Thursday, November 01, 2007


Its been little over a month, since i have come home from a ride; a ride which in many ways has changed my life. I have come back to the normalcy of life (ie, home, friends, work, all), considering how adventurous/crazy/risky i lead those 115 days alone (was i!!), on a bike, riding the country; India!

Have begun going back to work; everythings new there, except that people still remain the same; a good friend has left, many will leave. The 1st week was an eye opener for me; seemed like i had forgotten a lot of things; my clients, my passwords, my extn & my peer's, processess, to type on a keyboard. I seemed rough. I still remember the 1st lunch i had at work, i didnt care if there was no space to sit, didnt care about not asking for spoons, just grabbed a plate, put my hand on the plantain leaf in which the rice had been packed, opened up a dal (andhra style) packet, dumped it on the rice & ate! I ate standing there near the window; i ate like i dont care, i just ate. Now, i remember those days when i looked for food on the beaten National Highways (any decent looking) & settled for samosas. I smile now!

I have been lazy these days to write here, you would know that i havent (yet) uploaded the pics & the videos. Have been lazy! Will do so now, in sometime.

& am i glad to be back in Bengaluru!!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Guwahati - Itanagar

I halted for 4 days in Guwahati! I needed to get my bikes 3rd service done! I also needed to get the ILP's (Inner Line Permit) done for 3 states of NE, without which nobody would be allowed the state boundary!

Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland & Mizoram were the states! We had applied for AP's ILP back in Kolkata! The other 2, in had to get it done here! It takes just few hours for the process, you apply in the morning, & between 2 & 4 pm the same day, it would be issued! I felt a little strange to know that i (as an Indian) required a "pass" to go into my own country! I am under educated on this matter right now, so will not comment!

The weather in Guwahati was very humid & it would rain/drizzle once in a while! Its not a big place here! & Dispur is more like a twin city attached to it!

I left my bike for servicing at the Bullet workshop. Met the service manager, Mr. Roy Choudary. He was excited to know that i have come all the way from Bangalore to Guwahati riding alone! After the bike was handed over, & over a cup of black tea, we spoke! He told me that there was a Bullet Club here, & he's the tresurer of it! Couple of calls later, i was talking to Vikram, who is the Vice President of the Club! We spoke, exchanged nos & he wanted to meet me in the evening over a cup of coffee!

Evening happened, Vikram picked me up from my hotel! Came across as a very humble gentleman in his 30s. We went to the nearest CCD! We pulled in on a table, & he asked for extra chairs, i knew there would be company!

10 mins later, 2 more joined us! Partha & Bhaskar! Lot of Q & A session happened! They were happy to know about Chrysallis Power of One! Got few tips from them! We dispersed by 9.45pm! I had a good time, made new friends!

The next 3 days were uneventfull! I spent a lot fo time either sleeping or in the workshop! Roy was very curteous towards me! He gifted me a tee-shirt from Eicher! & offered lunch in their mess! It was very homely; rice, dal & alloo sabji was present with fried chillies to spice up the meal!

I was waiting for my pass from Cal to arrive! I got it by the end of yesterday's evening! I also realised that as i was any ways coming back to Guwahati on my way out of NE, it didnt make any sense for me to carry all the luggage back & forth! So decided to split it & take only the essentials with me! I asked Partha, & he was more than happy to help me with it! So, dropped off two bags in his place! Got an opportunity to meet his family! Bhabhi offered me black tea & met thr son Dev! Cute he was!

Left for Itanagar early today! Was feeling very drowsy from the morning! Roads werent that great! It would have been a easy ride expect for the raods & the sun! Rode to Nagoan from Dispur! Had breakfast there! & headed towards Tezpur, the district HQ for Sohitpur! Crossed a long bridge over the River Bramhaputra to enter Sohitpur! This is the 2nd time i am crossing this river! I crossed it when i was making my way to Guwahati!

Checked into a hotel! Ate Plain dosa ( which was good) & had lassi for lunch! Slept for couple of hours! & found this internet place with Broadband connection!

Will head for Itanagar tmrw morning! Will complete this post when i reach there!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Hyderabad - Raipur

Hotel Poonam
25th June 2007, Monday
3.45 pm

This is the time i checked in Raipur. Dirty place i have to say. The rain made it more horrible! Approx 950 kms i rode to reach here!!

Left Hyd on the 23rd morning, towards Warangal. It was raining when i left the hotel. Rode slow. Had tea on the way! You should have tea in Hyd, gud tea they make. What i like more is the cups they are served in, cute little white porclein cups! The ride to Warangal was easy! It was a distance of 150 kms.

Went up on NH 202... Reached Mulugu. (I have made a series of videos of this day! I can upload only when i reach Kolkotta; will either make a separate entry for tht, or put the same in between this post).

Video: 1 (will be uploaded later)

The road lead me towards Chelvai & i had to go through a Wildlife Sanctuary of Eturnagaram! Rain again! It looked like the Rain God is playing a joke on me! I would only come to know about this in couple of hours!! As this is close to the borders of Chattisgarh, i was not shocked to see BSF in their civil clothes, carrying loaded guns! Took a break for tea. Bought new plastic sheets to cover my luggage!

After about 10kms, the road hits a small town! Asked the locals if there was a road ahead crossing the river Godavari! There is no road, but have to use a boat!! But to reach there, have to go through a place called Cheruvai, which is located on the river bed! It was interesting to see the reaction on the face of locals, when i tell them i am coming on a bike from Bangalore! The river bed is a very tricky surface to ride on (loose mud)! My bike had its first fall! That is when i realised, how heavy the bike is, & with all the luggage it is worse! No one around, so i helped myself! Found that the left foot-rest got hit on a stone & is bent upwards! So it becomes difficult to shift gears! Found a single path towards the edge of the river after i crossed few boulders! & There is a boat waiting! 10 people! There was a local guy with his wife & his bike (splendor)!

