Wednesday, November 11, 2015

brownian motion

the ride to work today, it being diwali, was an absolute pleasure. for once, i actually had the mental bandwidth to think while riding. and for once, I actually didn't have much to think about. but i realized that one minute I was pushing 100, and the next i was happily tailing a slow moving car when there were two free lanes to go. and that's what set my mind off.

when i used to ride a pulsar, i had just two modes: ride fast or ride slow.

with the karizma, there's actually scope for more flexibility. i can ride in the power band, or be lazy or eager with my shifts. i can throttle for mileage or performance or the nirvanic "in between". I can quick shift or easy shift. i can be sneaky or refuse to share my lane with anyone else. i can sit still or slide around on the seat. i can sit up front, in the middle, or at the back. I could tuck my elbows in, or not. the list is endless. and all of these modes are fun in their own right.

for a few years, every time I would set off, I'd actually settle into one mode based on my mood and situation, and stick to it for the entire ride.

but that's what I realized has changed. i no longer have a mode. i just ride randomly.

Monday, October 05, 2015


(I think I may have used the title before... but this one is different!)

1500 km from home, I'm sitting atop a terrace of the guest house I'm staying at, smoking a cigarette (sorry, shru!) while Michael Buble croons "feeling good". there's the honking of buses and rickshaws (the buses sound like elephants, lol).

and I'm feeling good.

there's something in me about being alone. I guess it started as a kid, when I'd spend hours absorbed in any book I could get my hands on, while my friends played cricket or cops and robbers or whatever grabbed their fancy. in college, it was travelling alone by train. initially in silence, and later listening to dad's Walkman on his headphones. when I started working, it was my bike, initially to places nearby, and then further away. and I guess the definition of further grew with years. at 31, it's sometimes (often!) not even in the state. there's always friends an overnight ride away in Goa, or wherever-have-you.

but this time I decided, without much thought, to go further. across India. i've traveled before, and I knew I'm comfortable enough in my skin to do it. I have ridden alone long distances, I know I'm physically capable of it. and I've done solo weekend trips nearby. I know I have that survival instinct that can be trusted and relied upon. and I know that much water has flown under the bridge since I last attempted this.

the first leg of my trip was weird. the bike gave trouble, and the weather wasn't quite amenable to riding all night. I had a good excuse to not push myself the way I had planned. and so, I took a detour and rode to shruti and my other friends. i'd say, her surprise when I walked through that door was worth it.

but half measures are not made for me. I had burned my bridges when I didn't buy my flight tickets to chennai and back. and so it was to be. I rode to bangalore, against all odds, even though late on Saturday morning I was considering riding back home and buying an expensive flight ticker instead. but I pushed my bike 4km, and arrived in bangalore to a welcome bed at an unearthly hour. the highway was wet and almost unforgiving, but I was past the point of no return. and when I reached bangalore at 2am, it felt like nothing. but it was something. the next day, I rode off to pondicherry, through narrow state highways, following my GPS through pouring rain in the dark, even as I swore this may have been one of the worst decisions this ride. I tailed a car, but then realized that's not how I ride. I scouted villages for a tea stall, but didn't find any. and finally, when I touched the national highway again, 50 kms from pondicherry, I felt safe. even though I was in an unknown state, running on empty, with no place booked for my stay, at an hour where most places shut.

my luck saw me through, and time slowed down while I stopped to Google for "decent budget hotels in pondicherry", and then rode around aimlessly until I stopped at one. the night watch woke up the receptionist, and I had a room and a bed, but no dinner, and no shot at the beer I was longing for. I rode around, without the sense to note my bearings, until I found a place that was shutting. they were kind enough to serve me tasty leftovers and accept my credit card for it. no beer, but that was okay.

I slept after two hours of letting the adrenaline settle. tomorrow would be different.

and today was different.

it's something else to wake up, not knowing what to do, or indeed where exactly I should go to figure that out. there were people I could call, but I tried not to. I did, eventually, but disregarded most of the advice and found myself in a lovely place I could spend hours doing nothing.

and I had a day I will remember.

days like this remind me of why I enjoy being alone.

