Cochin Knights, an elite Rotary Club in Cochin, had organised a send off at the Casino Hotel last night. Lal Jose is a member of the chapter and so is Sunil, our main sponsor. The function was well organised and attended well. Despite the intention of getting back home early for a fresh start this morning it was quite late by the time I reached home. Then, panic struck. I could not locate my mobile phone, which had a huge lot of information that were to be used for the journey. Losing it meant a major handicap. A call to the phone indicated that it was switched off. By half past midnight I abandoned the search and sought refuge of the bed. By then I was certain that I had misplaced it at Casino Hotel.
Early in the morning I rearranged the luggage some more and went to the St. Jude church at Thevara with the car to take leave of Him and seek of Him to keep us in His care and guidance through the journey. It was also comforting to know that there were so many who were praying for the successful completion of our journey. The weather in Cochin had been pretty iffy in the days leading to this one. I prayed for bright sunshine so that the flag off function at the Crowne Plaza would not be affected and the people who gather there would enjoy the function. Besides, I sought His intervention to recover the misplaced mobile. Miraculously, as I returned to the car after praying in the church, I located the mobile between the backrest (made of ‘ramacham’) and the water seat.
The flag off at the Crowne Plaza was announced for 9.30 am. Sanjay Kaushik, GM, had taken it upon himself to host the event. His colleagues, Dileep and Chinnu, made a grand show of it. Hot beverages and cookies were made available for the guests. I was happy to have chosen the venue for it was easy for guests to access, there was enough parking and the lawn offered the ideal setting for the Press and the Media. The entire function was choreographed by UPMA – Mary George, my cousin, and her partner Philip George took over responsibility of branding the event and providing it a wide sweep of coverage in the social media. Their efforts were appreciated by all present at the function – be it the branding of the car, the t-shirts, the give aways (they designed lovely bookmarks that were easy to carry with us and distribute as mementoes), the conduct of the flag off, the campaign poster, etc. etc. They will continue the visibility program of the Record Drive on Facebook. Mary and Philip, we are truly beholden to you for what you have done and what you continue to do.
The flag off function was a huge affair; many more than we expected turned up. Elders, relatives, friends and well wishers, colleagues and celebrities made for an exciting mix of personalities. Sponsors helped to fix their stickers on the car, departure sticker was affixed on the route map on the car, Limca Record log sheet was attested and campaign poster was signed. Hands were shaken, family and others wished and it was time for the flag off. We had to leave between 9 and 10.30 am; some friends advised. And on cue, we left at 10.28 am. I had decided to do the first leg of the epic journey. The joy and relief of the team members was exemplified in the loud shout that Lal let out as we rolled out of Crowne Plaza.
Heavy traffic delayed our exit from Cochin city. Fortunately, one of the cars following us suggested an alternative route from Edapally and we eased out of the chaos. Kalakkan, aka Abraham George, my cousin, decided to keep us company throughout to Bangalore. His energy and enthusiasm rubbed off on all of us. He constantly updated the position with pictures via WhatsApp to Mary who kept updating the Facebook page, Record Drive. There were receptions at Munnuthy (of Youth Congress workers), Palghat (Fb fans) and Coimbatore bypass (MJC faculty and students). Baiju’s sister and family also travelled with us to Coimbatore, where they lived. All along the way there were numerous phone calls since the media had covered the flag off event extensively, some of them live. Enthusiastic people in cars and two wheelers even got down from their vehicles to wish us.
Lal had got along a couple of the latest version of GoPro cameras. It was decided that the first leg would be an experiment. The camera was mounted on top of the vehicle overlooking the bonnet. When we reviewed the recording in the evening we were surprised about the picture quality and the wide sweep of the video. This will be one of the major instruments for documenting the journey. One of the minuses is the amount of storage space required for continuous recording and the need to change batteries. Use of wifi connectivity reduces battery life further. Despite all this it is advantage GoPro.
The three of us alternated behind the wheel till we reached Bangalore by 9.30 pm. We drove straight to Anita’s house. A meal with the family is customary either when I start an expedition or end it. Drinks and dinner continued even after most invitees had left. It was an occasion to seek the blessings of all present, especially my God Mother, Anita’s mother. I was touched when one of the guests talked to me in detail of the funds position and offered to pitch in with whatever I wanted to complete the expedition successfully. Even accommodation in four European cities was more or less tied up. Help comes in the most unexpected manner.
We were to stay the night in Samurudhi Hotel in Electronics City. It was close to 2 am by the time we searched out the place and lodged for the night. Despite the late turn in an 8 am departure the next day was decided on.