I enquired if it was safe to cross, all of them shook their heads! I had a moment, when, i was not comfi! But there was no turning back! Turn back & Go where!! There was only one way to go, & that was forward!

So, carefully, pushed the bike to the edge of the river! 4 of the boys came to pick the bike up! I warned them about the engine & the silencer!! They nodded! So, with couple of big pulls, the bike was up & standing nose down in the boat! I put in all the luggage! Asked for a hand, & i was in! The guy who handled the boat, used his big long stick, to push the boat away from the bank! The boat shook, twice! There was a huge sigh from everyone & then there was silence! It was stable! My heart skipped a beat! He started the engine! & we were off! I was scared! Very Scared! Always heard about stories of boats capsizing bcos of heavy loads, i wondered if i was in that story!!

Video: 2 (will be uploaded later)

We reached the other side, first people get down & then the loads! My bike first & then the lighter one! The nightmare began here! It started to rain, pouring rain! The other gentleman & his wife, started off. In no time i was alone on the banks! I put my luggage back on! Started the bike (it was too heavy to be pushed), put it into 1st gear, slowly moved ahead! The sand was still dry a little, i came close to the end of the river bank! But ahead was an opening with mud (not sand), soaked with water (thanks to all the rain). I see tht the Splendor guy is stuck! I move the bike, it slides, slips, the rear tyre has no grip at all! I stop the engine! Try to push it; it doesnt budge! Its too heavy! My face becomes red! Try to start the engine & move slowly! Whats happening here is, bcos the rear end is heavy, to get grip, the tyre has to dig deep, so it is picking up all the mud! & the mud is getting collected on the top end of the mud guard! I only come to know about this, when i pass the other guy's bike! I stop immediately, out of frustration & anger, unload the bike, throw everything on the ground! My jacket, my rain gear, helmet, my waist pouch, luggage, all of this comes down! My shoes are stuck! I am ankle deep in mud! I pull my feet out, it comes, but without the shoes! I ignore it! My priority is to get out of there!

A young guy, joins us! He helps the other guy! They both talking the same language! Both the bike owners take a break! Both of us sweating like pigs! Faces red with blood! It stopped raining, & the sun is out! General conversation happens! In about 15 mins, his bike is up! I am getting worried! What if they leave me here! What were my options! What if there is rain again! What if the bike gets stuck more! What if......

I take my luggage up the small hill! (say about 50 ft of elevation, same wet terrain!) On the top, i ask the young guy, not to leave me! He said, he is going to miss his last bus home! I told him i will drop him where ever! He agrees! He knows that i am in bad shape! We both go down again! He picks up all my luggage & goes on top! I look for a small stick/twig! We both start cleaning the front & the rear guards! The mud is so badly stuck, the sticks were too small! I put in my hand! I cant reach it too! I knew that this is not going to end like this! I put in the1st gear, he holds the bike from behind& pushes it! Every 5 ft the engine stops! Its getting over heated! I could feel it! Took us about 30 mins to get up the mountain! The time we reached on top, he showed me the clouds! He said, "Bhaiya, varsham!" (In telugu it means, rain!) The clouds got darker & moving towards us! I thought, this is where the joke went bad of the Rain Gods! & this time the joke was on us! I put the cramsters first! He sat on the rear seat, held on to one of my bags, held his bag! I held on to another one of mine!

It started raining! It was bad this time! The bike moved, but i could feel that the rear tyre is dragging! There was another km to be covered till we hit a tar road! We couldnt go back on the mud! So rode on the grass, small plants, between trees! Anything but the mud! I was bare feet! Slipped again! Fell down, my feet hurt! Got back up again! Finally saw the road! What a relief it was!! He showed me directions to his place, he was visiting his relative! We stopped in front of his place, we both were exhausted! Panting! Sweating our guts off! He offered me some water! I took a snap of ours! Dont want to forget him!

Video 3: (will be uploaded later)

He advised me not to take the route which i had planned! Told me both that the roads were not good & that it has a heavy concentrate of naxals! The thumb rule of riding alone is to always talk to the locals & hear what they have to say! Most of the people you meet are good! & it is advisable to listen to them! This is a decision you have to take!

So, instead of entering Chattisgarh immediately, went to a village called Venkatapuram! Small little place! Stayed in a dirty little room (100rs for a night), ate horrible dinner! Worst rasam rice i have ever eaten! Got up early in the morning & headed to a town called Bhadrachalam! Got my bike cleaned. Ate early lunch at 12pm. The place i ate, bang opposite was the main Bus Stand! Went right in, bumped into the Asst Manager (APSRTC, Badrachalam) of the place, told him my back ground & my story! Quite impressed he was! He made me sit, we struck up a conversation, had tea, gave me the route to Raipur. He wished me good luck, signed on my Message Book.

Took off to the border of the Chattisgarh. Entered the state by lunch time. The border looks like a war zone! Two big posts on each side of the road (well, there is no road), made of wood, cement bags around it, 3 gaurds on it (BSF JAWANS) with heavily loaded guns! It resembled a war movie i've seen! There is a sharp eye they keep on anyone crossing the gates! Its a very errie feeling you go through when you enter this state! I cant explain! Its difficult! I didnt want to speed up the road, after every gap on the road, i came across 15-20 jawans with guns slinged on their shoulders walking the roads (guarding them should i say). I stopped in front of one of the groups, who were taking a break, asked them hows the road up ahead & is it OK to ride alone!? They comforted me saying it is ok, but tense! But no need for concern & that i would find jawans all through the way till a certain point & from there on it is absolutely safe. I wanted to stop at Jagdalpur for the day!

