Recently, I found myself facing a situation that I had simply not foreseen when I started blogging. A state of complete and utter detachment from everything around me. I even considered becomes a sadhu in the Himalayas. But I went, instead, for a planned 3 day trip to Goa. Here’s the completely story:
A friend of mine was visiting from Bangalore and that very day I was planning a business trip, yes purely business, to Goa. Coincidentally, he had to visit Belgaum soon. So since Belgaum is quite close to Goa, we decided to drive down, or it is up, to Goa. So, we decided to leave right away.
It was 4PM on a Saturday. The car that we decided to take had just been serviced the previous day and the only problem was that it didn’t have the option to connect my iPod. Now, Goa is almost 850 Km from Hyderabad, so we decided to exchange the car stereo with that of my other car which has an iPod connecting slot. I drove to the closest car accessories store and an hour and 500 bucks later, we were on our way with a couple of bottles of water and some biscuit packets.
We had decided that this would be a budget holiday. No 5-star experience. No throwing away money. And drinking within limits since we are both too old to get drunk 2 nights in a row. We planned to spend no more than Rs.12000/- inclusive of everything. Just a short holiday of Bacardi Breezers, Beautiful beaches and a few hours of business. In the reverse order, I think.
We had decided to take a driver along since it was mostly a business trip and it would help if we didn’t tire ourselves out too much on what was a 12-hour car journey on our last trip. My friend, Puneet, told the driver to go to sleep and started driving. It was pre-decided that I wouldn’t drive at all since I have trouble seeing at night. The headlights give me a headache. This was a claim that I had been making for years to get people to drive me around after sunset. Trust me, it works. Especially on people who think you’re actually a nice person.
So, Puneet started driving and we decided we should try and beat our previous time of 11 Hours and 40 minutes. He was sure that he could do it. We were in a Hyundai Verna which I know from personal experience can go as high as 190Kmph. Err, no, not from personal experience. I think it read it online somewhere. Yeah, that’s right. I read it online. I have never, and I mean NEVER, driven that fast. Especially since I know it is illegal and I NEVER break the law. It’s true!!
So, off we went.
Five hours, 35Km, about 60 songs and one page of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea later my pal stopped at a tea stall to have some tea. Tea is an important part of any road-trip. People need it at night to stay awake at night and when you are driving, that’s really important. It’s a bit strange because it has an extra effect in the mornings. In fact, for me, It has the same effect both at night and in the mornings. As soon as I take my first sip I feel like doing my natural download. Hey, it’s a fact. A biologically proven fact. Tea wakes you up and makes you feel crappy.
Anyway, they both wanted tea, so that had tea. Then they were hungry and so was I. We also ate a simple meal and went back to the car. Puneet was done with driving and wanted the driver to take over.
What was I just saying about tea waking you up? Well, scratch that, because Puneet said he was feeling sleepy. Right after a cup of tea at 8PM, he was feeling sleepy. Fucking idiot! Or maybe I should call him a Moby Dick since I was reading a classic. Yes, I know Moby is just a name. That’s what you do with friends. Call them names. Especially names that end with Dick. Anyway, the driver took over and Puneet and I both fell asleep. Hey, don’t blame me, I didn’t have any tea. We didn’t get much sleep though because the bloody driver managed to find every goddamn pothole in the road and it seemed to be getting worse. After the first few minutes of sleep we kept feeling that we were participating in some Rodeo competition. But I stubbornly refused to open my eyes. I guess I was just too tired to care about the car suspension. Heck, it just got serviced. Nothing would happen.
Now remember what I told you about the effect that tea has on me. A really bumpy drive and the company of a Dick can have the same effect. Yeah, my life is rough, especially so on a rough road. I check the odometer to see how much distance we had covered in the last 2 hours and realized I had made a mistake in calculation when it turned out to be 35 Km. What bullshit! 35 Km in 2 hours on a highway. I was wrong. There’s just no way we had travelled such a short distance. So, I recalculated it. And then pulled out my phone and used the calculator app. Obviously, my drowsiness was messing up my phone calculator along with my head. Strangely enough, when Puneet tried his phone was messed up too.
By then the tea Puneet had had 2 hours ago finally woke him up and he asked the driver how much distance we had managed to cover. His answer,”35 Km, saab.” Puneet and I looked at each other in utter surprise.
I told my driver irritatedly,”At least you are on the right road. Let’s pick up the speed now.”
"Saab, I haven’t seen any milestones or boards for the last one hour," came the reply.
He seemed to be very interested in looking at his toes while saying this. Fucking Coward wouldn’t even look at me. Two minutes later my GPS had told me we were lost. There was no-one in sight but we turned around anyway to pass through the bumpy road.
