Highway Jottings-1

Konsultramesh
4 min readMay 10, 2024

It was scorching hot, the kind of heat that makes you feel like you’re walking on the sun. Despite the Indian Meteorological Department’s observation that the day temperature in the Gurgaon-Manesar-Bilaspur belt was 38.4 degrees Celsius — two degrees below the previous day — on May 9, 2024, a working Thursday, the heat was relentless.

“Are you mad? You want to step out in this climate?” reprimanded my better half. I rarely listen to such genuine pleadings from her on my highway outings particularly. Had I hearkened to such concerns, I would have never stepped out in October 2010 for my maiden truck trip from Chennai to Gurgaon, lasting over seven days. Nor the 30,000KM ride in trucks (2010–2022). The thrill of the open road, the sense of adventure, and the freedom to explore new places were too enticing to resist.

Despite her ‘house arrest’ suggestion, I decided to brave the heat and dust of the Indian summer, particularly the North Indian summer. In the south, they use the term ‘tar-melting’ to describe the unbearable heat. Thanks to Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari’s preference for concrete roads, I rarely experienced this phenomenon.

The initial Gurgaon Metropolitan City Bus was home to the nearest metro station (Sector 55–56), and the subsequent Yellow Line interchange at Sikanderpur to the IFFCO Chowk metro ride was thanda-thanda.

The grey (or is it blue?) JBM low bed GMB to IMT Manesar was ready, and I hopped in for the next 40-minute ride with an aisle seat near the rear entrance. When it trundled out, the bus was packed with little room for the conductor to move along the aisle to issue tickets to passengers.

By the time the bus crossed the Honda Chowk, it was half empty — no standees, that is. It is more 13 years since the Hero Honda announced their split after a quarter century of joint venture to make and emerge as India’s numero uno two-wheeler maker. The factory situated on the lips of NH48 was known as Hero Honda Chowk. The Munals and the Japanese would have separated but the location name remains etched as Honda Chowk, though the Japanese automaker is a few kilometres away, tucked inside the IMT Manesar — away from the prying eyes of the highway users. I don’t think anyone calls this vital junction as Hero Chowk! A big brand equity loss for Hero Motocorp!

The ride was smooth. Unlike the DTC bus conductors, the Haryanvi conductor was mobile, moving the entire distance to issue tickets. The DTC conductor tribe prefers to sit in their dedicated seat near the rear entrance, and passengers have to approach them to buy tickets.

The traffic on the highway (NH 48) was thin in both directions. The hot wind rode onto the bus without a ticket. Was it an AC bus and switched off? Nobody noticed or asked. Sab kuch chalta hai.

The pre-recorded female voice alerted me about the next halting: Rajiv Chowk. Honda Chowk. Haldiram.

Forty minutes after departure, IMT Manesar Chowk was announced. I stepped out along with others.

It was a decent ride for Rs.25. I would give a 5 out of 10 rating for this stretch. The drive was smooth — not like the typical Rajasthani or Haryanvi drivers unmindful of safety precautions racing. There was no noisy gaana disturbing the peace inside the bus. Most of the passengers were busy, focused on their handsets, either checking messages or watching video clips (of course with earplugs). Half a dozen youngsters with baggage were travelling to Maruti Gate №4 in IMT Manesar.

It is a huge industrial hub. Maruti and Honda have a plant that makes passenger cars and two-wheelers respectively. With two huge Japanese automotive giants pitching tent in IMT Manesar, autocomponent manufacturers automatically.

A few weeks ago, I spent two days perambulating the Honda-Denso factories periphery to check the facilities these big companies provide for truck drivers. (A special feature, “Can Do Better, Honda!” appears in the June-August 2024 issue of DRIVERS DUNIYA, India’s ONLY English quarterly focused on long-haul truck drivers since 2015.)

Bilaspur was my destination for the day. The roadside sugarcane juice vendor responded that Bilaspur is 12 km away and regular buses are available. As a thankful gesture, I downed two glasses of iced sugarcane juice. My spouse’s face surfaced on my windscreen. Had she been present at the IMT Chowk, I would have been deprived of the juice due to my diabetic history.

Yeh bus jaayega,” the juice vendor alerted me, pointing out a private bus coming from Gurgaon.

I thanked him before boarding the bus for Bilaspur. I had a window seat and parted with Rs.20. No ticket was issued. I liked how the conductor tucked the currency between his fingers: several denominations.

The bus moved and merged into the Gurgaon-Jaipur National Highway 48.

(More to come)

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Konsultramesh

An avid watcher & practitioner in the world of communication