I was to have left Delhi at 5 am as per the original program. The previous evening I rescheduled it to an hour ahead. This meant that all the Muthoot teams that were to meet me in Panipat, Ambala and Chandigarh had to reschedule their programs too. It was particularly harsh on Panipat and Ambala. However, as I have come to experience, the MF teams surpassed my expectations and proved why they are what they are – the best in their lines of business.
I fuelled up at one of the stations on the Delhi border. The attendants were having tea and they offered me one to rev me up. Though there was heavy truck traffic up to Ambala the excellent road condition and the better roads sense among the users help me better the inter location timings. The MF teams ahd set up warm receptions en route – the meeting point in Ambala was the Puran Singh Ka Dhaba, which had earned wide recognition after it was featured in the TV program ‘Highway on the Plate’. Chandigarh was the last location for certification my MF. While I drove into Bilaspur I spotted the Neelam Hotel. I drove in and asked the proprietor of the Hotel if he would make the necessary entries in the log sheet. He was more than willing to do so and evinced a lot of interest in the trip that I was doing. He also commented on the speed at which I was travelling. I ordered a lunch of rotis and dal. Mr. Chandel, the proprietor refused payment for the meal. I told him that I would be back for certification on the return trip to Kanyakumari.
I could not believe the crowds in Manali – there was not an inch of space on the roads, restaurants and hotels were at a premium. The rather lean infrastructure of the town was bursting at its seams. I fuelled up and met up with Mohinder Singh, my contact for certification at Manali. While he was finding me some place to park my car near his business premise I was approached by three youngsters who were keen to know if I was a Malayali. As it turned out they were students from Calicut on a tour of the North. I spent some time with them after a brief chat with Mohinder and certification.
I checked into the railway holiday home, where the VIP room was made available to mem thanks to Mr. Manoj Srivatsava, CFTM Northern Railway. I told the young man in charge of the holiday home of my mission and he promised to revert to me with the latest situation prevailing on the Manali-Leh road. He advised me to leave by 3 am so that I could beat the early morning rush due to closure of a section of the road that night. I decided to take his advice and had an early dinner and turned in.