It’s July 2015, following a brief conversation with Inder and Gurcharan Chhatwal, and with their kind permission, I decide I will capture the details of their road trip from Slough to India in late 1960’s. Over the coming months I devise a set of questions and through an exchange of WhatsApp messages get an idea of some of the countries they had passed through on their way to their homeland. Being mindful that I don’t want to waste their time and hence deliberating over how best to organise myself, I reluctantly pencil in a date in December to meet up with them both.
It’s December 2015, I wake up early with anticipation as in the next few hours Inder and Gurcharan will be arriving and I know these are two very punctual individuals. I had been organised and set up the meeting space in my kitchen/diner the night before. The olive oil in the cooking pan is nearing optimum heat and my wife is ready to dip the pakora (onion bhaji) mixture into it, ready for when our esteem guests arrive.
An hour later I am sitting around my dining table with Inder and Gurcharan, the recorder on my smartphone capturing every detail of the road trip being retold. The brothers smile and chuckle as they recount the details, there are tears developing in their eyes, but these are of those good memories. As we take a break to have something to eat, a realisation kicks in that this is more than just mere research or jotting some notes, this is a story that needs to be shared. For a brief moment I am the passenger in the car but at the same time I am filled with sadness that I would never be bold enough to emulate something like this. As our chat comes to an end and the Chhatwal brothers take their respective paths home, I am ever so grateful for the opportunity they have given me, I start tapping away on the keyboard with excitement like a kid who has the whole sweet shop to himself.
My first book – An Austin, Two Singhs and The Road