I walked around, clicked photos, read, rode around, met a friend who was serendipitously around. watched a movie on tv. had a drink or three. listened to music. missed shruti, but not too much... because I know that when I'm with her, we're too absorbed in each other to think about the rest of the world. watched the sun go down, without my phone, because I knew that it was going to be too beautiful to not click and upload.

climbed to the terrace of the guest house, with a chair around my neck (the ladder was too tricky to climb with the chair in my hand!), because just being alone wasn't enough.

and when I look back, I wonder what made me do it.

perhaps I will never really know.

perhaps I don't need to know.

cos I'm feeling good.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

rickshaw wala

I took a break in the middle of an awesome ride around bbay late at night (thane to borivali via ghodbunder road, about 130 am, to be specific)

my phone has been giving trouble (it only charges when switched off), so i was just standing near my bike and having my chai (more like waiting for it to cool to a drinkable temperature, actually), and observing the people there.

there was a random assortment of people at the chaiwalla, quite appropriate for that hour: all guys, some in cars, some standing with their bikes, chit-chatting, some smoking, others having tea, and one group having cheap "chinese" food in plastic plates and bowls at the only table at the stall.

while i was there, a rickshaw pulled up and a driver got out. he didn't buy anything though. he just stood and leaned against his rickshaw, visibly drunk. after some time, he walked up to me and pointed at my bike's rear turning lights, and asked me if I had them custom made. i wasn't particularly interested in talking to him, but it'd be rude to not answer, so i told him that yes, I actually had them custom made. he asked me if it was just for show. I told him that no, it was so that I could fix my bags on my bike without them getting in the way.

he was curious about why someone would need to have bags there, so i described my saddle bags and told him I use them for long bike rides.

he asked me how far I had ridden. i told him I have done bike trips up to 4000 km, and i was expecting to do an even longer one in a few days. unlike most people who usually react with surprise, he took this in rather matter-of-factly and wanted to know more. he asked me where I had ridden to, whether I ride in the day or night, and even what makes me decide to ride at night.

he noticed my patched-up mudguard and asked me if it was an accident. i told him it was potholes in aarey road.

the conversation seemed pretty normal until now, when the topic changed and he started talking about his day. he said that he didn't know that there's a different permit for drivers in Mumbai and Thane, and he found out the hard way today, after 9 months, when he was stopped by cops. he also doesn't have a license, just a photocopy - the original was confiscated months ago and he didn't bother collecting it as he didn't want to pay the fine. he also didn't know when the registration and insurance papers disappeared from his rickshaw. apparently when he had taken a few days off, the substitute driver had stolen the papers. so when he was stopped today he didn't have a license, permit, or papers. he said he was lucky, the cop was sympathetic. he had 250 rs with him, so the cop pocketed 150 and left him with 100 rs for fuel.

he said he was lucky, if it wasn't just a lone cop at the checkpost, he'd definitely be jailed and his rickshaw impounded.

i told him that drinking and driving was even worse.

that got him started.

he told me, he does only one trip every day. there are ladies who live in malad that he has to ferry to work in nalasopara, and back home. he has to pick them up at 9:30 pm, and he reaches them at a bar at nalasopara at precisely 10:10pm. never later than 10:15pm. and he reaches them back when the bar shuts in the wee hours of the morning. they pay for his food and drinks while he waits for them: he said that he had a plate of chicken lollipops and a quarter of whisky today.

