Wednesday, March 01, 2006
It was a cool day in December. With end term exams coming up in the near future, we were bored of mugging... and decided we had to have some action in life. So it was decided. We were going to have a road trip to a nearby archaeological site: Lothal. Now I know even you have forgotten your class 6 history lessons... Lothal was one of the port cities of the Mohenjodaro-Harrappan civilization, located about 60 km from Ahmedabad. We got the directions, arranged for bikes, the drivers and pillions, and decided to set out on a fine Saturday afternoon. Why afternoon you ask? Cuz baby, this is IIMA: we have classes on Staurday as well! :(
Anyway so we got everything ready, got over with classes, had lunch, and set out. This trip introduced me to some new people: a guy I had only heard of but never really known - Danko. Another guy, who I didnt know was even a student - Vikas! Anyhow after hurried introductions, hajaar instruction, rules, regulations and much deliberation we finally started off: MaNac and Dhamki, PG and Mirchi, Vikas and BV, Danko and ME!
We reached the highway, and turned right. We kept going on, smoothly, 4 bikes: 3 gals and 5 guys... with hair flowing in the breeze, sailing on the smooth Gujarat highway roads. After about 45 minutes, we were nearing Gandhinagar when PG decided to ask one of the localites if we were on the right way. This is how the conversation went.
PG: "Bhaisaab, yeh Lothal jaane ke liye sahi raasta hai?"
PG: "Bhaisaab, yeh Lothal jaane ke liye sahi raasta hai?"
Guy: "Kya keh rahe hain aap? Lothal? Arre bhaiya, yeh raasta Lothal nahin jaata!"
PG: "Kya baat kar rahe hain?
Guy: "Aap log galat aa gaye hain... Lothal Amdavad ke doosri taraf hai..."
And he walked away, leaving us all stumped.
We had gone the wrong way! It was already 3:30 pm, and we had lost almost 1 hour, in the wrong direction. We would need another 45 minuted to just get back to Ahmedabad! We quickly got all the bikes rounded up and took a poll: What to do? Go back and go home, or visit Gandhinagar and Akshardham etc., or actually go ahead with Lothal anyway? We all decided we had enough enthu to continue with Lothal, no matter how fruitless it could get. So off we went, about turn forward march, back to Ahmedabad and on to Lothal.
We raced the bikes. Forgotten were all the rules of "no driving above 80 kmph". But it was fun, reeeally fun! A lil too sunny, and the wind would make your eyes water, but it was one hellava ride! The roads were well maintained, divided, with very little traffic.
As far as I consciously remember, I have hardly ever sat on a two wheeler, leave alone own one. So in teh beginning I was a bit skeptical about putting my life in someone's hand, but then i thot "what the heck.." But I did not regret the decision: Danko drives really well, and it was great fun! On the way, we almost ran over a dog which suddenly came in the way... but thank god for Danko's reflexes... nothing happened to any of us!
On the way, I was enjoying the sights and the scenery... after a few factories, all we had around us were trees and fields, smooth roads, cooooold wind, and beautiful weather! I could not help noticing the ads for an engine oil called "Laal Ghoda". It reminded me of a particular brand of tea which seems very popular in Rajasthan. Its called "Laal Ghoda Kala Ghoda Chai"! Everytime I went to Jaipur, I saw hordings, bullock carts, buildings etc... everything short of humans painted with this Ad!!
Anyhow after a fast and furious ride, when we were trying to race the sun (cuz if we were too late there was danger of the museum and site being closed down for the day), we somehow managed to reach Lothal at 5:45 pm. And guess what? it closed down like 15 mins ago!! We got down, and talked to some employees sitting around, hoping to get in. We begged, and even offered bribe, but they would not agree. Not cuz of any other reason but that they did not have the keys. The officer took them and went to Ahmedabad. The gate to the excavated site and museums were locked. Since there was no way we could get in the museum, we jumped over the fence surrounding the site.
It was deserted. And actually quite an anti-climax. Not as amazing as we thot... quite derelict and decrepit... some wells, some kitchens, some baths... The so called houses were too small to qualify as a full fledged house. However, as mentioned in my history textbook, I did notice that the structures were in proper right angles and the drainage system was amazing! (Better than IIMA I'm sure... everytime it rains the whole institute is flooded! Louis Kahn forgot to make drains it seems... ) We had a lot of fun taking digs at the Harrappan Civilization, making fun of everything around us, weaving imaginary scenarios and stories... when PG says "People, beware. The atmas of Lothal may not like all this... the bhatakti atmaas may tak revenge!!" Anyway, after hanging around for 20 mins or so, suddenly a guy materialised from nowhere. He said he was Harish, one of the caretakers. He said he jumped over the fence too, and showed us around. Explained the whole structure, very passionately. PG, the ghost-crazy guy was convinced that teh Harappan spirits had sent him to stop us from making fun and giving us gyaan!
After some time, it was around 7, and we were getting hungry, and there was no way we could reach the insti on time and have dinner in the mess, so we asked Harish if he could arrange for some food. He said that there were hardly any houses nearby: Lothal is a pretty dead place. It would take a lot of time for anyone to get food from any place. But he agrred to go look for it anyway. We thought of having a bon-fire. We asked him if we could get some sticks etc. He just nodded and went away. We waited for him for 15 mins, but no sign. We called out for him, but it seemed that he had disappeared as suddenly as he had appeared.
Bas, phir kya tha, PG was back in his Bhootiya mood.. "Guys lets narrate scary stories.." It was getting dark. We were on the way back to the well where we kept our helmets etc. when we saw a neat pile of sticks... as if conjured from thin air! When we arrived here, it wasnt there. And here it was, sitting happily, as if it had been there all this while. And there was no way Harish could have set it up, cuz he was nowhere to been seen for miles. We wondered how it came there, but gav eup soon and lit a nice crackling fire. Danko got a bedsheet, which we spread on the grass, and lay down, to look at the stars.
The sky was soooo beautiful!! Never had i seen so many stars, twinkling in the sky... we also spotted quite a few satellites. After a coupla futile tries of narrating scary stories, and some bakarr, we decided it was nearing 7:30 and it was high time we leave. It was decided we would have dinner at some road-side dhaba. So we packed our stuff, put out the fire and jumped out, and went off.
We reached the highway and saw 2 dhabas: one did not have food, the other had some stuff, made for the owners. But one look at our hungry faces and the guy agreed to arrange for some food somehow! He finally got us some weird dal, pyaaz aur aloo sabzi, another weird looking dish, a dish made of farsaan, and tasty parathas, with achaar and salad! We dint care what we were eating: we just gulped everything down with gusto! It was one of the most fulfilling tho weird meals of my life!
After a hearty meal, around 9 pm we got back on the bikes and had a freeeeeezing trip back! As usual, I was being my "i-dont-feel-cold" self.. and was wearing floaters and a single sweatshirt! I almost froze the death!! But the experience was fun all the same! On the way back, we clicked our pics in the darkness: 3 headlites shining on the dark roads... all in line.. it was beautiful! By 10:45 or so, we were back in the campus. Snug in our rooms, after a hot bath! Boy! Was that one hellava Raodtrip! It was my first and the best ever trip!!