Friday, July 11, 2008

Ride to Tarkarli

Rajiv Shah lost it, under a star-lit sky in the middle of nowhere. In that one moment, the patience he was 'not-so-known-for' gave way and he showered the Thumpers with choicest accolades of incompetence, 'abuses' in simple words. "Kya saala, bhanchod tum log ko jab dekho gaandmasti soojhta hai, be serious for once in life!" he said wiping the sweat of his bald pate. It was the only thing shining, at the crossroad where the thumpers lost their way. His raspy voice silenced every virile thumper on that chowk, which was rechristened as 'Gandmarla pass' a few minutes ago by Shyamal and Amit. After riding for more than seven hours continuously, even the most seasoned LKGs (Iron butts) in the group were feeling uncomfortably numb. And here was a great excuse to get off the bike, getting lost! Here was a great excuse to ask the right way. The intentions were good, the interpretation went awry. The lorry guy sees a road blocked by thirty bullets, and several war-torn looking men approaching like they mean business. Anyone in his sane mind will be scared out of his wits. So was he. He ran away leaving us in a lurch, which every thumper was still coolly enjoying. Probably that's what riding is about, anywhere you go,take the weather with you. But, there was more to come. The ride was not over yet.

This ride meant a lot for rookie thumpers like Kumar and me. It was my second overnight ride and Kumar's induction ride. Both of us had fought our way through work the night before. We didn't want the office to miss us on Friday, the day we planned to bunk. In advertising, sleep is a novelty; people are nocturnal and rarely look beyond a day. Maybe it's because of the nature of advertising. Anyway, before it sounds like a discourse on advertising, I will come back to the thump. Kumar and I finished packing by three in the morning, had a half baked sleep of an hour and left for Datta Vada at four in the morning. We had no clue that the ride will have such high and low notes, to even put Pavarotti to shame. Memorable, none the less.

I was missing the gang I met from the first ride, Guri, Billal, Kaka,Chinki, Daku and Bali. Infact, I was looking forward to meet Guri, especially. He was my padre in baptism by fire, in the ride to Lonar. This time I wanted to show him, how serious I was about riding. Wearing the works; the knee caps, balaclava, elbow guards, gloves, reflecto safe riding vest and of course, a full face helmet (Poor thing, didn't know its going to be its last ride). Will tell you about that, in due time. To a rider, the journey is as important as the destination, right.


Kumar and I landed at Dattavada. Waiting in all honesty for Andy to come, and take a look at our bikes, like two kids in kindergarten, gobbling lots of poha in the meantime. "Okay boys, saddle up!" said Rajiv imitating Guri, people laughed while I stared at my fuel needle. "Dude, I am going to tank up", I told Avinash. Kumar and I fuelled up in a flash and gotback, only to find no one there. Everyone had left. "Whoa, what a way to start a group ride", I said to myself. In next six seconds, Kumar and I were talking to the wind, heading straight like 'bullets'. There was a lot of catching up to do.

Kumar unleashed his throttle like a wild stallion and me like a cheetah, to sound euphemistic…actually Kumar unleashed like a rabbit, and I followed up like a greyhound. That's when I saw the milestone we crossed. We were not going in the right direction. We were 'propah fucked' at leastby a good 20kms. (See Snatch for a clarity on the phrase). I tried everything to slow down Kumar, who was riding like a storm. Honking and flashing. He wouldn't have stopped even if he saw Pamela Anderson flashing in his rear-view mirror. We all change, once on the steed. Nothing else matters but the road and the wind. Not even loosing the way. I pushed my throttle. The needle touched the nervous nineties. Overtook Kumar and got by the roadside. We took a U-turn, got a local as a pillion to show us the way and cruised along. The journey hadn't even begun yet. But, soon we were on the right route. Now, let me take the writer's liberty and cut tothe chase.

