Life. It’s like the Sea. When we start sailing, it’s sometimes rough, sometimes calm. Some brave it all, make it to the coast gloriously. Some wash ashore with a quiet wave, some hit a rock, sink without a trace. But no matter who we are, there’s always a guiding light to warn us of what lies ahead, beneath and around. They’re like that lighthouse on the shore, we call them friends. I’ve known one such person for the last 22 years. And I’m getting to know another one who I believe will be a guiding star when i’m lost at high sea. So the two of them and my oldest friend’s better half, decided to travel to a place, where the water’s blue, the surf is clean, and when it’s dusk, someone fires up a filament in a tall lighthouse and makes the place appear magical, makes it look like a dream.
It was the Honda BR-V which would take us there. And since the place was almost a 1,000 km drive away, powered by a frugal 1.5-liter diesel, six ratios and oodles of space to play with, it seemed like the right ark. Last row of seats bent forward, most of the space eaten up by stuff women like to carry and all the passengers in place, we left the city sometime around lunch time. With a plan to reach the destination next morning, we were making brisk progress, with places like Pune and Kolhapur in our rear view by dinner time. Post that, we had to decide if we’d hoist the sail through the night, reach Hubli, cut through some forest in Karnataka, hope for some striped animal to cross our path. Or roll down into Goa and take the NH 66 all the way till a little known town called Kaup Painteh, 45 kms shy of Mangalore. And for the first time, since I had the company of wise friends and sane advice, we settled for the latter.
Post dinner, luggage was adjusted for seats to be reclined, so that 3 adults could stretch their frames and get through the night. In the driver’s seat, I had dimmed the instrument cluster to make it look like a distant moon. It really is a nice looking space when lit to be honest. Outside, the projector headlamp was doing a stellar job at lighting up that odd pothole, so I could slow down and drive around without waking up the passengers. I was driving differently, I was driving with my chauffeur gloves on. And the engine’s torquey, relaxed nature, married to a crisp shifting short ratio gearbox had turned me into an adult overnight. Coming from a Tata Bolt though, the quality of stalks, controls, that bare basic music system and overall quality of materials inside made me cringe a little. It was dark though, so no one could see what face I made, didn’t matter much either.
Oncoming glare and the night taking its toll, we stopped for a change of driver somewhere after Bhatkal, at the break of dawn. There, we spotted a day old pup howling in loneliness by the side of the road, in a ditch. We waited for sometime to spot its mother, but with her being nowhere in sight and a big bird making cricles in the sky above him, we gave in to his cute face and decided to carry him along. And when you have the luxury of space, you’re glad you can afford such tasks and give in to mushy faces a woman you are enamored by makes. He was shivering when we found him, so I wrapped him in my kerchief and placed him under the back seat center arm rest. With a woman’s head resting on my shoulder and the little rascal tugging at me, now at peace like I was his mother, I was getting acquainted with the feling of what it’s like when you give in to the social code of togetherness called family. I was beginning to understand what thought goes behind in the making of cars like the Honda BR-V. Oh and because we found the pup at 6:30 in the morning, that’s the name we decided for him. Only if you know what six thirty sounds like in Hindi.
Overshooting our intended time of arrival by over four hours, we reached a place where a pretty little house stood right next to the beach, overlooking a lighthouse, surrounded by toony white fencing. We were about to call it home for the next four days. The house owner, who’s also a friend, said ‘630’ couldn’t stay for too long in the house as there would be nobody to take care of him, and Henry, a member of the house and one of the most human dogs one would ever encounter, was already not liking what he saw. So we asked around and ‘630’ had to finally call the local fish market his home, where the local shopkeepers would happily take care of lost little strays.
Over the next four days, lazy afternoons were spent staring at a steel grey sea, evenings were awaited for the most amazing sunsets, nippy nights were barbequed under the flash of a rotating beam and all of us slept to the lullaby of waters which would sometimes gush ashore, sometimes walk in on its toes. Still in bed, waking up to the sight of coral waters and mellow sunlight, we even made a day trip to Munnar for the sake of it, saw nothing, missed the elephant show and got back, still happy to drive through some lush coffee estates and the sights of rolling hills.
Back to base, I drove to a place nearby, where the road partitioned the beach on one side, and the backwaters on the other, tiny houses and lucky residents savoring the sweets and salts of life at the same time. I had driven there on my own, just before dawn, found an empty space and parked the car. I looked at the vistas around me, then at the BR-V, and realised, how certain experiences alter our lives. How even the most beautiful of places can make you feel like you shouldn’t be there alone. It was perhaps the joys of togetherness I was experiencing after a long time. It was perhaps the Honda BR-V and the empty space inside it I weirdly wished I could fill. As the BR-V stood there looking savvy, call me weird, but the car was teaching me life lessons. I wanted to build a house there, live in it and be happy. Even if that meant all I could afford if I did that was a moped. It was a place where even the thoughts of fast cars would do anybody no good.
Another day spent doing nothing and an evening spent to climb what we then got to know was one of the oldest working lighthouses in India, it was time to head back. A late start and another afternoon where the occupants were either busy snoozing or on their cellphones, I was at the wheel and trying to make brisk progress. Even with four occupants and luggage loaded to the brim, the BR-V went around corners and changed directions with surprising agility, even for all its length and that low hanging torque ensured powering out of corners was just a little dab on the pedal. Like most Honda machines, brakes are impressively sharp on the BR-V. The ride isn’t understandibly mushy as it is supposed to be a 5+2 seater, but then load it up and it tackles what you throw at it with dismissive firmness, the chassis sending a tightly bolted, heavy metal signal back to your senses.
It was dark by the time we had left Karwar behind and decided to cut through a forest towards Hubli, from where we would take the Bangalore highway towards Pune and then onwards to Bombay. Clean tarmac ensured progress was still brisk, the occupants sights meandering from their cellphone screens onto the road ahead, only when their bodies would sway too much when I’d carry higher speeds into corners. Coming out on a four lane empty highway that was arrow straight until Pune, I gunned it to find out on an empty stretch that the diesel powered BR-V registers a top speed of 149 kph on the speedometer, and nothing you’d do after that will make the needle travel further. With a little halt for a snack like dinner, we drove through a cold night to roll into Bombay by 6 am.
It was then that I realised we weren’t just the four of us, but were accompanied by a 5 month old little one, who was yet to see the world. And I was glad that the BR-V took good care and brought back my oldest friend and her yet to be born dream, safe and sound. On my way home, it was just the two of us in the car, while the space behind lay empty. I knew what played on her mind, she knew my thoughts. I had come back experiencing the joys of togetherness. I had come back feeling different. The difference being, I still want to be a wanderer, but I don’t wish to wander alone. And if your life’s been on a similar track, the Honda BR-V is a great train to hop onboard.