Authors: Vanessa Able
Terrific and terrifying in equal measure: a life-affirming
death-welcoming journey around the world's most
dangerous roads in a wheeled toaster oven
Tim Moore, author of
Do Not Pass Go
Vanessa is a gem â her writing is as effervescent and
refreshing as diving naked into a lake of champagne
Olly Smith, TV presenter and author
The proverbial English dry wit
Travelling has never been this tough, never been this
enjoyable and entertaining as Able takes you on a
remarkable journey of humour through her scathing
comments and lucid writingâ¦ A hilarious book, from an
author that pulls no punches
Vanessa Able is doggedly intrepid, deliciously acerbic, keenly
inquisitive and quite possibly mental
Time Out India
A witty account of riding the Nano over 10,000km across
India, braving dust and grime, risking accidents and
flouting driving rules
Able's fight through fluctuating spirits, near-breakdowns,
interspersed with spurts of joy, influenced by a combination
of factors often beyond her control, is downright
An excellent and entertaining book
Fluent and laced with, well, British-style humour. She
dispenses with political correctness and is blunt about horns,
headlights, hierarchies, stares, cops and toilets
The book is an enjoyable readâ¦ this beautifully
One girl's 10,000 km adventure around India in the world's cheapest car
First published by
Nicholas Brealey Publishing in 2014
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Â© Vanessa Able 2014
The right of Vanessa Able to be identified as the author of this
work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright,
Designs and Patents Act 1988.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording and/or otherwise without the prior written permission of the publishers. This book may not be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise disposed of by way of trade in any form, binding or cover other than that in which it is published, without the prior consent of the publishers.
For the Ghost who came alive
Mumbai to Nagaon
Kolhapur to Arambol
Hampi to Bangalore
Mysore to Fort Kochi
Kanyakumari to Tiruchirappali
Pondicherry to Chennai
Bhubaneswar to Konark
Nainital to McLeod Ganj
Omkareshwar to Mumbai
Let me get this straight: you're planning to drive all the way around India in a Tata Nano?' Naresh Fernandes, editor of
Time Out Mumbai
, asked me in a voice that sounded like disappointment. âAre you going to be planting lots of trees in your wake to compensate for the emissions?'
It was not the reaction I had hoped for. I sat across from him in his office, pathologically thumbing the retractor button of my biro and thinking of something witty to dredge me out of the mire of his opinion.
âUmm, not exactly. No trees. But it is a fuel-efficient car, so I doubt it'll cause too muchâ¦ damageâ¦'
âOh. Is it electric?'
âNo. But it goes a fair distance per litre.'
Folding under the pressure of the interrogation, my brain knocked random numbers around before drawing a blank and retreating with a whimper into the dank warren of its own inadequacy.
âI'm not sure exactly,' I said, trying to mask my inner dullard with an unconvincing veneer of cockiness, âbut I know it's a lot.'
âWhat's your route?'
âA big circle around the country. Going south first. 10,000 kilometres.'
âUm. It's a challenge?'
The chat was not going as planned.
I had come to
Time Out Mumbai
as part of a media outreach strategy intended to generate a level of hype and enthusiasm among the press similar to the one aroused in my loyal circle of support (namely my mum and my two best friends). I didn't exactly imagine being drowned by a press tsunami, but I thought at least a little corporate nepotism might come into play with Naresh, given that I was a former
editor myself. But this particular fish wasn't in the least impressed by my plan and was most certainly not biting.
What I was too embarrassed to tell Naresh was that what had really drawn me to the Nano was one of my less virtuous traits, namely my limitless capacity for being motivated by a bargain. The car recently launched by Tata Motors â the company that had bought Jaguar Land Rover in 2008 â was officially the world's cheapest, and as such it had me at first sight: a hopeless sucker for marketing campaigns aimed at hopeless suckers bent on expanding their collection of easy electronic comestibles, I immediately added the vehicle (four doors, two cylinders and 624 cc of oomph, which, I was vaguely aware, was tantamount to a motorbike with a roof) to the tally of delectable gadgets that were within reach of my credit card limit. It was the first time a new car had ever featured on that list, an event that inspired in me the warm rush of consumer anticipation.
âWhat's that, a Smart Car?' asked my mum, squinting into the screen of my laptop.
âActually, Mum, it's a Tata Nano. It's the cheapest car in the world.'
âI haven't seen any about.'
âThat's because we don't have them here in Jersey.'
âSo where are they, then?'
This was the other part of the story. Although Tata had plans for releasing the Nano globally at some point in the future, for now the only place one could buy a model was in India. I was gutted: it had never occurred to me that, unlike laptops and phones, cars were not altogether international products.
âSo, yeah. I'm thinking of going over there to get one. Drive it around a bit.'
My mother didn't flinch. In the last few weeks she had become accustomed to my reactionary rhetoric, a horrible regression in behaviour that followed my move back home after the sticky end of a four-year relationship.
âHaven't you been to India enough? What about getting a job instead?'
With the vexation of a vilified teen, I inhaled and slowly reeled off the same speech I had been laying on my parents for the last decade, namely that freelance travel writing
a job and a noble one at that. If she had the impression that my time was not sufficiently consumed by the pursuit, it was only because the publishing world was currently in crisis and work was thin on the ground. I had come here to my childhood home â nay,
â on the Channel Island of Jersey as an interim measure, to consider my future in the light of the current global climate and to decide what to do next. And whatever that was, I indignantly assured her, it would certainly not involve any
of the nine-to-five variety. I was a free soul, a wanderer; a leaf that floated in the breeze and submitted hotel and restaurant reviews to paying publications. My wings might have been clipped, but I wasn't about to let that stop me.