Friday, August 28

2 - Endless, Nameless

It's hard to write about a journey made 6 years ago without getting sidetracked into nostalgia & painting whatever memories are left in a genial light. My reasons for wanting to make the trip were twofold; the need for a holiday & having done precious little in the reckless line of activity, a need to rectify that. The others had their reasons also, which are their own & it'd be pointless to wonder what those were. Suffice to say, the collective yearning of 3 very different guys metamorphosed into the events of one week.

In 'Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance', Pirsig speaks about how different the same journey can be when taken by motorcycle & by car. Very true. A car journey, while comfortable, seems to isolate you from the road. There is no such feeling on a bike. You are there, in the moment, for every kilometre that you travel, willing the wheels to eat away the space to your destination. The bike ride makes you conscious of every part of your body, especially when your back & posterior begin their indignant protest. I could have easily romanticised the experience for you, reader, but this is my version of events & I try to stay true.

For one, the initial thrill of embarking on the journey wore off after about 2 hours, to be replaced by the knowledge that our destination was a long way away. The road after Katraj Ghat was terrible, full of potholes & detours since the NH - 4 was being reconstructed as part of the Golden Quadrilateral. We did not have mp3 players to break the monotony of the grey landscape & resorted to crooning songs until our throats gave up the exercise as a bad job. Personally, the hardest thing to do is to stay awake, lulled as you are by the steady drone of the engine and the soporific scenery. After 11 am, the October sun beats down with a vengeance and the road begins to shimmer. I have a faint recollection of Ashish yelling my name out once with more than a tinge of alarm in his voice since I'd begun to noticeably list to the right.

To combat this, we took breaks ever so often. I tell you this without any shame; the feeling of stretching your legs & letting the blood flow to the nether padding is positively glorious. Naturally, the discomfort increases in magnitude as the hours go by & you find the riding time between breaks becoming shorter. It's all part of the experience. Around 12:30, about an hour from Kolhapur, we halted under the blessed shade of a few lonely trees bordering the road. There was an earnest discussion about hunger & the massacre of food that would take place at Kolhapur. The silence thereafter was heavy, leaving the crickets to pierce the fatigue with their cries. Not a soul in sight besides us. The road behind us was impassive & the one ahead was indifferent. Right then, in the middle of nowhere & out of nowhere, a man selling Kulfi appeared in front of us. Perhaps I was slightly stupefied by the heat but there would have been no surprise evinced had he unfurled wings & announced his divinity. We duly contributed enough money to ensure that his children would go to Harvard, ate our fill & carried on.

Lunch at Kolhapur was supposed to last half an hour at most. We did not move for about 2 hours. The superb food induced some reluctance in our gung-ho no doubt, but it was the sol kadhi that ultimately seduced us completely. Looking back, perhaps this was the universe's way of preparing us for what lay ahead.

Kolhapur onward, Ashish had been instructed to take the Amboli Ghat but there was some hesitancy on his part as to the veracity of the information. So, 3 innocent young men did something that made sure we will remember this journey till the day body & spirit part ways. We asked a waiter how to get to Goa via the Amboli Ghat. There was a pause, the shortest of pauses that suggests either hesitancy or recollection as the 3 worlds held their collective breath & watched. "अम्बोली घाट नाही, तुम्हाला अम्बा घाट घयाचय" (You have to take Amba Ghat, not Amboli Ghat).

We left Kolhapur at 2:00 pm... & rode on.

Song for the moment: La Partida - Gustavo Santaolalla

Wednesday, August 26

1 - For those about to rock

[A bit of flashback is about to commence. The month of October is almost here & that month in 2003 always brings back memories. I hope you enjoy it. I know I did.]

Once before on this blog, I have referred to the idea of 'cool'. The Wikipedia entry (and there is one, which is delightful) on the topic is extensive and an interesting read even. At the end of the day (or for clarity's sake), the point I'm trying to make, dear reader, is that I am not, have never been & will never be, COOL.

Which, if you've followed this blog over the last couple of years, should have suggested itself to you anyway. One does not take liberties with anticipating intelligence, however, so the shameful fact or dirty linen if you prefer, has to be aired loud and clear. Not the linen. That's a similie. Haan...

Why this chest-beating confession, you ask ? Because, when Apocalypse happens & one's antecedents are looked over, even old Mephisto will have to admit that there was one little incident that would qualify in the permafrost category of coldness. I refer to a trip I took with 2 other dudes about 6 years ago. A motorcycle trip from Pune to Goa, to be precise.

Before you snigger, & you lot will snigger, let me quietly remind you that the NH - 4 wasn't always in the splendid condition it is today. That it is an effortless drive now is thanks to it being selected as part of the Golden Quadrilateral. When we took that trip, the highway was being worked upon. This is India... you've seen road-work right ? We understand each other clearly then.

