RASTA BANDH

NarrowRoadAheadDriveslow

We had been travelling most of the night on the road from Madras, now Chennai, to Kodaikanal in South India. Conversation was beginning to take on stereotyped platitudes tired minds are capable of producing.

We were not making a lot of sense to each other by this time, and those who were valiantly trying to stay awake to keep the drivers mind on the road were beginning to envy those who’d given up and were snoring loudly in the passenger seats of the minibus. They had reason to be sleeping having spent the night on a plane from Singapore where our children attended boarding school. Nevertheless our desire to stay alive on dangerous South Indian roads at night kept us from giving in to our urge to sleep. We were desperately wishing for a diversion to jolt us back to full consciousness.

Rounding a bend in the road we were soon provided with the diversion we’d been hoping for. The minibus eased to a stop and passengers dozing fitfully in their seats began to wake one by one as the oppressive heat took hold of them. Without air conditioning the only comfort one has on the roads of India is the breeze created by movement of a vehicle. Looming in front of us was the dark shape of a tractor trailer jackknifed across the road. There was no way to move forward.

Considering the impossibility of getting around this obstacle we were surprised there was no bank up of traffic on the road and all alighted to look into the matter. It appeared this was not an accident but a carefully planned blockage. Newspapers and radios had given this “Rasta Bund,” blocked road, ample coverage and it was unfortunate we couldn’t read or understand the language of this part of the country. Others had diverted their travel to other highways, and that accounted for the unusually empty road behind us. Indian roads are alive at all hours of the day or night. The truck union members were determined we wouldn’t go through, and we soon learned that arguments, pleas or threats wouldn’t work. We retreated to the minibus to think things through.

The driver walked to the edge of the road and stood studying the lay of the land. A row of low stones marked the edge of the road, and beyond them was a thin strip of land with a steep drop off to the valley below. The driver returned and started the minibus, then before we could gather our thoughts he’d bumped the vehicle across those stones and slowly picked his way between the end of the tractor trailer, stones, and the drop off to the side.

We all held our breath, and prayed hard. But we made it, and the driver had the satisfaction of informing unionists in a loud voice the road was now open to traffic as he sped by them on the other side of the disabled tractor trailer. Looking back in the gathering light of early morning we saw a group of shocked faces and some clenched shaking fists waving in our direction.

I’m sure that few found their way along that straight and narrow way that evening but we had survived by the pluck and skill of our driver in spite of dangerous terrain.

Our children who’d watched their close proximity to disaster breathed and audible sigh of relief as we speeded on our way. We had a whole road to ourselves for an hour after that event. Thoughts turned to the cool air of Kodaikanal Mountain where in a few more hours we’d be enjoying time boating on the lake and a month of annual vacation.

“© Copyright Ian Grice 2015 All rights reserved”

Image courtesy of clickforsign.com

31 Comments

  1. Hi Ian, I gather from these comments that you’ve been facing health issues. I’m sorry to hear that! I hope the test on April 10 had positive news… wish you the best of health. 🙂
    As for this post, it reminded me of snippets from similar journeys – a bus taken in the wee hours of the morning to Rishikesh, where the driver had to be periodically shaken awake by vigilant (read terrified) passengers; another overnight journey from Bangalore to Goa which took forever thanks to confusing road signs, bad roads and a hopelessly lost driver. Indian road journeys are more often crazy than not, I suppose. 🙂
    Take care of your health!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your concern Ami. With all the confusion Bharat Mata offers it works and has progressed enormously since independence. What would we talk about if it were not for some of the unusual experiences we all have had there? We love the country and the people after our 20 years spent there and the friends made during that time. Speaking of bus trips I have a few stories back in the archives that have their fill of humour.

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  2. It was good to hear from you sweet Ian, you and Georgine have been on my mind for the last few days, I hope all is going well. Thank you for taking the time to check in with me. Wishing you and your sweet Georgine and wonderful week. Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I sure hope you are…I had a feeling you were not doing so well. Take care and know that there are always prayers going up from here for you and Georgine. Be well sweet friend.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Val. I had many heart stopping moments in my 20 year stay in India. You develop the Indian philosophy of whatever will be will be and just keep going. lol. April 10 we will see what the problem is and whether it can be fixed. Cheers!

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  3. I hope that you manage to navigate around your health issues as well as your friend navigated the ‘blocked’ road. It is odd that no one had tried to get the obstruction to the side. I agree about Indian roads, during our visit we never saw an empty one even when crossing the desert. A month or so ago Dan and I drove through the Texas pan handle and went for many miles along a superb pot-hole-free highway without seeing a soul either on the road or beside it.

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    1. The roads in the US compare with the best autobahns in Europe but I can remember one concrete freeway that was being broken up for a hundred miles when we did our trip around the nation in 1980. It was painful working our way around the diversions. There were alternative roads but this was our first trip around the US so we’d thought it better to stick with Rand McNally main connections. Travelled regularly on the roads after that but never found another freeway in that extended repair state. I go in for my next tests on April 10 and we will see if they can fix my problems after that.

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  4. Oh, my goodness! Had I been there I would have walked around that truck and had the driver of the minivan pick me up on the other side. I have had to struggle to breathe driving over some of the roads in Switzerland, Washington, Oregon and Idaho and we had plenty of room on the road. :). Hope you and yours are doing well sweet Ian. Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think my friend figured out that if we got out and walked around the truck union people would realize what he was about to do and block that escape route. lol. It was dangerous but driving any road in India is potentially dangerous at night in particular.

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    1. My friend driving was very experienced and very brave, but I guess we tempted death a few times together. A previous story Miraj Road was another one in which we could have been killed together.

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  5. I drove Charter Bus for five years for several companies including Greyhound. There is so much responsibility. I enjoyed the many trips we went on.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. that made me shake from here! I’ve heard about the roads there from fellow IT members, but that is a real topper.

        Hope you recover swiftly – we’ll keep you in our thoughts and prayers, Ian.

        Liked by 1 person

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