A Special Feature
Via Deadly Agra Expressway
to Pinch of Spice!
Without Malice/Ravi V Chhabra
Jaypee Greens must warn drivers of the perils of high-speed driving
at the entrance to Agra Expressway.
It was an impromptu visit to Agra on a Wednesday morning. A business associate had to meet his clients and collect some payments. I was at a loose-end but was tempted to experience the Greater-Noida Agra Expressway, where, we would be able to burn solid rubber and cruise at over 100kms/hour, hopefully safely!
I could not find any oranges to take with me – something that is statutorily followed/included in my scantiest diet whilst I travel by road – driving myself or not. This was my only complaint to my friend, who chose to drive on the Yamuna Expressway, promising me that I could take to the wheels on the way back at night time. It all started very well and thankfully, his new Maruti Swift car not having a sterio fitted in it meant we could discuss some work-related matter. I admired the view from the Expressway that truly boasted of fast-paced development and almost world-class buildings and apartment complexes that had come up along the way.
The Yamuna Expressway (also called Greater Noida - Agra Expressway) looked somewhat deserted with the occasional BMWs or latest Audis racing past. We were not going above 90/km/hr and this continued for over 100-kms. Finally, I got restless and gestured my friend to speed up or we would’t be able to return past midnight. He chuckled and after a moment’s silence pointed to the gnashes and rubber skid markings created by the speeding, burst rubber tyres on the expressway’s cemented road patches. They were serpentine, monstrous and after going ahead a few kilometres, I saw a few cars lying upside down, a few others were stranded, there were tires ripped apart strewn around in intervals. While police patrol vehicles wafted past by their sides. It was all getting unbearable and a pleasant road trip gone bust. Indeed, we had paid Rs 500 toll tax for a two-way (Delhi-Agra) for learning that our lives were in Jaypee Group's hands...
My friend explained, “It’s a defect. And a bizarre one. The Greater Noida Highways Authority and the Jaypee Group have messed up badly. The gaps between the cemented roads are razor-sharp and slice the best of tyres without a slightest of hint or warning. It gets absolutely lethal if the vehicle is sped over 100 kms – that’s a sureshot way to disaster. Many cars have overturned due to tyre-burst and people have died". I did not know what to say and wondered all along that such nonsense could only happen in India. What’s worse, the company Jaypee Greens is continuing to give elaborate advertisements boasting of its successful venture!
However, we reached safely within three-hours. My friend’s client had invited us to a fine-dining multi-cuisine restaurant for the meeting at the Wazir Pura Road in Agra that we did not have any trouble in finding. Its impressive entrance was complimented by prompt valet parking.
As we entered the Pinch of Spice restaurant, warm interiors and a pleasant-looking young manager greeted us. The welcome drink, (perhaps a norm at the Taj Mahal city hotels and restaurants) was a kool Mojito that I turned down and instead went for the virgin marry that completely refreshed me up.
A Japanese travellers group of about 70 people arrived and sat bang opposite our sofa, talking softly and unwinding their cameras and binoculars. Our host ordered the meal for us that comprised the hot and sour creamy seafood soup, steamed chicken-coriander dumplings, followed by the maincourse - sliced fish in oyster sauce, vegetarian chowmein and spicy garlic friend prawns. Everything was done to perfection and we relished each single flavoursome bite.
The restaurant has a seating capacity for almost 100 pax. The rates vary from Rs 450 a dish (golden fried prawns) to Rs 70 (green salad) in the Indian cuisine section. A full butter chicken is priced at Rs 490. Thus, a decent three-course meal for two would cost around Rs 1500. I came back convinced that ‘Pinch of Spice' ought to be one of the finest standalone restaurants in Agra. Its mileu of clientele and many guests outside almost jostling to get inside for dinner were ample pointers. This restaurant is a must visit when in Agra.
We returned back at 3 am driving through the National Highway after a midnight stopover at some wayside shoe-shops buying a few 'jutis' (Agra is also famous for leather footwear). Yes, we did not take the Agra Expressway to return as the locals suggested that at night it got even more dangerous with it being partly unlit and frequented by carjackers and burglars. I woke up around lunchtime and peeled the green orange lying in my kitchen...relishing its fresh juice and aroma.