written by - Khushboo Sharma
I’ve never been much of a traveller. And by that I mean a road-trip traveller. This is why I have always preferred to call myself a wanderer or an explorer. The destination pushes me to travel honestly. If I could apparate and land up in a new destination whenever I wanted? Yes I would take that. No matter how much I try, I can never be one of those explorers who seek adventure by hopping into an SUV and hitting the road, taking by lanes and roads forgotten to marvel at their new discoveries. I prefer wandering those by lanes and forgotten roads by foot. Soaking in the sunshine or the moonlight while casually strolling past those old bookstores nobody walks into anymore or those obscure café’s that offer the mouth-wateringly tempting smell of fresh bread wafting over the pebbled lanes which unknowingly have the best views as well.
Road trips have always been a huge NO for me because of my road sickness but I do have one Road Trip to my experience – which was my first and my last! So I’m chronicling my road trip adventure for CEAT Tyres in association with BlogAdda!
Was it crazy? In a way, Yes. Was it edgy and adventurous? No. I’m afraid since I was a road trip virgin at that time, my backpacking adventure souled parents decided to go easy on me. Yes, my folks are those explorers I spoke about earlier.
Anyway, my virgin road trip began from Pune, the home of the Marathwada and ended at my ancestral home in Marwad – Udaipur. More specifically, my ancestral village a few kilometres further from Udaipur. As a girl who was born in Muscat, Oman and spent almost 11 years there before returning to her country I was blissfully unaware of my ancestral village, where my Grandmother (father’s mum) still lives, until that road trip. Yes indeed, that’s quite dismal. But my Dora the Explorer-esque folks decided one summer holiday that I must see where I come from and that is the beginning of my road trip travel tale.
Summer holidays in the household always demand a customary annual holiday. But boy, was I in for a surprise when my father threw upon me the road trip idea. I was initially surprised, then shocked, moved gradually towards anxious and then my travel-crazy-genes took over me & I excitedly started planning our pit-stops and the sites we could see while we took some time off the roads. To give you a gist, the travel was a three day journey from Pune with stop overs at Ujjain followed by Chittorgarh and finally my village in Udaipur. It doesn’t seem like much but believe me when I say that it wasn’t a very ordinary 3 day journey. We came across potholes the size of ditches designed to trap elephants (not that anybody should attempt that!), creepy scary Fort stories retold under a full moon whilst touring and of course the quintessential Dak-Bangla stay. It was just me, my folks and our good-ol car with the reliable CEAT tyres as our road-buddy on this odd-ball adventure!
But first, a bit about the beginning. The most important of all our essentials prior to the journey ofcourse was our mode of transport. I didn’t drive back then and my mum wasn’t a driver. Her phobias/paranoia ran too deep for driving cars, backpacking across 3 states however was easy peasy lemon squeezy! My father was accustomed to left hand driving plus we wanted a professional driver who knew the roads and the journey we were undertaking so voila – we hired a driver for ourselves! Yes to the true adventurist this seems like cheating but with a moody teenager and an overprotective mother this seemed like the best choice for my father. The morning our journey commenced our driver (AND guide) did the usual customary check of our chariot and made sure all of the four CEAT tyres were in prim condition. Which they were of course because D-U-H, CEAT?! They are the pioneers in Tyre manufacturing; spanning years and generations of loyal Indian users who swear by CEAT’s unfaltering quality and indisputable reliability. Is it really a wonder that CEAT tyres are India’s number one tyre manufacturing company and have spread slowly and surely across the globe and made their presence felt all over the world?!
If you’ve ever road tripped across this glorious country called India you would know how deeply we are connected to Mother Nature. Every highway, every expressway, every village road, every district road will gift you with a view that would entertain you for miles. The scenes are never constant and you would never guess what you would see next. With a sturdy pair of tyres like CEAT tyres, the road is your best friend who offers you so much more than just a medium to connect to your destination. It connects you to the Earth and all of its abundance. It connects you to witness everyday lives of villages you didn’t know existed. It offers you a chance to get off the beaten road and indulge in a 20 rupee meal FOR FOUR that you would chase after for years in restaurants once back home but won’t come close to tasting ever again. A chance to really understand what happens behind the scene once you press on your Amazon one-day delivery button online, a peek into the exhausted but happy faces of truck/delivery drivers who are constantly hustling from one place to next, away from their families for days on end to just deliver your packages on time.
I passed by so many beautiful farmlands on my way from Pune to Indore that I had to stop at one point next to what I assumed was a wheat field swaying hypnotically with the cool summer breeze. A majority of these pieces of land are bang next to the roads. So it’s very easy to slide your car to the corner and step off to view the fields. As the cool wind caressed our necks, we bent down to pluck one stalk and observe it. I had never seen a field before. Sure from a distance, but I never grew up in a farmland like my father did. As my father plucked a slender stalk that held the wheat grains, which according to him were now fully mature, we heard somebody shout something indiscernible in our direction. We raised our heads collectively, our driver/guide included, to see two men who were working at a distance in the shadow of the long stalks glare at us and make vivid hand gestures. It was then that we realised that they were indeed asking us to bugger off from touching their crop and did not appreciate us plucking the stalks too. As we quickly climbed into the car, my driver/guide rammed the accelerator drawing up dust under the CEAT tyres of the vehicle and proceeded to tell us what he assumed the men were saying. The farmers did not want us messing with their plantation because they believed that only the farmer’s hands should touch the crop. He said, “You see it is said that plants are sensitive and understand touch. And that crop was almost mature and ripe for picking. So us messing around with the grains was something the farmer did not appreciate”. Very well then, that was a noble reason we all agreed upon. So as I stared at the little stalk in my hand that held a bunch of wheat grains that had been so preciously grown by an unknown man in an unknown village on an unknown piece of farmland that nobody knew about, I thought about their importance to those hungry faces that would eventually eat those grains someday.
