The road to Mandawa

Posted: February 22, 2011 in Travelogues
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Driving to Rajasthan’s Mandawa town, where I went to be a part of Mahindra’s Great Escape, was an eye-opener. Driving on the NH 8, I marvelled at what Delhi and DLF have become today – take it or leave it, but ‘progress’ will bring in its wake the kind of rapid construction one sees today.

I lived in Gurgaon in 1998, but what I saw this time as we drove towards Mandawa town left me quite breathless. It was almost as if I was in Batman’s Gotham City with all the menacing glass towers overlooking the National Highway 8 to Jaipur. That was the one side of progress.

As we veered off NH 8 towards Rewari, we entered another world, far removed from any vestiges of progress. Terrible roads, no illumination even as we passed through villages, officials at toll booths pocketing a part of the tax collected and issuing receipts for less, and at other booths flinging money back on the face of the driver because he could not tender exact change.

Large portions of the 230-odd km stretch from Delhi to Mandawa were potholed in most places, dug up in some, and smooth in a few. A distance like that would take a good motorist roughly 4-5 hours to cover, because one was passing through villages where speed humps have become just another obstruction. But it took our driver seven hours to manoeuvre the car through muddy patches and gravel, where at some time in the past was a tar road.

Strangely enough the place is a tourist hub, so what stopped the government from getting a road done up? I did see one lane completely dug up in Mandawa, and in construction mode, but no activity.
As we drove on towards Mandawa, the driver stopped at a decrepit, single storey building and got out, muttering something about paying some road tax. He returned a few minutes swearing loudly, “the m****r f****r was drunk…I had to wake him up…gave him 1100 rupees but got a receipt for only 700.”

I told him he should have demanded a correct receipt, but he replied, “Better not to argue with these guys. You don’t know what they are capable of.” According to our driver, despite all this, Rajasthan was a far safer place than Bihar and UP! The efficient PR team of Mahindra’s was still there waiting, when we reached Saras Vilas at 12.30 am – seven hours after we left IGIA.

On our way back we stopped at a toll booth, where the attendant demanded twenty bucks when the tax was just Rs 10. Handing over a hundred rupee note, the driver reminded him of the correct amount. The attendant flung the note at the driver, claiming he did not have change. Strangely enough, when the driver stepped out of the car to pay, he saw wads of loose change in the table drawer! Instead of returning by the same route we veered off towards Bhiwani and Rohtak.

The roads were a dramatic improvement. We travelled an extra 75 kms but reached IGIA in an hour less. Did the condition of the roads here have anything to do with political muscle?

As we entered Gurgaon town, the stark contrast between the two areas divided by a highway was more than evident. From 1998, when I was there last, Father Time seemed to have stood still in Gurgaon. Old buildings, chaotic traffic and terrible roads were an indication that progress had bypassed this town for its more famous kin across the highway. It almost seemed like we were back on the village roads of Mandawa.

  1. H V Kumar says:

    When everyone raves about corruption in high places, one forgets that India is corrupt in every corner, every person, hence we have to accept that as a nation we have poor moral values across the board. Happily, in West & South India, instances of toll corruption are less compared to what you have seen in the North, where I have also experienced it many times. Cops are the same everywhere and commercial vehicles are targeted mercilessly in the name of permits for every activity. The day we do away with the permit raj, I am sure you will see dramatic improvements in level of governance.

    Good to know that at least some roads are OK!

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