The town is Sukma! Its sort of a Refugee Camp where families from near places come & stay there in make-shift huts! Thousands of them! This camp is gaurded around the clock, it is fenced! There is a market right opposite to the camp. I pass this town. Move ahead! My next stop was at another camp called Dronpal! This was the largest i was told, 17000 people stayed in it! Bang opposite was the camp for the soldiers! There were slogans written, "Kick out Naxalites, Bring in peace".

I stopped in front of the BSF camp, thought it was the best place to rest. I hadnt taken a break from the last hour or so... The bike always attracts attention where ever we stop. So one question lead to another & ended up being a conversation. I love these talks i get to have! The ride being a monotony, it is exhausting on both mind & body! & how much can i sing & talk to myslef! These little conversations give me a relief. I also get to know whats happening locally, is there an issue, is it safe etc etc.

After a break of 30 mins, i move on to catch the road to Jagdalpur! About 300 kms before Raipur! It was begining to rain by the time i reached Jagdalpur. Found a hotel, run by a young entrepreneur! Its nice to see/ to get good service by the people who attend you in a hotel. Considering that this was not a big place, i was made to feel important/nice! Even though i was looking no less than a joker (by looks). As i had lost my shoes the previous day, i rode in my Bata Chappals! Checked in! Took a bath! Had a decent dinner! Went back to room & crashed!
Got up 5. Left the place by 6.30. The roads were good! Something else i shld tell you here.. The entire stretch(except for the last 30-40kms) from Jagdalpur to Raipur is an avenue! 90% of the trees on both sides of the road are Mango trees! It felt really good to ride this stretch. Gud breeze! Little sun! Pleasant journey it was!

I reached outskirts of Raipur by about 3 pm. It took me another 45 mins to get to the hotel which was booked for me! Let me introduce Pallavi here! She hails from Raipur & is also my colleague! Her parents & her twin sisters still live here! Thats why i said, it was booked already!

Something else imp to be mentioned here is the "Traffic-Shock" you come across!

a) You can spit whatever/where ever you find a spot!

b) You can cut across roads (from left to right & vice versa) without having the fear of getting caught!

c) There is no concept of one-ways!

d) You dont have to wait for the signal to turn green to cross the junction!

e) You can park your vehicle where ever you want!

f) You can honk away to glory, even if the traffic in front of you is jammed!

g) There is no concept of a road divider!

Take my words, if you are someone who kinda follows even little traffic, you are in for a shock when you enter this city! My jaws dropped when i witnessed all of this in that 30-45 mins!
So, checked in the hotel, took a bath! Met up with Pallavi's dad! Went out to eat an early dinner! Dinner is not served till 7.30pm. So, killed time. Went back & had a Chicken Biryani(which was sweet). Rain again! Back to room! Was browsing through TV, when i got a knock on the door! Pallu's mom & Barkha (1st of the twin sis). Spent some time with them! Crashed after they left!

Rain in Raipur! Immediate work was to get the bike's 2nd service finished! Gave it! Did some shopping! Lunch with Pallu's family! Checked out of the hotel by evening! The rest of the story later!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Bangalore - Hyderabad

20th June 2007
7.20 am
Holy Ghost Church, Behind Richard's Park!!

This is where we flagged off Chrysallis Power of One, Motorcycle Ride!
Only the near & dear were present. The only surprise was Mr. Samson Chacko (Chief Div Manager) from Indian Oil. Friends, colleagues, family.... few late entries (guna & kumar topped it, by meeting me on the Outer Ring Road!) Anyways.....

Gave a small little "Thank You" speech to every1 present! Diana said a few words.. i met everyone present personally... big line of hugs happened! & before i blinked, i was on the bike, set!! Diana & Samson flagged me off, after a little prayer!

The Ride:

The ride was gud on Day 1. But after sometime the bike developed some started missing..& didnt go any faster! It was painful to see a Bullet not go above 40kms... The slow speed was also heating up the engine! I was not happy. By the time i reached Ananthpur, it was 8.30pm. I spoke to Anand (Mechanic, from Tecknik Motors).. He asked me to check the air filter! Now, you will have to know, that i am not a biker dude; which means i dont know anything about the bike, apart from it has 2 wheels, an engine, an accelerator, brake, clucth & gears...& when everything runs in some fashion, the bike moves ahead! Now, to take the toolkit from the bike, i took 30 mins, they should add it in the manual, how to take a tool kit OUT!!! Anyway, thought i will leave it to the experts, asked for a mechanic for bullet. I was shown to a guy! Bcos, i didnt trust him, i asked him to speak to Anand over phone, i think it hurt his ego! After a try, he said, he had no clue how to fix it! Asked him does he know who else can do this, he said NO!!

Went around, asked couple of people, got directed to this cute little chap, Nagaraj! Told him what the problem was, in 10 mins time, bike was running in gud fashion. Over the talk, he asked me wht i was doing here, alone on a bike, told him the story. He was quite impressed! When i asked him how much i owed him for his services, he denied any money from me! I pushed him to accept, he refused! He said, Sir, Think this is my contribution to your cause!! I was touched! Found a hotel, crashed!

Got up at 4 in the morning, set out by 5.45am on 21st towards Hyderabad! It was gud ride! I was awfully asleep! Found some tea shop, had tea & moved on! Had breakfast!

Sometime by afternoon, when i was getting hungry, was going over a bridge! Clear water runnnig under it, people taking bath, few doing rituals over the banks, children using a magnet to pick up coins from the river bed! I turned around, found the katcha path which takes me over... parked my bike, picked up my towel & a soap. Stripped, & jumped in the water! Had a gud satisfying bath!! Found out later, it was River Krishna!!!

