AJAI Bharat Drive with Mahindra Scorpio-N: Celebrating India's Progress

On our leg of the AJAI Bharat Drive with the Mahindra Scorpio-N, we get to see a lot of rain, lots of twists and turns, and some amazing infrastructure.

By Ishan Raghava | on June 15, 2024 Follow us on Autox Google News

When you think of driving in South India in the middle of summer, you imagine a pretty familiar scene – driving in hot, sunny, and sultry weather, feeling as if you are being baked under the mid-day sun. Well, that’s what I thought before departing from Delhi to meet my fellow Bharat Drive travellers in Coimbatore. However, upon landing in Coimbatore, the situation turned out to be quite the opposite, for not one, but two cyclonic systems were active over the region as we began the journey. So, what was the purpose of this drive? Well, the idea was to raise awareness about AJAI (Automotive Journalists Association of India) and to witness the progress we have made as a country over the past couple of decades. 

AJAI Bharat Drive: First Stop, Lunch

Now, being a regular traveller to Coimbatore, I was familiar with our planned route – first to Munnar, then to Kanniyakumari, and finally to Thiruvananthapuram – but my fellow travellers were not. So, our first agenda for the day was to grab lunch at one of my favourite restaurants in Coimbatore – the Donne Biryani House. Even though it was already pouring when I landed in Coimbatore, I didn’t mind the rain – in fact, I considered it a stroke of luck. You see, initially, I was afraid that the restaurant might run out of food by the time we reached the place, but now, I was certain that would not be the case, with fewer customers due to the rain.

Run by a mother-son duo, the Donne Biryani House is a very unassuming place. They offer a very limited menu, with a very limited quantity, for both lunch and dinner. They still use hand-made spices, prepared by the mother, in all their recipes, which are personally cooked by the son.

When we reached the restaurant, as I’d thought, they still had some mutton biryani and other items available. To give you an idea, by 2:30pm, they are usually sold out of most lunch items.

Mahindra AJAI Bharat Drive Lunch

Since we managed to enjoy some of their famous mutton biryani and mutton suukha, I was happy and content, looking forward to the drive to Munnar. However, given the relentless rain, our progress was slow. We also had to be cautious as we drove through the Annamalai Tiger Reserve in the pouring rain. You see, the tiger reserve has a narrow single-lane road, with traffic from both directions. This was made even more challenging by the reduced visibility caused by the rain. Thankfully, though, unlike in the past, the road through the reserve and the subsequent forest reserve was in excellent condition, and we encountered virtually no issues.

Mahindra Scorpio N Side and Rear View

Another thing that helped was the fact that we were in the Scorpio-N. Given its large wheels and high ground clearance, we really didn’t have much to worry about in most situations. However, things got a little trickier as we entered a thick curtain of fog. Given the incessant rainfall, moisture-laden atmosphere, and the fact that we were climbing altitude to get to Munnar – a hill station in Kerala – it was no surprise to encounter fog. That said, the narrow, winding roads covered in fog inevitably slowed us down as we got closer to Munnar.

Mahindra AJAI Bharat Drive

Despite being narrow, the roads between Coimbatore and Munnar were in excellent condition and impeccably smooth, so kudos to both the Tamil Nadu and Kerala administrations for ensuring that. We also had no issues with road markings, surface quality, or any other infrastructure concerns on the highways. Our only challenge was finding dinner in Munnar, as we arrived quite late. Luckily, the hotel managed to rustle up a meal for us, so none of us went to bed hungry.

Mahindra Scorpio N Interior View Of Dashboard, Steering Console And Instrumentation

AJAI Bharat Drive: Brief Sunshine

The next morning in Munnar looked promising. At sunrise, we could actually see some sunshine and relatively clear skies. We were glad and thought that it was going to be a good day of driving and getting a lot of nice, bright footage of the two Scorpio-Ns that we were driving. Alas, it was not to be! As we finished breakfast and some video shots, the heavens opened up, unleashing a downpour as if there was no tomorrow.

