I am just loving it!

I have been on the road all across Maharashtra for the past ten days and I must admit, in typical Hinglish-speak, I Am Loving It!

It is election season in Maharashtra again and my mind goes back to the Eighties when I covered election campaigns in the rural areas, getting to the villages strap-hanging in buses, asking for lifts from farmers driving tractors on the highways to take me those places where the buses would not go and then being dropped off at the nearest bus terminus again riding pillions on mopeds driven by villagers chivalrous enough to give me a ride.

It never occurred to me that I was living dangerously or risking life or limb in any manner. I was obviously a city-slicker to the villagers; I could not speak their language too well (each region had its own colloquialism that would quite defeat me those days)  and sometimes I just could not gulp down the goat’s milk they offered (in fact, I had to struggle hard to keep it down)  but they always took me to heart and I returned home in one piece each time.

Much the same is happening now (though no one has yet offered me goat’s milk again) but life on the road is much more comfortable. I do not strap-hang in buses any more, I do not have to hitch-hike any longer because I travel in my own car. And I travel alone at all hours of day or night leaving villages well past dinner time and getting home only past midnight. I do not even have to think twice about my safety on the road.  Friends and family, too, never worry when I am on the road in Maharashtra.

Which is a far cry from the time I decided to travel by road from New Delhi to Dehradun some years ago when I needed to get to my aunt’s funeral ceremonies on time. I and my sister arrived at New Delhi railway station from separate parts of the country and decided to meet up there before going ahead to Dehradun. A friend I called in Delhi for help with a car got blown out of his mind.

“Why do you need to travel by road? I will buy you tickets for the train or even Indian Airlines, if you wish it. But just don’t think of going by road!” he pleaded.

I did not understand – Maharashtra had quite spoilt me and the thought never even occurred to me that I was risking safety travelling by road through Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal. It was a foggy winter afternoon when we set off and our driver would not allow me to stop for even a bottle of water. Angry as I was at that I soon realised why – as dark fell, predators arrived on the road. They would stop  us at every corner and say, “Aapko parchi kataani padegi. We initially paid out more in these illegal extortions than we did at the regular toll stations before my driver decided no more.

But then there was another danger on the horizon: somehow these illegal extortionists seemed connected with each other and word had gone round that there were two women travelling alone after dark and they could be fair game.  How my driver divined that I do not know and what followed after was straight out of a Bollywood potboiler.

He decided to stop at a chai ka dukan on the highway and sip some hot tea along with a whole group of men who had overtaken us in another car. But before that he stopped in the dark shadow of a tree and asked us to get down below the seat in the back of the car. He covered us with blankets and brought out our bags from the boot and placed them on the back seat.

“Don’t move, no matter what,” he warned us grimly. “For as long as it might take me to get back keep still and do not talk. Do not even whisper to each other.”

We  could only hear some murmurs outside our car that sometimes got closer and it seemed awfully long before the driver returned and started the engine. “Don’t get up as yet,” he warned. “Its not yet safe.”

When he finally gave us the all-clear we were in the hills of Dehradun, the fog had cleared and our car was closely tailing that of the Deputy Collector which was making swift progress with its red beacon clearing the way for all.

“I met the driver at the tea stall,” said our own. “I told him I did not have any fog lights and needed to keep close to him. But even he does not know the nature of cargo I have in my car.”

I and my sister were too shocked by the events to say anything, even to being described as ‘cargo’. When we got to our destination, our cousin was pacing up and down before his gate, having posted relatives all across the route to his home to look out for us. “Where were you?” he said, his tension visibly showing. “You should have got here hours ago! We were so out of our minds wondering if you were in trouble.”

He was not impressed when we related our tales of woe. “I agree with your friend. I don’t think you should have travelled by road at all. But next time if you do want to travel by road, do so while the daylight hours last.”

We did that on the return but I promptly forgot that warning once I got back to my own home state.

Last night I finished work late in one village and decided to head back to base immediately rather than stay over in the nearby small town another night. What a safe journey back it was — past midnight. The only incident happened when we lost our way a bit but this driver did not have to go through any subterfuge in hiding his ‘cargo’.