Our plans of making it for breakfast in Goa seemed to be somewhat shaken but we still had time to make it for a brunch buffet somewhere in Goa. Puneet decided that he was awake enough to drive and we set off to complete our journey. We found the right road after 20 Km of and we chatted about our last trip and how we had thoroughly enjoyed the utter drunkenness and carefree 4 days there. Just a few minutes later, dreaming about Bacardi Breezers, the cool beach breeze and the sunsets on the horizon, I feel asleep while Puneet drove on.
And then it happened.
I awoke to the noise of an earthquake in the car and it just didn’t seem to stop.
Puneet, realizing my shock and fear, said,”There was a pothole on the road. It came out of nowhere. The road is fine otherwise. It just surprised me. It’s okay, relax!”
"But what is this noise and vibration? The whole car is shaking?", I asked groggily. I could see that two of the tyres were traversing the mud and gravel filled edge of the road.
Puneet answered in an I-am-pretending-everything-is-fine high pitched voice, “Wait I will just get back on the road. These bloody fucking Indian roads. In Malaysia, we never had anything like this. We should sue the government.”
"Yeah, good luck with that, asshole. Now stop the fucking car", I said as I unanchored myself from the handle above the car door and the seat belt whatever-ya-may-call-it thingie.
In my shock I had been holding on so tightly to them that my hands were hurting now. He stopped. Struggling, to get out of the car in my extremely groggy state and looked at the front left tyre.
"We have a flat tyre!" I announced with extreme annoyance.
I could barely see because there wasn’t a light anywhere around but there was some moonlight. Just about enough light to be able to see that the tyre rim was almost touching the gravel. It was the flattest tyre I had ever seen.
My driver, who had also exited from the car, finally got a few words out of his mouth. “We have a flat tyre, Saab.”
"Yes, I just said that."
And just as I was about to explode with a long string of abuses I realized that the driver was standing atleast 8 feet away from me and was looking at the rear tyre. I moved closer to him and then it hit me.
I just realized that the front left tyre was the second flattest I had ever seen.
My driver had discovered the one that took the record.
We had two flat tyres.
In the middle of fucking nowhere.
The rear tyre rim was actually IN the gravel.
And Puneet, the Malaysia-loving bastard, wanted to keep driving because it was a small bump in the road. I was right. He wasn’t just a dick, he was a Moby Dick!
It was just after 2AM and we were stuck in a place with barely any traffic, no street lights, and not one single visible source of light. We couldn’t even find the signs of a small town as far as the eye could see. Usually you can see the yellowness of the city lights in the horizon when you are near a town. Nope, no such luck.
My driver decided to look around for a ‘pumpcher waala’. So, he took out the jack, removed one tyre and took off like a happy kid playing with a tyre. It took him 30 seconds to realize that this tyre was around 20 times the weight of the one that the happy kids play with. So he left us there, in the middle of the darkest and spookiest place ever, to find someone to fix the tyre. He also left the tyre behind.
After an hour he was back with some good news. By this time (3AM or so) I really needed good news. My Goa trip was getting completely messed up. Our breakfast-and-beer-in-Goa plan had turned into a late-lunch-with-an-afternoon-nap plan due to all the delay and sleeping in a parked car with 2 flat tyres was not my idea of fun.
He took off with the tyre and came back around 4:30AM with a tired look on his face. He then described what had happened.
"You woke me up to get me a tubeless tyre, asshole. I can’t fix that rim", said the ‘punpcher waala’.
My driver replied with great annoyance,”But I told you it was a Hyundai Verna. You should have told me that you can’t fix it.”
"You think I own a Mercerdes showroom that I will know which tyre it is. Get lost now and let me sleep!"
My driver, understandably, didn’t stick around to explain the difference between German and Korean Cars.
We slept till 6 in the morning and then my driver stuck his thumb out and got a ride in a truck to reach the next town with one super-flat tyre. Finally by 10AM my driver was back with a huge smile on his face.
"Saab, I found a shop where they fixed the rim. The tyre is fine."
Greatly relieved we reached the town and got the second rim fixed. A quick breakfast later, we planned to reach our destination just in time to enjoy a Breezer with the sunset. Now it was my turn to drive. It was daytime and the headaches excuse wouldn’t work. Damnit! So I owned up to my responsibility and started driving.
When the milestone indicated 75 Km to go the music stopped playing.
Goddam car accessories buffoons had messed it up. Idiots!
At 73 Km the a/c stopped working.
At 65 Km the clutch stopped working.
The clutch stopped working.
At a hairpin bend.
In the ghats.
While we were going downhill.
With loads of daytime traffic.
Moby Dick now seemed to be a cute little goldfish compared to the words I had for the service engineers at Hyundai. I somehow managed to stop the car on the side of the road. We got lucky because there was a small waterfall where the side of the road was just about wide enough for a couple of trucks to park. Quite enough space for a panicking driver handling a clutch-less car in second gear to park his four-wheeled-horror-machine. It took the driver about 10 minutes to realize that he had no idea what the problem was. We asked a trucker to help but he had no clue what to do either. Two young guys who had stopped at the waterfall offered to send a mechanic on their weight uphill. There was a mechanic around 20 Km away.
