Tag Archives: Indian roads

The Cycling Chronicles.

What do I have in common with Lance Armstrong? Greg LeMond? Peter Sagan? Nothing at all. Except that they are some of the best cyclists humankind has known and I might probably be one of the worst. Or let me just be modest and say, humankind might see me as a person who’s awkwardly seated, desperate to un-hunch her shoulders, clearly locking her elbows and panting on inclines but cycling nonetheless!

I have only known how to cycle for about a dozen months now. It’s a shocker to most people and yes, I am still trying to respond to “What were you really doing as a child then?!”.

Of recent, I have finally gathered the courage to cycle on the main roads, albeit at light traffic hours, but it should still count – considering I’m collecting enough anecdotes to write a post about!

  • My usual morning workout includes cycling a couple of kms before I hit the gym – the snag being that the road is almost at a 20-degree incline and it is ‘oh-so-not-easy’! The burn in my thighs and the shortness of breath kill, while I dissuade myself from staring back at passers-by who would have probably walked past faster, and also because India (we have people everywhere, all the time). One of those days when I was barely wheezing past the stretch of incline, my speed faltered, a couple of vehicles overtook, distracted me and bam! Turbulence hit, brakes were applied but I still went and rammed into a garbage truck picking up its trash. Wait. Don’t jump to dirty conclusions! The truck was okay. The cycle was okay. I was okay. And no garbage fell on anyone, anywhere. I swear. Otherwise, there would have been a selfie, for sure! One doesn’t experience a lot many selfie worthy embarrassing moments in life.

 

  • Guess what happened one of those days when I parked my cycle below the gym and was happily sweating it out upstairs? Someone ran off with one of the handle grips on my cycle. Or they might have sauntered off at a leisurely pace. I will never know. What I will remember are the scratches and cuts my right hand faced that morning while cycling back due to the absence of said pilfered item. How much could have a handle grip cost them? Or was that funny for them? Haha. Not funny.
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And just like that – vandalism enters my life.
  • My cycle seems to be a pet peeve for many around. The other day someone left an empty plastic water bottle in the basket. I ignored it thinking one of the building staff might have left it there by mistake. The next day a bouquet of dried out roses were stashed there. Of course, people have asked me if it was left there for me by a “secret admirer”. But what if they were left behind by the person who stole my handle grip and then he stole this bouquet from someone’s trash and thinks dried roses can be apologetic enough? The world works in mysterious ways.
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Roses and no note? I want my note! You can take the roses away.
  • We all strive to look cool once in a while. I thought my Bluetooth earphones might do the trick for me. I put them on one morning, but they didn’t last a minute in my ears. Thanks to the uneven and pothole-riddled roads of Bangalore, the earphones kept dropping out and became more of a distracting menace than a cool kids’ gizmo! So cool of you Bangalore city, so cool. Attention on the road is more important than looking cool. I get it! Thanks.

See you around. Cycling, hopefully.

Graciously Yours!

P.S.: Also, thank you A, for literally running with me all those weeks, helping me get a hang of figure eights and u-turns and, simply, cycling.

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Moo Points?

My week started on a bad note – regular household issues – oh yes, we bachelors have those too. No maid, cook screwed up the food quantities, delayed to work, no transport, traffic and oh, the heat! So coming up, are a lot of moo points. Take it or leave it, but do read it!

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As I strode purposefully towards the main road, following my Mom’s advice to calm down, cars and bikes zipping past me, a cab honking at me for taking up road space (well, the footpath could give me a sprain, they’re that bad), I saw a cow ambling at 10 am in the morning, barely moving enough to place one foot ahead of the other, ten seconds at a time.

Cars conveniently circled around her and went their way, not even bothering to honk. Why me then? Why was I expected to be on the footpath when this cow could do whatever she liked? Why did I have to chide myself for being late for office at 10 in the morning when this cow could just loiter around, literally doing nothing!

“Eat more meat.” “Focus on your calcium intake.” “What about carbs?” “And when will you take those multivitamins?” So much talk about food and food preparation. If she’s hungry, she doesn’t even have to go to the kitchen to whip up something or Swiggy food! She can just regurgitate food ingested earlier and chew it again! Not that I want my ingested food back in my mouth, urgh, but just sayin’!

She can be white. She can be black. She can be brown. Or even a mix of all three. And she’ll still be loved for who she is. Why? Why do I have to then worry about being tanned? Why can’t I just be I loved for who I am?