Even after following the trail of thumpers for a good 10kms, we didn't bump into anything but milestones…and more milestones...chiplun 170kms, mahad also some kilometres away (figuratively speaking). The story where I iterally bumped into one was still a hundred odd kilometres away. Kumar and I stopped. "How fucked are you", I asked genuinely. "Very", he replied with equal honesty. "Dude, we haven't slept, we have lost our way, and the day is going to get worse only, with the sun going up, you wanna head back to Bombay?" , I said taking off my sweat drenched helmet and tugging my balaclava. "true", he said looking at an Innova passing by. The kids inside were watching some film on a small plasma screen. This is the point I should salute the riding spirit of Kumar, he is not one of those who will let go easily. "Lets do a toss', he said reminding me of Sholey. "Heads, we carry on the ride, tails we head back to the comfort of Bombay", I said tossing the coin. Now, you reading this proves that, the coin said heads. We tossed our ass back on the Enfy and roared yet again, we were tired, our steed wasn't. We soon overtook that Innova. I smiled to myself, when the kids stopped watching the movie and looked at us through the window. I could empathize.

We soon caught up with the gang at a dhaba on the way. I will call it a dhaba, for lack of a better word. It was the place where I had the best panna (mango nectar) since quite a long time. I enjoyed it, with a sight of the beauties around. I leached at Saurav's 500 cc 'warlock' for a long time; it has one of the best paint jobs a bullet can get. Chinki's trailblazer was looking more clothed than the last ride, with a pillion seat, rear mudguard and tail-lights. After gulping copious amounts of panna, smoking enough nicotine to last for another 24 hours and splashing enough water to stay awake, we roared yet again. Things were looking better again.
This time around, I held onto the group like a kitten to its mother. Kumar also rode like he was glued. There are so many things which one learns riding in a group, smart riders take these learning's beyond the obvious,to the plane of self growth and intellect. I will broach this topic a little later, but would recommend you to not miss it. It's the best part.

Bali, spread an old bed sheet and was snoring in no time. This stop came a wee bit sooner than we expected. Around a hundred kilometres away only. Kumar was zonked, so were Avinash and I. "Always eat an apple when you're sleepy, that's what Guri does", said Avinash munching one looking at Kumar sleeping off under the shutter of a shop. The shop lady was trying really hard to wake him up. She was as zonked as him, wondering if she got up on the wrong side of bed today, being surrounded by a mob of Enfield's. Kumar woke up reluctantly, as Rajiv herded everyone on their bikes.

On the road, life was a little cooler than the stand still of the stop. Breeze was circulating through my visor, and the balaclava which I was still getting used to. Kumar had ridden off, much ahead of my sight. Soon,we approached the ghats. An ignorant trucker passed by, I swayed to the side like a pro. This was the part I loved most, but I was to be proved wrong yet again. Fate had something else in store.

I approached the ghats with a confidence. Tappet was on my tail. In trying to catch up with Kumar yet again, I raced ahead of tappet forgetting the first rule of riding. The cardinal rule, of not letting the rider behind you out of your sight. I got carried away. How costly it proves was still a few miles ahead, somewhere in the distant future.

The wind was soothing. The thump was like a lullaby. I was drowsy. I stopped by the side of a tree lined rode. In the middle of nowhere. Waited for tappet. Took a leak. Its funny, how we just throw our inhibitions on the highway when the nature calls. I wouldn't do that in a sane mind while city riding. Nobody turned up. I got on the bike again and trudged a few more miles till I fell off to sleep. It was the best part of my ride.Peaceful.

Ghad ghad ghad !...screech, screech, thud, thud! … "Wake up Rohit!", someone shouted in the dream. I was off road. Sleeping with the eyes open and heading towards a beautifully painted white pillar. The breaks did their best to bring me down from sweet 60's to late 20's, and we hit the pillar head on. I flew straight into the pillar and realized the beauty of a full face helmet and knee guards. Jeetu, may god bless you. You are an angel. You are a saviour. You are mother Teresa. Keep selling the riding gear and you will reserve a first class seat for yourself in heaven. I came out of the crash without a scratch or sprain. Another learning from the ride. Sleep, if you are sleepy. Stop anywhere, don't give a rat's ass about where it is, doze off or you'll be sleeping forever, in some god forsaken ditch, trench or a grave.

