After stopping for a sumptuous Maharashtrian lunch of Bhakhri, Brinjal, Kadhi rice, Lahsun ki Chatni, dal and Pyaaz at a comfortable place before Pune and confessing home about the trip, we landed in Pune. I had been drenched and dried up innumerable number of times. While the moisture goes from your clothes, the dirt which the rainwater carried with it doesn’t. And you only bother to, in fact you only can, wash your face and eyes at the roadside Dhabas.
Thoroughly shivering, I stopped for a mug of hot chocolate in Pune. The receptionist of the mall gave us strange looks. I headed straight to the washroom, and as I looked into the mirror, I knew why that had been so. And I had a sudden, secret two minute crush on my friend for hugging me when she had met me a few minutes back. I wouldn’t hug someone who looked like I was looking now. And never in my life if I were a girl.
It was the second straight night on the bike. Dusk fell as the lights from Pune were left behind. Climbing the Western Ghats, it grew chilly. The socks which had been adorning the tail lights, the shoes slung on the front bumper, and the windsheeter which been tied around the waist all came back to serve their purpose.
Upon the Ghats and later was a journey I do not wish to describe in full detail. There were the two of us riding for well over 24 hours now, now under a thundering Western Ghats rain, over bad, treacherous mountain roads, in the Mumbai Pune highway (and not the expressway) traffic in the night. On top of it was a fog thick enough to facilitate a view of your own shadow formed by your own headlight right in front of you. If you compare our journey to that of the fast bowler’s spell, this was the time when under 45 degree centigrade temperature, Sachin and Sehwag were blazing away at full throttle and there were Chris Gayle, Ricky Ponting, and Kevin Pieterson oiling their willows in the pavilion. With the added clause that one wrong delivery and the bowler, alongwith all his balls, will go for a long, long toss. Full marks to Daddu for his bikesmanship. In terms of real adventure, this was the only patch on the whole trip where we encountered any.
There are numerous ways to enter the huge Megapolis, and a wrong turn can cost you another hour or so in reaching your destination. The road turns ugly on the ghats near Mumbai. Because of so many trucks plying on the road, and not less because of the heavy rains, and not the least because no government gives a shit about mountains and mountain roads, it is often broken. And for most of the way smells sickeningly of oil. Stopping trucks that are hurtling down the hills in the middle of the night under a roaring sky, and asking them for directions was one remarkable feature of this patch.
From the height on the edge of the Ghat, when you first look down on the patchwork of islands and reclaimed land stitching them together lying below, it looks like a forest on fire. So much light that against the darkness of the forested Ghats, it is positively blinding. As we rode towards it, I couldn’t have enough of looking at the sun which is always risen in India’s west. The heart and soul of India’s economy, the city which never sleeps, where lights never go off. Mumbai.
We reached Vashi at around 12. It was Ramzan time, and I got packed a Tandoori chicken from Sion. We reached Narsi Monji after a full three hour bike ride, this time over the still busy expressways and flyovers, dark lanes and lonely bylanes of Mumbai. The hot bath I then had at Sanket’s brother’s flat, after which the entire bathroom was under a layer of gooey blackness, was the best I’ve ever had. After that, the Tandoori chicken was the best I had ever eaten. And after that, the crash on the simple mattress in that cramped students’ apartment in Juhu, resulted in the best sleep that I ever remember having.
I lived a whole life in those 53 hours. A few things I’ll always remember. The shopkeeper in Karnataka who gave us water melon flavoured ‘medium class chocolates’, four for one rupee. The Dhaba owner in the middle of absolutely nowhere, who gave me a tattered chatai to sleep on. And where moisture seeped into the ground due to the rains outside and I practically froze from the cold wave coming in from the earth while I was lying face down on that chatai, using my jacket as a blanket. All this, while Daddu slept on two plastic chairs in the rain outside.
The dhaba owner boy refusing the tip I offered. And telling us to ride carefully as we took leave.
Finding a drunkard crawling on the highway near Solapur, and passing him by. A while later realizing that one simple act of dragging him to the side could have been a possible life saver, and that in our hurry to reach home fast, we had left him for dead from our side. Being condemned to live with that thought for the rest of our lives.
Coming across places called ‘Bhosari’ and ‘Shitole’.
Leaving home from mumbai, all set for a 750 km long journey, and getting wet inside out within the first five. And then realizing that there was no polythene to protect the cellphone, picking up a cover from the drain overflowing nearby and putting the cellphone in it and keeping it in the pocket.
Almost getting stamped upon the highway by a truck gone mad. And a few kilometers down the line, finding out that it actually had stamped a few people to death.
Riding into the setting sun for two days straight, riding into the full moon on the third night.
And on the fourth morning, to finally reach Hyderabad, our new home, riding into the rising sun.
Like the Hindu mythology says, the end itself contains the seeds of a next beginning.