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My trip to Kolkata from Delhi through NH-2

  • Submitted by: Amitava Chatterjee, India
  • Submission Date: 11th Jun 2009

Being a true Cancerian, I am a dreamer and one of my childhood dreams was to be a cyclist and paddling across the country. I got my first bi-cycle when I was in class VIII and it was beyond explanation to share the joy with anyone even today…so many memories. I still remember & miss my first best friend.
With times, things changed a lot, so the priorities. However, unlike a lot of my other dreams, the passion for adventure and travel remained and whenever I got the slightest opportunity, I never thought twice.
The thought to go home by my car was in my mind, since the day I bought my first car. During the last one year, I gathered all the relevant information such as route map, distance from one city to another, the number of toll plazas on NH-2, condition of NH-2 (% , courtesy NHAI) as well as about the towns/cities in an excel file. However, the decision to execute the plan was all of a sudden.
During last Diwali, we had four consecutive holidays, a very rare scenario in Private sector. However, I didn’t have any plan to go home, since I just returned 10 days back after celebrating Durga Puja at home.
It was a deserted look in the office by 3 p.m. on October 24th 2008, as most of my colleagues had left for the day. The thought of 'what I would be doing when everyone would be celebrating Diwali with their loved ones?' came to my mind. I felt to be with everyone at home, particularly with my son who just completed one year a month back and this would be his first Diwali. I checked with Airlines, however, I had no other option left when I found the air fare on 24th/25th October was well above 20K one way and ruled out.
Then, it is the idea of a Dream Drive to be with everyone at home in Kolkata, if belting up in my car to hit the road and zipping off to different places and then writing about the driving experience and the journey is not the case otherwise, has brought me close to my childhood dream. So what if it's not a bicycle, that doesn't matter anymore.
I opened the excel sheet, which I prepared & updated so meticulously for over a year and finally made seven blocks of 200 kms each (Delhi - Kolkata is around 1450 kms), setting-up a personal target to cover every block by 3-4 hours, so that the estimated travel time would be approx. 21-25 hours, excluding occasional breaks.
By the time I finally decided to go & left office in Gurgaon, it was 10p.m. I was quiet excited with the route (N.H.2) I had chalked out for this trip, covering Delhi – Agra – Kanpur – Allahabad – Varanasi – Sasaram –Aurangabad – Danbad – Asansol – Durgapur – Bardwan – Home & back, as it promised an exciting offering of history, culture and scenic beauty, not to mention the thrill to drive alone.
Driving is my passion…I even enjoy my daily drive to work which is less than 2 kms from my home! I once read that first 200 kms or first 2 hours is very crucial when you plan for such a long journey. I was excited, but I just stick to that - no mistake in first 200 kms.
I made my first pit stop at a dhaba at Mathura at 1 p.m..The food was simple, hot Chilli Chicken and noodles, which had me sweating despite the chill in the air but the ambience was fantastic. Sitting in the open on ‘Charpais’, watching the stars, was certainly not the routine experience in our city life. Left that place around 1:45 p.m. and continued driving till I reached Allahabad around 9:30 in the morning, non-stop driving for nearly 8 hrs. It was an wonderful run on the NH-2. Crossed Kanpur at 6 in the morning and will remember the sunrise at Kanpur in all my life. Only once I could see the needle briefly wander over the 120 kmph plus mark before sanity prevailed. “You should know the limitation of this car" I thought and slowed down to a moderate speed of 90-100 kmph for better control.
A 80-70 kms stretch of NH-2 at Allahabad (35/40 kms on either side of the city) is not yet converted to expressway. The work is in progress for a completely new road which will bypass the city altogether. However, it took nearly two hours to cross the city. I made my second pit stop at Saidabad for breakfast, with lovely aloo-ka-paratha and curd. The post break-fast drive was on good road till Mughal Sarai (approx. 180 kms from Allahabad). The window view for a major portion of the route between Kanpur to Mughal Sarai was lush green. With no one to talk and bored with 'Bhumi', the famous Band in Bengal, as I was carrying only one CD with me, I switched off the music system and rely on my cellphone for sometime - though, I kept it secret to everyone till I reached home.
