Monday, April 11, 2016

19 August 2015 - Ajmer to Chandigarh – Day 7

Three of my batchmates hold senior positions in North Western Railway with its headquarters in Jaipur. Of them, Deepak Chhabra, is the most active on social media. Hence, locating him is easy, which I did for the rest house room in Ajmer. He obliged without a demur and here I was getting ready to leave for Chandigarh on the penultimate day of reaching my starting block. Despite the obvious discomfort I felt in the rest house I rested well and was fresh in the morning to take on the 654 km drive to Chandigarh via Jaipur, Chittorgarh, Neemrana and Rohtak. I negotiated the fairly good road, albeit with some rough patches, in eight and half hours.

The ORH in Chandigarh, which is just by the side of the railway station, is a well-kept facility. I was shown into a large suite room where I felt immediately comfortable, unlike the previous day in Ajmer. I had ‘bothered’ Sanjeev Garg, Chief Operations Manager of Northern Railway, for accommodation over his jurisdiction like in Chandigarh, Jammu, Manali and Shimla. Once I had settled in I asked for a couple of boiled eggs that I had as lunch. To recapture some of the moments I enjoyed at the railway station during my All-India solo drive in 2010-11 I walked around it a bit after the light meal and enjoyed the aesthetically laid out frontage of the station and the well-kept premises.

Raveesh Nandan, a Facebook friend, had been tracking my movement since departure from Cochin. He had requested a meeting in Chandigarh. He came to the ORH with his wife, Gargi, and their pretty doll-like daughter, Lakshmi. He works for a pharma company in the Baddi industrial estate and has been resident there for nearly a decade. They go to Kerala either to attend functions or for emergencies. He took a keen interest in the travels I had done and we spent quite a bit of time chatting about the expeditions to London and Singapore. It was also quite informative to know about the thriving market for used cars. Luxury cars are often available at deep discounts because of the craze to ‘own the latest’. It was interesting also to learn about the proactive support provided by the RTO at the designated ‘car exchange’ market where ‘NOC’ is provided on the same day so that registration of cars in the state to which it is taken is done without any hassle.

I had the car washed by a couple of boys in the ORH who offered their services. After the long drive from Thane the car looked respectable once again after the cleaning was done.
When Raveesh and his family were busy using the car as the backdrop for some photos Boota Singh, my batch mate in 1980 IRTS, who lives in Mohali post retirement and an AAP volunteer now, joined us. He got out of his car and presented me a bouquet of flowers with a flourish. In a short while Raveesh, Gargi and Lakshmi took leave. Boota Singh and I retreated to the ORH room for a few cups of hot tea. I was developing an allergy and my throat was constantly agitated. Also felt a touch feverish. Later Boota Singh suggested dinner at a Chinese restaurant he frequents, where he said the food is excellent. Even though I was not fully up to it I agreed to the suggestion and Boota Singh treated me to an excellent meal with draught beer at Yo!
China in Chandigarh. Local politics, his involvement with AAP and the economic condition of Punjab were the many topics that got their full treatment over a large glass of draught beer and the meal. My condition worsened in the air-conditioned restaurant. Once back in the room I took anti-allergy and paracetamol tablets before hitting the sack. However, I enjoyed every bit of time I had spent with Raveesh and Boota Singh and hoped that the medication would see me in a better physical condition than the next day.

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