After i had lunch, i again had the same problems wit the bike. It almost stopped over a bridge... Put it on the side. Took a break, let it cool down, started again, but this time i didnt go any faster than 45-50kms/hour! Reached Hyd by 6.30pm. Pouring in Hyd. Found out where, D stayed! Checked in! Phew!!!! What a day!!

2 days, 604 kms! I did 373 the 2nd day! Quite a distance!

Ok, update for today, The bike met its doctor! Got ready! Doing gud! I am happy! Ready to leave for Raipur tmrw! Will leave early! Will do my next post when i get time! So, me penning off! CU!! :)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Two days to go!!!

Yes, its 2 days to go!

This is my penultimate blog from the comforts of my home in Bengaluru! After which i will either blog from my mobile (Wow, Technology can be so good at times!!) or possibly from a local internet cafe anywhere from India!

If you had asked me 10 days ago, i was feeling jittery! Guess what, i am ready now! Mentally, i am ready to be kicked off! I am not nervous, no butterflies! I am quite! I am relaxed! I am still putting on weight!

We had a good weekend; apart from the Teachers workshop & the Exhibition of Placards i talked about, which hpnd on the 14th in MCC; we had an Awareness In-City Ride yesterday. We started off from an Indian Oil bunk (Hamsa Service Station), between Forum & Big Bazaar; went into 80ft road (Koramangala), right to 100 ft road, took Inner Ring Road to the newly finished fly-over, touched Indiranagar; turned around & headed back to National Games Village, where we ended our ride! We were a group of 14 riders with our pillions children from Samarthanam. We handed out info phamplets & spoke to people on our way! It was a very satisfying evening, brought smiles on all of us!

I havent started packing yet! Loads to be packed! Am waiting for the bike to be set up first, with minor additions & little branding! Am planning to finish off with it by tomorrow! Did loads of shopping today!

I have to mention this; i am also dissappointed in a way! Not sure how to express it... i am dissappointed with the way people (read here as friends/colleagues/who know u or in contact with you) treat me! Bcos by each day passing, it is difficult for everyone to comprehend the way i do things; just to accept that i am normal too! As i said, i am not sure if i am expressing it right.... but remember my early post... i said i would be honest in the way i felt.

Am leaving my contact no on the side bar. Ideal time to contact (rem STD) is early morning or late in the night. If you wanna SMS, write in your name at the end pls.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

2 weeks to go!!

Its official now! I am leaving Bengaluru on 20th June! As i mentioned in my earlier post, we have made little change to the route; instead of going through Pondi & Chennai & then to Hyderabad, i am heading off to Hyd directly. Will touch base with these two places on my way back to Blr.

On the bike front, it has completed its 1st service! I am getting used to riding it for long distances. Am trying to go farther & do more time on it; the highway to Devanhalli has become my new friend!! As it has a bucket seat (which means comfi on my posterior), my back is not taking a beating! So riding happening in early mornings & sometimes in the night!

Have got another mobile no (BSNL). Will put it up on the blog in sometime!

We are holding a Teachers Integrated Simulation Classroom Programme on the 14th June in MCC, at 9am. Teachers from normal and special schools are going to work through a simulated integrated classroom set up, covering basic subjects. This will bring forth the challenges they face and how we can work through it. The integrated classroom is going to be a reality. We will also have children from the respective participating schools.

The same day, from 6.30pm, the Exhibition will be held to showcase all the placards which were made by the children on the 3rd of March this year!

Will pen-off now!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Nobody dies a Virgin!

If you are looking for a post where the king lives happily ever after...or just, say a happy post, you might want to give this one a skip!

The odds are getting bigger! I am losing time! Did a 100km ride in the night yesterday; did it on the Blr - Devanahalli stretch. Gud road! Had to turn back for home, developed a cramp in my stomach! Left for the ride immediately after a heavy dinner, that could be a cause! Also, encountered our Police Mama, when i stopped in front of ITC for a break; he literally shoved me away, probably didnt want any mishaps when he was on his rounds! Never mind the law & order of this place; will crib on it some other time!

Did 1 more round of riding in the morning today; this time (foolishly) took the Mysore road! I covered the same distance as yday night, but in twice the time. Bike started getting heated up! Had to slow down; stopped thrice for 15-20 mins! No sleep yday, so started sleeping/drowsing (am used to this habit) while riding; i turned back towards Blr; didnt want to take a chance with the bike. Had to stop this time, for me! Had tea! The place i stopped had a Peepal tree with a katte (read it in kannada) around it; couple of farmers dosing off. I sat on it, made eye contact with 1 of them, asked if i could sleep & would there be an issue! He smiled! That was the answer i was looking for! Helmet & my bag under my neck, stretched my legs & slept for 30-40 mins! Literally next to the State Highway! Super i felt! Took my time & came back home by 1.30 pm.

Found out that i cant get my Bike's 1st service done immediately; have to wait till Tuesaday! Waste of 2 days, which i dont have! Cursed every soul!

I also pushed my days & changed my schedule a little. Pushed it by 4 days! & instead of going to Pondicherry, i am heading directly to Hyderabad! Will cover Pondi & Chennai on my way back. Instead of coming back on 26th Sep, i am back on 29th. Will have to use up my Sunday & Monday well.

As they say, when things go wrong, they will go wrong!
Nobody dies a Virgin; ......................................

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Its a BOY!!

Date: 28th June
Place: Diana's home
Pic courtesy from Sumit!

Remember the 1st series of ad's for Pulsar! Two nurses walk in the Neo-Natal care; & declaring Its a BOY! Its a BOY! & voila Pulsar is shown in the freeze frame; with an adage, Definitely Male!!

We got the bike (Bullet Thunderbird) yesterday & it is awesome! My 1st time on a Bullet & i was like a kid with a grin from ear to ear! Took Diana for a ride & opened up the throttle for the 5th gear & took it up to 60!(thts the max i am advised to ride, till the 1st service). Now i know why everyone goes ga-ga over a Bullet!

