Tuesday, 26 April 2016

The road may be narrow and dark

This write up came back with a note of regret – for not being able to make to the next round in the competition, to the editor's table. Well, this is the first time I competed , that is if I do not count the House Competition essay writing, where I came second after Champa. Actually I do not why I took part – chance, curiosity or plain gambling …..because writing for me has always been a catharsis – an expression that I can share …..So no regrets , really!


The road may be narrow and dark……..


It was 1983 and life with Baba always veered on the unexpected and the adventurous. Like that road trip from Kolkata to Delhi via Agra.
We had this faithful Ambassador that took us on this journey with Baba at the helm and our cleaner Kalipada as his first assistant. I was the official navigator and Giri uncle, my father’s friend, in charge of our ummm, let’s say security, since me and my cousin Dimpi, both all of 18,  needed an escort , officially.
Baba always liked the un-trodden and the out-of- the- way. So we landed up at Holipura, a small village bordering close to the Chambal, one afternoon. The house belonged to Giri Uncle’s relatives and was like a maze with unfinished rooms. The reason being that, the completion would lead to a death in the family.
It was going to be a full moon night and Baba decided to drive us to the Taj Mahal. The “Kojagori”  full moon was special and for me it was going to be the first tryst with a chapter straight from the History books!
 The drive through the highway was uneventful, but the dark roads looked ominous as Giri uncle , who had been around that place , regaled us with stories of “Chambal ka Daku” – the dacoits on horseback,  menacing , gun toting and spine chilling. To the teenagers like us, it seemed straight out of a Hindi movie and I imagined them to be like my matinee idol Vinod Khanna.
We reached the Taj, and visited the mausoleum with candles in our hand – as there was no electricity inside the Taj. The place was dark and the white marbled shrine glistened in the semi darkness casting an eerie spell all around us. We had a group of foreigners, all ready to witness the moonlit glory as we waited - initially disappointed as the magic was missing. The white marble just shone in that darkness without a sheen. 
The moon showed up at around nine in the evening and gradually the surroundings started to become visible. The minarets, the dome, the reflection on the pool and then suddenly the moonlight lit up the entire “tomb dedicated to love” and there was a combined palpable  “Aaaahhhh!!!” from the spectators. Suddenly we were touched by  magic – the white marbles came alive and seemed to tell us stories untold – of love and betrayal and of an age when the royalties lived and died king-size. The Taj and the minarets shimmered and shone on the pool with the moon acting as the wizard who changed the entire place with a swish and a whoosh !
We did not want to leave the place – as we literally were a witness to one of the wonders of the world. But the clock was ticking, and Giri uncle reminded Baba that he has to drive back with two young ladies. And the roads would be dark, lonely and unsafe at this hour.
We were silent on the way back, mesmerized by the magic of Taj in moonlight, touched by some sorcerer, lulled into a stunned circle of silence, when suddenly Baba slowed down a bit. Five hundred meters ahead, the way was blocked by a big tree trunk lying across the entire breadth of the road and our car’s headlight reflected that the entire way was blocked .
 The dreaded  dacoit attack !!! And no escape route !!!
I held my breath, Dimpi started to pray and Giri uncle started giving instructions on what to do in case of an assault. His contention that we should not act smart city -Alecs and cover up our faces so that those dacoits do not get to see us properly.  I don’t know what Baba was thinking, because he never let go of  the wheel and never uttered a word but slowed down probably trying to figure out how to get out of the situation on that desolate road.
The car took a curve and the headlight fell on a signboard- that said “Police Chauki, Holipura”!
And the combined whoop was probably as loud as the war cry of  all the dacoits of Chambal.
The police outpost blocked the road and stopped the cars. They made a convoy with a pilot car in the front and the rear and drove the visitors to a safer zone.
We stopped a while to catch our breath and Baba’s laugh boomed over the cacophony of excitement.



We reached the house safe and slept like babies cocooned in blankets in a room that did not have doors...... Only to wake up and stare into the eyes of a Hanuman sitting right on the blanket......But that is another story !!!


I wrote this on the eve of  Baba’s first death anniversary, and this was my  tribute to his never –say –die spirit. To a journey that changed the perspective to life..... and a journey that remains to this day my most memorable one, because Baba at the helm , never failed. 



12 comments:

  1. Brilliant... !!! Keep on writing... I will be eagerly waiting to read them... What a grandeous description of the thrilling travel..

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    1. Thanks Naandini - tui ekkebaare ek chokha - ei write up ta came back with a note of regret from a competition!

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  2. Brilliant... !!! Keep on writing... I will be eagerly waiting to read them... What a grandeous description of the thrilling travel..

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  3. Lovely.. Now I know why you love traveling so much...

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  4. Lovely.. Now I know why you love traveling so much...

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    1. Mona - I do :) Though I am not as much a traveller as my father - whose road trips were amazing!

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  5. The road may be narrow and dark but not the description...abd the pictures match well

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    1. Thanks Deep - those were my halcyon days :)

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    2. not anymore? why not?

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  6. Oh did I not read this before ? Or must have surely heard it from you before. :)
    Did travel with you through my reading it again. Keep taking us to many such voyages again and again. <3

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    1. I did write about this trip in 2014- Travelling Ambassy! And did post some pictures on FB. This one I wrote for a competition - and got the pink slip ! :)

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  7. That was so interesting! I think you couldn't have given a better tribute to your dad. Enjoyed reading!

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