I didn't want to ask him questions, wondering if he was some sort of pimp or something. he continued his story anyway: they pay him 800 bucks a day, flat. they don't always pay him daily, but by the end of the week the makes sure he gets his 800 for each day. they never go with anyone else, and he doesn't bother with any other rides even though he very well could.

he said that life is good. he has a family, has a place to live (he even told me where, somewhere in bhayendar), and he has his day to himself. he even has time to have a drink or two before setting off for work in the evening. and he gets 800 bucks a day, every single day. he even asked me to calculate how much that adds up to.

he said there are 3 ladies, and their job is to serve drinks and deal cards at the bar. he said that sometimes these ladies wear little more than just underwear. he told me I should come to the bar sometime, to eat and drink with him, and he'll tell me stories.

as i finished my now cold cup of chai, and wore my bag to get ready to ride off, he told me his brother had once brought a bike, but he had an accident not far from where we were, and broke his leg. after that he decided that he will never try riding a bike.

as i rode off, he told me we should meet again. I wonder if we will.

Monday, August 31, 2015

climb every mountain

yesterday marked the end of a trekking month. a few friends ("adventure lovers" is the official name we've given ourselves) decided we'll trek every weekend in August, and we succeeded, except that I missed trekking on my birthday weekend (although I'd have loved to do a trek in Goa, I somehow didn't think about it at the time 😁)

the reactions people give to my trekking habits vary, from mom's cynicism: "what's the use of trekking every weekend if you don't manage to lose weight", to my manager's advice "try to trek only on Saturday and rest on Sunday, you seem to be exhausted on Monday", to the majority of my friends saying I'm living the dream life: posting yummy food photos on Facebook all week, and spending every weekend trekking.

but trekking is more than just that. it's not just about getting fit, getting refreshed, and what not.

I love trekking because it feels natural. it feels like I'm using my body and mind for what they were designed to do. my body wasn't designed to spend long hours on a couch, or (over) drinking with friends. my mind wasn't designed to passively consume entertainment. to do the same things over and over again, expecting different results.

there's something about covering distances, conquering the unknown: hills, plains, valleys, streams, on my own two feet. there's something about honing that survival instinct. about rationing limited food and water and mental and physical energy, and enjoying it to the fullest. about embracing pain and discomfort till they cease to exist, or cease to matter. trusting instincts and abilities to get out of any situation I find myself in. making friends who I can trust and depend on, and work with as a team. people who share that passion. people who share my belief that survival is more than mere existence.

and most of all, there's something about enjoying being lost, and finding my way.

trekking is a metaphor for the journey of life.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


I turned 32 last weekend. took a 4-day mini vacation to celebrate it. rode off straight from office after work to goa, overnight. alone.

on most such rides, i would spend most of my time in introspection, but somehow, this time was different. i simply mentally switched off. i was just blankly riding through ghats and dense forest, clouds and rain. it felt awesome. I stopped counting hours and milestones.

when i reached goa it was noon, and I was quite tired. i wanted to nap, but instead I unpacked, cleaned the place a bit, showered, and set off alone to grab a bite and a beer. my fiancé arrived a couple of hours later (she flew down), and we spent most of the next 3 days just doing random stuff, me showing her around and trying to locate good places for her to visit and eat at. at midnight on my birthday, we were on the highway, somewhere between an art exhibition in a 350 year old mansion, and a club which had a live band belting out rock and roll hits from the last century.

i didn't cut my birthday cake until lunchtime, and it was just the two of us.

if my birthday is an indication of what lies ahead, i see myself spending more time with shruti and less with my friends, and being perfectly happy about it. i see myself being picky about what matters and what doesn't, and being quite headstrong about picking the former over the latter. i think life ahead is going to get more exhausting, and more full of ups and downs. i think despite all attempts to slow down and take it easy, i'm going to continue to push myself. I am going to have to pay more attention to my mental and physical health. i'm probably gonna be more dependent on shruti than I've ever been on anyone else. i'm probably gonna be more emotional when dealing with people I'm close to than I've ever been. i'm probably gonna question a lot of things I thought I figured long ago. maybe even disprove some of my assumptions. do unconventional things just because they feel right to me.

life no longer feels like it's running on autopilot. it feels more like racing up and down ghats on my bike. and surprisingly enough, this exactly the opposite of what I imagined it would be. but it's awesome. I look forward to each day with more curiosity and eagerness than ever. and i don't think any day is going to disappoint.