It was as though Dehradun had almost never happened.

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  • Anil

    It sounds so scary. I to remember in early 90’s how any tom dick hary could have a bamboo pole and lower it every time a vehicle approached and illegal extorinsism was on. I am talking about Bihar here not any different from UP.
    But last time in 2007 when I was there we roamed around even at night. Sometimes reaching my home as late as 2 AM in the morning yet no scare..there was no illegal exotortinsit racket on roadside either albeit once we had to pay chanda for Durga Pooja. Extortion in name of goddess Durga. but then again I don’t mind paying 10/20 Rs in name of Durga Pooja. Still noone should be forced to pay for any pooja.


  • reena

    Hi Sujata,

    How long back was this journey, as I have travelled a lot with my family in foothill reigons without facing any such thing!
    but I must say they were never past midnight,
    I think the situation is better now , last I travelled, was up to Haridwar without any problems,
    Anyway I hope you don’t have to go through thsi gain
    take care while on the road and keep blogging


  • ripal mehta

    Miss sujata

    Ofcourse for you maharastras roads are good since congress is ruling it no matter even if its pot holes ridden. According to crisil survey in 2009 maharastra has got one of the worst roads in india, even the roads connecting big cities except mumbai pune are bad to say the least. prime example in mumbai nasik highway, they havent made it four lanes yet, go to the khandes area of maharashtra,( nandarbar, dhulia, 40 gaon, jalgaon, aurangabad, ) my god those roads are spine breaking. Last year i went to bhima shankar to pray as it was a begining of the holy month of shravan, i was shocked to see the roads, they were look some 17th century roads, considering bhima shankar is one of the holiest places of india. i realy cursed the congress ncp government. What can you say about the government who cant even provide good raods in 21st century. down with them.

    ripal mehta


  • ripal mehta

    Dear sujata anandan

    why dont you travel to guajarat and have a feel of the state roads. They are not just best in india but probably one of the best in the worls, For instance you keep talking about mumbai pune express highway, just travel to baroda ahmedabad express way. not only its much better then mumbai pune express way but its got excellent safety infra. My friend s car turned turtel coz of over speeding on the baroda ahmedabad express way, there were emergency phone no. displayed all along the way, he called up the no. and the ambulance along with toing vehicle , well trained staff with gas cutter, oxygen , hot tea coffee were the with in five minutes. the emergency no. on mumbai pune express way doesnt work , have you tried it miss sujata? another example is ahmedabad mehasana express way, its even better then baroda ahmedabad express way. for that matter you travel to saurashtra, north gujarat, north west gujarat till kutch, the roads are a pleasure to drive on. its like a table top. forget about maharastra roads, even the surat mumbai highway connecting the most imp. city of india is bad to say the least. it keeps getting bad as you approach mumbai, why? because its maintained by pwd department of maharasthra ruled by congress ncp government. down with deshmukhs, pawars etc.

    ripal mehta


  • ripal mehta

    roads of maharashtra- i am just hating it


  • http://incorrectpolitically.wordpress.com/ Akhilesh

    I do not know whether you intended it or not, but this blog has all the markings of a a Maharashtrian chauvinism so reminiscent of Raj Thackeary. One incident in your life, and the state of UP and Uttaranchal is bracketed for life !!

    There could be countless number of people who can recount similar horror stories while travelling durinh night in Maharashtra or indeed any other state. Of course you can argue that it is your blog and you can write about your experiences only while others are free to write about their own. Technically you will be right.

    But the difference is that you are the political editor of HT, Mumbai. I am sensationalised that you choose to demonise UP so blatantly and so publicly.



    S Reply:

    I don’t know about Maharashtra, but what she described about Delhi/UP is true.

    Traveling during daylight hours(long distance) is also a rule in my Family.


    Akhilesh Reply:

    Dear S,
    Whoever said that the rule is not correct. As ageneral rule, day travel is safer irrespective of the place. The point is about demonisation of UP and Uttaranchal.

    What Sujata has mentioned is true about Bihar, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Chattisgarh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, tracts of Maharashtra and so many other states.

    Why single out UP.

    And – are you male or female?


