Photo by Purabi Sinha Das Location - Towards Hazaribagh, Jharkhand

As in previous years, this August we heard the siren call of the road. There is something about a trip taken in the comfort of one’s car – simply throw a few things in the back seat and you are good to go.

A pre-dawn departure has a lot going for it. The previous day is history, a new one on the horizon with promises of better things yet to come. A certain stillness in the air, the road less-travelled, the sky hovering between dark and light, a magical aura on everything.

There was one road trip I remember, from my childhood. One December our aunt (father’s youngest sister) and her sixteen-year-old son (our wonderful cousin) were visiting from Calcutta. When the time came for them to leave it was decided we would accompany them to Calcutta. And, we would travel by car, a distance of about 300 miles, I imagine. I set about collecting my favourite dolls, their clothes, bedding, etc. to take on this momentous journey. Instead of the train we would travel the distance by car.  

The day of our journey arrived. Although the sky still bore traces of ink around the edges, yet we are up. That winter was especially cold, we could see our breath. Our cousin was still abed. He wasn’t used to frigid temperatures. My aunt pulled the comforter off of him, it had to be packed, and the house filled with his startled yelling his mother trying to convince him to leave the warm bed. Father intervened, the boy was allowed back under the covers.  I looked on wide-eyed. I failed to fathom why he would want to sleep and miss out on the fun.

Soon, my sister and I were put to work. Father instructed us to sit on what appeared (to the un-initiated) a huge mound; it was actually the family bedding in a brown canvas hold-all, and into its capacious and numerous pockets and compartments were packed various pieces – sheets, blankets, comforters, pillows – it had been rolled tightly ready to be strapped and buckled. Only, it wouldn’t cooperate. The leather straps just would not meet.  That’s where we came in. The two of us pressed down as hard as our little selves could, father tried the straps one more time, our cousin who was up now and wanting to get in on the act, helped. The joint effort won the day. The hold-all was tightly buckled, it was placed beside an assortment of cases, a large trunk, the food basket, water canteens, shawls to ward off the chill (cars were not heated) our faithful cook standing guard beside the lot. He had been up even before the rooster crowed. Mother had been helping to prepare food for the road. Tons of mouth- watering items were still being packed into tiffin carriers. Ah, the life of a spoilt young’un. I couldn’t wait to begin the journey sure of the tasty reward somewhere in-between. Our dog would be left with cook to guard the house. I would miss him.

Our journey through the Hudson valley last week, although not as exciting as the one taken in childhood described above, was still every bit as enjoyable. As the sun began to rise, cars and trucks magically appeared on the highway their tail lights a warm glow in the grey dawn. Our first stop would be Kingston. We were fairly confident not too many people would be out at that time. Boy, were we wrong! An enormous tourist bus followed us to the first stop, we sprinted to the restroom, returned to the car and were enjoying the sandwiches packed from home before the first tourist had got off. As I ate, my mind cast back to the time when we had eaten potatoes and loochies on that other road trip.

Around noon, and still far from New York city, we stopped in a small town called Deposit. I was immediately captivated by the quirky name. Deposit is in the county of Delaware, New York with a population of approximately of 1,712 (this last was gleaned from Wikipedia). After re-fueling, we entered the small store which is part gas station, part restaurant. As I ordered a veg subway and chatted with the very nice lady across the counter she asked if I would like cucumbers in the sandwich. Of course, that’s awesome, I replied, and discovered they were surplus from her own garden. Holding my lunch, I walked to the back to get a cup of tea. A very nice old man moved over insisting I get the although he had been there before me. I demurred, he replied that he had all day. The store was nicely set up for travelers like us to sit and enjoy a meal, then carry on. A delightful place, indeed. We spent the night in the town of Wallkill (another one!) in Orange county.  Next morning, we reached Manhattan in a couple of hours.

Keep Well….Keep Smiling

                                                                                                                 Purabi Das


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