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  • Bhasha India
  • Siddharth Chowdhury (bio)

The drive from Vasant Kunj in south Delhi to Sidhrawali on NH8, where I have a small farmhouse, takes about ninety minutes on Friday evenings. The run is just over sixty kilometers. I usually start about 7:30, after the rush-hour traffic on the Jaipur highway towards Gurgaon, Manesar, Dharuhera, and Rewari has abated a bit and the Khirki Dhaula toll plaza before Manesar is reasonably chaos free.

On the drive I invariably take my old 2005 model white Maruti Gypsy King hardtop, which is perfect for the broken-down country roads which I have to negotiate for the last leg of the journey, about three kilometers through villages and fields of glorious mustard, after I turn left on the highway before Old Rao Hotel in Kapriwas.

I love the drive, at a steady sixty to seventy kilometers per hour, as the Haryana and Rajasthan Roadways buses whizz past me at ninety to hundred kilometers an hour towards Rewari, Narnaul, Bawal, Kotputli, Jaipur, and Jodhpur. One marvels at the skill and control of these veteran drivers: the sudden split-second stops, the heart-stopping swerves, the consummate wrong-side off-roading skills. My own driving style on the other hand could be best described as sedate and overcautious. I rarely if ever use the top gear. Even when the highway is relatively devoid of traffic like on Sunday mornings and up ahead is only a column of fifteen Harley Davidsons from a bikers' club in Delhi returning from Tijara in Alwar, one can easily do hundred twenty to hundred forty kilometers then but I don't. My wife accuses me of having aged prematurely, mostly in a lighthearted way, but I never contradict her. I know there is a grain of truth in her exasperation. There is also the matter of the pride of the artist. Her own driving skills, I regretfully admit, are far superior to mine. Even her parking skills are legendary. On Sunday mornings neighbors regularly borrow her to extricate a stricken Honda Brio or a Hyundai Accent cowering behind a visiting Toyota Fortuner.

Also moving sedately alongside would be the long, forty-foot vehicle trailers and cranes and heavy-machinery vehicles going towards Bilaspur, Tapukara, and Taudu, where Amazon India has a huge state-of-the-art warehouse, and other industrial towns along the long Rajasthan–Haryana border. Along with them would be the Tata 407s and the heavier vehicles of the movers and packers, [End Page 17] relocating families to new gated colonies in Dharuhera, Bhiwadi, and Neemrana over the weekend. These are the new suburbs of Delhi.

Just after the Khirki Dhaula toll plaza, after I exit the Gurgaon city limits, I usually stop at the Indian Oil service station just before the McDonald's drive-in to fill up on diesel. Fifteen liters of it cost me about 750 rupees and I am good for the weekend and the Monday-morning drive back to Delhi. For city driving I use my wife's black 2012 model Volkswagen Polo. The publishing firm where I work, Peacock India, is in Green Park, about five or six kilometers from my 3bhk ground-floor flat in d-4. In the mornings my wife usually drops me off on her way to Chanakyapuri. In the evenings I take the metro's yellow line back to Chhatarpur, and from there a shared Uber to Vasant Kunj.

Last Friday too I made the scheduled stop at the service station. There I noticed a brand-new maroon Maruti Alto, with the pink paper ribbons still pasted on its smashed bonnet, parked near the empty pollution-check cubicle. Four or five men stood near the damaged car, from which I could gather engine oil, brake fluid, and coolant were now steadily leaking. It would have to be towed to the nearest workshop for extensive repairs. Of the men gathered around the car, four of them looked to be service-station attendants; and the fifth, dressed nicely in a blue quilted jacket and black formal trousers and looking visibly shocked, must be the owner of the car, I reckoned. In the car itself, I could see through...


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