QUEEN’S ROAD: A family of four has returned from an adventurous road trip that took them all the way from Bengaluru to Paris. Calling themselves Team LIFE (Little Indian Family of Explorers), they had earlier made a trip to the USA.
Anand Baid and Punita took their children Yash (12) and Dhriti (8) along, even if it meant they missed a month of school.
“We chose to drive to enjoy the intimacy of a four-seater, to connect and bond. Flights are fleeting journeys and we wanted to enjoy every moment together,” Baid explains.
He took a break from running his online animation school to search for sponsors. Fiat agreed to service the car free of cost, which broke down only once during the 22,780 km journey. They took the silk route, an ancient route used by traders and merchants, connecting China and India.
They visited Nepal, Tibet, China, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Greece, Turkey, Iran and ended their journey in France.
“We chose France as the final destination to ship the car from a prominent port,” Baid says.
Apart from basic clothing, camping equipment and some food, the family was unprepared, and ready to embrace the unexpected.
“We decided to adapt to the surroundings, even buying clothes from local shops according to the changing weather,” he says.
When a journey of 11 cities is undertaken, there are bound to be some setbacks. But they had more than their fair share of surprises.
An earthquake was particularly challenging. The Nepal quake on April 25 killed 9,000 people. The Bengaluru family witnessed the tragedy firsthand.
Anand was getting his passport stamped at an official building, when the ground started trembling. “I told my son not to worry, it was probably an underground metro,“ he recalls. Moments later, screams of “Earthquake!” made them rush to their car.
The family was stuck at the Nepal-China border for five days, waiting for the catastrophe to end. “We could feel the aftershocks every day and we just waited it out patiently,” he says. Stranded inside their car, they only cautiously stepped out to use the washroom and stretch once in a while.
China was their next destination. They did not have enough warm clothing for the cold. “My daughter was wearing two layers of my wife’s clothing, and that wasn’t enough. Unable to change or bathe, we just had to cope,” he says. The nights were difficult, as the army stationed at the border blew whistles every time a rock fell. “When food vehicles passed by, the soldiers would store vegetables in our car,” he says.
The family got stuck at the border as they were running 50 minutes behind schedule.
The next stop, Aksai, a small Chinese town, was devastated by the quake. “Luck was on our side and we had a narrow escape,” he says.
Boulders rolled down from the mountains and roads split in front of them, but the family did not give up.
Looking back, Baid sometimes regrets he put his family through all that. “ I was only thinking about how to come out of it. There was no point worrying,” he says.
The staunch vegetarians had to survive in countries where meat is the staple. Often, language barriers made it difficult in restaurants.
“My wife would just go into the kitchens and point at the vegetables,” he says. In some countries in Europe, besides in China, they were easily understood and immediately served.
Adhering to Jain principles, they shudder at the killing of animals. Shwetha Boinohite, Marketing Manager of Fiat, suggested they attend an expo on food sustainability and energy.
The children also had the opportunity to observe how the mango drink Frooti was packaged in a Nepal factory. The journey which started on April 8 ended on July 20. Of course, he is tired from the long haul. “I am still sleeping every day, though a month has passed,” he says. Next year, the family plans to travel to Vietnam and Thailand.