    S Reply:


    I am male, and lived all my life in Delhi, with lot(i mean lot of….) of traveling in UP.So i am speaking from personal experience.

    Once i was traveling in UP state bus from Delhi to Muradabad , we were stopeed near Hapur by Police, & they told all the other buses to travel together in Group. Like 5-7 buses traveling together. This was at 7 in the evening ……….

    I don’t know about other states, but what she said about UP is the truth.

    it’s just the bitter truth.

    Hey she only traveled in UP & was just checking with how UP stood up to Mahrashtra. She is only telling us her personal experience.
    I don’t believe it’s intentional ,to miss other states.

    Rajeev Reply:

    Pl. read ‘UP people will never neat poeple’
    as ‘UP people will never beat poeple ‘


  • http://- Rajeev

    My post was deleted. I just proved how this so-called journalist is full of herself. These journalist are as shameless as politicians they serve.


  • ripal mehta

    dear sujata anandan

    your name doesnt suggest you are maharashtrian, where did you come from ? and how did you come.. by rail , road , if by road then did you come in bullock cart? south style?

    Why do you keep praising mahrashtra ’s ruling politicians? what are you scared of? how did you afford to buy a car by the way? when do you wish to buy a helicopter?

    i swear “journalism is second most profitable business after politics”.


  • B R Goudar

    Wow what a response to a simple anectodal piece. The accusations are flying thick! what are you guys more hurt about … the bitter truth about UP? or the relative peace and safety experienced by the people in Maharashtra? Anyone who has travelled across the country will vouch for the fact that in GENERAL the southern states including Maharashtra are more safe than the BIMARU states. Also the blog was never about the condition of the roads. It is too much to read politics into the article! It is a fact that the roads of Gujarat are better. But that is irrelevant in the context of this article.


  • ripal mehta

    every body has a different perspective to look at things , just coz some body has seen it in a different context doesnt mean he or she is wrong. had some one else written this article i wouldnt have blogged. But miss anandan is infamous for her pro congress / ncp stand. so there is definetly a political angle in her article. She wouldnt have criticised up and bihar had those states been ruled by congress , i am sure about that. so conditions of roads is not just better in gujarat its in comparable to maharashtra. its like first world road s of gujarat and third world roads of maharashtra. i am not happy about it being living in mumbai but i really pity this congress led governments administrative incapabilty. so yes guys there is nothing to be hurt about maharastras pathetic road conditions.


    ripal mehta Reply:

    Afzal Guru is patriot , Baghat Singh/Sadhvi are terrorist

    Afzal Guru ko maafi Sadhvi ko faansi

    Allah is god ,Ram is a fictional character.

    SIMI ,IM are social service org ,RSS,VHP are terror org.

    Kerala CPM declared 4000 Rs/- pension for madrasa teachers from temple funds

    genocide of tamils= srilanka’s internal problem

    Great sivaraj patil compares azfal hanging with common Indian (Sabarjit singh ) in pak. Afzal is human ,Sabarjit is traitor.

    Godhra Train carnage is accident ,gujarat riots are preplanned .

    15% muslims are human ,85% hindus are insects.

    Supporting Majority (80 crores hindus) is Communal ,20 crores muslims are minority (lol population of USA)

    Malegaon blasts are only blasts ,other blasts are not at all blasts , they are just diwali crackers.

    5 muslims died in malegaon are important ,1000s died in other blasts are not important.

    reservations for muslims ,bomb blasts for hindus.

    crores of money for Haj pilgrims, nothing for amarnath pilgrims ,allotting 2 acres of land in kashmir is blunder.

    supporting islamic terrorist is secularism ,killing Indians is patriotism .

    babri masjid is issue(which is actually a ram temple) , 100’s of hindu temples demolished is development.

    If muslims die it is killing ,if hindu dies it is fate.

    hindus should follow rules ,muslims no not need to obey common civil code.

    according to congress

    Sikhs getting slaughtered in thousands = A MISTAKE.
    hindus getting killed in Kashmir = Political problem.
    muslims getting killed by a few hundred = Holocaust.
    Poor protestors getting shot in WB under Left Govt = Misunderstanding.