Oh and here in a country where Hinduism is largely significant, she even gets protection for just being who she is – a female. Talk about harming a cow and behold the furore that will persist. While we two-legged women carry around pepper sprays even in broad daylight – for the exact same reason – because we’re females.

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And that’s how I ended up with an existential crisis conferred upon me by a lone cow, walking at her own pace in the middle of a road, refusing to make way for the world rushing around.

The heat fried my brains, I guess.

Still,

Graciously Yours!

Rains and roads (3)

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Contd from…

  • Though we did find women who were wearing the most insensible footwear, involving heels, chances of twisting your foot, skidding on the water and of course, breaking them! We went flip flops all the way! And maybe a couple of us also chose to show our bathroom slippers the light of the world. After all, it is in water that they show their true colours and strength.
  • Though it was incorrect on our part to once suggest our driver drive at more than 80 kmph on an open highway, because speed limits, he retorted with an explanation about how that would break the rules set for safety. Fair point, right? Not so much. Because at his own will he had been driving rashly even at 40 kmph, overtaking vehicles dangerously, sometimes while on not one but two calls!

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  • Let’s talk about how phone calls. He was incessantly on calls, so much so that listening to music on the car speakers was almost a slam dunk attempt at trying to get him to shut up. But then he would be louder than the music then we’d tune up the volume, he’d tune up his and then we’d switch off the music while he still did some more talking. While he held one phone to his ear, the other in his hand which also controlled the steering, we held our heart in our mouth. Don’t ask me how he changed gears. I was too afraid to watch.
  • He’d rather we call him uncle or chachaji than Sir. Because he has grandkids our age. And he’d rather we sit in our hotel room, visit one place a day and let him be free for most of the time because hello, why should we have all the fun! He went to the extent of commenting when we directed him with Google maps to a temple off the main Mahabaleshwar Panchgani road, that we must be careful of the places we’re going to. After all, we are five single women traveling alone. So much for being five. And so much for calling him uncle.

Graciously Yours!

Rains and roads (2)

Contd from…

  • Raincoats, contrary to popular belief, can serve dual purposes – it shields you from the rains when you’re outside the car, and from the air conditioner or the winds from the rolled down windows when you are inside the car. Maybe that is what led to the invention of the windcheater. And here I thought I’d just come up with a startling idea! So disappointing that by the time you’re in the 21st century, all ideas seem to have been implemented already.

“Race! Race! Race!”

“Yayyy!”

“Who do you think is going to win?”

Wait, what do you think I am talking about? Raindrop races! Roll up your windows, let the raindrops whip against You get to race raindrops and make clouds on breath steamed mirrors.

  • Umbrellas were shown their true position. Because the two exact times we brought it out to protect us from the water and winds, it got possessed! The canopy was thrown backward by the wind, the rims got entangled and the handle had to be held on to by three pairs of hands so that the umbrella didn’t fly away. We then decided to let it stay in the boot of the car.

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  • One of the main reasons waking up early on group trips is a mandate because people end up taking lots of time to get ready – after all, you should look fresh and Insta ready! How else will you have your throwback moments to show? But for us, getting ready was the least of your worries, no accessories, no touch of lip colour or kohl, because how does it all even matter? It would all run amok, any which ways.

To be contd…

Graciously Yours!

 

Plunged into darkness.

Sudipto was driving home late one night – later than usual, at least. The clock was ticking closer to welcoming the new day. The roads, broad and empty of the never-ending stream of cars, lit with street lamps on both sides, white and blue fairy lights trailing the silver poles. There were no buildings, no civilisation laying home along this road – only roads, statues and a wide, green patch in the middle of the city, fondly called the city’s lungs. He pushed the clutch and rammed the car into the fourth gear as he approached Red Road. Parts of his twelve-year-old ambassador creaked at the engine speed falling a decade or so short of a ton. He could never drive at such speeds with a passenger at the back – they called it rash driving – but this was when he enjoyed his bread earning life choice. It was always the bus and taxi drivers who drove rashly, never the rule admonishing pedestrian or the swerving bikers and honking and overtaking private cars.

He took the circuitous path home through Red Road, choosing to enjoy the wind rather than hurrying to park the taxi in the garage. The window on his side was already open, so he leaned to the left to roll down the passenger window too. The wind rushed into the car from both sides, driving out the smells of the day – the food, the sweat, the leather. He threw open a few more buttons of his front open shirt, unzipping his pants. The sudden touch of air on his sweat-caked skin made him shiver, a rarity in the humid city.

