20th February 2016, Saturday….Day (1) Amritsar to Paonta Sahib, 376 km
It has been ages since I dreamt about travelling around India and come back home only when my heart was full and I no longer wished to travel. It took me years to arrive at a situation when I felt like I could go now. Left the job five years ago at the age of 48, took voluntary retirement from bank but it was my children daughter and son and my wonderful wife, who made it possible for me to undertake this kind of travel.
I wished my wife to accompany me but she was not willing to go for longish period since she did not want to leave our son and his ailing father alone for long. As for me, driving solo through the entire length and breadth of India and staying away from home, also, looked difficult. Just a rough plan suggested four to six months to cover the whole of India, which looked tough for me as I have never stayed away from the family for so long.
So instead of covering whole of India in one go I thought why not break it into three parts. To start with, let me drive to north east till as far as I could go in 30-40 days and explore as much as I could, with the intention to turn back if I did not feel like it or if there was an issue.
With this in my mind, I shared this plan with my friend and manager at Ford India, Amritsar Nikhil Kumar who himself is very fond of travelling and free living. He has helped me in my preparations for previous travels as well.
During my last few solo travels to Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Kashmir, I experimented with sleeping inside the car and loved it. This time Nikhil suggested to modify the car a little, after removing the back seat placed a 3×4 feet ply board, making it into bed, good enough for me to stretch my legs and sleep comfortably.
My wife stitched the ply board with a blanket so that it does not damage the interior of the car nor it to be uncomfortable for me in preparing bed every night. She lovingly and carefully helped me in my preparations. While Nikhil took care of the Lalpari (Red Figo) so that it does not get into any trouble, my wife took care of me and my belongings.
Before leaving I took a mock trial to see whether I could stretch and sleep inside the car comfortably. Although little sceptical still found this mock drill comforting.
By afternoon everything was ready, packed all the stuff in the car but was still in a fix. I knew how badly I wanted to travel like that but was equally unwilling to leave my wife home, my heart wanted to take her along. So with heavy heart I bade farewell to my wife and son and embarked upon a travel I was not sure till how long I would be able to undertake.
So with heavy heart, smile on the face and tears in eyes, left the home in Amritsar in the afternoon. Beas bridge arrived in about hours time and I was still unsure about what was going to happen.
I heard, jat agitation was going on in Haryana and it was not safe to drive through normal route Amritsar-Ambala-Delhi (NH-1). So from Phagwara I turned left towards Panchkula. Evening drive through rich Punjab farm land from Phagwara to Panchkula passed through Balachaur, Ropar and Mohali.
Big farm houses and large agriculture farms are a visual delight all along this road.
By the time I reached Zirakpur it was already dark and slowly my heart moved into travel. There was lot of activity in Zirakpur. I took a little break and walked around for a while.
Soon I was in Panchkula a beautiful modern city of Haryana, twin to chandigarh. My eyes were wide awake now and sleep was miles away. This was my first night of the trip and I was not sure where I was going to sleep. Since I was fully awake and active, so decided to continue the drive till I felt like sleeping. From Panchkula I turned right towards Dehradun on NH-72 and could not resist clicking picture of well illuminated Gurudwara Nada Sahib.
This is one of my favourite roads. I have driven on it numerous times while going to Mussoorie and Uttarakhand. More so I love night driving and on top of it the road was smooth and traffic free. Enjoyed dinner in the company of truck drivers at a roadside dhaba in Barwala.
Crossed over to Himachal Pradesh at Kala Amb at midnight, had a cup of tea near Nahan and reached Paonta Sahib at around 2.30am. I was feeling sleepy by then, found a suitable well lit place on the roadside, parked the car, clicked few pictures as it was my first night’s sleep in the modified car, put the covers on, slipped inside the car, locked it from inside and went into sleep.
Thus began the journey of my dreams!!!
This is the route map of drive for the day, 376 kilometers, from Amritsar to Paonta Sahib.