To travel across all 28 states of India and neighbouring Bhutan in a Tata Nano car covering around 25,000 kms is no easy task. Yet, this is being attempted by 62-year-old Kochi-based car enthusiast Thomas Chacko, who has so far covered 5,400 km in the small car and reached Guwahati on Saturday.
Starting his journey from Mumbai on May 3, Chacko has so far travelled through Indore, Bhopal, Khajuraho, Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna, Ranchi, Murshidabad, Malda, Jalpaiguri, Gangtok and Darjeeling before entering Bhutan.
From Thimphu, he drove down to Assam border and then went directly to Shillong, before retracing his steps back to Guwahati.
"It is not a joyride but an expedition to explore the country and know the people," Thomas said in Guwahati on Sunday.
He will depart from Guwahati tomorrow and then travel through other North-Eastern states, before leaving for Kolkata from where he will head to south India by the east coast, before going to other parts of the country.
Thomas, a company secretary by qualification who also has authored two books, including a historical novel, plans to write another based on his experience during the tour.
"I have thought of a title for the book 'Mano on Nano: India to its Farthest Corner'," said Thomas, who is also an avid blogger.
Asked how it all started, he said: "About two years ago, a friend of mine Suresh Jacob undertook a trip across India in a Swift. I helped him turn his blogs about the journey into a book and that is when the idea came that I should also go on a similar expedition and that also in a Nano."
Thomas's trip is being sponsored by Tata Motors. "The car they provided is just a simple ordinary Nano, which had travelled 3,000 km before this trip, and without any modifications except for a new stereo system," he said.
Thomas, who spent his student days in Kolkata and was a local bike racing champion during the 1970s, said the trip has so far been fun.
"In Shillong, I went to a Bengali restaurant and had Hilsa after many years. Besides, in last few days, since entering North East my Bangla has got back some of its old touch," he said.
Till Guwahati, Thomas was accompanied by his wife Geetha, who is a school teacher. She is, however, returning back home from Guwahati on Monday.
"Many of our friends teased us saying it is second honeymoon for us. While I will be accompanied by somebody or other during most of the trip, it is only I who will drive the car," Thomas said.
Once his wife returns, Thomas will be joined by his brother-in-law for the rest of the duration of travelling through the North East. Then his Malaysia-based daughter will join him in Kolkata, while his Bangalore-based son will be with him during the Ladakh phase of the trip.
"I try to start early and finish up by around 4 pm and avoid travelling during night-time. On a day, I travel an average of 300 km, though no the first day of the expedition in the Mumbai-Indore segment, I travelled 652 km," he said.
Thomas said so far he has seen the best traffic rules in Bhutan and among Indian states in Sikkim.
From Guwahati, he will head for Tawang in the Indo-China border in Arunachal Pradesh and is confident the car will not give any problems in the hilly terrain.
"In Darjeeling hills, Sikkim and Bhutan, it ran without any problems," Thomas said.
He is targeting to finish off his expedition in Mumbai by late July.