    Banning Parzania in Gujarat = Communal.
    Banning Da Vinci Code and Jo Bole So Nihaal = Secular.

    Kargil Attack = Government failure.
    Chinese invasion in 1962 = Unfortunate betrayal.

    Reservations in every school and college on caste lines = Secular. Reservations in Minority institutions = Communal.

    Fake encounters in Gujarat [Sohrabuddin] = BJP Communalism.
    Fake encounters under Cong-NCP in Maharashtra [Khwaja Younus] = Police atrocity.

    Talking about hindus and hinduism = Communal. Talking about muslims and Islam = Secular.

    BJP freeing 3 terrorists to save 100 Indian hostages = Shameful
    Congress freeing 4 militants to save just a life of one daughter of I Home minister in Kashmir [Rubina Sayed] = Natural Political dilemma.

    Attack on Parliament = BJP ineptitude. Not hanging Afzal Guru the mastermind despite Supreme Court orders = Humanity and Political dilemma.

    BJP questioning Islam = Communal. Congress questioning Lord Ramas existance = Clerical Error

    These are just few examples, list can go on and on.

    Its time for hindus to wake up or perish.

    At the time of partition 18 % population of Pakistan were hindus, now its not even 1 %, and 8 % population of Afghanistan were hindus now its 0 %. Where have they all gone.

    Tamil hindus are being discriminated and slaughtered in srilanka, no body including India says anything, when muslims were killed in Yugoslavia the world attacked Yugoslavia.

    Rajiv Gandhi sent ipkf ( Indian peace keeping force ) to kill tamil hindus in srilanka.

    Hindus being tortured and discriminated in Malaysia, and Indians happily tour Malaysia.
    Hindu Temples demolished in kazakistan, Russia.

    Hindus call them self educated and they vote for congress, because congress says ( our prim minister actually ) “ muslims have first right on every resources” , hindus are terrorists , armed forces are communal because they say “ram ram”.


  • http://starttags.com/tags/sivaraj sivaraj

    [...] … Dr Sivaraj. Aug 25, 2009. Reply. Indians should not forget that the people of SL have not …I am just loving it! : Singly PoliticalIt is election season in Maharashtra again and my mind goes back to the Eighties when I … Great [...]

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    Very enlightening and beneficial to someone whose been out of the circuit for a long time.

    - Kris


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  • Anonymous




  • http://www.blurbpoint.com/link-building-services.php Link Building Services

    It is definitely true that there is nothing above than the truth. And if one speak truth for entire life then he/she does not have any kind of guilty through the life. And through the truth one can win the any kind of race whether it is of life. Even Mr. Gandhi spoke lie once during his life journey. And he has mention all the deeds which he has done ,in his book that is “Experiments of Truth”.


  • https://me.yahoo.com/a/NJgNuLUmq5Itz8Qd3ypKBXkOQ8Uh#8a5a0 ashok

    Some favourable developments in India’s neighborhood after a long time. If the gas pipeline from Iran can work, that too should be pushed. Being overly sensitive to the concerns of our friends carries a high price in terms of missed opportunities.


  • Syd Ram

    Unlikely. I think the method of even compiling a selection committee should be revamped. After, all everything is to be earned on merit and not given to them because they played cricket earlier.


  • http://www.facebook.com/rsikd Rasik Girey

    very well i agree with dis blogger


  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Banti-Saha/1582395793 Banti Saha

    i was thinking it too.let make kohli captain


  • Swarup

    Arnab, once again, well written. I have no problem with your choice of captain, but I sincerely doubt that ‘changing’ the captain would help matters. As mentioned earlier, I think we need some systemic changes in Indian cricket. Unless that is bought about, I see no hope.


  • http://twitter.com/authorspeak BS Murthy

    Given his behavioural pattern Down Under,
    isn’t it a scary idea to have Kohli as skipper?


  • vishal

    dhoni should not be blamed for it he cant go and bat for the whole playing 11 alone.its the batsman fault not dhoni .


  • Hitesh

    “Taqiya” called and recommended by the Prophet(May Peace Be Upon Him as he needs) himself to deal with non-believer. Taqiya means deception, treachery.