You know, its like eating a Chocolate Mousse from Java City. Thats the feeling. You dont wanna stop & want to keep eating it! Thats how you feel when you ride a Bullet!

I actually spent an hour admiring it at home. Call me a kid but its a dream come true to ride one.

So, BOYS, move!!!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Countdown has Begun.

For me the Countdown began on the 16th of May itself. 30 days from flag-off.

I think it was a friend who reminded me; Do you know, you will leave for your trip in 30 days? BANG!!! It hit me on my face! I didnt want to know tht; i start thinking "big-time" about it! I freek out! I fret! & all this, will affect me. I felt weak in my knee, i started feeling sick, i ran temperature! Its the kinda feeling a school kid goes through before his/her final exams!

Its hard for me to keep calm; bcos i know, the day i start from Bangalore, there is not much i can do, things wouldnt be in my control; its otherwise...

So, what has been done till now?

1. The bike has been booked. Its a Bullet Thunderbird. 350 cc, 18 bph, 5 speed (left foot gear shift), electric start, with front disc breaks.
2. We have finished events in 9 cities. The placard activity is done with in Bangalore, Pondicherry, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bhubaneshwar, Kolkotta, Delhi, Chandigarh & Guwhati.
3. The route for my ride is finalised.
4. Fuel is being sponsored by Indian Oil.
5. The GPS provider is more or less finalised.
6. I think i am ready! :)

This is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Lot of things needs to be bought, bike needs to be tuned & altered for carrying my luggage, i need to keep my docs in place & also the permits i would need during the course of my ride, esp in the North-East.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Its called Chrysallis Power of One!

Its been 15 months since i thought about a ride; a ride across this country; a ride which will take me to places & meet new people, a ride which i was convinced enough to do it alone (read solo).
Today is 21 May 2007. 25 days to flag off! Yes, i am leaving bangalore on 16th June 2007. Its been a long long wait. Have postponed the dates by 6 months, initially, planned to leave by Jan 6th, this year. Didnt know that i couldnt get in & out of "Leh". My initial plan was to ride through every State, go through its Capitals; & also see if i can touch base with the 4 corners of this country (read rideable corners)!!
I was not sure. Not sure, if this is just a crazy idea (many of whom i have met & talked to, till think it is), didnt know any answers for How, When, Why.... I needed someone to tell me that it was ok to think like this, it is normal. I did get that support from a colleague! & one phone call changed it all. I called Diana Tholoor. Over the next few meetings, there was meaning for my thought.
Now, after 15 months, its no more just a ride! Its "Chrysallis Power of One".
Its not about one person! There is no definite meaning to it! But what that one person can to do to bring about that change; that one person can do miracles in his/her own way! Theres a team of volunteers working hard to make this project happen; there are volunteers working across the country; there are children participating in "Know your Special Friend"; special children are making new friends; as i said, this is not about one person!!
From this blog onwards, the posts are about me, what i am going through, what i feel...evrything you didnt want to know, nobody wanted to hear about!!!

Friday, March 16, 2007

I think you are ready!!

The nights are
shorter now!!
But the smile remains!

I dont have to spend long
nights, bcos i know
this is it!!

I've stuck on to
chai, but black, with
a twist of lemon!

Its no more under the lights
or under the trees with
frustrated crows!!

Under the moon, in
front of an awe-inspiring architecture, &
on the footsteps of JRD Tata!!

I think you are ready!
Thats all!
This is IT!!!
A giggle...

The rest is history.


Friends to shame..
Feeling shy!
No inhibitions!

The historical moment--
Finger pointing
You should have got someone...

Volleyball match.

Pink - a colour i have never wore before!
Music & Lyrics!!

We still talk
Conversation are much deeper!

Feelings are translated
into poetry!
& i stick to lousy writing!

Its been 4 months
since the broken indicators
But have grown
as individuals!

The nights are
shorter now!!
But the smile remains!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Day 1 of my trip to Rameshwaram & Kanniyakumari

Its been a long time since i posted! This is my journal (of sorts) of my 2nd trip to Rameshwaram & Kanniyakumari. The journal below is of only Day1. Its long, so be patient when you read it. Am not sure when i will (or if i will) write the rest of the journal. Hope you enjoy it!
Day 1 11 Aug

I left home at 5 am & my plan was to reach the Temple Town of Madurai at the max, towards the end of the day.

The previous evening on my way back home from work, I was wondering what if I packed, ate dinner & left off riding in the night itself to Madurai & by day break more or less I would make the distance; by doing this I would save one day. The only factor was that I would have to brave the National Highway, the trucks, tempos & buses. It sounded interesting for me & more of a challenge cos in had never done it before.
Mom thought I was crazy. None of my friends were sure except for one. Not that I am giving it as an excuse but something told me it wasn’t good an idea. It was possible but the question was, was I prepared to ride through.. Hmm...Interesting question!!

I stuck to plan. Got up at around 4am. Had some good strong coffee. Checked on my inventory; chckd the bike. Started it up, I let the engine rev up so that it gets warm. Picked up my backpack. Now here is one of the 1st good things I have done on this trip.

The last time I went on a trip, rode the circumference of Karnataka; close to 1600 kms on the same bike. I took the same backpack & carried it throughout the ride. My back at the end of 5 days was, should I say in a very subtle way, not in its greatest form. Had one of the severest attacks which made me rest for 3 days. Me & my back; that could be a diff topic for a write.

So, I picked up a luggage strap (thanks to my colleague Masroor); which has hooks at the end of a stretchable string. Loaded my BP on the back seat of the bike. So that I could sit freely & if I wanted I also could lean back on it a little. The bike is of my brother; it’s a Honda Unicorn, a 150 cc bike, very comfortable to ride for long distances. I have a smaller bike, a Bajaj Discover; a 125 cc one; use it within city limits u see.

