Humour: (Road)Tripping on a Bollywood dream
I’ve been on the road for about two weeks now and it’s time to head back home. Cruising along the highway, Western Ghats stretching out to my left, American Pie on the stereo and a Kolhapuri thali in my near future, numerous “life is a journey” metaphors are popping up in my head at painfully close intervals.
Mumbai to Goa via Surat
So much of what we expect road trips to be comes straight out of the movies. Dil Chahta Hai (2001)is still the soundtrack to which the Mumbai to Goa drive unfolds. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011) – Zoya Akhtar’s updated version of her brother’s iconic coming of age drama – also provides yuppie travellers with aspirational images. In fact, just yesterday on our drive back from Ashwem beach in north Goa, we encountered a spitting image of Katrina Kaif on a bike, calling to mind her diving instructor avatar in the bull-fighting, tomato-crushing, skydiving Spanish tourism video. Finding oneself on scenic roads with romantic adventures along the way. Not a bad watch, I’ll admit.
We began our Mumbai to Goa journey with the usual perky spirits before the first – and only – calamity of the trip hit. As the local Mumbaikar in our travelling party of three, I claimed I’d guide us out of the city. Next thing we know, we’re heading north towards Surat on the Western Express Highway. Brutally chastised, I put on Google Maps and corrected our course somewhere along Goregaon. Office traffic on a weekday morning reduced me to a blithering fool apologising to my remarkably patient co-travellers. Having covered hundreds of kilometres across three states, I’m glad to report we’re still offering each other hand sanitiser and toilet roll as we make our way back to the city, one loo break at a time.
Oracle with a C
The highlight of this journey has undoubtedly been the visit to Hampi. There is a special kind of stillness that hangs over the ancient seat of the Vijayanagar empire. In the 16th century, when the Renaissance was illuminating Europe, the southern Indian kingdom was reaching still unbeaten artistic heights under Krishnadevaraya. Musical pillars and animal engravings, imposing statues and sprawling courtyards make Hampi a heritage hunter’s paradise. But what makes the historic town come alive is the dramatic landscape, dominated by boulders reaching for the sky. The towering igneous rocks are perched perilously atop one another, tempting the lightest breeze to dislodge their legendary composure. But it’s not just a rocky place, this kingdom of glorious sunsets. The Tungabhadra flows along sugarcane and paddy fields, inviting cranes and ibises, Instagrammers and naturalists to lounge and loiter along its meandering course.
Heading towards Hampi, it was the pre-historic cave paintings at Anegundi (Kishkindha) that fired my imagination most of all. Unfortunately, a gate now seals off the path that takes you into the area – the landlord doesn’t fancy trespassers, no matter that the art he is appropriating pre-dates the concept of private property. As ever, the river provided consolation. A twilight ride in a coracle – a round boat made primarily out of bamboo – released all the music in the temples and boulders into the twilight: the lady in the next coracle was chanting Om Namah Shivay in a soothing evening raga. The perfect conspiracy between history, geography and mythology, guaranteed to make even the hardiest among you light-headed.
A few years ago, I was charmed by stories from a road trip made by three unlikely companions, all women in their 60s, with a background in teaching: my friend’s mother, A, from Chennai; my friend’s mother-in-law, S, from Kerala; and my friend’s sister’s mother-in-law, P, from Ludhiana. The three ladies planned a temple trip down south, leaving their respective daughters and daughters-in-law bewildered.
Checking into a seedy hotel in an unfamiliar Tamil Nadu town in the dead of night, each reacted in a characteristic manner. P broke into a panic, calling her sons to inform them about her whereabouts. A, the pragmatist, secured the shaky door with furniture. S, meanwhile, found a nice spot on the floor, spread out a sheet and fell asleep in seconds. Three spirited women with a lifetime of rich experiences, connected by the marriage of their children, on a temple tour that was so much more. Now there’s a road film I’d like to see.
From HT Brunch,April 7, 2019
Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch
Connect with us on facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch