Day 1 of the great adventure had been a success and we had just reached the town we were planning to halt in - Alipur Duar. My brother had done some quick internet research on possible hotels and we were looking for one of them when our roadtrip nearly had a untimely end! The front of the Old Reliable got just a little too intimate with the back of an auto that was parked just in front of us...... ACCIDENT!! It was only a small bump and the auto suffered no damage except for a slightly bent silencer and tail light. The auto driver who was standing next to the auto slipped and fell and sustained a few bruises. But the poor OR was not build for friendly or not-so-friendly encounters with others of her species. Mild though the impact was, the bonnet unfortunately got caught on the undercarriage of the auto (it was one of the big ones and had no bumper) and crumpled up like a piece of paper. It was an unnerving moment.
As is the norm in our country whenever anything out-of-the-ordinary happens, a crowd gathered as if from nowhere and things began to heat up. Our first concern was for the driver and I was relieved to find his injuries were minor. But the crowd was raring for some action and things may have gotten ugly if the owner of the auto (who had so far been the most vociferous of those gathered) suddenly put the driver into the auto and told us to follow him to the local hospital. It was a relief to get away from the growing crowd whose only predictable character was unpredictability!
At the government hospital, we found a very senior medical officer catching forty winks in an extremely basic emergency room. After a perfunctory examination he advised the driver to get admitted. Fortunately, the driver decided to take his chances at home! And then, outside the hospital began the negotiations that accompany every such event. I thought the best thing would be to go to the police, but the owner of the auto was not too happy about that for some reason. He suggested I pay him 15,000 rupees and we would call it a deal! Well, that was a slight more than I had planned to spend for the entire trip! And it seemed a bit unfair, considering that the most of the damage done seemed to be to my vehicle! Anyway, we decided to sleep on it and meet the next morning to decide what to do.
As we checked into the hotel, I had a severe case of mixed feelings. On the one hand, I had had my first accident in 15 years of driving a car. Which was very difficult for my depressogenic nature to take. But on the other hand, we were all fine and the only real damage would be to my pocket. It could have been much worse. And after all, if we are encouraged to give thanks in all circumstances, I could certainly find many things to give thanks for in this one as well. Fortunately I have a wife for whom every circumstance is an adventure and tired as we were, we quickly drifted off into Noddy-land.
The next day was the longest of our trip. With the focus on giving thanks in all circumstances, I set out in the morning with the auto driver and the owner to find a Maruti workshop. The one we finally found was just a small hole in the wall with a big Maruti poster outside! The mechanic there took one look at the car and announced it would take him 3 days to do anything about it. Well, so much for that! The owner then took me to one of the mechanics whom he knew. This guy looked much more professional and when he had taken a test drive told me it would just take a short time, mainly to straighten out the bonnet and the crosspiece of the engine compartment which had taken some of the stress. And so I spent the next 5 hours in the workshop watching them work on the beloved OR. I will save you the details of my morbid and not-so-morbid thoughts during that time. Suffice to say, they were not too pretty!
Finally we were done. I took the car for a 25 km test run and it seemed just like new. Of course, the bonnet looked like a battlefield. The skills of the small-town mechanic obviously did not encompass the nuances of body work. And purportedly in order to straighten it out, he had burnt the thing in a number of different places. It looked like some weird design on the front of the OR! Ah well, beggars can't be choosers! At least the OR was running fine and the mechanic had promised she would reach Ludhiana in one piece if I desisted from any more insults to her kind nature!
As for the auto owner, he spent the whole time with me in the shop and by the time we left, we were fast friends! When I asked him how much it had cost him to mend his own auto (which had been dispatched to the workshop by another driver earlier), he refused to take any money and I had to literally force him to take 2000 rupees in retribution for my sins! It got even more interesting. Later that evening, he called me and asked me if I was free to meet. He sounded a little high-spirited, but I went down and found him with a few of his friends, in a very 'happy' frame of mind! He said I had to come with them and hit a few happening joints around the town! It was only with great difficulty that I managed to extricate myself from that situation! But it was an amazing turnaround and one I was really grateful for. His kindness was one of the best things that came out of this otherwise slightly unpleasant experience. We also enjoyed our stay in Hotel Sinchula - good food and value for money - highly recommended if you find yourself in Alipur Duar.
So that was the story of the adventure in Alipur Duar. I wish it had not happened but yet it was certainly not as bad as it could have been. And my intense and perfectionistic soul learnt a few lessons on letting go and meeting tough situations with a smile. Our cross-country roadtrip was nearly curtailed as we seriously considered options like putting the car in a truck or on a train, leaving it behind to be sent on later and so on since we were not sure of the extent of the damage or the ability of the mechanic. Fortunately, we stuck it out and it has proved to be well worth it. The rest of the journey more than made up for the disappointment of the accident. But that, as they say, is another story!!
Unfortunately I forget to take a picture before the tinkering, but imagine a crumpled piece of paper and you won't be very far off!!