‘Prayer on our lips, craters below, we crawled’

August 26, 2013

Rumu Banerjee & Durgesh Nandan Jha, TNN | Aug 24, 2013, 02.27 AM IST

NEW DELHI: About 69km from Delhi,Dharuhera is a tiny hamlet that is supposed to be a pit-stop at the most for those travelling from Delhi to Jaipur. However, with a 2km long jam at 8.30pm, Dharuhera is a nightmare. Stuck at one spot for 45 minutes, we wondered how long it would take us to reach Delhi on the patchwork of potholes that is NH-8. We were to discover it would be four hours!When we had left Delhi for Jaipur on a Monday morning, the brief was simple: get on NH-8 to Jaipur and see how long it takes. We expected some traffic, a few bottlenecks and a couple of diversions. The reality was starkly different and depressing. Diversions, under-construction flyovers, unfinished roads, deep craters in the middle of the carriageway and trucks parked on the side made NH-8 an obstacle course.When we set out at 7.30am, we had little idea it would be past midnight when we returned home. With a distance of about 252.7 km, Delhi to Jaipur is supposed to be a relatively short journey which once took around three-and-a-half to four hours. Four years after work was started on widening the highway to six lanes, it takes six to eight hours — one-way — on a good day. If you get stuck in the daily jam between Behror and Manesar, you get delayed even more.

We drove past DhaulaKuan and then the Gurgaon toll booth. The first congestion point was IFFCOChowk, where vehicles were caught in a snarl, made worse by the rain. By this time, it was already 9.30am and we were hoping to make it to Jaipurin the next four-five hours.It was not to be. Our ordeal started at Manesar, where the sudden proliferation of diversions because of the work on flyovers meant that roads became narrow, and extremely uneven. Most had rubble as well as big boulders. Our progress slowed down from 70kmph to less than 50kmph as two-wheelers, private vehicles and buses made their way through the partially constructed highway. The only silver lining: trucks were not on the road, leaving the space to buses and other traffic.At Behror, the local traffic ensured that we got virtually stalled as a lone traffic cop tried to sort out the mess. We reached Shahpura within the next hour where the road became smoother. We heaved a sigh of relief and decided to turn back since the roads had cleared out by now.

A nightmare awaited us at Paota, 173km from Delhi. A small town, it’s a halting point for private vehicles and trucks. Two flyovers are being constructed here, within 5km of each other. There are diversions but no signages. Vehicles have to be carefully manoeuvred around waterlogged potholes with deceptive depths. Slow moving vehicles hold up traffic even as shops and other commercial outlets come in the way. Ramavtar Singh, traffic-in-charge at Paota, says, “The village population has increased and the local traffic often spills over to the highway. On weekends, after 1.30pm, vehicles barely move along this stretch. Accidents are also common.”

Luckily for us, it was a Monday and we had crossed Paota before the trucks took over. With some luck, we managed to cross Kotputli in 20 minutes but the good feeling didn’t last long. Behror, located 133km from Delhi, was a killjoy. It is bigger than Paota and a midway point. Three consecutive flyovers – all under construction – have turned the stretch into an obstacle course.

The absence of a proper road for those on the way from Delhi to Jaipur to go to the midway means that all such vehicles – cars, buses, motorcycles and trucks – take a slip road below the flyover, that is an uneven stretch with large boulders, to go to the other side. They, obviously, then come in conflict with the traffic coming from the Jaipur side. Getting through this stretch took us more than half-an-hour. By this time, it was dark and we were praying for beating therush of trucks.

But trouble loomed ahead as we reached Neemrana – hundreds of trucks had taken over the road, several just parked on the wayside. The service lane seemed to be our only hope but it didn’t go all the way, forcing us back into the impregnable phalanx of trucks. The bustling industrial areas of Neemrana were, meanwhile, disgorging their own vehicles on to the road.

It was 7.30pm and Gurgaon was still 90km and two toll booths (Manesar and Gurgaon) away. The highway was illuminated only by the headlights of the vehicles and we had to constantly watch out for potholes and craters. At Asalwas, the lack of signages ensured that we almost missed a diversion, since only half the flyover had been completed and that too was closed. Now we were just weaving around trucks as if in a videogame.

At Dharuhera, things took a downward spiral. Many trucks were stuck, some having broken down along the way. The traffic just grew and grew with the Sohna road joining NH-8 at this point. Heavy waterlogging had only worsened the situation. Rooted to one spot for 45 minutes, we saw no hope. Our car, an Etios, swerved into a service lane when suddenly the SUV in front seemed to tilt very sharply. At the end of the lane was a massive crater. The SUV survived it and we simply prayed. Ten minutes and some gentle steering later, we had passed the test. Not yet. Over the next hour-and-half, Bilaspur and Manesar came back to haunt us.

By the time we reached the Manesar toll booth, it was 11pm and there was a long line of trucks and other vehicles. We spent 15 minutes here and were ready for more ahead. Miraculously, the traffic seemed to get better as we approached the Gurgaon toll booth. We reached Delhi at midnight.

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