It was a day when the script failed. I was slated to cover 1120 kms today; Mumbai to Mangalore. But, I knew that the drive would challenge me, for I had not traveled most of the route before and I was warned that the roads would not be in great shape. The early departure at 5.30 after attestation helped to beat the crowded route to Alibaug. But somewhere along the way I lost the route to Alibaug – the first mistake – and wasted close to a half hour. After reaching Alibaug I had to hunt for someone to attest the log sheet. I spied a road sign of the Radisson Blu Resort and Spa and decided to go there. While negotiating the dirt track I took a wrong turn and had to come back some distance. In the process I almost reversed into a drain. The shrill shriek of a lady, on her way to work, stopped me on the brink of the drain. On reaching the Resort, I had to convince the security at the gate that my arrival there was well-intentioned. The front office executive was very co-operative and even came out with me to see the car I was travelling in, after the attestation. The 50 km drive from Alibaug to Murud was scenic. I rued the fact that I had not got in touch with Balakrishnan, a former colleague in DP World Cochin who was now working for Dighi Port. I got the attestation from the Golden Beach Resort in Murud (I later realized that the executive at the resort had made a hash of the log sheet entries) and I was well behind schedule. It was past 9 am and I had covered only 170 kms in about 4 hours.
I eased into Shrivardhan town at about 11 am and looked around for someone to attest. This hunt for attesters was costing me time. I located a furniture shop in Shrivardhan and explained my mission. The youngster, in front of the counter appeared to be the owner, for he asked all the questions, and the elderly gentleman behind the counter was the manager. As I was leaving the shop after the attestation the manger asked for my age. I asked him to guess. He said that I could be somewhere around 65 years of age! I had asked for the hammer and had it right on my head. When I asked him how he had arrived at the age he said that he had calculated the number of years I was retired and added it to the retirement age of government servants in Maharashtra. I do not know who was more relieved when I told him that I had taken voluntary retirement at the age of 47!
By the time I reached Ratnagiri it was 4.30 pm and I knew that I would not be able to reach Mangalore this day, even if drove up to midnight. I quickly started recalculating alternatives, all the time trying to remain focused on the road. It was dark by the time I reached the outskirts of Vijayadurg. When I was driving into the village I took the curve on the road and my headlights picked up a small painted kerb stone at the edge of the road. I could not see anything beyond as it was pitch dark. The torch light caught the waters of the village pond to which I was headed! If it was not His Guardian Angel who had stopped me there I wondered who had. At Vijayadurg I reached the Green Valley Fort View Resort, at the foot of the Vijayadurg Fort established in 1205 by Raja Bhoja II. The manager obliged in attesting the log sheet and wanted me to have dinner there, which I politely declined. By the time I reached Malvan it was past 9 pm. The Hotel Saiba was full – it was also a beer bar and hence, the crowd! Malvani cuisine is standard cuisine of the Konkan region. After the owner/manager attested the log sheet I asked for rotis and dal. After wolfing down the hot rotis and tasty dal I was ready to leave. When I asked for the bill the owner came up to me and gave me a bottle of water and said that the meal was his contribution to my expedition! You are never short of surprises, at whatever time of day or night.
When I left Panaji at about midnight I was awfully delayed. George of KRCL helped find me accommodation in the GH in Margao. I reached the KRCL GH in Margao close to 1 am. I had done only 850 kms against the targeted 1120 kms, after being on the road for about 19 hours. The backlog was 270 kms and the plans had changed dramatically. Had it not been for the timely assistance of George I would have had to spend a night in the car! Before I turned in for the night I said a small prayer for my daughter who clocked another year of joy for me and who would be home shortly for her first confinement.