The two gents in who's heads the idea for this trip germinated are Ashish & Ketan. Ashish then owned (and still does) a Yamaha RX-100. On cue, hearty applause from those in the know. Ketan owned a Splendor, which was a very nice bike also. Since this is a throwback to college, I have to say that I was a tad antisocial at the time. Also angsty. A bit. The guys in question would talk about the trip & I'd quietly ruminate on the snippets of information they were dispersing. Eventually, I threw caution to the wind and just asked if I could go along. Ashish was nice (or nonchalant) enough to acquiesce, which called for one of those mental victory jigs a-la Sir Alex when Man U score a goal. It was nice because I could not ride a motorbike back then. A state of affairs that was enough to allow Fate to take it's usual bite out of the collective posterior on offer later on the trip. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Then came the planning part. See, even as I type all this, I have to smile because if ever you needed proof of my naive lack of coolness, it's coming up. To look at the bag I finally finished packing, one would have concluded that I was attempting to repeat Phileas (or Phineas) Fogg's journey around the world. Putting it briefly, it was big & heavy. When I tell you that the others had packed similar bags, you will no doubt be mentally prepared to read me state that we changed our minds about the motorbikes & decided on a camel caravan.

We stuck with the motorbikes.

And the bags.

The night before the trip, apprehension & a barely containable excitement is churning in the pit of your stomach, making dinner a tricky affair to navigate. Post dinner, which was at Roopali on F.C road, the 3 of us were to head to Ashish's Aji's place, which was a couple of minutes up the same road. Ashish & I got on his bike, Ketan got on his & we left from Roopali.

10 seconds later, Ashish & I realise that we've lost Ketan.

On a straight road, with no turns.

Ahh, omens.

Song for the moment: You found me - The Fray

Monday, August 17

Let them talk

There is a school of thought that would quite likely be scandalised by the idea of intellectual discussions being held in a pub / bar. Impropriety and what have you. Folks like us (you know who you are) would counter with the notion that our intellectual pursuits occur only in pubs. That's when the cranial creases are watered... doused actually, & whatever is left of our neurons are firing on all cylinders, ablaze thanks to the tipple of choice. Mind you, I'm not advocating that this is the best way. It's just our way. Or my way, if any reader resents the liberty I've taken of assuming anything.

Not to keep tottering around the proverbial mulberry bush (why mulberry, I ask), the latest discussion touched on the dichotomy(?) of loving your work. That is, working the week for the sake of the cheque & engaging in your passion during the weekend OR striving to make your passion, your talent or a synonym of your choice the porker from which your bacon is carved. Right about now, if the thought of a nice ham-n-cheese sandwich has not taken over your senses, you may just be thinking about which of these categories you'd qualify. Some of you I know personally, so I think it'd be safe to assume your reaction being along the lines of "Pshaw!! This is a done-to-death, cat-skinning, horse-flogging excuse of a post. Next!" And I wouldn't blame you either. Sitting as you are, with various nifty MS Office docs open, projecting yourself as the very paragon of honest labour, I suppose the answer to which side you fall on is obvious. Or not. Who am I to predict the vagaries of our likes & dislikes ?

My fellow discusser understands the harsh realities of life & slaves away for 6 days at a job that does not drive him giddy with joy, makes bowls of moolah (he hasn't got to 'pot' status yet... or has. Muhahaha !!) to indulge his vicarious pleasures on the 7th. According to him, this state of affairs is satisfactory & the status quo will be maintained. Regardless of the fact that half the planet thinks he's a beast of a writer, mind you. On the other hand, I work in a job that's staid at best, know the importance of money & yet am of the opinion (a foolish one, I'm starting to think, but I blame Time) that life is only meaningful if Mammon glances benevolently toward the excuses that parade themselves as the end product of my 'talent'. Ahem. Yes...

Why I think like this I don't know. Call me a stubborn b*****d if you want but I've always been obsessed with the idea of living life in vibrant colour; a richness you may associate with the smell of freshly cut fruit on a warm spring day, with a thirst that's quenched by the sharp, cold bitterness of that first beer or the tang of THE filter coffee, the giddy comfort of butter-laced food on a cold day, of lying in the perfect hollow of a bed warmed by your body & the quilt enveloping you... Yes, I want to live like that & I am not stupid enough to think that one every moment will be like this. But I want to try to live at least the majority of what's left in this fashion, if for nothing else than the fact that there are things about us we cannot change, cannot help... and we've learned the hard way (is there any other) that we were dealt a tough hand in the endless card game.

If you've reached this sentence, thanks for reading. When enough foolhardiness has been accumulated, perhaps I shall wager all the chips on a talent I may or may not have. Until then, I shall believe in one life & live another, escaping every now & then into a flamboyant world that tantalizes every one of us on the horizon.

What about you ?

*Yes, this one is wordy & bordering on the contrite. No apologies.

** Many thanks to the discusser. The post hasn't come out as well as hoped but one has to make do.

Song for the moment: Everything in it's right place - Radiohead

Monday, August 3

Champagne Supernova

To Saturday, 2nd August 2009...

Something as innocuous


A fluttering piece of paper*

Escaping from the shirt pocket

Whips up a maelstrom

Fragmentary images

Imagined sounds

Light & dark

Belonging & knowing

A slice of paradise

Song for the moment: The Green Fairy / Swagger like us - T.I

* The paper was a bus ticket from Bombay to Pune for Friday, 31st July 2009.