Bangalore couple takes off on road trip discovering the country
When this couple decided to pack their bags and set off on a long road trip, friends and relatives alike tried to dissuade them from undertaking the arduous journey across the country. Today, Ajit Lakshmiratan, a retired Reserve Bank of India officer, and his wife, Ramola Lakshmiratan, are thrilled to have stuck to their instincts to go ahead with the journey — covering the Golden Quadrilateral.
They knew it was no easy task as they had to cover over 5,000 km and drive on the highway network between the four metro cities — Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata.
Their trip, which started in Krishnagiri in Tamil Nadu, passed through Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh, and stretched up till Kolkata, covering Varanasi and Agra. The only disappointment was that they were unable to go to Delhi. “From Agra, I had to cut the trip and go to Jaipur as the route to Delhi was very foggy and I could not take a risk.”
In an interview with The Hindu after their trip, the couple, who live in Marathahalli here, excitedly spoke of experiencing a variety of cultures, people, languages and food during their 28-day trip. Calling it his “dream trip”, the 63-year-old Lakshmiratan said: “From seeing lungi-clad men in Tamil Nadu, to a highway full of sadhus in near Allahabad during the Kumbha Mela, we saw great blend of diverse cultures.”
He had started planning way back in November 2012. Though it was a 28-day trip, he covered over 5,000 km in just 14 driving days, using the remaining days to meet his old colleagues from the RBI.
Anxious relatives tried to persuade them to call off the trip but the Lakshmiratans decided to go ahead with it. “When I was working, I had to adhere to deadlines and tight schedules. And now, with a comfortable pensioner’s life, I want to do the things I’ve always wanted to do.”
Ms. Ramola chipped in: “I was a little apprehensive initially but I’m glad we went ahead with our plan.”
Not even a flat tyre
A proud Lakshmiratan said he did not encounter any hurdles, not even a flat tyre. And, he did not even have to open the bonnet even once.
His wife doesn’t drive but she was the navigator and the photographer.
“On each driving day, I had to cover an average 470 km. I would feel tired and get knee pain [at the end of the day] but the experience was so good that it made up for the discomfort,” Lakshmiratan said.
Although the couple had already put in place the routes and had even equipped itself with a Global Positioning System, they still stopped to ask for directions. “It was a pleasure to see the locals consult and argue with each other and then go to great lengths and details to give us directions.”
The couple missed no opportunity to savour the local dishes and local flavour. “From the idlis near Chennai to the fish in mustard oil in Bengal and dal makhani in Gujarat, we enjoyed polishing off every dish served on our plate.”
However, the night before their driving days they restricted themselves to salads and buttermilk, just in case.
Lakshmiratan is impressed with the quality of roads on the Golden Quadrilateral.
“Ninety per cent of the stretch had no problems. However, I found some parts not [good enough] so I shot off a mail to the National Highway Authority of India giving my suggestions.”
He is already planning a “much more ambitious” trip with three of his friends all the way to Kolkata, Assam, the northeast, Jammu and Kashmir and way down to Kerala in November.
‘When I was working, I had to adhere to deadlines and tight schedules; now I want to do the things I’ve always wanted to do’ ‘It was a pleasure to see the locals consult and argue with each other and then go to great lengths to give us directions’
‘When I was working, I had to adhere to deadlines and tight schedules; now I want to do the things I’ve always wanted to do’
‘It was a pleasure to see the locals consult and argue with each other and then go to great lengths to give us directions’