Tuesday, 30 May 2017

A solo ride to Pondicherry

For the last 2 years, we were planning and postponing the road trip from Chennai to Pondicherry on the famous East Coast Road which runs parallel to the sea coast. This year, we had finalized but I cancelled in August. Suddenly one day an idea struck me to go alone and it struck me too hard to resist. I didn't tell anyone and booked the flight to Chennai and rented an avenger. Sorry Vivek, Gaurav and Rahul for leaving you out on this trip. One day, I told Gaurav by mistake and I had to literally beg him to let me go alone this time.

So on 3rd September 2016, I left from office, parked my bike at the airport and flew off to say Vanakkam Chennai. I received a setback when I got to know that the avenger I had booked met with an accident and was not available and had to settle with the next best alternative, Yamaha FZ. The best thing about this bike was the colour, my favorite, Red. Finally, I was taking a bike on a long ride after one looooong year after Leh. Hello ECR, here I come!

I installed the newly bought mobile mount on my wrist and started recording my journey. The climate was a little on the hot side that day but only after 10-15 minutes on the ECR, I felt a cool breeze on my face lifting my spirit. Beach was in the vicinity and could catch its glimpses from the road in regular intervals. At one place, I saw that little off-roading could lead the bike to the shore. I made a mental note to do this while returning as I wanted to reach Pondicherry first. Finally, after 3 hours of riding in the sun and getting all tanned before even reaching Pondicherry, I took a stop at Serenity beach on the way. It was calm and beautiful as the name suggests. 20 minutes of more riding and I was at my hotel, thanks to Bing maps.

I had my lunch and took a much needed short nap of 2 hours. After waking up, I went straight to the rocky beach near my hotel. The french architecture could be seen all over the place. The beach was too crowded but still the air was quiet and soothing. I walked across the whole beach seeing all the monuments on the way - French war memorial, Gandhi statue, old light house and Kargil war memorial. The only cafe on the beach, Le Cafe, was bustling with customers where I could not get a seat even after waiting 15 minutes. As the evening progressed, I started roaming towards the city to have some food and some music pulled me towards it. There was a live performance going on at a restaurant and I immediately went inside. Although the singer was singing mostly regional songs which I didn't understand a bit, the ambience and mushrooms were delightful. After my stomach was full, I spent few more hours on the beach, listening to the waves colliding on the rocks before calling it a day.

Next morning, I had a long list of places to visit. Being on the east coast, I had planned to see sunrise on the beach but the sun played spoil sport and even after waiting from 6-8am, I only got disappointment. After an awesome complementary breakfast at my hotel, I started my journey to cover the city. My first stop was Basilica of Sacred Heart of Jesus near to my hotel. Next, I just rode where roads led me (while keeping the count of lefts and right I was turning) and reached Uppalam Harbour beach. It was beautiful but the sight at the other end was even better. Right across the ocean, there was a beautiful harbor but no way to reach there. I started the maps and saw an alternate route of 20km to reach there. 

While finding the Veerampattinam harbor, I reached the most beautiful Paradise beach. This had very few people and a long coastline as far as I could see. People love to become photographers these days. You give them your phone to click one photo and they will click 3-4 in different poses. I finally found my Veerampattinam beach after a lot of struggle with Bing maps and help of a few local residents. The harbor I was finding was near by. It was simply amazing and had a better view as seen from the other end of the ocean, worth all the trouble I went through to find this. It was a pretty secluded beach with only a couple of kids playing in some distance. There were big tetrapod stones( just like on the marine drive) kept over one another to form a long stretch of harbor. I tried climbing over these to get a glimpse of the ocean from its top. "Khudi Ko kar buland itna, chadha main jaise taise, aur fir khud se hi bola, bhaisaab ab uturunga kaise?" On reaching the top, the view was marvelous but now it seemed like big gaps between these rocks and a slight fear ran of how I would get down. Now, even the kids I had seen earlier were not present there that I could call for help. I called Souvik and we laughed together - "Ye idhar udhar chadhne ki aadat nahi jaegi". After sitting and relaxing there for some time, I somehow managed to get down without falling in between those rocks.

