Nothing Can Match Drives and Memories
"I'm bored", I said. "Why must all Mondays be like this?"
"You're especially feeling like this because of your vacation", Vikrant said. I had just returned that morning from a 5-day trip to Goa. I was missing the beaches, the food, the lovely weather and… well, everything that we do in Goa. Add to that the Monday morning blues and the feeling of staring at a computer screen, attending meetings, and wading through office politics for six whole days and the moodiness was compounded.
Vikrant sensed it, and offered to drive down to Datta Snacks in Panvel where we could drink kokum sherbat. We had time to reach office, but not so much that we could drive from Kopar Khairane to Panvel and back.
"Dude, you've already been away from office for 5 days, right?", he asked.
"So how will one more day hurt? Plus, this will prepare me for the week ahead too." Fair point.
So he stepped on the gas of his recently-restored Suzuki Gypsy. The feeling of speeding past office on a Monday morning brought a smile my face. Vikrant assured me that we would return in a little more than an hour. This was also an opportunity for him to really test the Gypsy's abilities - he hadn't opened the throttle in a while.
The road to Panvel passes from under the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. As we approached Kalamboli, I thought aloud that the Expressway would have been a great place to test the Gypsy. And as we approached the diversion, I waited for him to turn. Instead, he went straight and got onto the Expressway.
"Vikrant, what are you doing? We will miss work!"
"Tune apna mooh kyun khola? Ab chup chaap chal (Why did you open your mouth. Now come along without resistance)."
Datta Snacks? Be damned.
Even worse, office? Back to fair point.
So we drove along. Vikrant rarely shows emotions - stoics would be proud. But today, I could see his teeth. The engine had done its 1,000 kilometres run-in so he opened the throttle. The Gypsy motored along at 110 km/h on the Expressway, but the fumes which get into the cabin were giving me a heady feeling. Anyway, the breeze compensated and I survived till we turned for Lonavla. We stopped at a hotel to have breakfast and fresh lime soda. And I started feeling better. Maybe it was the soda, maybe it was the feeling of sitting in an empty restaurant on a Monday morning while people were rushing to work… but Vikrant knew that the best way to rejuvenate me was to put me at the wheel. Again, if you know me, you also know that I am not formal with friends. And I love the ghats of Lonavla. So the "oh, are you sure? She's your baby" dialogue never took place. I sat on the driver's seat and prepared for a lovely drive up to Aamby Valley. I was keen on testing how the front sway bar and the CEAT Plus One R16 tyres would aid the SUV's performance on the twisties.
For a vehicle which had been introduced around similar times to the Yamaha RD350, the vehicle's stance was impressive. I had to put in some effort in turns because she didn't have power steering (Vikrant is a boisterous Jharkhandi who didn't want power steering). But every turn I took, the 16" CEATs ensured that the Gypsy stuck to the line that I took. The heady feeling was quickly replaced by one of relaxation. Here's a little secret: just before Aamby Valley is a diversion which is off-road terrain and leads to a village. When I offered to take the Gypsy there, Vikrant's eyes lit up and he snatched the steering back (not literally, of course). And the SUV went through the 'course' with remarkable aplomb. On rocky terrains where one would gingerly have to drive a sedan at the speeds of 10-20, the Gypsy seemed comfortable at 60 kmph. This time, I heard Vikrant laugh.
By the time we were back home, it was 4 already.
There was hell to pay for the next day. Not only because both of us called in sick just an hour before office started, but because our other friends shared a piece of their mind about our adventure without them. Especially because Vikrant didn't hand over the keys of the Gypsy to anyone until the previous day. To compensate, he let everyone drive the SUV around the campus during the lunch break (our office had a 140-acre campus). And as they say, all's well that ends well.