Helmet, Leather Gloves, a head gear, & a Water resistant overall are the usuals for me. Took a picture of the bike before I left on the Porch itself; the 1st one of the journey.

Looked up to the sky, said “God Bless”, said Bye Bye to Mom; who religiously will be there no matter what time it is, to ask me to take care of myself. She knows & is completely aware of the fact that, I can in whatever the situation; but as usual she is concerned. That’s how Moms are!!

I start the bike up & put it into gear & I am off.

I ride through the city. Bangalore looks beautiful & peaceful (within city limits) at night & has very wide roads. Its just that there are too many vehicles on it that it looks congested. I pass through Mekhri Circle – Cubbon Road – Brigade Road – Johnson’s Market – Hosur Road.

Once I am on Hosur road; for that time of the day there is some pretty good traffic. Mostly truckers, the rest of them are call centre cabs & very few motorists heading towards Electronic City.

I have to tell you something here; call it my quirky observation or compliment my senses. Couple of kms after the fly over on the Silk Board junction, there is this funny smell throughout till I hit Karnataka Border & enter Tamil Nadu.
Let alone that peculiar stench of the trucks when they pass you, you will have to be put up through the smell of fresh shit. Oops can I say that…. I mean, this 10 -20 km stretch is very handy to truck drivers. You will see them walking up & down in couples, crossing the road with a mug with or without water; depending on if they have finished their business or not. The smell is obviously awful; at this timely hour I am not very proud of my olfactory senses. Talk about Aroma Therapy!!!

Sun’s trying to break out. It is a little cloudy still. I stop for a pic at the Karnataka Border. I enter Tamil Nadu & head towards Hosur. I am praying that it wouldn’t rain now. I pass through very familiar landmark, Ashok Leyland Office. It’s a huge premises here… they have thr manufacturing unit down here. I have been through this road often, so can identify easily. The landscape is constantly changing, from city to electronic city to farm land…. & open spaces. From shirts & trousers to vests & lungis. Am passing through children going to school; boys in thr shirts & half pants & girls in thr half saree; here the govt uniform is in blue. For the next hour I see that the clouds are playing with the Sun. It started drizzling, I didn’t stop. Now it rained. Heavy rain. It came down with all strength. I immediately found a huge tree to take refuge. The main point of my worry is the camera, which I keep it hanging on my left handle bar, so that its easy for me to stop & take a pic when I want; more over it was my boss’s. I take carry-bags with me (the ones a shopkeeper gives u). I carefully put the camera inside it & make sure water doesn’t seep in. By the time I finish this; I took probably 3/4 mins. It stopped raining. Just like that; as if it never happened. & the sun came out. It was a bright morning now. I was laughing at myself & cursing big time at the sky. I carried on.

I was going at a descent speed of 45kms/hr. I don’t ride fast on day 1. The max I hit on this bike is 60.

Considering it was a NH, the road has been bad. “Not paved in Gold!!” as my friend later taunted me by SMS. I cross Krishnagiri at 10 mins to 8. From here to Dharmapuri, there has been a strong wind. It’s funny & difficult to ride a bike through wind esp if it is blowing from sideways. Another hour & fifteen mins later I am in Dharmapuri. I stop for breakfast. I stick to Idli & Vada. A cup of hot coffee follows. Rest of 10 more mins & pack my backpack to bike.

I leave for Salem. There are 2 things which puts me off. 1 is if I don’t get to drink Tea once in an hour or 90 mins & the other is traffic. (3 is to be put up with drunk & irresponsible truck drivers) I will talk about the former a little later. Its good to have little traffic on NH, it will keep up ur concentration levels high; I kind off doze off when thr is no traffic at all. Ok, I will talk about this later again. But today it was heavy, as heavy as the rain. Only thing is it didn’t stop like the rain god did. As a rider, you look forward to going places & ride smoothly; u get the time to look around, enjoy the view. Ah Ah, this doesn’t happen when u need to stop every once in a while behind a stinking truck.

I stop in between for Tea. Wash my face, walk around for 5/10 mins, put my gear on & move.

By about 11.30, I hit Salem By-pass. I should have been here at least 30 mins back if not for the traffic. Took couple of pics of milestones. Kept reminding myself of the long journey ahead; cos this time unlike the previous ride, the distances between each stop is long. I had to reach Madurai by the end of the day. Was thinking of calling it a day there.

Am getting hungry. Reached Namakkal by quarter to 2. Lunch here. Took a break for abt 30 mins.

The ride today has been slow. I know I have said this before, but its not entirely bcos of the traffic; but of the wind.
Let me explain, the wind was blowing from the side of the road. It becomes very hard to keep the bike up straight & keep the same speed too. It goes slant..& its not constant also. There are these gaps in between where there is no wind but once u ride out of that pocket, you are hit by the wind again. Its not dangerous as it may sound; but its funny cos you are in this fight against the nature trying to keep the bike straight & also keep up the speed.

By about 5pm, I touch Dindigul, took a break & moved on.
Apart from me stopping for my regular chai & water; the bike needs rest too, for every hour of riding, I stop it for 5/10 mins so that I don’t burn the engine off.

We reach the town of Madurai by about 7. Ask for directions to the temple. I reach there by 7.15pm. Parked my bike. Now, I was looking for a place to keep my shoes & the regular place which is managed by the temple authorities was closing by 8. They said, we could keep it here only if we are sure about coming back by 8; which I was not sure about. I was not even sure what next after here, let alone how much time inside the temple.

So, I took my shoes off, went to the main alley. This is covered by small shops on either side selling anything from toys, fancy items, colorful cloth pieces & puja material for the devotees.

