By Poulomi Das Aug. 25, 2017
Road trips are not about open-air convertibles and flying scarfs. They are about co-existing with cramps in stuffy cars that turn seemingly normal friends into tantrum-throwing monsters.
About a year ago, on a balmy Sunday afternoon that Delhi is so notoriously (in)famous for, my childhood friend and I – who was visiting the city as a stopgap to recover from a break up she didn’t foresee – took a momentous decision. Over a hazy amalgamation of evocative nostalgia, bottles of cheap wine, and free-flowing tears invoked by a rewatch of Zoya Akhtar’s Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, we figured that the time was ripe to follow in Kabir, Imran, and Arjun’s footsteps.
The more we pondered over our spur-of-the-moment decision, the more the pieces seemed to just fit. Just like the three boys, we too were people itching to break free from the confines of our mundane lives. We too had been coloured by the cruelty of distance and diminishing attention spans, becoming mere strangers to each other’s existence over the years. And so, we too then zeroed in on the easiest currency to resuscitate the flames of our stagnating bond – a road trip.
Now the effects of this kind of road trip on the big screen are usually excellent. Friends rediscover each other, find resolutions to their life problems, and pick up gorgeous members of the opposite sex along the way. The journey itself unfolds in open-air convertibles whose open-airness exists solely to let you watch your scarf fly along like the wind, and for you to close your eyes and feel the warmth of the sun’s rays on your face, and revel in the wind’s ability to make your hair glamorously flutter.
But what happens in reality is a little different.
Minutes after my friend and I took the life-altering decision of embarking on our maiden road trip together, she bunged in another childhood friend and her boyfriend, and stuffed us all in a tiny Wagon-R. We set off on the long road from Delhi to Jaipur with big dreams. From there on, started a wrestling session in the confines of the over-heated oven called “Survival of The Most Patient”. It lasted over 10 hours, saw three flat tyres, directionless behaviour that added an extra hour to the journey, infinite disagreements about downright ridiculous decisions, and one break up that lasted 10 minutes.
The stark contrast in the road-trip experience in movies and in real life is what happens when you expect Ranbir Kapoor-type capabilities in all star kids and forget about the Uday Chopras and Shraddha Kapoors.
In fact, the entirety of the dreaded trip was spent trying to stretch legs in any direction available and woefully accepting that co-existing with cramps is now a way of life. It meant enduring the sweet torture of 10 seasons worth of Roadies tasks, bundled up within a span of 10 hours inside a car that felt like it was getting smaller by the minute. It meant surviving meeting not only the worst version of yourself, but also of the people sitting by your side – the ones guilty of not letting our body stretch to its fullest potential, and the ones you’re dying to dedicate “Somebody I used to know” to. Road trips, when not in fancy cars and on Indian roads, are essentially the worst thing to happen to friendships, defeating the merciless existence of WhatsApp’s “last seen” by an enormous margin.
The whole fiasco started off with a minor disagreement about when and where we should stop for breakfast, which broke out a full five minutes after we hit the road. Wagon-R Boyfriend vetoed his girlfriend’s demands of having a salad at 8.15 am, and she retaliated by unbuckling her seat belt, opening the front door of a moving car, and threatening to jump out. Once we got Crazy Girlfriend to calm down, she announced to the world (of three people in a tiny car) that no one should sit in the front seat, and excitedly came to sit with the two of us sitting behind. Not one to be left behind in this episode of “So You Think You Can Drama?”, Wagon-R-Boyfriend-turned-Hulk started clocking over 100 kmph, ignoring fervent pleas to slow the fuck down.
Just when my fantasy of living inside a Fear Factor episode was finally coming true, my Pro-Road Trip Friend, happened to magically remember that she had always been generously blessed with motion sickness. Less than 30 minutes after we had left the badlands of Delhi NCR, we made our first customary “I think I’m going to throw up” stop. For the next nine hours, it was impossible to cross a kilometre without having to hit the breaks. Interestingly, she would simply stare at the side of the road, drink water, and come plonk herself next to me. “But, it calms my nerves,” she told me after our sixth pit stop, when I happened to question if it even made sense to stop so frequently if she wasn’t actually puking her guts out. All this while, Crazy Girlfriend was focusing on the most pertinent issue of the morning – finding a healthy salad to devour. In the middle of a highway. It essentially took less an hour for my seemingly normal road-trip bros to turn into unpractical, tantrum-throwing monsters. Where were the life lessons, the promise of adventure, a jolly good time, and oaths of being best friends forever? Where, Zoya, where?
The stark contrast in the road-trip experience in movies and in real life is what happens when you expect Ranbir Kapoor-type capabilities in all star kids and forget about the Uday Chopras and Shraddha Kapoors. A typical road trip experience is stuffy, stinky, and if you’re as unlucky as my friend and I, it also comes topped off with a generous outburst of sweat, regardless of the existence of a radical invention called the air conditioner.
Since that highway to hell, I’ve gone against my better judgment several times to willingly offer myself as a victim to other road-trip adventures. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that in almost all these scenarios, I found myself steadfastly believing that the probability of a woke dude finding a girl’s G-spot would be easier than actually enjoying a road trip. I also believe there are better ways to lose friends and alienate people. Road trips are a curse; they have a super power to break even the strongest of friendships. I dare Amit Shah and Narendra Modi, Akshay Kumar and his toilets to take up the Great Indian Road-Trip Challenge.
In fact, just yesterday, my road-trip-friend-turned-acquaintance tagged me in a memory of the “worst road trip ever”. It’s been a full year since we had a conversation. Sharing a picture on Facebook, she added a suggestive caption, “Want to attempt a do-over?” I read her caption, reread it, and reluctantly hearted it, instead of saying what I really wanted to say: “Road Trip Pe Na Jaana Dobara!”
When not obsessing over TV shows, planning unaffordable vacations, or stuffing her face with french fries, Poulomi likes believing that some day her sense of humour will be darker than her under-eye circles.