(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.