My road trip through Uttarakhand, Jim Corbett National Park, Agra, and Delhi was remarkable for the sheer number of beautiful landscapes, colorful birds, and remarkable animals that we came across. The trip was also enlivened by some notable experiences. While there were quite a few of these experiences, for your edification, I am describing two of them here.
Music for the Drive
We had hired a car for the duration of the trip. After all a road trip isn’t a road trip unless you explore a region by driving through it, slowly. The car came with a driver (chauffeurs are for really posh people). And the car came with a media player. And the driver brought his own collection of music to entertain himself and us on our long drives.
The music was. . .well . . . um . . . interesting and eclectic. Our driver's favorite play list was on this CD called Harayanvi DJ Dhamaka. The CD combined (or attempted to) the best of a few genres — the lyrics of what sounded like Harayanvi folk songs were set to the tunes of popular Hindi songs. To pep up the tempo, some random Bhangra beats were added. And to introduce an element of modernity to the entire thing (and probably to make the music appealing to the younger generation of Harayanvi drivers who would like to dance to trance while still remaining rooted in their culture) the songs also had some DJ mixing some western music as a sort of a background. It was, as I said earlier, interesting.
One of the songs went something like this. Now I don't remember the exact words but I can do you a gist . . . give you the main idea of the whole thing. Basically it had this female who was singing praises of her sasural (in-laws' home) and she conveyed the greatness on her sasural by pointing out:
Of what worth is Mumbai?
Or for that matter, Kolkata?
Even Amerrrrica is nothing,
When compared to my Sasural,
London too pales into insignificance.
Variations of this stanza constituted the rest of the song. You have to admit, heard at 2:30 AM in the morning, when you are half-crazed with the lack of sleep; the song has a strong appeal.
Another remarkable song was also a part of this wonderful collection of music. Again, I can but do you a gist. Here it is a guy convincing a girl to come out (possibly for a coffee) with him. So he tells her:
Come, sit in my Bolero.
It is a new Bolero; I bought so that I can take you out.
I went through much effort to buy this Bolero for you,
I sold my brother's cycle,
My dad's tractor,
My mom's bangles,
My brother-in-law's underwear (it sounded something like that)
So please come and sit in my Bolero.
The song went on for ages in the same vein with the guy listing all the myriad things he filched and sold off to buy this Bolero so that he can take his ladylove out for a spin. Finally in the last few minutes of the song, the girl sings to convey that she is impressed that this guy filched and sold off all those things (she too sings through the list) to buy the Bolero so that he can take her out for a drive. And she agrees to sit in his Bolero. And, I assume, they lived happily ever after.
You have to admit, Shakespeare's sonnets to his Dark Mistress are no patch on this.
Security Risk at the Taj Mahal
It was at the Taj Mahal that I probably had my most WTF! experience of my road trip. You have to pass through a security check and a body frisk before being allowed to enter the Taj complex. We duly lined up. One of my friends passed through without any hiccups: camera — allowed, cell phone — no problems. He was informed that no camera batteries are allowed inside the complex, but the security guy couldn't find any in his bag. My friend had kept them in a separate compartment in his bag, along with the charger and the data transfer cable. So much for the security check. My other friend also was cleared — the security check didn't find the batteries in his bag either. But they did find his camera's data cable. Somehow the data cable was dangerous and he was asked to deposit it in a locker some distance away. Next up for the check was me and I was smirking at my friend's fate — He would have to walk about 200 meters to deposit the cable and then walk 200 meters back. And then go through the security check again.
I was frisked and cleared. Then the security guy opened my haversack and immediately shook his head.
"No! No! You can't take these inside."
I was surprised, apart from my cell phone I wasn't aware that I was carrying anything that might be construed a security risk, and I said so to the security. He pointed to the two books in my haversack.
"But they are books!"
"What is the security risk of 400 pages of printed matter?"
"Only guidebooks allowed. You will have to deposit these in a locker."
He pulled the books out, thumbed through them, scrutinizing them for any hidden weapons, returned them to the bag, and shook his head dolefully.
"How are two story books a security risk and a guidebook isn't?"
Well, there was nothing else to do. So my friend and I walked 200 meters, deposited the cable and the books in a locker, and then walked the 200 meters back. We went through the security check all over again. The batteries in my friend's bag remained undetected.