Ananya has christened the MM550 Patricko , now he has no number (has a plate, applied for ) and seems so silly to call it MM550 Mahindra at home. Besides all the other cars ended with an O, Santro, Baleno , Pajero and now Patricko . The logic seems unbeatable.
Patricko has been around for a few days, had not experienced an off road trip with him, though have had a few roadtrips. It does have a few glitches. Started from home at 3 pm with my crew of Bhushan and Jaichand to fill in Diesel and get to Gurgaon Dlf golf course at 4 pm for evening and night OTR (Off the Road). I had to prepare for Beer and kababs as part of the celebrations of my new jeep for the gang at Jeep Thrills (also sometimes called the Northern India Offroaders club). Last minute changes the shammi kebabs were traded for vegetable cutlets and bread, too many vegetarians in the forum.Ofcourse, pints of Kingfisher, cheaper you see (though Carlsberg was available at nearly twice the price), Vijay Mallya can only fight on price, the others beers I saw launched yesterday are Becks and Tiger in India. More choice for drawing room and pub consumption , but for copious consumption its still Kingfisher.
All set to leave took the U turn from the house and the jeep stalls, blown , fuse, can smell a hint of an electrical burn. Me and the crew jump out, fiddle for 15 minutes, craft fuses out of naked wire. Call Praveen offers, take the "Pajero", I say no pussy footing Pajeros, its got to be the rough ride of Patricko, it gets very windy, my hair is all matted, the crew has patkas (bandanas) on we look like the NSG (black cat commandos) , the urban and South Delhiesque version caught in wind gale or famous Delhi sandtorm (not much sand as its been raining alot lately). Get an electrician Mohammad (its already 3.35 pm) fiddles changes a few wires and fuses, try to start it, this time the wiring catches fire. Finally more electrical parts are ordered, relays, fuses, wire. Meanwhile chota chetan (jaichand) spots a naked wire touching the alternator, simple enrobe the nakedness of the wire and then reassemble all the other stuff and we crank and we are all set.Its 4.15 pm.
Frenzied driving, through the rain with a lazy wiper just moving cosmetically, the blades don't stand close enough to the windshield to give it a clean wipe. Reach the sand pits, the group has already done the shallow lake. Meet the guys in the rain which is really coming down, they alreaddy have cans of Royal challenge beer in their hands, greeted by Pushkin, Laxman. They walk around complement me on Patricko and its original look and feel has no, cosmetics, this definitely is not South Delhi Art deco Kitsch its simple and the way its meant to be. We shove the beer in Laxman's huge bag cooler in his Jeep and meet the others Sarvinder, RB, Shyam and few others. Some offer to take take ride I am nervous with the recent episode and starter solenoid getting stuck, some of my friends at Mint know what I am talking about. Basically the starter motor gets stuck if you dont use the heater. Have to bolt out like a jack rabbit and disconnect the battery to stop the constant whirr of the starter and the smell of an early burn. Me and crew are really trained for this exigency. Therefore the jeep needs an extra hand always. Ananya is qiuite amused and giggles at her father sometimes jumping out opening the bonnet and disconnecting the battery and reconnecting in 7-10 seconds. I think I dampen the enthusiasm of a few fellow jeepers , for being reluctant on trial run, but they dont care.
I hit that sand pits which are now clay pits will send a few pictures in this URL (hope you can open)http://picasaweb.google.com/charu.chadha/OTR?authkey=yJgLSX5c1FQ will give the picture of the terrain.
Patricko performed smooth light and easy even on 40 degree incline (lot of Gyan from Shyam on the4X4 usage by a good hearted but the semi- knowledged expert (the kind who think accelarating is the only answer to getting out of all tight spots), I for one like to learn and use the gear, clutch, brake and accelaration to move around like stirring honey in curd/ yoghurt (treacle anyone ?). Its great fun, the crew is enjoying themselves and shriek out the occassional Ma Bhen out of sheer of exhalaration. The crew thats, Bhushan and Jaichand get involved as though family pride and honour is involved as the maintain the vehicles (even with the Pajero and Patricko, they comment Hamari Gaadi Dhoka nahin Degi, our vehicles will never betray us).
