Mahindra & Mahindra invited me to participate in the Thar Freedom Drive on 15 August in Chennai. I am a Mahindra fan and have been their client for the past 15 yrs. My journey started in 2003 with the first Scorpio and then the 4×4 limited edition of the Scorpio in 2009. Thar’s new 2020 edition was terrific! I ordered a rocky beige automatic diesel and got it in two months.  

On the 15th Sunday, August, I arrived at the dealer showroom at 9.00 am to a limited crowd since this is an invitation-only event. They had invited a mix of Thar lovers with profiles like me, millennials, and families. The audience was well balanced, and the event started with flag hoisting and flag-off of the rally. Around 25 Thars joined the rally, a 50 Km drive on the east coast road, Chennai. They had a convoy vehicle to lead the rally, and lane rule guidelines were circulated among the drivers to adhere to the rules. We used OMR to connect to the ECR, and the drive continued on the coastline with a view of the blue sea. 

Another 15 Thars joined the rally from nowhere, and we were nearly 40 Thars on the road. We maintained a speed of 40 – 50 kph. The convoy moderated the drive to keep order.  It was a sight to see these many Thars in one go, and the different vibrant shades of the off-roader were a feast to the eyes. We reached our destination, Golden Resort, just before the entrance of Mahabalipuram. In collaboration with AMPL, Mahindra organised many fun programs and offered lunch to the participants. The event was an excellent opportunity to meet Thar fans, exchange information, and have a good time. Thank you, Mahindra & Mahindra Chennai, for organising and Alex at M&M for leading this event.

With the patriotic feeling lingering during the week, I drove to the Indian Space Research Center – Satish Dawan Space Center (SHAR). It is a rocket launch centre at Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh. It is a 2-hour drive from Chennai to reach the spaceport, covering 104 Kms. The space centre is off Sullurupeta, a small town on the Chennai-Kolkata National Highway (NH-5) – a 20-minute drive east, along the road laid across the Pulicat Lake, leads to Sriharikota. I left home at 5.30 am to skip the traffic and took the NH16. I passed through the infamous Puzhal Central Jail to reach Cholavaram after Red Hills. The drive was smooth, and I crossed Gummidipoondi. Sriharikota covers an area of about 43,360 acres ( with a coastline of 50km filled with eucalyptus, casuarina plantation, scrub jungle vegetation (including a few medicinal herbs), groves of coconut & palm.

Thousands of migratory birds visit the Pulicat Lake from faraway places during October and December, turning the Sriharikota region into a veritable paradise for ornithologists and nature lovers. I enjoyed the drive and had the whole road for me as there was no one during the early hours. I stopped to meet the majestic flamingos, walking with their heads raised with pride. It was the first time I had seen these birds in large numbers, and it was a sight to sit and admire God’s creation. I was lucky to sight the Caspian terns and the Pallas gulls. The coastal brackish water lagoon boasted a fish fauna and conservatory as I noticed the mullets and catfish swimming in glory, glittering in the water. Then I drove to the space centre and checked the giant specimen spaceships mounted at the entrance. It showcased the engineering marvels and the intelligence behind these spacecraft. I felt proud to be an Indian. Later, I decided to drive back to Sullurupeta and halted for my breakfast at the small food joint run by a family. As usual, the long drive rewarded the rural taste of the soft idlis, sambar, and white coconut chutney. I drove back to Chennai, raining heavily with 10% visibility. I enjoyed the weather as I reached home safely.