It seems travelling is a bug that has bitten quite a few beings of this planet. Birds do it, so do animals and let’s not forget fishes. Thus how can we humans be left behind? Now there are a few humans in whom this virus has merged with another and morphed into something else. The second virus I talk about, so far has only infected us humans, so it’s not an epidemic like the other bug. This virus is called biking and this new mutated disease has made quite a few perfectly normal humans do unthinkable things like riding for months at a stretch across continents and what not.
So, being a mere mortal I too got infected, but the funny thing is, riding a bike is something I had done four to five times during my entire life span of 27 years. But why let practice come between a man and his dreams right. For as Tony Stark says in Iron Man at times one needs to run before he can walk. Thus, started phase one which is planning. The first question was "where to go"? Following this came the realisation that I did not own a bike. Clearly, I should have thought things through in greater detail.
With a lot of brain storming I decided to keep it simple and clog a few miles to a place that I was familiar with. The Jaipur Literature Festival provided the perfect opportunity. As Jaipur is a place I have travelled to a million times. (Wonder if the fact that my family lives there, has something to do with it) And the bike selected was a six-year-old Bajaj Avenger owned by my childhood friend. That taken care of, I had to think of phase two, which was the preparation.
What person who has negligible riding experience and plans to ride for 270 kilometers on a bike that has not been used for over two months prepares right. Preparation is for losers I thought. For I’m sure my dad hasn’t prepared for anything in his life. He’s a man and so am I, I thought. So I went with the flow.
Now to give you the macro picture both these phases took 2 hours. As, I was trying to be spontaneous. At about 5.30 in the evening spontaneous, macho dude sets off for his virgin long distance bike journey. The first few kilometers seemed okay. Now I’ll be honest the traffic was scary. At one point, when I wanted to continue straight on the NH8, there was a bus on my right hand side that wanted to go left, you can guess where I’m getting at with this. At the speed of 85 kilometers per hour this young spontaneosly macho adventurer(me) panicked and forgot about those things known as brakes. The bus kept going left and came really close, and in order to avoid a collision I keep going left too. When the nightmare ended I was riding toward Delhi not the opposite as it had to be, because the bus took a u turn and I was forced to as well.
Waving through traffic, overtaking vehicles, braking when needed, picking up pace on open stretches, everything was being done with perfection like a professional. Just as a warm smile of self accomplishment broke, it happened again: my trusted 220cc motorcycle died again!
No worries a little detour was not going to alter the vast adventure that lay ahead. Two hours later I managed to reach the marker that said "Welcome to Neemrana" (the first major town when you enter Rajasthan). 125 kilometers in two hours was not bad for a first timer. So, I decided to treat myself to a five minute break. (Also, sitting on a bike for two hours is tough, especially for a heavyset(fat) gentleman as yours truly.) After the well deserved break, I planned to resume my travel, but the bike wouldn't start. Why would the bike not start? Try, try and try but nothing so, the master mechanic within me decide to use the kick instead of the self start. Now for all bike enthusiasts this will be funny, but it wasn’t for me. The bike I had selected to be my trusted carrier didn’t have a kick (the bike only comes equipped with a self start).
Again, the master mechanic in me came alive and I thought let’s use the classic push and start method. While complying with my genius idea, I asked a few by standers to push the bike. After a bit of reluctance two guys came forward and helped me out and pushed the bike. Well this did start the bike but a few kilometers later it died again. It was 8.30 now and the darkness enveloped the landscape surrounding a lone amateur rider. After the sinking feeling of having bitten off more than I could chew, I called my friend (owner of the bike).
“Hello, hi Ansh the bike is not starting, it was perfectly fine till now but, now it refuses to start and I don’t wish to drain the battery by the constant use of the self start.” To this my friend laughed for what felt like an eternity and said. “I’m really sorry brother but the reason I don’t use this bike these days is because this bike gets heated up and the engine shuts down. So, don’t worry, relax for 15 minutes and try it again, give it some time to cool down time.”
And I complied but not after 15 minutes but 30 minutes for I didn’t want to take any chances. The moment the bike started all my worries and panic disappeared for the adventurer spirit came alive and once again I started my journey. The best part about riding solo which I now get is the peace. One man one machine, no talk, no music just the constant and reassuring sound of the engine. To be honest I have never tried meditation but this calm and solace that I was witnessing now was something I had never experienced before and was as calming as any meditation could be.
The next few hours were perfect, with a constant speed and the wind in my hair, (I wasn’t wearing a helmet, sorry, I know I’m not the perfect example)I felt alive and super adventurous. Now that I had been riding for around 200 kilometers I had gotten the hang of it. So waving through traffic, overtaking vehicles, braking when needed picking up pace on open stretches, everything was being done with perfection like a professional. Just as a warm smile of self accomplishment broke, it happened again; my trusted 220cc motorcycle died!
Now imagine being out on a date, everything is going perfect, the girl is really beautiful, she is laughing at all your jokes and when you are about to ask her if she would like to do it again she says, “Did you think this was a date? I thought it just two friends going out for dinner. I already have a boyfriend dude!” That is exactly how I felt when the bike betrayed me again. But what can you do right. So, 30 minutes, five cigarettes and two phone calls later we started again, me and my bike which had serious mood swing every few hundred kilometers.
The last 30 kilometers went great without any hiccups and my super adventurer spirit was back. At around 11.30 I pulled into my house and with a huge smile of accomplishment walked inside. The door was opened by my father who was shocked to see me as surprising my parents was part of the plan. A word of advice if you plan to surprise someone don’t tell them you did something they are strictly against just to fulfill the surprise. But me being me, I narrated the entire ride to my family, thinking sardar khush hoga sabashi dega (dad would be happy and would praise me). What I got was three hours of scolding and a very sad and unhappy dinner.
But as is usually said, “it’s the journey that matters, not the destination.” I can for certain tell you three things, I now understand why people obsess about riding. Secondly, it’s not a very good idea to skip phase two which is preparation. Also, I realised that sometimes, the thing that makes you feel happy and alive can also make your father furious.