By Jaideep Sarin
Chandigarh, Jun 30 (IANS): Their profession of web-designing may not have anything to do with Indian roads but that does not stop a Chennai-based couple from hitting the road at every available opportunity - to see the country.
Harsha and Prabha Koda, who live in Chennai's Kottivakkam area, have so far clocked over 400,000 kilometres - on all kinds of Indian roads in just under a decade to fulfil their passion of driving and seeing the varied hues of the country.
The Koda couple - who keep pace virtually with their work of web-designing through their laptops and Internet even when driving in any part of the country - have come driving again to the states in north India.
The couple have created a blog - waitforside.com - to share their driving experiences. The 'wait for side' has been taken from the most written slogan on the rear of all trucks and buses, they said.
Having started (from Chennai) May 25, they will complete their nearly 50-day trip through Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Goa, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh to be back in time in Chennai for an important meeting fixed there July 13.
"We just have this passion for driving and we make it a point to accumulate our holidays twice a year - nearly 50 days each time - for our driving holidays. The rest of the year, we work on all days," Harsha Koda told IANS during a one-day stop at Citrus County Farm Stays near Hoshiarpur in Punjab.
Having started their first journey with the first car they bought, a Maruti-800, they have driven a whole range of cars from Maruti Zen, Wagon-R, Maruti Swift to a Mahindra Scorpio. Their present journey is on a Mahindra Xylo on which they will be driving over 10,000 km by next month.
The couple give names to each of the cars that they drive - ranging from 'Chicklet' (yellow-coloured Wagon-R), 'Guns and Roses' (bright red Maruti Swift) to the 'Haliaetus' (a white-bellied sea eagle found in India's coastal areas) for their white Mahindra Xylo that has an M-eagle engine.
"We have been driving ever since we bought our first car. While Harsha does most of the driving, I am comfortable doing the navigation. We love to hit roads which are not regular highways and to see the maximum that various parts of the country have to offer," Prabha said.
With so much of driving, the couple have had their share of experiences.
In 2005, unmindful of events happening, they drove straight into riots in Maharashtra's Sholapur town.
In 2004, the couple were caught in a snow blizzard atop the Tangla La Pass on the treacherous Manali-Leh road while participating in the 'Raid de Himalaya' car rally and had to be evacuated.
Driving in the rally with Tamil film-actress Revathi, the team was declared as 'presumed dead' by a national TV news channel, leaving their families shattered for some time. They used a satellite phone to convey that they were alive.
Harsha and Prabha say that the inspiration for driving through the country again and again came from French explorer Jacques Cousteau who would say - go and see for yourself.
Asked how they decide which part of the country to visit next, Harsha said: "We read and watch a lot of things and happenings in newspapers and TV. Most of the times, we put them on our wish-list and plan future trips. We have done most of the states in India, except Bihar."
From driving at speeds of 10-20 km per hour on pot-holed roads in Madhya Pradesh's dacoit-infested and notorious Chambal valley to cruising at 120 km- plus on the highways in Gujarat and Rajasthan, the couple say that they enjoy every bit of their exploration.
"We love to do our journeys by road to any place in India. I can actually count the number of flights that I have taken so far on the fingers of just one hand. We don't even take trains for our journeys,' Harsha said.