The left nostril of the highway was completely choked.
Cars, trucks, as far as eye could see. No way any vehicle could go forward or reverse or turn.
So our driver decided to breathe the car in through the right nostril, carefully, keeping away from exhalations from opposite direction. Driving on the wrong side of the highway? Right.
This fellow was a hardy Hindu from Punjab. And lived by his own rules. For eg, the music. He insisted on playing his Punjabi rap songs in the car stereo. We tried all four means of convincing – Sama, dana, bheda, danda (persuasion, bribe, divide-and-rule, punishment). But to no avail. He wanted his mundeya-kudiye music in full blast, all the time. Ramay suggested that all the songs sounded the same. But the fellow pooh-poohed it saying – “woh ‘aapko’ lagta hoga” (“maybe thats the way ‘you’ feel”).
After driving down the wrong side of the highway for a few minutes, he just parked the car and stepped out. Considering that there was no traffic coming from the opposite direction, it was clear that there was a major bottleneck up ahead somewhere. Ramay too stepped out. They spent some time out there, breathing the highway air, chatting with some local villagers, solidifying some speculations, and floating them as rumors (‘seems that the traffic jam extends for the next fifteen kilometers…all the way upto Garhmuketshwar….’…’fifty thousand pilgrims have descended there’…etc). Not all passengers in the vehicle pile-up were humans. Some trucks were carrying herds of buffaloes too…Patient creatures…
Soon the build-up from behind forced a move on. Like troops marching across the whole breadth of the land, vehicles moved forward from this side, taking over both sides of the road. No way could anyone now drive down from the opposite side. But big snarling trucks from the other side were trying to do just that. And soon, as can be expected, there was some major halla-gulla. Choudharies were coming out of vehicles and there was a free exchange of expletives. The swear-words of this part of the land come from a few thousand years of specialization, and no translation can do justice to the “its all in the family” exchanges. Full grown men were willing to slap each other and even box the bonnet of cars and lorries. ‘Oye, neechey utar oye!”…Jai Mata Dee!
Well, somehow, some sense prevailed, and it was just a bird-bird-beak-beak kind of wordy fight, and the crowds that milled around lost interest and trudged away to settle down on their haunches and light beedies.
We had no option but to drive off the highway, which we did. Into a small brick road that ran right into the agricultural land that was by the side of the road. Kept driving, till we crossed a small bridge that was built over a barrage, some canal that came from the Ganga. And we came across other such kuccha roads, and kept at it in the general direction of interest. After half an hour or so of driving all along the canal, we found another bridge, re-crossed the stream, and ‘lo and behold’, we returned to the highway, having completely bypassed the traffic jam!
Soon, we saw signboard proclaiming the land of Ganga – Garhmukteshwar! Time was around 9 AM. We had arrived!