I gazed around; I caught the eye of one of the shop keepers who kept talking to me in Hindi, luring me to come to him & give him business; which meant I can keep my shoes & have to buy the puja basket. I walked up half way to him & stopped. Now, more shopkeepers kept calling out for me…all in Hindi. This guy senses tht I am not following him, so he starts off with Telugu, Malayalam & then to English. I look at him, give him a smile & say “Tamilkaran Ge” (which means, ‘I am a Tamilian’). He jumps up smiling & says why didn’t you say that. I had no idea if you were understanding me; I thought you were from North India & kept speaking Hindi.

I keep my shoes under the small table of his & before I realise he puts a basket consisting of 2 coconuts, flowers, agarbathi & kumkum in my hands & says “40/- rs only”.
I ask him if the temple is going to be open / is there going to be crowded. He politely answers, as this is a Friday, it would be open till 9.30, so I need not worry.

My feet move immediately towards the temple, as if it knows where its going?! It was a sight to watch. I am here in my no-more-a-white-T-Shirt, my track pants in black & red stripes, my bulky blue back-pack on the shoulder, my gloves, camera & my head gear stuffed inside the helmet in my right hand & this basket on my left (barely balancing it); trying to make way through the crowd towards the sanctorum.

This is when it struck me, was I joking!! I was inside the infamous Meenakshi Temple of Madurai. & if I am correct, it is nominated for being one of the Wonders of the World. By God!, this temple is huge. I kept on walking till I ask one of the temple volunteers for direction towards the sanctorum of the Goddess & he shows me to the direction of a big long queue & asked me to join it. I could see the main door where it was disappearing but couldn’t see the source of the same. This was another task. After I go round & round like a confused kid in its 1st day at school, I finally find it. I was one among the thousands who had formed a snake like chain. For the next 25 mins I follow it. Never mind all the glare I get throughout!! I finish the Darshan.

Now, here comes the best part of this hour! I was still holding on to the basket even after the Darshan. Once we are out of the queue, the devotees with the basket are led to another window, behind which there are about 6-8 pujaris; each one of them putting there hand out to do the offering/puja for you.

So, one of them gives me this big smile; puts his hand out & takes my basket. Asks for the name to which it needs to be done. I give mom’s name; he says whatever he says & then disappears. I keep my stuff down & by about 2 mins, he comes out with the basket, the coconuts broken, new flowers & lot of kumkum. Now its more difficult to hold on to. I keep them down, juggle my other stuff & purposefully try to ignore him; he ‘shhss’ me, signs me to come near the window. He picks up half the length of a garland with the ends not tied, puts it around my neck, still muttering stuff, keeps a tilak on my forehead & stretches the bronze plate in his other hand with a lit deepam in it & lots of loose change.

I understand the indication, reach out for my wallet & keep a 10-er. He smiles & I smile back (cursing him in my mind). He’s happy & I am (as usual) philosophical. Commercialization at its best; with God too!! I say to myself.

I am kind off lost again trying to find my way out of this maze. A volunteer helps me out. I go back to the ‘flower-man’ who mistook me for a ‘northie’. He is all smiles. We have a small conversation. Where I come from, how I know Tamil, where am I going next, how he got into this business, his visits to Bangalore…so on & so forth. I pay him, pick up all my stuff & bid him goodbye.

Now, this is kind-off where I decide I shouldn’t stop here. I should continue to Rameshwaram. It was only 200 kms I thought it would end up saving 1 whole day of riding. I was so excited.. I wasn’t tired at all. Was still feeling fresh; probably the entire temple trip got me charged up.

I head up back into town; was asking locals where I would get good food. I asked one of the auto-drivers, for directions to Rameshwaram; thought it would be a good idea to ask him also abt dinner. He suggested me a place where he eats dinner & pointed me towards that place. It was called “Amma Mess”, no relations to the former minister of this state. It looked (have to admit), a little shabby from the outside. But the confidence I had on the driver, took me inside; I was more than happy to see families having dinner.

I was so hungry that I binged. Needless to say the food was great. 40 mins later, I was heading towards Rameshwaram.

Now, this is the 2nd good thing I did for the day.
For the record, I have never rode before in the night. The maximum I would have done was from my frnd’s place back home by 12/1 in the morning. That’s just about it. Never ever like this, alone on a NH to some place I have never been before.

The weather was perfect; cool breeze, good road, negligible traffic, with exception of truck or a transport van here & there. Mostly winding roads through small villages, which were asleep by now, except for the chaiwala’s & the glowing STD booths.

I enjoyed this ride thoroughly. Had chai in couple of places, struck with a lot conversations – mostly people wanting to know, why I take this trouble of coming to their town on a bike. Why wouldn’t I choose the comfort of a bus or a train? Its also less expensive.

I reach Ramanthpuram by 12.15, I guess. Had chai.

A little later I pass through the Naval Base of Ramnad. The road becomes straight now. Remember, I telling u, if there is no traffic, the ride becomes dangerous (not to the word). As much as I was excited, I was also getting tired in my mind & it lead me to yawn. I was falling asleep. My mind does not have anything to stay focused/concentrate on apart from the monotonous road & the hypnotic white strips in between them.

I did something stupid (for normal) then. The moon was up. So I wondered how it would be if I had no headlights on my bike. I dared to switch them off. It was creepy & pitch dark. I could see nothing for a second. I was cursing myself & switched it back again.
But the rush it gave me for those 4/5 secs was great. I liked it. I was awake now. I had something with me to keep my mind occupied. It was a thrill for the next 30 mins to play with my headlights. I got so good at it, for nearly 30 secs I would ride without lights. I could see the road & only follow the stripes. It was amazing.
A little later, I stopped playing around with it.

