Friends defy age to drive 6,000km in a fortnight

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By AYAN PAUL
  • Published 22.11.13
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(From left) Sanjoy and Lakshmi Ghosh and Manjusree and Atanu Chattopadhyay pose in front of their trusted Innova on Vidyasagar Setu on Wednesday. (Anup Bhattacharya)

• WHAT: A 15-day, 6,000km trip on the Golden Quadrilateral

• WHO: Two couples, all in their golden age of 60-plus

• HOW: In a Toyota Innova fitted with satnav, after five years of planning and two years of fitness training

• WHY: Wanderlust!

• WHEN: November 6 to 20

Sanjoy and Lakshmi Ghosh, both 63, of Avishikta-II along with friends Atanu and Manjusree Chattopadhyay, 62-year-olds from Salt Lake, logged so many miles in a fortnight that even a long-distance lorry driver would squint in disbelief.

Barring a single flat because of a two-inch nail, similar to the ones used in puja pandals, the four friends had a smooth ride through Bhubaneswar, Vizag, Chennai, Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai, Daman, Baroda, Udaipur, Jaipur, Delhi, Agra, Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi and Dhanbad.

“The tyres are tubeless and so we realised the problem after driving three days,” said Sanjoy, a retired media adviser “addicted” to cars.

Taking turns at the wheel of a white Innova was “best friend since 1973” Atanu, who also happens to be Sanjoy’s road trip partner for the past 15 years. In the rear seat were Lakshmi and Manjusree.

The seeds of this intimidating tour were planted in Sanjoy’s mind in 2008 after he read a blog post by H.V. Kumar, a veteran traveller, on a trip down the Golden Quadrilateral. He spoke with his wife and their friends about the journey, not an insurmountable one but age was not on their side.

“Initially I was very scared. I had doubts though the others were in high spirits,” said homemaker Manjusree.

“Done!” And having said that, the group began preparing for the journey. Two years ago, they started a workout regime to stay fit.

“We studied weather reports to find out the safest time for the trip. We consulted doctors to know the possible health hazards and suitable diet,” said Sanjoy.

Their meticulous planning paid off. “We drove the maximum on the first day. We started from Calcutta at 5am and covered 775km to reach Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh around 7pm. There are two other days when we stretched ourselves to the limit… from Udaipur to Gurgaon (650km) and Varanasi to Calcutta (almost 700km) in a single day. Normally, we stuck to the routine of starting early and reaching our destination by sundown,” said Atanu, who owns an advertising agency.

They avoided night halts at big cities such as Bangalore because getting in and out of them is like walking in a giant maze.

The couples didn’t spend more than a night in most of their stopovers but beautiful Bordi village near Daman was an exception. They halted an extra night in Udaipur and Varanasi too because the journey was taking its toll.

“The language barrier tripped us at some places. We didn’t know Hindi has so many dialects,” Lakshmi said.

If language got their tongue sometimes, the taste of India became their talking point. “We had delicious Parsi food at Bordi, a small and charming village of 25 Parsi families. In Udaipur, we had a huge spread of 16 vegetarian items… a combination of Rajasthani and Gujarati dishes for Rs 120 per plate!” Sanjoy said.

As they savoured the sights and sounds of the country, there were occasions when they looked the other way in fear — especially the overturned vehicles and mangled bodies of road accidents in the Western Ghats. “And lack of toilets along the highways, ooph!” Lakshmi said.

Overall, the trip was smooth. “Other than a few blockades in Andhra Pradesh because of the Telangana agitation and heavy traffic in Varanasi and Udaipur, we hardly faced any obstacle. Kumar and the members of his forum supported us throughout via Facebook and WhatsApp. We used satellite navigation, though most of the roads are good,” said Atanu.

The quartet agreed that the Delhi-Agra Yamuna Expressway, Baroda-Ahmedabad stretch of National Highway 8 and Nice Road (the Bangalore bypass) were the smoothest. “Driving was a delight. The wives were constantly looking at the speedometer, but we could not resist doing anything less than 130kmph,” Sanjoy said.

Back home on Wednesday, the seeds of another holiday are germinating. “Probably, Europe on road,” Sanjoy said.

And why not, Istanbul is a mere 7,400km by road from Calcutta!