Once in a few months comes a time when your reviewer develops a fond liking towards foggy odometers that have clocked many thousand miles, rattling bumpers that hold onto the chassis on rusted bolts, and a residual smell of charred exhaust spillovers; rather than those luxury cabins filled with the fragrance of new leather and a clear-throated throttling. Especially so, when the late monsoon keeps lashing at the windscreen and makes a muddy red palette out of roads that are hardly there. That’s when your narrator loosens his vice-like hold on steering wheels and grabs an SLR instead, clicking away at much more than the car itself.
I am not laying a trail of excuses to my lazy, dust-laden writer’s desk or my charge-drained laptops. But the fact is, in those rains and consequent slush of the Indian inroads, anything had to wait, and go slower. It wasn’t different with my pending reviews I had promised you sometime ago.
The winding roads, where I drove into thick panes of rain that raised opaque walls against the bright beams, made me yearn for a test car to test its true mettle. At times, just as I came around a bend, at ‘high speeds’ of sixty kilometers per hour, electric posts and huge wet trees would pop up on the edge of the tarmac, so much so that a little under-steer could have split the car into two!
Curiously, even when I did not drive, I did not have to switch seats, as the steering switched itself to the seat beside me on those right-hand drive roads. Like when the ‘Jeep Safari’ in a Mahindra Major and later a Commander took us to a wind mill farm that blew our minds (not to mention our hair and loose clothing); the misty mountain roads that would light up only in white guidelines drawn in the middle of the road; and sharp climbs that would leave you dreading a slide back all the way down – which thankfully did not happen!
Kerala, in the south of India, has its charms. And a lot of it can unveil itself during a wet season where your economic wisdom would leave behind your ‘Timberland’ shoes and stick to throwaway slippers; even as your hands hold on to the high-flung shrubbery on both sides of the path.
One could simply slide into a blissful oblivion where review deadlines are the last thing on mind, when the SUV nervously crawls above the mountain-drop, without those terrain shift buttons that one is used to bragging about in one’s reviews.