Sandpits done, we now head for the dragons back, we are already peckish, we(me and crew) sneak a sandwich of bread and cutlets on the go from our copius supplies on the sly and on the go.We read the gorge next to the Dragons back. Its straight incline, I dont have enough time, space to negotiate the approx 45% degrees descending slope from a squared approach thats perpendicular. So Patricko goes in diagonally nits deep nearly 100yards, and I am in an awkard position, Patricko is totally tilted to the right, Magically Laxman the anorak clad Punjabi swearing South Indian (I swear you he speaks better Punjabi than Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale) magically appears. Heis always done that, first one help even when I was in a tough one with Pajero, ever willing to guide me and also winch me out.I was out in a jiffy and ready to hit the rainwater lake/ Pond. Though I am not a great fan of water fording or slush driving, its a big turn- on for the other jeepers. I believe, it destroys, the plankton and insects and perhaps some aquatic life forms, ruins the water the villages use for cattle and other purposes and is a method of natural Indian rain water harvesting.
I do strongly feel about this, besides, I have nearly wasted two Jeeps CJ 3bs in the Army, once in Chakki Khad near Mamun in Pathankot (its another long war story, to be told as fire side chat in winters) and once in the river bed of Basantar (the famous place where the battle of Basantar was fought in 1971 and Lt Arund Khetrpal was given a PVC posthumously). I had merely driven through waist deep water and the current and depth got the better of us. On both instances a pudgy senior of mine Captain Naresh Kakkar was with me, and he always wanted to remove his socks and DMS boots and jump out which always slowed us down. I was the driver on both the instances. Enough on my teatise on water and deep water fording.
I did go through a single water fording with 15 jeep tracks already made through the water and slush (which means the going gets harder as the slush has really got churned and gooey). Surprise,I drive through cool and easy like stirring Honey in Yoghurt, smooth and silky. By now the rain is really coming down hard, we light up and cup the cigarettes with our hands and talk about tyres Jeeps and more Jeeps. Sometimes of adventure gear. Drink some Kingfisher which has cooled. The moderators, Sarvinder, RB and Laxman gather around I offer them the latest copy of the magazine I work for "Motoring" Its shrink wrapped and with stands the rain , I mean the magazine. After all this extreme stuff (the photo thats attached with this postis me and the crew in Patricko doing the water fording !!!
Get on moving to the Benam (un-named ) lake (its a I Hr minutes drive into the Arravallis near Gurgaon), real offroad, but largely stony as all the extra mud and silt has been washed out. Its beautiful all lush and green, even the kikar the most boring trees are looking neat.On the way we stop at to an abandoned stone qarry, some members feel (and emphatically), this high incline and ramps were made for anti aircraft guns mounted to protect Delhi they show me the bunkers. The concrete build around it (mind it none of them have miltary experience, born and brought up on Commando comics and uncles friends stories), they add you see the technology changed and acac guns were replaced by missiles, hence no need of ramps. Well I feel they are abandoned stone quarries with the rollers of crushers deop from a height to a waiting dumper truck below (thats this thing about life, no one care what you were, all they care and rightfully so, is what are you today). A can of corned beef good have been a wild bull steer or a timid calf, all we care is how is the meat today.
Any way the view from one these 4-6 ramps that guarded Delhi aka as abandoned stone quarries crusher ramps that helped build parts of gurgaon the view and wind is amazing. To use a an out dated phrase it was far out. You can see the whole expanse of Dlf city and the lit up tall buildings the bright lights of the 24 hr DLF Golf course, Its quite a schizophrenic feeling we stand in realtive darkness on a prehistoric mound in the oldest mountain ranges in the world (Aravallis where ramapithecus lived thousand of years ago), life is fairly simple here we are 7-10 km from the malls and life here is still about using the sickle gathering firewood , women singing folk songs at the village well or temple. Its almost prehistoric existance largely untouched by modernism all 7 kms from Ruby Tuesday in the mall in Gurgaon, or is itTGIF.