The next right would take him towards home. As he approached the turn, he still honked on the deserted road out of practised caution. The next moment he got distracted by someone waving out from the extreme left side of the road – he saw it out of the corner of his eye. He had slowed down for the turn but his head was now craned towards the left to see if he could help the person. He saw glimpses of white and then nothing more. Just like that, there was no one there anymore. He blinked his eyes rapidly, not sure if he was hallucinating before or now. His hands turning the wheel right and legs controlling the speed, he’d made the turn and sharply looked right to check again towards where he’d seen the hapless soul but nothing anymore. He’d heard stories of hauntings before but had never believed in them. He wasn’t afraid. He dismissed the incident and looked ahead to find the lane plunged in darkness. As if on cue with his sight on the road, the car’s headlights flickered off and the engine sputtered to a stop. Now he was afraid.

amman-dark

Graciously Yours!

Valparai Tales! Part 2.

Contd from…

As I sweat in the Bangalore heat, while doing absolutely nothing apart from just breathing, which you would all acknowledge is a very crucial, and from what I know the most important factor for our existence, I think back of the vacation I recently took. And promised a second post on.

In my mind, as I say the word, Valparai, I close my eyes to be welcomed to memories of our four wheeler rushing through the short winding roads through hills, while green stems and young branches fell out of line by the side of the road, swaying to greet us. We are rushing past them, honking at each hairpin bend, serpent turns, waking us out of the slumber of hill travel every now and then, fascinated by the depths which greeted us to our right and the heights which beckoned us to our left.

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Oh the twists and turns! More than a Jodi Picoult book.

I see a kaleidoscope of butterflies pass us, yellow this one. My reflexes are too slow to brandish the phone camera for a shot of them. I simply close my eyes to capture the moment. Sometimes, I wish I had a pensieve to keep these memories untouched. But in its absence, National Geographic will have to do. The Sun, which at the base of the hills was unforgiving, seemed to be playing hide and seek with us as we travelled upwards closer. The clouds ran helter skelter, giving us a peak a boo of the scorch every now and then. It was almost lunch hour when we reached the outskirts of Valparai and unbelievable as it may sound, or read, there was rain, just like Google weather had predicted! Bless technology and the genius minds that worked behind it.

Valparai is so untouched by commercialization, that it was difficult to find a place to stay. We ended up finding a place that seemed like it had been vacated after its occupants had packed bags and moved to the city for better earnings. They offered us a single room for ten people when actually advertising as a home stay! I wondered how the others would react for I was already prepared for a little adventure. Standing at the crossroads of the little town, I sighed audibly with relief when I looked up at the three storeyed building, catching the occupants of the top floor room, my friends, look out at the tea estates as far as the horizon permit, with enthusiasm and unwavering excitement.

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If there was audio, you could have heard us singing too!

The evening that we spent there has to be my most memorable in quite a while. Walking through tea estates, and (this time) long winding roads, with no vehicles to honk at us, no bikes to rush past us, no traffic at all, paradise was not even on my wishlist then. We sang as the sun set, clicked photographs of trees that formed patterns different to each of our eyes, posed by the side of the road wanting  to post pictures online but never doing so, because we knew words would fail to describe the serenity we felt then. And we also didn’t want to lose those minutes buried in the phone. That says a lot about the place, doesn’t it? We saw people though. Some smiled at us knowingly, others gave us a pass, ignoring us as a brief little intrusion in their small town. A shopkeeper asked us our religion, offering a temple, mosque or a church to visit around accordingly. He chatted with us for over five minutes, but did not once try to sell his wares to us. So much for calling it a small town.

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Bouquet of flowers, a friend calls it. Anyone knows what these are called?

Graciously Yours!

Life Notes #4.

Bus stops at the crossroad. Its raining heavily. The roads are waterlogged.

I got down the bus, gingerly stepping into the mid-calf length muddy waters on the road, one foot firmly following the other. I barely opened my umbrella when I realized that one of my slippers was off my feet and was floating into the water. I looked down at the floating slipper and when I looked up again (cursing, obviously), I could see that the traffic from the opposite lane had been opened. I had less than 30 seconds to get my slipper back and out of harm’s way! Flopping around on one foot with the umbrella in one hand and my handbag slipping from the other shoulder, I picked up the floating slipper and almost hobbled across to the footpath! Relief would be a tiny word to be used to describe that moment!

Note to self : Next time, if someone says to you that the monsoons landed them in a compromising situation on the roads of India, do NOT laugh. ‘Cuz, life, dear girl, is a circle. A viciously sadistic circle!

Graciously Yours!