We moved on further and ended Day 1 in Indore. As the CEAT tyres of our chariot crunched on the gravel and lead us to an ordinary hotel in Indore after being told by 3 hotels that they couldn’t accommodate us, we hoped this one would take us in! As luck favoured us we stayed overnight at the hotel and head off to the famous temple in Ujjain for a visit. I’m not a religious or a spiritual person, my folks however are. And so we head off to the Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga temple in Madhya Pradesh, the heart of India. We happened to have arrived on one of the auspicious days according to the Hindu calendar and were subjected to a throng of people that day.
Once we were done we hit the road again to move towards Rajasthan and didn’t stop until we reached the city of Chittorgarh. But before we reached we encountered a snag in our smooth travel operation which delayed us by quite a few hours infact. My driver thought that he could take a shorter route and decided to put his memory to the test by changing course and heading onto a road which to our shock and dismay turned out to be what was probably the worst road in the history of roads! Infact I’d like to clarify that there was no road. Just a million “ditches” with perhaps a hint of Road. As soon as we took the sight in we decided to turn around and go back on course, Alas! Adventure had already sealed our fate and we were blocked by cars behind us on the narrow pathway which meant the only way out was forward. When I say the road was filled with ditches, I do indeed mean that. The road was in a terrible state and the potholes were massive. This meant that the driver could move along our vehicle only on the first gear and with caution! God knows how deep those pits were and it wasn’t going to end soon. The road lasted unfortunately for atleast 2 kilometres which in the current situation equalled to almost 4 kilometres thanks to our speed. So we bobbed our way on this uncalled and unforeseen roller coaster and thanked our stars that we had a sturdy pair of reliable tyres on us like CEAT’s. Hitting the road always feels good but how many of us actually bother doing a thorough check up of our vehicle including something as simple as our tyres? When you’re on the road you’re best friend is your vehicle and nothing you do would be enough if you don’t have a reliable pair of tyres and a thorough engine check up before you’ve left.
At first my mum and I tried to lighten the mood by pretending we were on a free roller coaster ride but we soon realised that this nightmare was lasting longer than even 3 consecutive joy-rides at the fair! After what felt like years we finally hit the road which was indeed a road and raced to reach Chittorgarh before our bodies gave up on us. If it wasn’t for those dependable CEAT tyres, the ride would have been worse and a lot of damage to the vehicle could have possibly ruined our schedule and held us back. When we reached Chittorgarh we decided for some odd reason to do a tour of the place by sunset. A completely wrong move on our part which I’ll get to in a minute.
For those unaware, the Chittorgarh Fort is located upon a hill and provides such a fantastic view of the city of Chittor! As our chariot moved up along the winding roads with our trusted ally in the form of CEAT, we were transported to an era of pride, valour and honour. The fort has an eerie calm to it which was enhanced ten folds by the time we reached it at sunset. While the grand fort of Chittor is a sight unto itself, it is most famous for the Johar (self immolation of Queens, female royals, children of Rajput dynastys when facing defeat) of its Queens twice and for being under siege thrice. There is a hauntingly beautiful vibe at the fort and when you hear the tales of the times forgotten, and you must for without them you would never be able to guess its grandeur, you feel a chill down your spine and wonder how you would have survived in that era. A large reservoir sits in the premises which is supposedly filled with fish that could ‘attack’ you (or so my guide insisted) and yet he claimed the waters were safe for a midnight bath because by nightfall the fish move towards the corner and lay at the bottom of the pool to ‘sleep’. Creepy. The most infamous story, however, of Chittorgarh is about Rani Padmavati, the most beautiful woman in all of the lands who was akin to a treasure to be won by many princes. I won’t get into the tale of her beauty and the war that cost Chittor its victory but my guide did manage to spook me with her tales by informing us that the extent of the Johar during her time was so horrible that spirits lurked the fort even today after dark, especially on full moon nights that we happened to be standing under.:/ We left for the hotel after a short time and while we gazed at the ruins of the place as we left I tried to imagine the power of the regal families that resided in Chittor at one point and the valiant sacrifice the dozens of women made repeatedly throughout history through Johar.
We stayed that night at a hauntingly beautiful hotel by the same infamous name – Rani Padmini and while I was creeped by the ginormous portrait of her hanging as soon as we entered, we quickly fell asleep due to the exhaustion and left the next day for my ancestral village in Udaipur where I asked my grandmother to recite a few more of those forgotten regal stories. But those are perhaps for another time!
We stayed on for a couple of days where I learned a lot of historical lessons from my grandparents about Mewar and then we came back to Pune via the state of Gujarat while returning. While I was happy to have finally gotten home after 8 days this road trip is perhaps my most special memory. The little adventures/mishaps that I faced with my parents and the stories that enthralled me at each new place were little treasures that I still reminisce. And to think of it, all of this was only possible with a few roads and our ever so reliable CEAT tyres.