Do you enjoy driving in the city? Our urban landscapes are often congested with unruly traffic. Personally, I prefer cruising on highways. My wife jokingly says that whenever I’m behind the wheel, it seems like I want everyone to stay home so I can have the roads all to myself. She’s travelled with her colleagues too who vented their frustrations at fellow drivers while stuck in traffic. But let’s set these stories aside. I am writing after a long time, and I have something very special to share.
After navigating the labyrinth of city streets, there’s something truly refreshing about hitting the open highway. Here, you can pick up the pace, leave your road frustrations behind, and relish the journey by listening to your favorite songs or engaging in meaningful conversations with your fellow passengers. The experience becomes even more delightful when you’re cruising from Mumbai to Pune, where the highway unfolds like a welcome mat. I believe there are more such fantastic highways across India, thanks to the initiatives of Mr. Gadkari, who took charge of the transportation department of the Government of India. I’ve driven on routes like Mumbai to Pune, Nashik, and Indore multiple times, and each time has been an absolute delight. And so, I found myself back on the highway once more.
It was a Friday afternoon, and I never anticipated embarking on a journey on a workday, bidding farewell to Mumbai. As I started my car and slowly pulled away from the building, I intentionally drove at a leisurely pace, savoring one last look at the open roads and the beautiful buildings of Hiranandani Powai. I knew I’d miss this place. Another thought crept in – my daughter would miss it even more, as this was the only residential area she’d known in her five years of life. Nostalgia enveloped me, as I left behind 16 years’ worth of memories.
As I turned right onto JVLR (Jogeshwari Vikhroli Link Road), reality hit me. I didn’t own a flat in Mumbai, not even a small one. Why was I attached to Mumbai to this extent? The answer was evident. The city had been a profound teacher, imparting lessons in the value of time (remember the rush to catch that train?), respecting people’s privacy (or lack thereof on crowded trains “mind your own business”), and the resilience of Mumbai in the face of adversity. Of course, that last one is more a testament to individual survival instincts rather than the “Spirit” of Mumbai. In fact, I could write a practical lesson for each of these experiences. If you are from Mumbai, please do not mind the last statement, we all know the political humbug (tokenism for our helplessness) of calling “Spirit of Mumbai”.
As I paused at a traffic signal, I fired up my music playlist and began playing a devotional track. Yet, my gaze kept wandering outside, reminiscing about the places where my wife and I would go on our scooter to buy vegetables, or where I used to drop her off at Kanjur Marg station when she had to commute to South Mumbai.
With my music playing, including the melodious Nirvana Shatakam, and with a 1000-kilometer drive ahead of me, my plan was straightforward: leave Mumbai, spend the night at my cousin sister’s place, find a hotel for an overnight stay the next day, and arrive in Bangalore before evening on the day after that. There was no need to rush, I had good 48 hours with me to drive leisurely.
There was a time when I used to compete with other drivers on the road, trying to outpace the car ahead or the one that had just overtaken me. It was an adrenaline rush, and I even ended up with a speeding fine. After a few long drives to different cities, wisdom prevailed. I realized that my modest car couldn’t compete with those powerful 2000cc+ engines. Slowly, I adapted to the ebb and flow of highway traffic. This time, I was driving from Mumbai for what was supposed to be the last time, and I found myself on the scenic Pune highway.
As the music played on, transitioning from devotional songs in Sanskrit to Marathi, an interesting song came up – “Hum Jo Chalne Lage” from the movie “Jab We Met“. This time, I was driving alone. Most of the time, we tend to travel with company, but on this occasion, there was no one to talk to for the entire day. So, I sang along, listened, and thought deeply while driving.
This time, I was driving alone, whereas most of our trips were family affairs. There was no one to converse with throughout the day. So, I did more than just sing along and listen to music; I also engaged in some introspection. The road stretched ahead, and someone in a Skoda whizzed past me. Their vehicle had at least double the engine capacity of my car. I smiled and briefly entertained the idea of a friendly race. But then I had another thought: what was the hurry? I wasn’t in a rush; I’d be reaching Bangalore the day after tomorrow. I decided to enjoy the journey and not compete needlessly.
On the second day, the nostalgia of leaving Mumbai had subsided. The songs played on, and I found myself once again listening to “Hum Jo Chalne Lage.” I overtook some cars, and others overtook me. This time, I kept my focus on the road, the odometer, the speedometer, and the tachometer. Thoughts of racing and competing with others crossed my mind, but just as I contemplated overtaking a car, it took an exit. That moment struck me – I was on a journey to Bangalore, and there would be many detours and exits along the way. Why compete? Why should I rush to outpace others when I didn’t even know where they were going? Was life a race?
This internal competition I was engaging in reminded me of the broader aspects of life – personal and professional. This reflection on the impulsive race I was trying to win reminded me of how we often approach our personal lives and careers. The irony was that I didn’t even know the destination of the drivers I was competing with. It was a realization that everyone’s journey is unique, whether on the road or in personal and professional life. Even if someone is on a bus, after reaching the last stop, they still have to find their own way home, just as you do after completing your school or college, or you change jobs and workplace.
As I continued on the long journey, passing through villages, towns, and city bypasses, I encountered people who tried to cross the highway in unconventional ways, seemingly oblivious to the high-speed vehicles approaching them. It could be a heart-pounding experience, unable to brake quickly with another vehicle tailing closely behind. That’s when it dawned on me – the thrill of speed is one thing, but maintaining control is equally important. It reminded me of The Middle Path, as taught by the Buddha. In this context, the middle path meant enjoying the drive but at a speed that allowed me to stay in control.
Encounters with stray animals and people darting across the highway added another layer to my introspection. In life, you will encounter individuals who might disrupt your equilibrium. The key is to maintain control over your own vehicle – both your mind and body – and manage the situation or your journey. At best, you can honk your horn to alert others, but beyond that, you have no control over what’s happening in someone else’s life or their state of mind. It’s wiser to maintain control over your own vehicle.
It has been about 10 months since we left Mumbai. The city bestowed upon me valuable lessons and wonderful experiences. But sometimes, one has to move on. Of course, we miss Mumbai, and it’s only natural to weigh the pros and cons.
In the end, what truly matters is how safely, responsibly, and comfortably you navigate your journey. This perspective extends to life as well. My drive from Mumbai to Bangalore was not just a physical journey; it was a journey of self-discovery. Along the way, I learned several valuable lessons:
- Everyone’s journey is unique (be it bus or the person overtaking you)
- You have to control your life yourself (saving your car and self from accidents)
- Advertently or inadvertently people may enrage you, your response has to be your mind body coordination (people honking on you, stray dog coming in front of your car etc)
- Take care of yourself and the people in your life (people crossing the road without caring for the high-speed vehicle on highway)
- Life is fun, enjoy the ride (listen to the song, sing with it and drive)
- One has to move on in life, past is past with sweet or bitter experiences (leaving Mumbai)
Did you learn something interesting from a mundane day’s work? Do share.