I now was waiting for the famous bridge which is a little over 2 kms connecting main land India to the island of “Rameshwaram”. When you are on seashore or anywhere near it; I knew I would be treated with cool breeze & a distinctive smell.
The wait was now unbearable.

The sound of the sea crashing into the land got louder now. All of sudden, both sides of the landscape of trees gave way & I could see the sea. I was shouting “Sea Sea…..I can See the SEA!!”… I was laughing out loud & was sure that my face lit up like a 100 wt bulb.

The strip of land got narrower now. Sea on both sides of the road. The colour of the sky changed…the moon was up..the road being lit by my bike’s headlight cutting across this piece of land covered by sea on both sides. What more can I expect?, I asked myself.

I was like a small kid on the eve of his first Christmas. Happy..cant stop smiling!!
I almost ignored the small bump on the road & suddenly the elevation changed. I was leaving behind the land mass now & climbing onto the Pambam Bridge.

The bridge is about 60 ft wide & has walkways on both sides. Has tube lights stuck on either side of it throughout the length of it. I was so looking forward to see this & finally on it, I was elated. There is also a railway line (next to it, down below) which goes parallel to it & its much closer to the sea. From the bridge, I could see small boats in the sea venturing out to fish with lanterns tied to them. This ride over the bridge lasted a little more than 2 minutes but is gonna last as a Happy Memory for ever.

There is a check-post by the local police immediately after the bridge. Today alone, I have passed through at least 8 of these. 10 minutes later, I am back again in winding roads & then hit the town of Rameshwaram. The long straight road leads me to the West Entrance of the temple. Its square in shape & surrounded by high walls. Roads on all 4 sides of it; eateries, small shops, gift shops & lots of hotels & lodges around it.

It was 2 am & there is not a single soul in town at this hour except for stray dogs. I go around the temple once, look for places to stay, stop at a lodge where the watchman was snoring at the gate. Parked, walked up to him, woke him up by shaking the gate excessively, asked him if there was a room available. He said ‘Yes’, took me in. he woke up the boy at the reception counter& walked back to his throne. I asked for a single room. He stared at me; asked me how many occupants. I looked around me in amusement (telling him isn’t it obvious) & replied ‘one’. He shook his head sideways. He said ‘No room’. I said I am open to take up a double room as well. I know they do this so that they can make money at the cost of my desperation. They always say no to single room & end up asking you to take 2BR. He said the lodge was booked for the weekend. I cursed at my luck & walked out. On my bike again, went to another place…same reply again. I was like, my luck cannot be this bad!!

There were other things happening at this hour! I was tired, it was an odd hour, I was not at all pleasant looking, dirty shirt, lousy looking jeans, my hair all messed up, a ton of dust collected on my face; even my mom wouldn’t recognize me;; & over all this I am not getting a room! I am running out of patience!! Damm it!

I try looking for one with couple more lodges; now I am asking directly for a 2BR. I still get a “NO ROOMS”. On my last try with a hotel, I again walked out with no hope, the hotel boy followed me outside; I struck a conversation with him on the road. It was his turn to be in shock. He couldn’t believe that I was riding from bangalore on a bike all by myself!! Upon further probing, I was told that any lodge would decline/refuse to take me in, bcos, from some time there has been an increase in suicide rates of single men & women in hotel rooms (in this town). So, they are scared to give out rooms unless you are a married couple or you are with friends. Now, all this made sense to me. My appearance & the fact that I rode alone made it “impossible” for me to gain entry!!!

I remember, I was laughing at myself!! The boy from the hotel was kind enough to suggest me couple of other smaller lodges; which I had initially tried! Now, there were two options in front of me. One was, to sleep (sit rather) on the steps of the temple. Two, was to ride back to Ramnathpur & try my luck there.

There was no way I am going to spend the night on the steps & try sleeping till dawn breaks; & there was no saying if I could still get a room in the morning! In the mood/spirit I was, I almost made up my mind to ride back to Ramnathpur!

So, I sat back again on my bike, put my helmet on; when from no where a half drunk came upto me & asked if I was looking for a place to stay!! I nodded! He asked me to follow him. He led the way, not far from the temple through a small lane. He went past the gate, spoke to whomever & came out saying you can stay here. The guy behind the desk came out to see me. Learning from my previous lessons, before I got down from the bike, I asked the elderly gentleman, is it ok? I am single! I am from bangalore. Confirmed this again! He shook his head up & down! I heaved a sigh. Got down, unbuckle my backpack, parked my bike outside the compound!

After the initial process, I paid him the advance, he asked me to take the 2 BR room on the 1st floor. I said ok. He gave me the keys; I was climbing the stairs, then he called out for me! I looked down, he asked me to come down. Cursed him big time! Looks like he changed his mind; he said I will give you a single room & pointed his finger bang opposite to his desk. I said ok again; just wanted to get through this & CRASH!! I really didn’t care much where it was as long as it had a bed & a fan above!
I knew where all this was leading to; he wanted to make sure that he was as close to me as possible! I smiled & said Ok!

This was a small room, very small room. A single bed on one side, a chair(foldable one), one bulb & a fan (which when turned on, could wake up a monster!!). Another door leading to the bath room cum toilet. As usual, when you enter a room, you tend to look around, I looked up the ceiling, checked out the bath etc…. The look on both the guys there was priceless!! It was funny.

After they left the room, before I crashed, noticed that except for one small window (which opened to the desk outside) there was no ventilation at all; I was left with no choice but to keep the window open! Took my pill, had some water. Ohh, I forgot, I tipped the drunk driver Rs. 20, for helping me out! I Crashed! Couldn’t sleep much; half the time I cursed the dam fan & the other half, wondered how many times would these guys keep peeping into my room to see that if I hadn’t killed myself!!