The Motor Man
Planes weren't the only things he loved, driving was another passion. Some of my fondest memories of growing up was all the road trips we took, squabbling, singing and sleeping with Shaheen in the back while we travelled to all sorts of places . My dad had incredible stamina when it came to driving, sometimes doing 12-13 hours at a stretch. One of the most incredible journeys, in my opinion, that he took was when we lived in Iraq and he bought a Volkswagen Golf. He went to Vienna to pick it up and drove it all the way back from Austria to Iraq. He was meant to drive back with another friend who had also bought a Golf, but as they drove out of the show room, his friend's car was rammed into by another vehicle and his brand new Golf was totalled! So my dad drove back alone (I think) through Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and across the breadth of Turkey back into Tikrit where we lived. I have always been fascinated by that journey!
And we had our fair share of great car trips with him. He would fold the back seats so we could sleep, but most of the time we spent singing loudly. My most memorable trips were our 5 hour trips from Bangalore to Wellington, where we'd be flying down the hair pin bends - a bit green in the face from motion sickness, but belting out "Brother Louie Louie looeeey, oh he's doing what's he's dooey! (We weren't too good with lyrics )" or "Papa don't preach"! One of the longest trips we did when he was posted to Tezpur to command MOFTU. We drove all the way in our trusty Golf from Wellington to Tezpur in Assam over 5 days. It was fantastic! Kalaikunda had the most gigantic cockroaches in the mess room, which wasn't actually fantastic, Vijaywada was another stop which I don't remember too well, and through Orissa where I stayed at my first 5 star hotel - the Oberoi at Gopalpur-on-sea. I was so excited and we frolicked in the room and ate at a table outside with the wind in our hair and in the morning I shrieked and jumped around when the rough waves came crashing in, clutching Shanu's hand while my dad took pictures of us. Our AC packed up at some point so one of the days was spent in silence in the car trying to keep ourselves from wilting, but once fixed we were back to our boisterous selves, staying a night in Hashimara, and seeing my first snake skin in Bagdogra.
Another memorable trip was when I left Pakistan to go to boarding school at Woodstock in Mussoorie. As dad hadn't completed his tenure in Pakistan, Shanu and he came to drop me and we drove from Islamabad to Mussoorie over 3 days, stopping in Lahore, through the Wagah border and Jalandhar and on to Mussoorie. He had a beautiful BMW by then, which kept stalling on the slopes of Mussoorie as he drove towards Woodstock. After dropping me, Shanu and he stayed at a hotel and decided to take a taxi to visit me the next day and avoid pushing the car on the slopes. They arrived at school looking positively shaken. Their cabbie was a maniac, they claimed, tearing up and down the roads and almost hurtling off the steep drops. Papa grumbled that the driver turned out to be the doodh wala and had borrowed the taxi from the driver, his friend!
There were many others, though we didn't take any very recently. However, he would never let me take cabs, insisting on picking me up when I was in Bangalore - driving the arduous 50k one way to the airport to pick me up and get me home. It was never a chore for him and he always treated it as a little extra time with us. We'd turn up the music, he'd tick off some bad drivers along the way and we'd cruise along content in this very familiar ritual