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As the Honda Jazz packs bags and heads for its last drive with CAR India, it also accompanies Gasha Aeri as she takes the celebration to another level and ends this joyous journey with ‘flying colours’
Photography: Sanjay Raikar

Anywhere the wind blows, doesn’t really matter to me…’ Well, now it does. Freddie Mercury must’ve sung those words just to make his ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ sound better, but to someone who climbed a hill with the most uncomfortable ‘driving’ shoes and a wish in her heart, it makes a lot of difference. Why, you will soon find out.
That was the day when it was officially announced that our beloved Jazz’s tenure with us was coming to an end. Naturally, this little trip of ours was the last one and it ought to be a good one. So along with the Christmas mistletoe, the Jazz’s last carnival in the CI headquarters was accompanied by some flying, some speed, some bumps, some berries and a lot of excitement.
After Himalayan fish, Lonavala’s chikki, zorb balls and horse rides, Alibag’s crazy jet-skis, banana boats and kayaks and Rishikesh’s holy white water rafting, the Jazz had marked her presence in the hydrosphere and stratosphere and now was the time for atmosphere! So, Mahabaleshwar was the location and paragliding was on the cards. After about a week’s Google search, homework and reconnaissance, the Jazz and I were prepared to fly somewhere over the rainbow. Here’s a brief account of how we celebrated our Christmas.
The journey was a modest 120 kilometres, so we planned for an easy start and left Pune when the sun shone bright. Gliding through the old Katraj highway, we soon hit the Pasarni ghat and saw a couple of gliders overhead. This was enough for us to visualise how our day was going to be. With ‘Sweet child of mine’ running on the USB, the Jazz enjoyed the loop of dedication I had on offer, while I excused myself through the weekend traffic and made my way towards Panchgani to meet my wings. After reaching the Sydney Point, we were asked to wait and pray for some good wind for a safe and fine take-off. Then we had wind, but flowing in all directions and absolutely unsafe and least recommended for a flight (the reference to the song applies here). After about 90 minutes of sitting and chit-chat about the Jazz with fellow fliers, the much-awaited announcement about commencement of flights was made.
Paragliding is actually a kind of recreational sport where the flier, always at the mercy of the wind, controls the direction of the glider with the strings, somewhat like flying an enormous kite. The height, however, is governed by how strong the wind is. At the same time, a very strong current is a strict no-no. A flier can shoot in the sky independently after a formal training, but first-time fliers like me must be accompanied by a trainer.  Gearing up in the harness, we took baby steps downhill. The little tip-toes transformed into giant leaps and in seconds I could see myself going down the valley, with no contact left with the ground and the sight that followed was indescribable.
I was in the air! I was flying!
After I had successfully been in the air for over five minutes (and all my nightmares of crashing down the hill had vanished in the thin air), I wanted to ring up my mother and tell her how much I loved her, for this appeared to be my re-birth after that exaggerated near-death experience. And then I wanted to post a poser update on networking Websites about how good it felt to experience weightlessness despite being pulled by gravity. However, the very thought of letting go off my harness to reach for my mobile phone gave me the shivers and I marked this task in my mental to-do list. Aloft some 100 feet above the tallest tree visible, I could see the Jazz amid the other gliders lying and waiting for their turn to vie with the birds. I have never suffered from acrophobia, so looking down at an undulating green carpet of pines waiting for Santa this year was nothing short of a triumphant feeling of looking at the world as God sees it.


After 15 minutes of being on top of the world, it was time for us to come back to the ground (and reality) and the trainer accompanying me started pulling the strings in as we headed back to those who stood looking up at us in awe and envy. The glider flapped like an eagle’s wings before coming back to its nest and we landed just a few steps from the spot from where we had taken our flight.
Great though it was, this aerial adventure wasn’t enough of a farewell to my friend in good times, the Jazz. Soon we were headed to make our day as thrilling as it could possibly be. Mahabaleshwar, as everyone know, is famous for strawberries. So, we raided a farm to get a closer view of this juicy fruit. The owner graciously allowed us to pluck a few of them. A little ahead, we saw a miniature of the Sriperumbudur race track, where a crowd of enthusiastic tourists howled as they ran their kart cars into their friends’. ‘How about it?’ I said and the Jazz most happily acquiesced. So there I was with a broken yet mandatory helmet on my head and a cranky kart in my hands, flying dust away on that little but very curvy track. After some heart-filling 10 laps, I surrendered to the heat and dragged my feet towards the Jazz to get a bit of its air-conditioning before adding to the day’s carnival. As expected, we took the next stop very soon and this time for a rather bumpy ride – the ATVs. My itinerary for the day had already been exhausted with the paragliding session and all the unplanned activities that followed confirmed my belief in Forrest Gump’s statement: life is a box of chocolates; you never know what you get. Another five laps on that heavily dosed bumpy track and my body oscillated like a tuning fork. It was only after this merrymaking that I officially retired for the day and gave a nod to the proposal of going back to Pune.
From what I remember of our drive back, for me it began only before we crossed Harrison’s Folly and resumed as I saw a hand asking for toll money at Khed-Shivapur. Maybe, exhaustion had already taken its toll. I was brought back to reality just before the final countdown to the Jazz’s separation began. Rightly so, because when you have seen the sun set over the Jazz in Alibag, morning dew making a silvery pattern on its curves in the Tirthan Valley and splashes of the Ganga washing its feet in Rishikesh, watching it go away in the dark of the night does feel depressing.
As this trail of adventures with the Jazz ends, I wish everyone in the Honda Siel family a happy new year and wish for the good times to return soon. Good-bye, buddy!

 

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