This is another beer halt, we wolf down the cutlets and bread and ketchup (some the remanants of the ketchup are extracted by adding beer to the empty bottle and giving it a shake), boring rotis and cooker full of dal (cost cutting at its prime), aloo rotis the non fried and oil less parathas, chiken biryani from ???, the food was not so good a lot of free loaders. I smoked a cafe creme cheroot in the wind and sipped beer. Bhushan lit one as well. We were having fun. The non alcholic beverages were water, amul lassi and Dabur active apple juice.
Lots of picture and introductions of new yet to become members read the website and tagged along varieties, I was also one of them, though I was not such a rookie, had driven albeit badly (as my crew silently and my family vocally feels, Praveen and my folks), I have a fan in Ananya (our little one) who never complains about my driving in fact shrieks in delight. I think she enjoys it, though Praveen's rendition is she is too polite to express otherwise.
It 8.10 pm the caravan of jeeps are moving into the kikar forest to the Benam lake another 5 clicks ahead. The caravan is three World War 2 Ford Jeeps restored nicely in muddy sand color,4 MM 550 like Patricko or near about versions, One Mahidra Legend the amby bamby version of the MM 550 a collectors item with Keshub Mahindra;s signature commemorating the 60 years of the leegendary vehicle Jeep being assembled and then manufatured in India. In all 9 jeeps slightly low attendance. Lots of people holidaying in the South of France or at Martha's Vineyard (more realistically, Bangkok, KL, Mussourie, Jim Corbetts Park).
So nine jeeps moving to the next destination and two jeeps peal off to head back and instinctively I follow them as the convoy is now going to be Lake and I have shared my disdain with the (driving and seeing the devastation the Jeeps create). Besides with all the getting stuck and recoveries we wind up at 11 and get home by one. And the next morning I had a date with walkers of Mandakini near my home at New Delhi. So swung back amids a lot of honking and hooting to call me back. I buzzed off. Fortunately, no desparate calls on the Cell phone to get be back. Most cell phones are out range in this rural prehisroric belt despite all claimes of air, water food and cell phone connectivity in 4 lac out of 6 lac villages in India. I kid you not we are 7 clicks from the Gurgaon malls as the crow flies and perhaps the jeeps crawl.We re usually out of signal for the mobiles. Bhushan drives back, accelarates with a roar. The crew make some banter a review of sorts. They light up the Gold Flakes (they have a ball when they come out),Its no boss, its a democratic collegiate rustic bunch and I quite enjoy it, Till I come back to my executive existance.
We are back by 9.30pm the earliest ever, it was nice short and sweet, did three four extreme terrrains, a good initiation for me to Patricko. There are many theories that Patricko was a timid CO's (Commanding officer) vehicle which never stepped out of the Cantonement and never got to use its sandgrip tyres and was on memsahibs duty (for mahjong and coffee mornings) annd for dropping the babalog at swimming and tennis sessions (as it has original paint and the hood and body and tub are in good shape and I paid a preium for all this). Or was it with combat group vehicle in the deep forests of Wairangte near Aizawl. Its hard to tell. Steer or Calf. Patricko is now my friend and will build a circle of trust. You build a relationship with a horse or Vehicle, if it contiusly gets you out of a tight spot effortlessly. Patricko has all the makings for it. The deep growl says I have seen it all.
In the metro life, in the slow whirr of the airconditioner on a soft mattress after a warm water bath, dozed of to dreams of treacle.......soft honey stirred into creamy yoghurt. The yin yang of crankshafts and soft treacle.
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