My bull was hanging face down, there was no trace of Shafiq, the guy who later for lack of topics to talk about, claimed that I fell in front of him, and his wife said "log kaise chalate hain". Shafiq mian, if you are reading this, then here is a big applause for coming up with such a great story and if you were around, I would have really appreciated if you came to help, rather than leaving a crashed fellow Thumper behind. Coming back to present, there was no one for miles, I waited for some help. Finally, I saw a car coming and I stopped it. It took two extra guys to pull my bull back up on her feet. They disappeared before I could even say thanks.

The brake paddle had shifted a foot away from its standard position. Headlight pointed towards the heaven and the whole speedometer unit was staring at the petrol tank. Thankfully, only a layer of paint had come off the tank. Kick paddle was twisted and stuck against the silencer. That toss was bad. I looked at a milestone nearby, Mumbai 200 kms, it said arrogantly. I threw in the towel. "You win", I said as I trudged my bull down the ghats slowly, avoiding the oncoming traffic. Clearly, it wasn't my day. I was headed back to Mumbai.

"Hey! We are here!!" I heard a voice as I passed a petrol pump some twenty kilometres on my way back from ground zero (the place where I had the crash). Amit was waving madly at me. For the next 15 seconds, Amit must have thought, what I thought of Jeetu. I could read the look on his face, hear his mind. "here is a biker, who comes back looking for his stranded fellas", that's what he must have thought.

"Yaar mera bike mein kuch to panauti hai, saala har ride pe panga kartihai", said Tappit. He was still smiling. Well, maintaining a bull as old as yourself, develops a lot of patience. "haan, mera bike mein bhi panauti hai, saala har ride pe thuk jaati hai", I tried to humour myself. Sadly, it failed like always, both Amit and Tappit were pretty tired to laugh.

"Guys I think I will head back to Bombay, cos I don't know how far this junk will take me" I said looking at the twisted speedometer and the poor key which was stuck in the ignition like Natalia Onatopp to James Bond in 'Golden eye'. "Don't even think about going back", hollered Amit from a distance. He was busy getting Tappits tire fixed. "Tu hamare saath aayahai, hamare saath jayega", he said quite casually. Well these were the words I was dying to hear since morning. They worked for me, but I am a guy with a stronger right brain. Logic appeals more to me, more than emotions.

As we grow up in a corporate culture, and get hand fed the luxuries of life on individual merit of our talents we forget something very basic, the feeling of a pack. The feeling of being one with our nature. The feeling off a tribe. This ride was exactly the shock therapy I needed to come back to my elements.


Writing such a big body of an article is a tedious task. I don't even know how many of us have the patience to read it all. Hence, for my biker mates who don't have much of an attention span, and feel restless sitting down for a long time. This story has to get over now. If you liked it so far and want me to carry on, just drop in a mail and the epic will go on. Otherwise, there's always the next ride to look forward to. Godspeed guys.

To précis the ride down, I must say. Like so many other rides, my meditations on this bike were the moments which changed me for good. I met people who can star as heroes in action films, romantic films, can play the meanest villains and win an academy award. I absolutely loved everyone on the ride. They all had unforgettable characters which is so tough to find in a world of wannabes. The stereotype of bikers was broken long ago; I am on a new high. I saw places which were there only in my dreams so far. I breathed the cleanest air in India and like hell, I love my Country. I will explore more and more till the day I am around. I had the time of my life.


inktales said...

wow, rohit, thanks for your comment! my skecthbook really keeps me sane, lets me find the sense of humour in all these unknown situations. anyway i like your blog, though I hate reading :(
good luck! sunandini

Sushrut said...

and i thought i was sex crazy .. :)