13 July – A decisive day
When I told Aditya Arya of Muthoot Finance last night that I intended to drive to Nagpur the next day he shook his head gravely, in doubt, and suggested that I rethink the plan. I took his suggestions and firmly landed my haunches on them. I stepped on the gas at 4 am from the hotel in Agra. The night rest had refreshed me.
I reached the appointed place in Gwalior by 6 am and for the first time I was ahead of the Muthoot team. But then, it was my mistake. I had informed the team that it would take me three hours to Gwalior from Agra, whereas I reached in two – the sparse early morning traffic was a ‘wind aid’, so to say. PK Kapoor, the Branch Manager of MF Jhansi, was ready for me by the time I reached the rendezvous point at 8.30 am. Once again I had escaped the city crowd for it was too early for even the early birds.
Muthoot Finance does not have a branch in Lalitpur and hence, last time they had moved one of their branch managers from Jhansi to Lalitpur for the certification. This time around, the notice was too short to do that. Hence, I stopped at the Lalitpur NHAI toll office and requested the IT Manager to certify the entries, which he did after ascertaining the reason for the same. He even came out of his room to admire the car.
In the initial scheme of things I was to halt at Sagar today. But thanks to the rearranged itinerary I reached Sagar at 11.40 am. The Muthoot team was in full attendance at the KT Motel, where we met in the presence of the sitting MLA of the neighboring constituency, who owned the Motel. After light refreshments, animated banter and photographs I was once again on the road by noon.
Anil Agarwal, a retired SBI officer, working with Muthoot Finance in Jabalpur had reached Narasimhapur well in advance to facilitate the certification. The road condition was good and I reached the certification point in slightly over 2 hours. Similar was the case with Seoni. By 4.30 pm I left the Seoni certification point and was well settled on the road to Nagpur. A casual glance at the fuel tank display sent shivers up my spine and my hands went cold. I had somehow missed the visual indication of an emptying tank as well as the insignificant audio signal. I decided to turn back and head for Seoni town. I prayed that I would reach a pump in time. After cutting off the AC and driving at normal speed to conserve what was left in the tank I reached a pump in the town. The pump attendant, while filling fuel asked me to take the Chindwara route for Nagpur. He said that the pot holed roads via Pench would tax the car. The detour would have cost me nearly an extra 100 kms. I decided to stick with the Pench road. It was nasty and it tested my patience. The fading light distressed me. Somewhere along the way the road improved, but I must have taken the wrong road for I suddenly seemed to be further away from Nagpur than I thought I was. When I reached the Shivani International, in the heart of Nagpur, I was told that I had needlessly taken an Expressway that caused me about 30 minutes. Anyway, I had done 860 kms in 16 hours. And I was beyond the halfway mark in less than 72 hours. The reception team at the hotel was a large Muthoot team keen to hear from me about my experiences. I shared some with them, had a press interaction and repaired for the night. The Chicken Biriyani was too hot for comfort.