The monsoon of 2006 was pretty life altering.
I had to do a travel show called Freedom Express. It was all about traveling around India on a very tight budget. I remember being pretty stoked about it, as was my team.
My team had Sakshi (Producer), Manjunath (ManjuMan – camera). Raja (sound), Pawan (Production), Niraj (Producer) & Hardeep (our paranoid schizophrenic driver).
So we had a 22-day trip ahead of us with very little money. But all of us were gung ho and ready to take on the world… or at least Himachal Pradesh if we came up short.
We decided to take a train from Bombay to Delhi and I clearly remember Sakshi and me insisting on general compartment travel. We figured we might as well save as much money as we could at the beginning so that it’s easier later on.
See, it was pouring in Bombay when we left and our ‘general compartment’ had a leak… from the ceiling. So the six of us kicked off our little journey sitting like idiots, getting drenched. It got better after a while, the rain stopped and it started to get warm. Really warm. But then we reached Delhi and realized that getting drenched in a dirty, sardine packed train was far better than the heat we were being pelted with. We were all hypoglycemic by the time we reached the taxi stand and met Hardeep. Now when I say Hardeep, I want trumpets to play and elephants to march across the screen. Because Hardeep was a force to reckon with. He was sent back in time from outer space to destroy us all. One kilometer at a time. He seemed like a meek little sardar when we first introduced ourselves. But, then he got into the car and said “pata hai isse pehle main Tihar jail mein thha. Maine khoon kiya hai.” I remember we just stared at him for a bit and then Sakshi started to laugh uncontrollably and I really wanted to as well but I was afraid.
We had a long and winding route ahead of us, which I’m really proud of so I’m going to type it out:-
And we had to be with Hardeep all through.
Everything was fine for the first couple of days, no problems, no nothing. I think it was on day 4, when we were driving through Punjab, Sakshi corrected Hardeep’s driving. He was swerving a little and going faster than usual. So she told him to take it easy. Hardeep stopped the car in the middle of the highway, opened the door and started walking away. We didn’t really know what to make of this, but chasing him made sense. So we all got out, ran to him, apologized (I have no idea for what), and he got back in the car. This happened quite frequently after that. And in time we learnt not to check him… at all… ever… even if he was going head on towards a truck.
A couple of days later he got a little too cocky or maybe it was just his bipolarity kickin’ in, but he insisted that we go to this one village (his village, of course) for breakfast at a Gurudwara. This particular village was way off our route and we were pressed for time, but hey, none of us was strong enough to say no to “Meri baat suno, langar hai, free hai, chal lo”. So like mice, we sat in the car and reached this Gurudwara for the langar. And we lost 4 hours of our day, but we got free food. I remember being scared throughout.
Now I could go on and on about this trip, but I think I’m going to keep it coming in snippets. Only because I don’t have the will-power to write that much and large amounts of text make me nauseous. I’m going to let this one be about Hardeep. And I will also let you know that as neurotic as he was, he did our entire trip without killing anybody and even smiled once. So, here’s to Hardeep, wherever he is!
P.s – I don’t have any pictures of Hardeep because my hard-drive crashed and I hadn’t backed up some photographs. Sakshi, this is your cue.