Table of contents for Looking Beyond : A Bike Journey
This story was lying idle and getting dust in my memory for a very long time. Many times in the past, I thought to write about this trip which was very close to my heart, but somehow it didn’t happen, except updating the profile picture in my Gmail account, which stayed there for a long time and now in this site as well. Actually, I thought this might be an appropriate picture for a “Bhavaghure or Jajabar” (Ghumakkar) like me. Once I read about Nirmalya’s post on “North Goa beaches and more on a shoe-string budget”, I just thought to took out some time to pen down (or do I say blackberry down – as this entire post was written on my blackberry, irrespective of where I am and what I was doing in the last few days), before it erase from my memory permanently…oh no! ’am planning for a long innings, so many things to do and so many places to visit…no intention to quit so soon…just kidding :)
This incident happened during Durga Puja, 2000. I was staying in Gurgaon, slogging my days in and out and spending most of the time with my first wife, trying to earn a place for myself and settle in life in an unknown territory – don’t try to imagine that ‘Gurgaon’ with today’s Gurgaon…to see a movie, we had to go to PVR Saket or Priya complex and there was no McDonalds, KFC or shopping malls to kill your time after office hours. But yes, Gurgaon had many good eatery joints / dhabas alongside the NH-8…Ohho it was also not NH-8 in its current form as well. We missed those places badly now, but at the same time you can reach Dhaula Kuan in 15 to 20 mins and we don’t mind development.
I am not in the habit of taking leave unless and until there is a genuine reason, thus saving most of my leaves for going home only – the same tradition still continues. Durga Puja is one such occasion which I don’t want to miss and always wanted to be a part of the celebration at my own turf.
So, I applied leave well in advance and booked my ticket as well. You should consider yourself very lucky if you have a confirmed reservation during Durga Puja, since availability is over within 30 minutes of the first day of the booking. If you don’t agree or have no idea about it, check with your Bong friends – there might be many who are not lucky till today and checking the status of their W/L tickets on a daily basis, when you are reading this post. But I am sure, they will somehow manage and be there at home to celebrate the biggest festival in our life (20th – 24th, 2012). Good luck to all of them!
I did my Puja shopping, though with a very limited budget in those initial days in life when survival was extremely difficult, for my parents and sister a week ago and packed my suitcase. It was a beautiful morning, when I left home for office along with my suitcase on Sep 29, 2000, as I planned to leave our office by lunch to catch Rajdhani Express. I met everyone almost six months back and was extremely happy to meet them once again just within a day. The excitement to listen to the sound of ‘Dhak’, the happiness to be with everyone engrossed my mind completely, as I entered office around 9 a.m.
It was a beautiful morning I thought, as I greeted everyone. Seeing me with my suitcase, they knew that I would be going home and wished me good luck.
“Good morning, Sir”
“Chats,…come to my room.”
Pause…what happened, was there anything wrong, I was trying to recollect all my yesterday’s activities, while entering his room and preparing myself for something…
“Chats, if you don’t mind, can you cancel your ticket. We are expecting a delegation from Sweden for Product Council Meeting next week and there is some work we need to complete. Don’t worry, I will approve your leave during Diwali.”
Life is full of joy and sorrow, happiness and disappointments, ups and down and Life can also throw unexpected surprises – it was taught in my school and I am also explaining its’ meaning to my son now. But, at that point of time those are only “THE WORDS” for me and nothing else. Remember ‘3 Idiots’ – “Jab dost fail ho to dukh hota hai, lekin jab dost top kare to aur bhi dukh hota hai”
What else would you do in my place, when the requester is the CEO of your Company? Do you have any other option? I know some who might still have some other options, but fortunately or unfortunately, I am not so impulsive in nature and the other option to fly – was an unthinkable proposition for me at that point of time.
I have a great respect for Mr. Ram S. Ramasundar, the then CEO of Electrolux India, who is like a God Father for me, I had no other option but to say “Yes Sir, I will”.
It was already 11 in the morning and I had an i-ticket. I asked permission to go to the counter to cancel the ticket, to get atleast 50% refund. Who says money doesn’t matter?
“Do one thing, prepare a voucher – it will be reimbursed fully from accounts, I will approve the same.” So, one of my worry had been taken care of…but what about the disappointments.
From a very beautiful morning, all of a sudden it became one of the worst day for me. Life became so dull within few minutes that I was speechless. With a heavy heart, I called up home to inform that I won’t be able to come. Durga Puja was over by the time I hang up the phone for them and it was already over for me looooong time back, even before the first sound of Dhak.
The irony of the day was that the expected delegation postponed their trip due to festival time in India; the news received late in the evening. Therefore, I was granted next week as a Holiday once again due to Puja. So, we had holidays from Saturday to Monday (Sep 30-Oct 2) and Dusshera falling on Saturday, the 7th and 8th was Sunday.
What would I be doing? I was left with no friends, as all my bong friends had left for home by now.
It is very difficult to stay alone in a crowded city. I had a very good friend circle but it was also time for almost everyone to settle down in life, some of them just married and busy with their personal life, few left the City or India for better opportunities and almost all bong friends, who were staying here, had already left for their home.
