As a biker (yes that’s what I would like to call myself), long winding roads, the blazing heat of the Delhi, the colors, smells and sounds are a welcome assault to an NRI soul that has been preserved in an air conditioned time capsule.
Getting the bike out of the luggage van of the train at Nizamuddin Station was a lark. Surprisingly I didn’t have to bribe anyone, except the Dabbang styled cop at the exit. Which was in stark contrast to the Bangalore Majestic Railway station, where I came close to selling my alcohol pickled kidney to bribe everyone from the porter to the entire railway department of India to get my Bullet onto the train.
I am not averse to corruption. The fact that I am a willing participant by being part of the system, does not give me the privilege of being judgmental
After unpacking Ben (Yes, my steed has a name. Sue me), I filled, packed my gear and rode the Delhi street. My destination was Jim Corbett Park where a friend and her husband run an Eco lodge called Camp Fork tail Creek.
My method of reaching a destination is a lot like connecting the dots. I first figure out my destination, and then I ask the names of places I have to pass through to reach my destination. (Yes. I am a man and I do ask for direction. It doesn’t make me any less of a man. Whatever being a man means. This man asks directions. How does someone find a way if he doesn’t have directions? And by the way, I know plenty of women who can read a map… Just letting you know.)
Armed with a paper that contained 15 place names I had to pass through, I reached Mohaan late evening on the same day.
Apart from assisting a couple who had been eased off the road by a lorry, the only other incident was nearly getting mugged inside the Jim Corbett Park. This you have to hear.
After reaching Ramnagar, I proceeded onto Mohaan were my college friend Minakshi and her husband, Suri, had their camp.
Riding through the great jungle reserve was amazing. Apart from open green colored gypsy safari jeeps, carrying domestic and foreign tourists filled with the anticipation of seeing the mysterious tiger, the winding roads were pretty great.
Ben and I waded though streams that ran across the road in some places
It was evening and the sun was beginning to set. I had perhaps about another 16 Km to cover before reaching Minakshi’s place. I decided to stop near a river bed to take a picture of the sunset for posterity. Which nowadays means for posting on Facebook to let all your friends know what a great time you are having and where they will all say nice things all the while thinking, 'bastard is going through midlife crisis'
So I stop the bike, then do the necessary acrobatics to get off the bike.
Let me explain.
You see, once I had packed the saddle bag and then tied my knapsack onto the back seat, with my archery kit on the side, I found that I could not swing my legs that high to get onto the bike.
This meant I had two choices.
One was to put the bike on stand and then to place one leg on the leg rest, use it like a stirrup and swing my leg across. Second method was to put the bike on side stand and then take my right leg in my hand, aim my feet above the seat, slide it across the seat and then take a seat.
I found the second method more comfortable, mainly because I felt that the stirrup method could tilt the bike and if Ben falls on me, no-one will even see me underneath it for a week.
Getting off the bike entailed the same circus. I park the bike on side stand, slide myself off the left side and hop to the side holding my right leg straight.
Not exactly very macho.
So there I was taking a picture on my mobile phone, because I had packed my camera in the knapsack which had been tied very nicely onto my bike, after dismounting the bike in the above mentioned ungainly fashion.
After taking the picture, I was in the process of donning my riding gear which needs a step by step instruction manual; first I put on my balaclava , put on the helmet, try and shove my glasses in through the balaclava , close the visor, don my gloves, lift my leg and slide sideways onto the bike.
Somewhere in between shoving my glasses and pulling down the visor, a car pulls up next to me. Out steps a tall man. Middle aged, thin, wearing a blue colored pin stripped shirt, tucked very neatly into blue jeans. He approaches me with a smile and starts talking to me in perfect English.
‘I saw you. You seem to be a well travelled person, ' he says, 'with all the gear and all. Where are you off to?'
'To a friend’s place in Jim Corbett,' I reply. I didn't feel I should tell him where I was headed. Something about this fellow was sending my spidy sense all tingling.
‘We are from around this place.' he says. Out of the car steps two very uncouth looking fellows. They are all smiles. But there seemed to a purpose behind all this friendliness. ’Where are you coming from?' he asks.
‘From Delhi' I reply.
‘Aacha, you are from Delhi?'
'No, from Bangalore, I am riding from Delhi’, I correct.
Even in seeming danger, I seem to have this need to correct.
‘Where are you headed?' he persists.
By now, they are uncomfortably close to me. I was kind of surrounded. I know that I am in some kind of trouble because now I feel threatened. This to me is a bad sign.
'To Pithoragarh' I reply 'my wife is from there.' I add for no reason.
'Bahien choot!‘ He throws up his arms as he addresses his cronies, 'His is real love. Look at this guy. He is riding all the way from Bangalore to meet his wife in Pithoragarh. Bahien choot! ’ He exclaims to himself as if to reinforce the great significance of this eternal undying love that I am presumed to possess.
I don't bother correcting the misunderstanding. Why deny the man his beliefs?
I use this romantic moment to slide onto my bike. I smile and put the visor down. I am thinking that if something has to happen, it will be now. He has his hands on my handle. I press the ignition. Ben thumps to life. I turn to him.
‘I have to leave now. It was great, talking to you.’ I say.
The guy seems to be still in shock. He lets go the bike and starts walking towards his car, his two cronies ambling behind him, filled with the aura of true love that they have witnessed.
As I took off, I could hear him again exclaiming to his friends, ' Bahien choot! Yeh hai sachi pyar yaar. Woh uske bibi ko milne keliye itna dhoor chal rahi hai! Bhahien choot!’
I had no idea why this meeting bothered me but it did. Something was not right about the whole thing. They were not friendly. You should have been there and you would know. I trust my instincts.
I took off like a bat out of hell, thanking the stars for his ‘bahien’s choot’ and his romantic soul. It took quite a while for my heart to fall back in rhythm with my Ben's thumping engine.
I reached Camp Fork tail Creek by around 6pm. The sun had already set. Parking Ben in the shade of a temple by the road side, I walked up with my gear to the camp, helped by Minakshi and her help, Chacha. Alongside us walked Balu, one of the four Tibetan Mastiffs that call the camp their home.