He is known as the `Human GPS’. Roads and routes in India that he does not know are simply not worth knowing. He is the guru for those passionate about road trips and he has been retained by India’s top navigator / mapping company MapMyIndia as their advisor to help them with mapping, product and publication issues.
A visit to HV Kumar’s Facebook page or his Fan Club page will tell stories about the man with the fond monikers like “Highway Guru” and “Badshah of Indian Highways”. He is a chartered accountant by profession, an entrepreneur with his own company in Mumbai, besides being an advisor to clients like the United Nations. No wonder, those who have benefited from his guidance say, “Major highways like NH3, NH8 or NH17 originate from his house itself!’’
What makes HVK so endearing to innumerable roadies? “
“I have been one of India’s earliest driving enthusiasts and in my 25 years of highway driving, I have logged each one of my trips, not just through log books but also with GPS tracks, car camera videos and so on,” he says. “This veritable mine of information is available for anyone either online or on request. I enjoy sharing my experiences with all. I feel privileged to plan road trips within India for anybody who approaches me. My mobile phone number which is widely circulated makes me accessible to any passionate roadie; besides I respond to all emails that pour in a constant torrent asking me for information on highways, hotels, highway toilets (!), safety, night-driving and similar.”
“I run my own company in Mumbai that advises on renewable energy, servicing international clients that include UNEP, World Bank and others. My professional side is in direct antithesis to my hobby and people find that surprising,” Kumar adds.
His Facebook group calls itself `India’s unique highway driving group’ and affirms, “There is nobody as expert as HVK on Indian Highways and Automotive Transport. The magnitude and detailing of precious current information that he does is mind-boggling and absolutely unmatched. This forum is a tribute to the stalwart who has been assisting thousands of people in navigating the often challenging, unpredictable Indian highways.”
With his amazing videographic memory of the various roads crisscrossing the length and breadth of India, he is able to provide directions and route information on the phone to any hapless roadie in need of help by merely asking for the remotest and vaguest landmarks around, and from there on sitting in Mumbai HVK takes charge and it is almost like as if he drives with remote control.
“This is possible because I have carefully logged and documented every trip of mine, laboriously and meticulously. Minute details such as the location of the refuelling points, good restaurants on the way, number of check posts and toll booths, total cost of a trip …no part of my trip, no detail is considered unimportant. With such abundant information at hand, I am able to guide anybody in any part of India sitting at my desk in Mumbai.’’
“I have driven for 55 hours at a stretch and never felt tired. On the contrary I am always hungry for more. When something interests you, when the adrenaline rush is high and the challenges ahead are exciting, fatigue is not on the cards. For me a holiday is not about waking up late in the morning, visiting relatives, trying different eateries and coming back home for some TV watching. For me a holiday is all about being out there on the roads, with thousands of miles to cover, new places to see, new people to befriend, thus no two holidays are the same for me. The excitement is kept alive in each trip.’’
Travelling to Bhutan, Sikkim, Kashmir and to innumerable other places in India by road are all a walk in the park for HVK. “There have been times when I had to sleep on the pavement alongside other truck drivers, if I was unable to reach the destination in time. I have been in a tight spot and alarming situations a number of times. But nothing deters me, for the minute I finish one trip, I am already busy planning the next.’’
HVK narrates an amusing incident. When being interviewed by a local magazine, Kumar remarked, “We are always well prepared to face any adversity on the roads.’’ The interviewer asked, “Oh, so you always travel with your family.’’ HVK quipped, “The WE I refer to is my car and my motorbike.’’
With over 20,000 hours at the wheel and more than a million kilometres clocked, HVK says the passion and pleasure keep growing. Looks like, there are miles to go before he calls it a day.