While returning home, I was so depressed that I didn’t know how I would spend the next nine days alone. I didn’t want to return to my first wife anymore, nor at least till I became normal. By the time I reached my cage in Sector 14 (the place where I used to stay, though it was a good one room accommodation but I gave it a name ‘cage’. Since at your home, you are surrounded by your near and dear ones and don’t need to stay alone, hence this name), I had already decided, “Whatever may happen, I am not going to stay in my cage tonight”. I had couple of T-shirts (all white), jeans and cap in my wardrobe, I packed them all in a bag and left my cage at 7:30 p.m. I didn’t have much left in the bank, as I spent almost everything during my Puja shopping, however, withdrawn Rs.2,500/- out of Rs.4,000/-. It’s not much but those were the bachelor days and you should know how to swim in difficult circumstances – adaptability at its best. If you are still guessing who was that unlucky first wife of mine, it’s my office.
There I was, standing at IFFCO Chowk at 8 p.m., along with my best friend, my Yamaha RX-100. I had no idea what to do now and where to go…the thought to go to Jaipur was in mind, but it’s again the hills, the nature overruled my desire to see the history. Something was calling me from inside to get lost with Nature for few days. I reached Anand Vihar Bus Terminal to catch a bus for Haridwar, only to find out that bus leaves from Kashmiri Gate and not from there. One more disappointment, Life was really cruel with me since morning.
[Regarding the above picture: I found this place (on NH8, once you cross Manesar, the road bends) as the best place to be with Nature in Gurgaon and come back home with fresh mind. I used to go there almost every Sunday along with my camera, sit there all alone and just click. Fortunately, no social networking sites e.g. Facebook or Twitter or Orkut were in place to kill our time, or I was not aware of them, even if they did exist. If someone had ever noticed a young man with a green cap sitting alone or clicking pictures at that point, around 13-12 years ago, you could have noticed me. All these pictures were taken through "Olympus µ[mju:]-II Zoom 80″, another best friend of mine, who was also a part of this journey.]
It was almost 9:30 at night, I whispered to my friend, it was now or never, don’t wait for the morning, let’s go now. I didn’t want to waste the opportunity anymore. I kicked and my friend approved the idea with a thundering sound, without any second thought I left the bus terminal and very soon I was on the road, crossing Dabur Chowk along with my best friend.
Let me also introduce you with my friend, my Yamaha RX-100. A little bit more about the bike – The Yamaha RX-100 is a 98 cc two-stroke single-cylinder air-cooled motorcycle that was manufactured between 1985 and 1996. In the first two to three years, the bikes were knock-down kits (CKD) and assembled in India. The only major change that the bike underwent was that it was upgraded from a 6-volt electrical system to a 12-volt system. You’ll enjoy each moment riding this beauty, a racy, noisy smelly 2-stroke for the power hungry, but a very reliable and a style statement for the youth in our times. It gives you a sense of Pride when you are on the machine. Today, I also own a TVS Victor, 100 CC bike, which is almost 10 years old, but I still prefer my old RX100.
I went to Haridwar once during my college time along with my parents, when we visited Delhi for the first time. We took a DTC bus, might be from Kashmiri Gate during our visit to Delhi. I had a little bit idea about the route that you need to cross Ghaziabad and then just rely on the signboards.
Due to the series of disappointments since morning and finally newly found excitement, forgot the basic need to fulfill our stomach. After filling-up the petrol tank near Meerut (~Rs.29 per litre), stopped at a roadside dhaba around 11 p.m. I had to pass through Meerut city. Riding on a RX 100 at night through a city which had an immense role in our Independence Movement through “Sepoy Mutiny”. I was thrilled. The city had already in deep sleep by the time, however, I found one small dhaba and order Roti and shahi paneer, my north Indian favoruite, along with Butter Chicken. The food might have been tasty – I really don’t remember the taste at the moment.
From my childhood, I was fearless in nature. So, the dark doesn’t scare me. The road to Haridwar was never explored by me before this journey, hence had no idea about the condition of the road, neither did my research before leaving. However, I saw many cars even at night and then followed them one after another. (By now, I must have travelled 15 times at this stretch in bike and car. Recently, I drove till Muzzafarnagar few months back and the condition of the road is excellent from Meerut till Muzzarfarnagar and may be after that as well).
A cup of hot tea on the highway is always good to keep you alert all the time, which I learned from this trip and is now a rule for me during long drive. Night drive is safe for cars, and I won’t suggest anyone to be so adventurous in bike even if you are accompanied with friends - mine was an exceptional case - so, please don’t repeat.
There was nothing to mention about the night drive, except I stopped two to three times for a cup of tea ‘only’, as I had to manage with whatever I was carrying with me and I had no idea how many days I would be on the road…(fortunately I didn’t have to pay any toll during the entire trip…and I was riding bike as well) finally reached Haridwar at 3:30 in the morning. With the help of some Rickshaw pullers, reached “Bharat Seva Shram Sangha”. However, since the main gate was closed, waited outside for more than an hour and seeing the condition, Maharaj was kind enough to give me a room in the Ashram in the morning. No doubt, I was tried and wanted to sleep for couple of hours before exploring the city and a visit to Ma Ganga. But, it was already 6 in the morning, you just can’t sleep when Sun is already out (not my words – I used to listen to this so may times, most probably since my birth), hence after taking bath in ice cold water and a good breakfast at Ashram, feeling fresh to visit the place I love the most.
The sight of the river Ganga, the chill in the air refreshes my mind from all unpleasant thoughts and disappointments. “It is a very beautiful morning”, I told myself. Life seems to be kind with me once again, I thought. I could listen someone was telling me constantly from inside that explore the nature and its beauty in next few days. “Enjoy your life”. I listened to my inner voice.
What followed next….changed my life forever…the series will continue