At this point, I didn’t care. I just wanted to get to a beach. It was already 3PM and I was a man in a hurry. We were so close and I could almost hear the waves. They took my number and sped off. I remember quite clearly that I was actually staring after them until they disappeared at the hairpin bend.
Go on kids, make me proud. Send me that mechanic, I thought. 30 minutes passed. I called them. The assholes told me that the mechanic was not available because it was Sunday. Fucking idiots couldn’t call and tell me that as soon as they found out?
So off went Puneet to the other side of the road. He stood there with his thumb pointing towards the sky in a way that would make Salman Khan taste the thunder. Nobody stopped.
This is probably the right time to mention that we are both in our mid-thirties and we both, by some curious twist of fate, hadn’t shaved for many days. People don’t stop for two overweight, haggardly and unkempt men with puffy eyes. So, nobody stopped. F
inally my driver, fuckin’ hero that he is, finally decided that he would do something besides bathing himself in the waterfall. He stuck his thumb out and presto! A car stopped. Phew! Puneet was on his way in seconds. It was nearly 4PM by the time Puneet got back with a mechanic. The mechanic, Robert, made us push the car uphill to a more convenient spot that would allow him access to the undercarriage of the vehicle. In a few minutes he had my driver pumping the pedal by hand, Holding this, pressing that, turning this, pushing that and whatnot.
Robert the Mechanic said that we need brake oil for the clutch. Whatever the fuck that means. I told him we need to reach Goa. He said we need brake oil. I told him we need to reach Goa. I think he gave up on trying to explain things to me and went up to a trucker who had just stopped by with a bisleri bottle for the standard waterfall water-fill that we had been seeing for the last couple of hours. The guy just gave him a bottle of brake oil and refused to take money for it. Great! We’d be on our way in minutes. Still, nothing worked.
Finally, at around 5 PM, Robert gave up and said,” Boss, you need to drive this vehicle downhill and I will fix it there. We should not wait here because there is no light. In 15 minutes the sun will disappear. In an hour or two the cars will also stop. It is a dangerous area. Very risky. I’ll teach you how to drive without the clutch.”
"We can’t force gears without the clutch, Robert. You take the risky, I will buy you whiskey." I joked with the confidence and optimism of a man who believed that all his problems were on the verge of being solved. It seemed funny at the time. You should have been there. I laughed quite loudly. R
obert just stared at me with a straight face and shrugged his shoulders. He didn’t actually say anything out loud, but for one second, just one fleeting second, all those episodes of the TV Show Lie To Me came back to me and I read it in his face. He was saying,”It’s your funeral, dumbass.”
Puneet, even without his knowledge of the TV show, read the expression quite well too and this time it was his turn to panic. After he showered me with a few MC/BC words I finally got it. We needed to leave. Right away. Robert sat in the front seat and told showed the driver how to force the gears.
So we forced the gears and started driving. Then the metallic grinding sounds started. Then they got louder and more frequent. But Robert assured us it was normal since the oil level was low and we somehow tolerated this disturbance since it was normal. After all, Robert said it was normal. So, there was nothing to worry about, right?
On our way down Robert suggested that we drop him off and drive straight to the authorized service center since they would have the required oil with them and would be able to fix up the car in minutes. Wow! Such an honest mechanic. This was new. We took his advice. We paid him some money and dropped him off around 20 Km from where the clutch had given out.
It was 6 PM. We were now 24 hours into what was supposed to be a 12 hour drive. After driving for another 10 Km we realized that we could smell smoke.
Puneet mentioned something about forest fires.
I mentioned something about the bloody resorts ruining nature with their goddam bonfires for foreigners.
My driver mentioned something about the smoke emanating from the engine.
Apparently, our clutch was burning. We were fucked. For the third time. Damn!
Robert the Honest Mechanic was an idiot after all. The only fortunate thing in our current situation was that we stopped right inside a small village. We had ended up parking right outside a panchayat office. There was a small eatery and a wine shop right next to it. Yippie! Breezers would help ease our mental anguish. Sadly, the wine shop only had local alcohol. No Breezers. He did have King’s Beer, a local brand. I don’t like beer and wouldn’t drink unknown brands of cheap whiskey so I drank nothing. Puneet had 4 beers in the 3 hours that it took to find a towing truck. Another friend of mine came to pick us up. It was too late to get a room at the beach and so we had no choice but to stay in the city.
We finally found a hotel with a vacant room at 11:30 PM. So, twenty nine and a half hours after we started for Goa, we finally lay down in our respective beds and went to sleep.
We were exhausted, upset and feeling totally fucked and still 45 Km from the beach.
I do have a picture of the tyre rim, but unfortunately my server has decided to disallow any uploads except text. Maybe once the server is fixed, I’ll add the pic. There is more to the story, BTW. I’ll upload the continuation later this week.