November 14, 2007

On the road

I don't understand what it is about our inter-city roads. (Forgive me for not using that word "highways"). I've just driven Bom-Baroda-Ahmedabad-Chittaurgarh-Ajmer-Jaipur-Delhi, which is one leg of the famous Golden Quadrilateral; and Delhi-Agra-Gwalior-Shivpuri-Indore-Dhule-Nashik-Bombay, most of which forms the famous Agra-Bombay road. (So famous, that along town after town on that road, you'll find addresses referring to, simply, "AB Road"). Short diversion into Mandu, but otherwise along the AB Road.

Over 3000 km. And I don't understand.

The good parts, first of all. Baroda-Ahmedabad is a fabulous stretch of highway. As is most of Ajmer-Delhi. Delhi-Agra is mostly good, as are stretches of Dhule-Nashik-Bombay and Himmatnagar-Chittaurgarh, and other segments here and there.

The rest? Ranged from mediocre to ghastly. I mean, I think the nadir was late on pitch-dark evening when we were on the boulder-track north of Manpur that's marked on maps as a road, trying to reach Mandu. No lights, no road surface, nobody to ask directions, plenty of dust. Suddenly we come to a right-angle intersection with an equally miserable road. Which way -- left, right or straight? no way to tell. But I did notice, spotlighted by our headlights, a familiar sign at the corner. One of these two tracks -- I couldn't tell which -- was part of the Prime Minister's rural road scheme (it's called the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana).

So my country's PM is part of the conspiracy to give us boulders that sometimes pass for roads.

But that was just the worst little stretch, and off the "highways" (there, I used it) after all. On them, there was plenty more that was simply bad. In Vapi on the GQ, a massive rut on the road punctured our one-week-old front tyre. In Madhya Pradesh, we shimmied through hundreds of kilometres of stony road surfaces. Through Agra and Gwalior, the road deteriorated into huge potholes and loose stones. I could go on.

The GQ webpage says nearly all of the Bom-Del stretch is "4-laned", and even more of it is "After Alignment Fixing", whatever that means. Is all this supposed to mean that this leg of the GQ is essentially complete? Well, for anyone who drives this leg, its splendid stretches notwithstanding, that is clearly not true. Why make such a claim, then?

Having said that, though: taking the road is positively the best way to travel. On that cryptic note ...

9 comments:

km said...

So you are turning into a traveling piano player?

Gaurav said...

Whenever I am in buses going from Indore to Pune, i have always been amused by the sudden transformation in road quality when you see the "Maharashtra Welcomes You" sign. The road smoothens out almost immediately after leaving MP. i believe this is the dhule-nashik-bombay portion you talk of.

I have never experienced a more stark demonstration of the reality of borders.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Gaurav, we noticed that transformation too. But I don't mean to give the impression that Maharashtra roads are uniformly good: the worst stretch of the Bom-Del GQ leg is the Maharashtra part, north from Bom (actually all the way to Baroda).

km, yes. I carry my piano in my shirt pocket, always ready to whip it out and play a tune.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Though of course km, I generally only whip the piano out when someone comes up to me and says: "Son, can you play me a memory? I'm not really sure how it goes. But its sad and its sweet and I knew it complete, when I wore a younger mans clothes."

Akshay said...

I think that is the case in every state in India. I remember driving from Calcutta to Siliguri before crossing over into Nepal, the road lengths ranged from being good to absolutely ghastly. The funny thing was that we found the road to be consistently good on East-West highway in Nepal. In heart of what was the Maoist heartland is this long traffic-less highway maintained by India.

Gaurav said...

Yeah, the Bom-Baroda part is bad. Maybe I didnt notice the stark difference because those travels were made in Volvo buses, whereas my Indore-Pune trips were all made in Ashok Leyland type buses.

While on the note, I visited Mahabaeshwar after almost a decade last year and was pleasantly surprised at how the Pune-Satara stretch of the Bom-Bglr highway has improved beyond recognition. The trip which used to take almost 3.5 hours when we were kids now takes just over 1.5 hours.

But I ramble..

Anonymous said...

Wow, I really envy your ability to travel - so much time, so much money! Can you give us ordinary folks some tips on how to do this?

krishnan chari said...

>> I really envy your ability to travel - so much time, so much money! Can you give us ordinary folks some tips on how to do this?

asuming dis is a serious question and not just a dig ....

like with most things, u hafta make the time (and set aside the money) for travel. i hv a family (3 young kids), and we travel whenever dere's a long wkend or a school brk, to diffrent parts of india. we blv its important for the kids's growth and for our family, so we spend time and money on it.

k chari

Anonymous said...

dilip, your piano sounds like a carnival. The piano has been drinking?