The NH1 is a comfortable drive. The initial phase from Amritsar to near Jalandar is superb. After that many intersections and bridges are yet to be completed. The good road conditions are negatived by the drivers religiously adopting the ‘middle path’, which is a good philosophical pursuit but is annoying to a road user. In Jalandar I stopped for breakfast to experience Haveli. The atmosphere, even on a cold winter morning was enjoyable. I opted for the fast food centre at the entrance in the open, rather than use the restaurant. I ordered Chole with Batura and a cup of tea. The tea arrived earlier and the masala was special. While I started on the Batura a bus load of passengers arrived for their breakfast. One of them, while munching his sandwich, looked at me as if the Batura was the last thing that was made yesterday. The more I ignored him the more curious he was to look into my plate. “We are like this only”!
As I was nearing Ludhiana a Sikh gentleman on a bike zipped past me and wove his way at high speed through pedestrians crossing the road. From his attire he looked much like Zorro on a bike, as he had masked his face and a cape billowed in the air. But what he did on the bike was nothing short of the magical skills of Mandrake. How he missed the pedestrians, or avoided them, is a mystery that lingered on in my mind long after witnessing it. What perplexed me more was the possible motive behind the ‘dare’. It had to be either to minimize his exposure to the harsh winter morning or a concern to get to work. If it was the former one can forgive the young man, but not the latter. As far as work is concerned, as a good friend once told me and practices to perfection, “there is nothing that need be done today that can be postponed to another day”! I know what my batch mates are thinking; they feel they have identified the source I have quoted. Banish the thought, it is NOT Mukul Jain.
When one passes through Kurukshetra one cannot but wonder what the place would have been like during the time of the Pandavas and the 18 day Mahabaratha War. It is same with Panipat, which has seen numerous strategic and critical battles for the control of Bharath. Thanks to Vijay, the brother of Ashok Kumar, my batch mate, I did some shopping in Panipat. With the blankets, bed sheets, towels and other knickknacks loaded in the car it looked as if I had driven all the way just for the shopping.
I was a bit apprehensive about driving into the city centre of Delhi – my accommodation was arranged in Rail Niwas by BN Shukla, a batch mate. But the drive was surprisingly smooth and easy. The new flyovers and intersections have made it so. I was in the State Entry Road without any difficulty and Ujjwal and Miki were waiting to ‘receive me into the Capital City’. With their help I settled into the room allotted to me and went with them for a hot cuppa’ coffee and a bite to the Cafe Coffee Day outlet in Connaught Circus. After coming back I had to empty the car to get it ready for service tomorrow. It took me six trips in the Rail Niwas lift to cart the ensemble in the car up to my room. By the time it was done I warmed up sufficiently to discard the jacket and roll up my sleeves. When Mukul Jain and Ashok Kumar found me in this state they must have felt colder!
The news of the death of the son of my batch mate, Lt Col Boota Singh, overshadowed all the other meetings and events. Sunnybir Singh was an alumnus of NID and had recently returned home after higher studies in Germany. His young and promising life was cut short by an irresponsible driver on NH8 near Gurgaon. When we drive negligently (low tech discipline, as Mukul calls it) at high speeds on the high tech roads the grief that we could cause to others is seldom remembered or thought about. I take this opportunity to pass on the condolence of the 1981 batch of IRTS Officers, serving and retired, and of those who read these lines to the grieving family members. We pray to the Almighty to give the family members strength in this hour of trial.
The evening with Ashok, his wonderfully enterprising wife Suman and their three gifted sons was a delight. I suspect if I sermonized too much for the kids to get bored, but then who can stop a few shots of Glenfiddich from talking? Mukul had attended Maya’s wedding with Ritu, his wife. He showed us the superb photographs he had taken during the functions. The dinner was fantastic and the jalebis fantabulous. I was dropped back to the ORH and I just about managed to crawl into my sleeping bag and blanket.