When it wasn’t raining, though, the roads around Munnar were a real revelation. Beautifully surfaced, wide two lanes with shoulders – an absolute driver’s delight. The stretch from Munnar towards Madurai is particularly excellent for driving. Along the way, you can also find a lot of nice eateries, serving you fresh food. For me, the roasted bhutta was a highlight. I mean, that’s basically what we got for lunch that day.

Mahindra AJAI Bharat Drive Meal

Our journey continued, marked by bouts of intense rainfall and brief periods of calm. The winding roads from Munnar until we reached the plains while heading towards Madurai, gave us ample opportunity to test the dynamics of the Scorpio-N. It was also an excellent opportunity to test the capabilities of the tyres from the JK Tyre Ranger series that our cars were shod with. While the wet surfaces gave us a good idea of the tyres’ grip, the occasional dry areas gave us a sense of their traction and low noise levels. Overall, I found them to be good enough to say that if you’re in the market for SUV tyres, I’d recommend considering the JK Ranger series.

Mahindra Scorpio N alloy wheel in Motion

AJAI Bharat Drive: North-South wonder

Once you bypass Madurai and head towards Kanniyakumari, you encounter a road that I’ve travelled many times. Popularly known as the North-South corridor, this highway stretches from Srinagar all the way to Kanniyakumari. I’ve been driving on this stretch for over fifteen years now, and its impressive infrastructure never ceases to amaze me. Whether you’re travelling from Srinagar to Delhi, or from Agra to Bengaluru, this highway offers a brilliant road surface, allowing you to cover long distances quickly, and easy access to many crucial parts of the country.

Mahindra AJAI Bharat Drive

Another brilliant aspect of the highway – something that we witnessed first-hand – was its resilience to the incessant rainfall throughout our trip. We never encountered a single instance of broken roads or standing water that impeded our progress. With modern signage and facilities available at regular intervals – including both food and fuel – this highway instils a sense of security in travellers. I know a thing or two about the importance of this sense of security, having driven solo through the Chambal region in the dark about a decade ago! 

Mahindra Scorpio N Fuel Cap

AJAI Bharat Drive: The Memorials

I had hoped to capture a sunset shot at the memorials near the beach at Kanniyakumari, but it was unfortunately not meant to be. As usual, we were running behind schedule, delayed by the rain, and only managed to roll into the town late at night. However, all hope was not lost, for I was optimistic about catching a glimpse of the sunrise the next morning. Despite the less-than-promising forecast, we held onto hope. Unfortunately, the next morning brought cloudy weather and intermittent rainfall because of the lingering cyclonic systems. During breakfast, we caught sight of a bit of sun peeking through the clouds, but as soon as we set out to take some pictures and videos, it started raining again. With our destination a few hours away, we had to make the best of the situation and head towards Thiruvananthapuram.

Kerala road view

Driving on Kerala’s highways, even under normal weather conditions, can be difficult, which becomes even more difficult when it’s pouring cats and dogs. The narrow, winding roads, full of aggressive drivers, make for an interesting challenge. However, the high seating position of the Scorpio-N proved quite advantageous here, for it allowed us to effectively navigate through these challenges. It’s also noteworthy that despite the massive amount of rainfall they receive, the roads hardly get any waterlogging, ensuring smooth driving at all times.

Also Read: Mahindra and AJAI, Supported by JK Tyre, Flag off Bharat Drive

Mahindra Scorpio N

While we had hoped to add a bit more flair to the images that we captured, the weather unfortunately tied our hands, limiting our options. However, what we did witness was the remarkable progress of our road and civil infrastructure in the past couple of decades, and how driving in India has evolved compared to, say, the 90s or earlier. Our drive was also a testament to the capabilities of the Big Daddy of SUVs, along with the fact that the cars we drive today are in a different class altogether compared to what we used to drive in the past. Needless to say, I would gladly embark on this drive again in the Scorpio-N, hopefully with a bit less rain the next time.

Tags: Mahindra Mahindra Scorpio-N Scorpio-N ICOTY

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