A bug’s life: weekend in a Beetle

Volkswagen Beetle

Volkswagen Beetle   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement


After 80 years on the road, the original Mad Hatter car — the Volkswagen Beetle — drives into a rabbit hole this year

Unlike Delhi, where it is acceptable to live out your days on a trust fund, Mumbai denizens may not be really programmed for a life of leisure. Two dishevelled middle-aged gents, obviously on vacation, donning wayfarers (perhaps to obviate evidence of nocturnal excess) and driving enthusiastically out of town in a bright red coupé on a Monday morning attracted a fair bit of derision from morning commuters in Maximum City.

If cars could smile, then the Volkswagen Beetle does so from ear-to-ear, transmitting its infectious enthusiasm to its occupants, who, ensconced in the pop-art interior of the cabin, basking in the shaded light filtering through the sunroof, step on the gas, keeping time with the Jazz standards streaming from the Bug’s eight-speaker extravagance. The car’s sonorous soundtrack fills the lulls in the breaks — sputter and rasp — eager like a beagle on its morning sprint in the park. While the inexorable wheels of commerce continue to turn, the Beetle and its two grizzled occupants have effected an escape from the wash of work.

A couple of hours later, two shiny happy people arrive at the Oxford Golf & Country Club on the outskirts of Pune. Oxford GC always makes for a grand sight — set in a bowl of an expansive valley in the Western Ghats, this resort’s location is absolutely stunning. We are welcomed by enthusiastic strains of discordant karaoke emanating from the restaurant, while a spiffy groom and bride, with the endearing naiveté of eternal togetherness that only newly-weds possess, pose for posterity in the lawns.

Golf at Aamby Valley City in Pune

Golf at Aamby Valley City in Pune   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

If there is such a thing as a psychological alternative reality in golf, then it’s amplified by the Alice-in-Wonderland-like magic realism of the Western Ghats Golf Club at Aamby Valley City. After the most scenic drive in these parts that leads up from Lonavala up to Aamby Valley, the red car goes down the rabbit hole, and emerges, through the portal, into what seems like this wonderland, an Eden of idyll, punctuated by a stunning golf course.

Nothing quite prepares you for this gated enclave, even if you’ve been there before: a complete absence of commotion amplified by complete adherence to order. The fantasy element though is singularly effected by the lack of crowds and vehicles on the road. While there are indications of habitation all around, there’s no clamour. The most precise way to describe it, in fact, is like a lucid dream. The spectacle of the sun setting over the Korigad Fort in the distance, remains the defining memory of your golf round.

You blink, and the setting changes. In a high-rise apartment back in Mumbai, the weekend gone by appears not like a lucid dream, but like the fragment of one. While the Beetle waits in the garage to be taken back to its owners, you sit next to it, and speculate over its future. In that moment of reflection, time, life, everything, stands perfectly still. “How long is forever?” asks Alice. “Sometimes, just one second,” says White Rabbit.

(Meraj Shah makes a living chronicling his experiences on the road, shooting video and writing on auto, travel and golf. When not roving the globe, he lives in Delhi with a motorcycle named Blue)

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 1:23:44 AM |

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