Travelling during the lockdown is something that comes with a lot of ifs and buts. However, there are some who had taken to the roads for various reasons to reach their destinations. Be it returning home, a casual weekend drive or to extend help, travelling during these trying times did bring with it a lot of new experiences. Three women share their experiences as they travelled over the past two months.
She embarked on a journey from Hyderabad to Kolkata via road along with a co-traveller and their two furry friends. She shares her account:
Hailing from Kolkata, I have been working in Hyderabad for the last five years. It was only when I quit and decided to return home that the pandemic set in. I couldn't decide on the safest mode of travel either and finally after much debating, decided on a road trip. No risk of meeting too many people at the airport or railway station and convenient to travel with dogs.
Getting a fellow passenger was a huge task. People were apprehensive about the long drive and travelling with dogs. Finally, another woman with a dog contacted me over social media and we travelled together. We did apply for e-passes from Andhra Pradesh and to enter West Bengal. Must say, at every state check point, all our details, including Aadhaar numbers, were duly noted.
We started from Hyderabad on August 1 at 10am, but realised it's always best to begin early in the day. Both of us carried enough food for two days. Day 1 was an 11.5-hour journey to Vizag and we stopped twice in between for short breaks. Travelling at night might be quite tough as dhabas and restaurants close early, so keeping food and essentials handy is the key!
In Vizag we spent the night at Hotel Winsar, the only pet-friendly hotel we could find and left post a hearty breakfast of poori and bhajji the next morning. Must say for a small hotel, they maintained good sanitation and hygiene standards.
It takes 17.5 hours from Vizag to Kolkata. With home calling setting in, we travelled non-stop. Pausing for a short while to pick up dinner, we reached Kolkata at around 2am.
The entire drive was a lot of fun except the fact that somehow our dogs did not quite get along! The roads were excellent save a small stretch of 10-15 minutes near the AP/Odisha border. I'm glad I decided to drive down and wish I had been able to do this sooner.
Published poet and Ted X speaker, Madhura Banerjee went on a small leisure weekend drive with her parents and is of the view that there are many myths about travelling in the lockdown:
My parents and I set out for Singi village, in Burdwan district, from June 13 to 14. It started with a three-and-a half-hour road trip from Kolkata down the Durgapur Expressway. Be it for the phased release post-lockdown or the intermittent rains, the roads were quite empty—meaning, we did not have to bear the brunt of traffic jams even once. Due to the unlock procedure in place, we did not have any e-passes or other documents but had taken all the necessary precautions. Our retreat for the weekend was a beautiful farmhouse owned by my father. Since the place was known to us, the trip was quite an impromptu one and things were just arranged over a phone call.
The farmhouse was extremely convenient for us and all the food was made from the organic produce cultivated there as well as fish from the farm's pond.
There are many scenes that set the city and the village apart—the farmlands being one. To be specific, farmers were out tending to their fields. They couldn't afford to stay in their homes the entire time. You soon realise that we might be privileged to have been able to afford to stay at home, but for them this is their livelihood. They have to toil in order to support their family.
From the farmhouse in Singi we were staying at, a short drive took us to Sribati, the part of town dotted with terracotta monuments. In between, there was one small grocery store that was open. The village communities supported one another's livelihoods, and it was clear that harmony was not simply a way of life, but something the people depended on.
The trip was extremely enjoyable for both my parents and me. Taking a small break from the growing uncertainties was extremely necessary and we were lucky to have found this weekend getaway to refresh our minds.
A part of the Inner Wheel club, she went to the Sundarbans to not only extend aid and help but also see the countryside areas:
I went to Kochukhali village, via launch from Sonakhali village, in the Sundarbans along with six other club members on July 5. The Amphan storm had rendered the entire area devastated with people left with no homes, shelter, foods or safety precautions against COVID-19. So we from Inner Wheel club decided to extend our helping hands to these people in need.
The journey itself was a huge task as we had to book a car, fit in all the ration and then again reload all the material onto the launch. We had earlier contacted the BDO and the local police station so all formalities were taken care of by them. We had applied for the e-pass through the West Bengal government website and which was needed for the journey. In total it took almost three to three and a half hours to reach the village.
The launch comes with a set package of travel costs and lunch. The vehicle was well sanitised and they put a cap on the number of passengers that could come onboard. It was an incredible experience to dine atop the boat while sailing on the river. The people were very welcoming and even the local authorities had come to take us through the village. The return leg was quite a challenge as evening had begun to set in. My club members and I boarded the same boat back to Canning and then reached our respective homes by car.
Located in the interiors of the world’s largest mangrove forests, the village is a beautiful place with people engaged mostly in farming, fishing and honey collection. Most of these vocations have faced a sudden halt due to the lockdown. The once lush-green village was now standing helpless and though the government has set up daily rationing system and shops, it wasn’t sufficient to meet their ends. We supplied rice, pulses, oil, salt, soap, sanitary napkins and carbolic acid (to ward off snakes) to 150 families in the area.