at an extremely inconvenient hour and ensured none of the rest of the team could give us a farewell (well we could wake them up for it, but then it would have become a painful farewell). The excitement quotient though was high about heading to Delhi and the sweet chill in the air definitely lifted my spirits.
Heading out of Sri Ganganagar we entered Punjab and the mercury dipped to 10 degrees. The LC200′s climate control kept us comfortably cocooned from the climatic vagaries, but even in these cold climes one could see the rich Punjab fields, overflowing with crops. Also the locals were much bulkier compared to the almost emaciated people in Rajasthan. The latter fact may have nothing to due with economic strength, more the genetic makeup due to the difference in climes and food.
The road infrastructure though is definitely below par compared to both Gujrat and Rajasthan and that definitely was a shock considering the amount of agricultural trade that passes through them. I was informed that Punjab is littered with ubiquitous “thekas” (liquor shops) always accompanied with tandoori chicken outlets. However on the stretch we drove, I could not find many of them, only a few which I guess were pretty average for any state.
The drive through Punjab was short lived and brought us onward to Haryana, the enigmatic land of the ebullient jats. First thing I noticed was the sudden increase in the density of cattle sauntering across roads. However with time the cattle were also joined by all sorts of vehicles, 2, 3 and 4 wheelers, contraptions made in backyard garages (or junkyards) and driven with alarming disdain to other structures (moving or stationary ) on the road. The roads themselves were not in their prime and such imaginative driving ensured I could not catch up on sleep even in the rear seat.
Haryana merges into Delhi with no demarcation, and uniformity in chaos, cattle and candour (in relation to expression of anger). The village of Najafgarh may have given the country one of its most destructive batsman, but the country definitely has not retrained the favour in any manner. That is the entry point to the capital, and maybe is strategically designed as a deterrent to people hoarding Delhi in huge numbers.
But all the above is forgotten as soon as one enters Gurgaon. Probably one of the best planned townships in the country, Gurgaon’s road infrastructure is sublime in stretches and a breeze to navigate through. Yes its a complete concrete jungle and people living there may not know how a tree/plant look like or what is their function, but still it provided a breather after Najafgarh.
As soon as we entered Delhi, there was this constant hurry because the plans for the evening were already in motion and I desperately needed a break to get the day’s drive out of my head. Most people say that Delhi is mind numbingly complex to navigate, but I quite feel the contrary. Of all the Indian cities, I feel Delhi’s got the best sign boards, huge, frequent and legible. So one is never lost for long, and navigating to prominent areas is a breeze. And what cannot be doubted is the quality of roads, which I’ve to agree with a heavy heart, are better even than Mumbai.
But all those good roads and effective road signs have not been able to instill the kind of driving sense in the locals, as is found in Mumbai and Bangalore. Cutting across lanes is routine and over-speeding is not rare either. Though thankfully there is adequate respect for red lights and the people are patient when entering round abouts.
I will not write much about Delhi here cause I have to devote an entire post to that. This also brings an end to the first phase of our drive. We also have the first crew changeover (apart form the permanent members) and I get to acclimatise to new faces. The road ahead leads us through probably the riskiest route in the entire drive, through the states of UP and Bihar. Roads are expected to be uniformly bad and definitely infested with incessant traffic.
So the first leg was quite pleasant, except for the few mechanical troubles (which I feel are inevitable). This was also through the part of the country I was most acquainted with, yet provided many novel experiences and taught me lots. The best experience was driving through Rjasthan and worst through Haryana (purely a personal opinion) and now after a brief reprieve we continue ahead towards the literary capital of the country, Kolkata. This stretch is relatively new to me and hence I am a bit excited about it, but will have to wait for the next post for it. So till next time adios and drive safe