Sunday, September 16, 2012

Turn the Page: Mumbai to Delhi

All the same 'ole cliches: is it real? Is it done?
And you always seem outnumbered, you dare not make a stand,
But, make your stand.

There was a lot of thought process that went behind this trip. The same story again. Too impractical, too risky and too exhausting.  A lot many took this idea too seriously and tried to talk me out of it. But then, I have always found great humor in the fact that we take ourselves too seriously about things like career, certifications and social status. Here I am, thinking of wasting precious man-hours to ride from Mumbai to Delhi. No matter what I get out of this, I know I am not going to forget this. This has to be one of those times when I would let the heart rule over the mind.. So:

Day 1:
On a long and lonesome highway east of Omaha
You can listen to the engines, moanin' out it's one old song
You can think about the woman, or the girl you knew the night before

7:30 in the morning and I had almost escaped from Mumbai. Soon the UT of Daman came up. All that I’d heard about this place turned out to be quite apt: many shady places with the sole USP of cheap booze.
You and I have heard and read a lot about Gujarat and my; come noon: I was not disappointed at all.. The roads remain spectacular and the rapid industrialization is very apparent. Critics may say that I’m travelling on the NH8 and all that I see is the Centre’s effort. Agreed but then, Gujarat has managed to make use of the centre’s help and implement the projects better than others..
The capital: Ahmedabad is truly growing at a phenomenal pace and even the outer roads are brilliant. My only complaint is that bikes are not allowed on the Ahmedabad- Baroda (Vadodara) expressway. The sister city of Gandhinagar was avoided and as the sun tired out, even I could sense my concentration waning. So I stopped for a late lunch at a highway dhaba.

But your thoughts will soon be wandering the way they always do
When you're riding sixteen hours and there's nothing much to do
You don't feel much like ridin', you just wish the trip was through

A scary situation presented itself beyond the town Himmatnagar: a border town of Gujarat. There had been little inhabitation since a long time and miraculously, the fuel pumps had vanished. This was a matter of concern, since at that opportune hour, I had little fuel left. As I put my grey cells into use, the mystery unfolded. The obvious explanation was that I was nearing the state of Rajasthan which might have priced fuel a lot lower than Gujarat (this theory was confirmed sometime later). Hence the political & economic dynamics had wiped out all the pumps in this region; the regulars on the highway would prefer driving to Rajasthan to refuel. Some truckers even carry fuel in alternative storages from states where it is cheaper. However, I am not a regular; nor am I a trucker. Hence I was in a big problem. I changed my cruising speed to make the most out of every drop of fuel.
In what seemed like eternity, I finally saw a board welcoming me to Rajasthan. Sure enough, there were a handful of pumps offering fuel. I stopped at the first and filled my tank. However, I noticed a changed note of the engine. Closer analysis revealed a crack in the silencer.. Shoot..
I did a detailed check and figured out there was nothing much I could do besides allowing it to cool and then carrying on. The petrol attendant watched me and we struck a conversation:

A: Sirjee, Kahan se?
M: Mumbai..
A: Driving since yesterday? Bike?? !!

I gave my starting time of today and the fellow dolted like a rabbit. He came back a minute later with his buddies and a person who seemed like the manager. The gang got into a deep conversation about my journey and insisted that I join them for tea and ‘snakes’.

But here I am, on the road again
There I am, up on the stage
There I go, playing the star again
There I go, turn the page

The friendly banter had to be concluded as the shadows lengthened and grew fainter. I mounted the bike and gunned the engine in an attempt to beat the sun. Alas, the sun went down and the headlamps lit up the tarmac. More than the night, the erratic behaviour of the Rajasthan soil scared me. I had read that sand gains and loses heat quickly. Tonight, it was out to prove this. The temperature dropped with each passing minute and soon my teeth were chattering with cold. The exhaust system had totally given up and the engine sounded as if it were propelling a dirt bike. I finally made it to Udaipur at 7:30pm. After a quick shower, I drove around town to refresh my memories of the lake, palace and the Sukhadia circle (Tip: Never get conned into going to Sukhadia circle; it’s pathetic). May I take this opportunity to recommend the ‘Natraj’ hotel’s thali’ which is rightfully a local legend.

Day 2
The ride started at 6:15 am and my: it was chilly. Same ol’ story: hands shivering, teeth chattering and the body yearning  for warmth amidst the freezing wind. At 10, I couldn’t take it anymore and had to stop at a dhaba for something hot before Ajmer.

You walk into a restaurant, strung out from the road
And you feel the eyes upon you, as you're shaking off the cold
You pretend it doesn't bother you, but you just want to explode
And most times you can't hear 'em talk, other times you can

Within an hour, I was subject to the other extreme: the sun shone relentlessly and burnt quite some of my skin. Ajmer to Jaipur is the best of NH-8 and if you’re driving below 100 kmph, you run the risk of being labelled a slow-poke and being run over. Sadly, the Jaipur- Delhi stretch is a big mess. The 6 laning project is on and ensures that there are innumerous bottlenecks and craters. The last 200 kms really shook me up; and my bike as well. At 4:10pm, I reached the airport with a slightly dislodged tail lamp, front fender and of course: the broken exhaust system. For a wretchedly used 5 year old bike, I’d say its still aging gracefully.

Out there in the spotlight, your a million miles away
Every ounce of energy, you try to give away
And the sweat pours out your body, like the music that you play
Later in the evening, as you lie awake in bed
With the echoes of the amplifiers, ringin' in your head
You smoke the days last cigarette, rememberin' what she said
What she said

Another philosophical journey comes to an end. In the last 2 days, I got time to look into myself, view my life as an outsider: the events, agents and circumstances.. Come to terms with the past and most importantly, get myself ready for the next phase of life…


  1. I could actually picturize your entire journey..breathtaking...amazing...:)

  2. how did you cross Ahmedabad- Baroda (Vadodara) expressway ? what is the alternate way ?