I skipped lunch, since I had a heavy break-fast and carrying plenty of sweets and dry foods and continued driving till I reached Sasaram around 4 p.m.. I wanted to have a taste of proper 'Litti' (a popular dish of Bihar. This mouth watering traditional dish can be consumed long after being prepared, and is quiet frequently used while travelling), since I was passing through Bihar, I stopped my car on a road-side eatery joint, along side NH-2. The old man gave me four 'Litti', alongwith tea. I also picked-up hot 'Samosa' from him before leaving.
It was towards dusk, when I reached Chauparan and I was desperate to reach atleast Dhanbad. It was nearly 20 hrs, since I started my journey - my eyes started paining and at times, it was difficult to keep my eyes open. I realized the situation and slowed down, till I reached a safer place. One truck driver offered me help and asked me to follow him. After reaching Dhanbad, I said 'Thank you' to the truck driver and offered him some sweets & dry food and spent some time with him. He was coming from Jallandhar and learnt that he has to cross this stretch (NH-2) at least twice in a month. After exchanging Diwali wishes, I started my car for the last lap. I didn't want to spend another day on road, since my home is around 200 kms from Dhanbad - 'I have to reach home today'.
For the first time after 25 hours, I felt really hungry and wanted to sleep when I reached Raniganj. I stopped my car in a dhaba & was very tempted to put up my legs on the chairs for some time. I ordered few rotis, a chicken dish. The food was really good and I took nearly two hours to finish my meal. The rain started when I left Raniganj at 1 a.m. At 3 in the morning, I left NH-2 near Gurup (approx. 60 kms. before Kolkata), my home was just 13 kms. from there. I felt a strange feeling in my whole body, a totally undescribable feeling - but, wait you still have 13 kms to drive.
Finally I left the well pitched road and my car was entering our village road for the first time. Our home is just one KM from there. I used this road so many times in my life, but on that particular night, the same road seems so different thanks to the powerful headlight with high beam that cut through the pitch darkness.
It was 3:45 a.m. on 26th October, 2009. I stopped my car in front of our house (1450 kms from my office in Gurgaon, the Hotel Bristol roundabout) and gave a call to the landline. It was a surprise Diwali gift for everyone at home. Since morning, I was giving all the wrong information about my whereabouts and they believed that I was at Simla with my colleagues. Were they surprised? Shocked? May be both - I didn't give them any time to ask for the time being. That could be asked & answered next day. I was not physically tried at all, however, I wanted to close my eyes & give them rest for some hours.
The dream drive was over, I knew that I wouldn't have enough time to rest, as I would have to visit everyone's place, including my sister's place, which is approx. 150 kms. from my home and also I had to return to Delhi after three days.
When I left my Gurgaon home a day before, I had no idea that I would set-off to explore the interiors of U.P., Bihar; Jharkhand & West Bengal by that night. I do not know whether I did a mistake about not to share about this trip to anyone till I reach home, as no one in the earth knew about this adventure. However, the thrill & the excitement in it, I would never forget in my whole life. I was never scared even for a second and observed that truckers are much more disciplined on Highways. NH-2 is excellent, except a few patches, but overall I would give 9 out of 10 to NHAI. The only regret is that I forgot to carry my camera, as it was so unplanned and had to satisfy myself with my mobile.
Retruning to Delhi was another story. I was stuck at Dhandab for the entire day due to a major accident and next day covered 1250 kms in 17 hours (4 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.) non-stop to reach Gurgaon. which I will definitely share after some time and lots more...It will definitely not be my last such trip.
I am still nurtuning my childhood dread. May be once I retire from office, that can be taken care of, I wish!