September 27, 2022

Life on the fast lane

A recently married friend visited us at home this Sunday; she works in Pune and her husband here in Bombay and they have worked out a clever, if taxing whose-turn-is-it-this-time routine to spend time with each other over the weekends. Well, this time it was hers and so she was in Bombay and in the course of chit-chat mentioned that she was leaving for Pune on Monday morning, if I leave at six, I am in Pune well in time for work.

Ah, the marvellous Mumbai-Pune expressway.

So here are some memories and images from our drives on the Mumbai Pune expressway- most of these photographs taken from our moving, almost-speeding-but-not-quite car. Driving through the tunnels is great fun, wet tracks inside the tunnels from all the speeding tyres, leaky roofs, losing signal on your mobile phone and all. The mark of the mosoons everywhere…

Light at the end of the tunnel

That was a particularly lucky shot. Most often, the picture is fuzzy, the lights dominant, dancing a peppy disco. Sometimes, a mild star wars effect…

I can never forget that early morning drive back to Mumbai from Pune where the driver of the taxi kept waking me up every ten minutes to say, madam, aap so kyon rahi hain? itna accha scenery hai – aap scenery dekho na – why are you sleeping, why don’t you watch the lovely “scenery”? However, there are days when the entire “scenery” is nothing but thick clouds and fog, the entire hillside covered by this magical white blanket.


Driving on the expressway is most fun during the monsoons, the roads washed clean by the rains, vehicles driving slower than normal, the flowers along the sides brighter then ever. Waiting for the rain to stop and then driving with the car windows down, feeling the whooshing breeze on your face, and also those rain drops which have remained hidden so far. Almost unbroken views of lush green hill-side, waterfalls that have magically sprung up in the last one hour…

And stopping for chai and chikki. Watching the kids running all over the place, cranky after the long drive, cooped up inside their vehicles, all their pent up energy suddenly finding release. And the mothers tired and irritated, running after them. Fathers with all their attention on their cars, catching a quick furitive smoke. Or bus loads of travelers alighting for a break.

And wondering about those looming sign boards warning – watch out for falling rocks. How does one watch out for falling rocks? And what does one do if one sees a rock falling – except get out of its way as quickly as possible? I imagine people driving with their necks craned, constantly watching out for loose rocks that might land on the road, or the car…

And suddenly swerving as a solitary scooter rider appears as if from nowhere right in front of you. Where did he come from now? And what is he doing on the expressway, and travelling in the direction opposed to the flow of traffic?

Then you smile thinking of the days of mind-numbing traffic jams on the old Mumbai Pune road through the ghats, what is now NH4. The hugely overloaded lorries with cheerful painted signs on their backs, the scooters and motorbikes weaving their way through the congestion, the never-ending row of chikki shops and the smell of vada pao from all sides as you inch your way through the town of Lonavala, the constant staccato of horns blaring… some peope claim to miss all this on the expressway route… I don’t.

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