Yes it has been a very long time indeed. But as usual I have a set of rather good reasons. Most importantly I have been concentrating on a couple of columns and my book. FYI the book comes along very well and I am proud to say I am almost 50000 words through. (Clap Clap). And it looks like the first draft will get squeezed out end next month. And before you ask it is not a funny book. Well at least not in the Domain Maximus scheme of things. But there are a few jokes in it. But no sex. (Yet.)
As that may be, a couple of interesting things kept my fingers away from the laptop over the last few weekends. Both were journeys out of Bombay. Now by some parameters, like say reaching one’s destination, one was a success and the other a utter disaster, but by other more realistic parameters, like drinking lots of beer, both were first class. Hic.
The first began as a set of innocent instant messages. I was sitting at home on a weekday morning fretting over a particularly turbulent stretch of prose. Inspiration and content seemed to have abandoned me completely. Thankfully my roommate had left for work with his Gmail on auto login and I was deep in thought, research and photo downloading. (Man, did he have a side I did not know of. Literally.) Suddenly I noticed a close friend online and we embarked on a merry little conversation. Suddenly he popped the question. “This weekend. Let us drive to Lonavala. In my car. It will be great fun.” I accepted almost immediately.
Later I would rue the decision. Not because I had not thought it through. But because my friend had grossly misrepresented the terms “drive”, “fun” and, of course, “car”. We left fresh and spiritedly on a Saturday morning at 4:30 in the morning. After what seemed like an hour but was actually one and a half our car began to make noises that were totally out of syllabus. Thankfully, my friend, who was also driving at the time, is a professional rally driver and a car expert. He suddenly slowed the car down and stopped it by the side of the Pune Expressway. Steam was pouring out of the hood of our Honda City. (I must mention at this point that the car was a seventh hand or so and was only a broad approximation of a Honda City. Later we would discover that the only properly functioning part of the car was the dashtop deo.)
My friend, the auto genius, stepped out of the car and propped up the hood. He was immediately engulfed in thick white steam and momentarily looked majestic and heroic. But it soon passed when he walked up to the car and said, and I dont jest when I say he is an expert, “Dude there is a lot of smoke. Shit.” He called me out and decided something drastic had to be done. We rolled up our sleeves. The three other souls in the car snored in support.
Four hours later we were merrily bouncing along the Pune Expressway drinking beer and singing songs, the wind in our face and considerable dust in our eyes. Ahead of us a tow truck pulled as along as we made our way back to a workshop. We ate several vada pavs on the way and slowly even the dashtop deodorant began to fail.
Soon we reached what would prove to be the highlight of our trip. A place called Turbhe. There we handed over our car to a workshop. We described our problem in details to the proprietor. “There was a sudden eruption of steam towards the forward half of the automobile culminating in a rapid loss of forward motion. We suspect it could be a sudden steam eruption locomotion loss problem.” He nodded and smiled wryly at our complete understanding of the issue. We were engineers and were not prepared to let him take us or the car for a ride. (Not that the car would have let him.)
Car repair expenses are remarkably like courting women. The workshop charges you a steep flat fee just to pop the hood but any more exploration pushes expenses exponentially. By the evening we were told that the problem was with something called an air gasket that would cost some 15 rupees to buy. Replacing it would cost another 34000 rupees or so. Apparently the gasket is designed in such a way that you can only replace it by lifting the car on a stand, removing the engine, replacing the pistons, removing all the doors, changing the upholstery and then getting a new paint job. We were not to be fooled and told him to LEAVE THE PAINT JOB ALONE!
Two weekends after that we decided that Lonavla had proved to be too easy a challenge and we should now go to a place called Lonar. For the simpleton Lonar is the site of the world’s largest high-velocity meteorite impact crater in basalt that also had beer shops. In other words a perfect place for a two day weekend trip. The trip involved traveling overnight to Aurangabad and then catching a four hour bus to Lonar. Or so we were told.