Friday, May 14, 2010


The journey we undertook to understand truck drivers better


Origin                                           :   Mumbai, Maharashtra
Destination                                  :   Bangalore, Karnataka
Total Distance Travelled           :   1050 kms onwards and 300 kms on the way back (till Hospet).
Time taken                                  :   55 hrs onwards and 12 hrs for return journey.
Route details                               :   NH4, (Golden Quadrilateral) NH13.
Vehicle Details                            :   TATA 2518 TC, Ashok Leyland 3516.

8th March Monday

2130 hrs – Finally off man.
2332 hrs – 40 kms from Baroda. On the National Expressway 1. Take the exit to Anand. Three wierdos getting on to the bus get a massive send-off. A bus load of people came to see off the 3 dudes accompanied by chants of ‘Jai Mata Di’.

9th March Tuesday

0015 hrs – enter Baroda. I am trying not to be judgemental, but i think i saw a sex worker enter the bus.
The three wierdos are still on the bus.
0115 hrs – First stop outside Baroda.
During the night – Cross into Maharashtra. Good/disturbed sleep for about 5 hrs.
0645 hrs – Highway Hotel Roopa, Charoti Naka, Dahanu, Thane District.
Mumbai – 126 kms.
0921 hrs – Malad, a suburb of Mumbai. Crawling traffic. But surprisingly, this is better than the traffic flow in Bangalore. This can mainly be attributed to the lane following seen at most places here. So many flyovers in Mumbai.
1755 hrs – Waiting at Plot no 153, Sector 19/C, Vashi for the truck to arrive. Meet Mr Gurmeet Singh. Should say he is a very fine, sensible gentleman. Seemed to know his stuff. Very much a been there-done that kind of person.
1930 hrs – Reach truck MH06 AC 7657. TATA 2518C Turbo.
1947 hrsWaiting for some documents to arrive. Driver Kailash, meanwhile is chewing away on tobacco and does not seem to be interested in a conversation.
2010 hrsTruck on the go. Cargo details: Grease, lubricating oils etc from HPCL. Total load 16 tonnes.
2032 hrs – Ambling along on the Mumbai – Pune Expressway (Yeshwantrao Chavan Expressway). Cars are just zooming past. Could identify the tail lights of an Audi, closely followed by a Mercedes E Class before they disappear at a distance.

2045 hrs – First tunnel.

2103 hrs – First toll naka on the expressway at Khopoli. Toll Rs 710. Ouch !!! That must have hurt.

2110 hrs – Food plaza on the expressway. Pulls over for fuel.
Kailash removes a plastic container from the stowage area over the windshield. Takes some powder from the container and puts it in a glass. Fills the glass with water, stirs nicely and then drinks the contents. Puts some more water, rinses the contents and then drinks it again.
Drives the truck to the diesel pump.
Total fuel : 336 litres, Rs 12950.

2136 hrs – Out of the pump. Back on the road.
2140 hrsFirst cop sighting. Two hawaldars on a motorbike waiting for a victim by the side of the road. ( the same people make rules saying that 2-wheelers are not allowed on the expressway).

2142 hrs – Struggling trailer on the left. Swooping Skoda on the right. 2 Axle trucks seem to be faster than the other trucks on this stretch of road.
Kailash is using the phone while driving.
Truck is able to pull the load up a reasonable gradient in 3rd gear.

2200 hrs – Life seems like a slow motion movie while the truck goes up Khandala Ghat. The view of the city lights in the valley below is breathtaking.
Audi Q7 with 5 police escort cars passes the truck.
2207 hrs – Traffic jam at the top most point on the expressway!! Have already seen 5 broken down trucks on the expressway.
2518 pulls clean on 2nd gear.
2215 hrsTop of Khandala Ghat. The view down below, into the dark valley, in Kailash’s words is ‘PATHAAL PURI’. Anything that falls down becomes the size of a match box.
2300 hrs – Kailash has a few ‘not-so-kind’ words to say about the Indian political scene, especially Shiv Sena in Mumbai.
I am feeling hungry.
2305 hrs – Toll Plaza.
Kolhapur - 263 kms
2316 hrs – Expressway ends. Pune by-pass.
2320 hrs – Dinner time.

10th March Wednesday

0014 hrs – Good, but spicy food at Shivraj, just beyond Pune city. Chicken Kadai and roti washed down with some good old Kingfisher Premium.
0040 hrs – Back on the road again. Stopped at the naka after Pune. I am struggling to open the window grille, which I managed to get stuck in the first place. Kailash shows me how it is done.
0055 hrs – Bangalore 847 kms.
0128 hrs – Toll booth Rs 165.
Kailash keeps himself awake by moving to the beats of the song ‘Maa da Ladla Bigad Gaya’ which is blaring on the speakers.
0155 hrs – Bangalore – 795 kms.
0158 hrs – Gopala is flat. Crawls up in one of his typical wierd positions and is already in dreamland.
0200 hrs – Warning sign : BEWARE OF CROSSING CATTLE!!
I dint know they had signs like that !
0205 hrs – Background music. ‘Jadoo hai nasha hai’.
I realise that sketching in the dark with just one dim red light flickering in the cabin isn’t going to get the best sketching out of me.
0222 hrs – Quite surprising actually to see so much traffic going up the hill. A trailer is stuck on the middle of the road, trying to groan its way up the slope as we overtake it from the right. The more time i spend in this cabin, i realise all the more how uneasy a job being a truck driver actually is.
Gopala just woke up clutching my pant. Looks like he had a nightmare. Probably falling off a window or something. He’s crawled back into another weird position and gone off to sleep again.

0235 hrs – Kolhapur – 146 kms
Bangalore – 758 kms
I think I have seen more than 50 road signs in the past one hour. That is too much of an information overload considering that most of the signs are repeating.
0230 hrs – Toll booth . Rs 85.

0355 hrs – Pulls over at Simranjeet Dhaba at Jambalwadi for the night. Kailash has retired to the back of the dhaba on a ‘khaat’, while abhilash and me sleep inside the truck. We are supposed to leave in another two hours. I can still hear trucks plying on the highway. But for now i am going to get as much sleep as i can.
We are 21 kms beyond Satara and 90 kms away from Kolhapur.
0700 hrs – Wake up after a good 3 hrs sleep. The cabin, although cramped, was warm and very sleep inducing.
0727 hrs - After a bruch and a refreshing face wash, we sit gazing at the vehicles plying on the road. I recall Kailash dancing to the music last night and can imagine how crucial that dance must be to keep him awake. I wonder what else do drivers do to stay awake for such long hours. Its not surprising why sleep deprivation is the major cause of so many accidents.
Kailash is still asleep. Another truck pulls into the dhaba and immediately the driver gets down and performs the tire tapping ritual to check for any potential problems.
0805 hrs – Meet Kendre Chandrakant Shivaji.
0845 hrs – Still sitting on the bench outside the dhaba staring at the road.
0917 hrs – having had a bath and other things, Kailash prepares for the journey. Fills the radiator with cold water. He then lights some incense sticks and prays to Lord Hanuman. Breakfast follows. Aloo paranthas and daal. Over breakfast, Kailash tells us the secret of his endurance. OPIUM.!!So thats what he kept mixing in that glass  !!

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