I distinctly remember waking up at 5 in the morning and getting ready to embark on an 8 hour road trip in our ’98 Maruti Omni to our ancestral home. I would get all excited the previous week and sincerely start packing my things earnestly in anticipation of spending a happy weekend in the countryside. Our village was packed with the earthy greenery followed by the warm petrichor (despite its irregular showers). The humble village was the best place to be in, where one can blissfully ignore the world in silence, sparing the faint drone of the flour mills or the rumpy TVS moped 50cc engine whirring about. We would pack our food in a basket, pack more than that was sufficient for the three of us (and I was just a kid- how much could I eat?). As our car entered the village road, we would get appreciative glances from the villagers my dad had known since he was a child and he would stop to chit-chat from the car and exchange cursory hellos. Word would spread like wildfire that we had arrived and we would have a regular stream of guests who pretended that they just chanced upon our house that day. Oh! The paradoxical village naivety 🙂 Grandma’s (paternal) inviting food, the long walks in our backyard and my long baths in the indigenous ‘bath tub’ (called thotti) grandma had constructed for me, would make my day. I’d explore the treasure trove of books that my engineer and doctor uncles had left behind and pore over the diagrams for hours (still not understanding a word of anything) while my parents catch up with grandma about the ‘village and city gupshup’. We would spend lazy afternoons reading magazines and watching movies on cable TV, drinking the famed paneer soda that my aunt would have stocked in the fridge while she treats us, especially me, to the best of hospitality. Life by itself, was peaceful and content. The cow having its calves created a huge stir and the yearly village gala, known as the thiruvizha would be showy with pomp and galore. The ladies would dress their best, the men would bring out their most macho selves and introduce the newer, younger and more confident selves to the rest of the village. The village deity would look sparkling and once when we noticed closely, she was wearing a garland made of currency notes! My jaw dropped in awe as I was wonderstruck at the irony- moolah garland with God, yet people outside were still begging!
After grandma passed on, we felt a sudden withdrawal to the visits, though we had better cars. The village started getting a makeover, and the government bestowed us with better roads and infrastructure. Things were somehow not the same. The wounds were still fresh and she was the glue that connected us to that dainty village which was on the cusp of ‘modernisation’. A couple more years later, now that the wounds weren’t fresh anymore and our love for road travel overtook us, we continued on our trips to various places. Now that we were powered by a 2.4 liter SUV and roads that were seemingly velvet, laid by exquisite German road-pressing machinery, we covered our trips with a lot more ease and revived enthusiasm. Music was fresh and the music systems had a couple more features such as the BlueTooth and AUX which offered a plethora of genres to be listened to, because after all, what’s a road trip without good music?
We went on a trip recently and we reached the same village in less than 5 hours, despite knowing that with my father’s impeccable driving skills, he wouldn’t have let the speedometer cross 120kmph. It was in this trip that I felt the contrast to what it had been earlier. It probably had to do with the fact that we drove into the night and got home around 2.45 am, something that’s completely new and unusual for us (something we never do), yet how the journey was somehow pleasant and not disturbing at all.We stop anywhere we can with decent restroom facilities which happen to be available within every 10 kms, whereas it was good enough if we spotted one for every 75-100 kms back then. There have been times when our Omni would choke on the fan belt in the engine or the wiper stopped working while it was pouring cats and dogs, all this while in broad daylight. Mom would wipe the windshield to aid dad’s vision of the pothole-filled road ahead. Looking back, they have displayed immense courage and conviction, all this while trying to instil some bravery in their 10 year-old daughter. I would never cry, because it was just another adventure and adventures were meant to be fun. My parents’ faces would be fraught with worry but they always had a smile for me. Now that I’m all ‘grown up’, riding in the back of an air-conditioned German car, chatting peacefully with my parents in the front seats, I go down memory lane at every opportunity that I get and scribble notes on my phone and remind myself to write this post.
We felt proud and thankful of our growth in life, as is always attributed to a middle-class family. Thank God for fast cars (as said in Fast&Furious)!