It had been a tiring long day and on reaching my hotel, I took a shower and slept the whole evening. On waking up, I strolled along the near by market but could not find anything interesting to buy when I accidently bumped into Akshay Kanoria. We had lived in the same house in Kota, had kept in touch after that but it was a nice surprise catching up there in Pondicherry. On riding back to the rocky beach, I saw a long line at cafe Xtasi and found they specialized in wood fried pizza. I stopped there to try it and had to wait an hour in queue before ordering a medium size exotic pizza. The minute my pizza made an entry, the smell made me forget the wait. The pizza really looked exotic (full of mushrooms) and it was deliciously mindblowing. Then I spent a couple of hours at the rocky beach. Traveling the whole day, I didn't miss anyone but sitting alone on the beach made me feel lonely and yes, as you had warned, I did miss you Gaurav. As the night progressed, there were fewer people on the beach and a couple sitting next to me started kissing. Soon, they were center of attraction of everyone passing by. Couple of minutes later, few policemen came and took them away. I started back towards my hotel when a light shower started to fall.

Next morning, I checked out from my hotel and started my journey back to Chennai. On my way back, I remembered the place where I had to drift down from the road to the beach. It was risky but there was no one to change my mind. So, I did it and am glad I did that. Riding the bike alongside the waves is certainly a good memory. I stopped at Mahabalipuram in between and visited the light house and Mahishamardini mandapa, a large cave and temple carved out of a single stone. Mahabalipuram had a very crowded beach where I rode a horse and tried my hands at balloon shooting after a very long time. Finally, I reached Chennai but it was already late for my flight. I took an auto which got stuck on traffic. Then, on his suggestion, I took the local train and reached airport just in time for my flight. Mission accomplished - riding on the East Coast road and a solo trip. Let me sleep over this new feat in my flight back to Pune. 

Sleeping me : Everest, you are still a distant dream!

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

One night @ Deja Vu

Life is not about making choices; it’s about going down the path we have chosen for us and I had made my choice before the choice even came before me. When the whole world was engulfed in celebrating the new year, I was already out in the memory lane traversing irregular paths, jumping one lane to another, seeing faces of all my loved ones – mom, dad, bro, sis, friends, that special smile while falling freely down my 13th floor apartment.

Now, allow me to start from the very beginning. The person falling at an acceleration of ‘g’ is me, and people who know me would not believe that I would ever do such a stupid thing but this story starts from a date few months ago. It was the most special day of the year - my birthday. I was awake early and was being impatient for the most awaited call of the day. She didn't keep me waiting for long and that sweetest Good Morning made my day. We had plans to spend the whole day together and have fun. We went for a small hike, spent the evening watching movie and playing games in the mall and had a lavish dinner. Finally, the day was over and I went to drop her at her society.

It has been 2 years and I don't even know when Riya became an integral part of my life. My life would start with her sweet good mornings and my day would end with her good nights. Every day I would long only for seeing her beautiful smile. Office hours seemed like eternity without her and evenings were a bliss when we would be together. It sometimes feels strange how time flies by so fast. "Where are you really taking me mister?" - her voice brought me back to reality and I realized I had crossed her apartment a couple of minutes ago while being lost in my chain of thoughts.

I made a U turn and returned back to her society. We hugged to say goodbye and it was a little longer than usual. The time was 12:01, my birthday was over. I asked her if she was ok and as suspected, she was not. Her face had no emotions and I knew I was about to hear something serious which I dreaded not to hear. She said her parents were finding a match for her . . . "but you don't even smoke, what would you do with a match???" I cut her sentence in between, there was a moment of shock in her face and the next moment I received a solid punch on my shoulders. She continued that she was not ready for marriage yet, not even with me(and neither was I). I consoled her that our parents think like that only and we will figure a way out. I could not sleep the whole night and even thought deeply about this whole marriage affair. I finally concluded that marriage was not on my list yet, not even in my wildest dreams.

Next 4 months were the hardest to cross. Every other week, her parents would make her meet someone and she was able to dodge them cleverly(we planned too many ways to do this).  Finally, we decided to let our parents know about our relationship. My parents reluctantly accepted it but her parents didn't even want to hear her out. Tension of our parents passed on to us and even we had occasional riots over this issue. Nothing was going our way and we were completely helpless in our situation. It felt like having a ton of pressure on us and our brain and heart had stopped functioning.

It was New year's eve and she had gone to her hometown for the week. I had no plans and was sleeping peacefully in my apartment when my phone rang. I picked up my phone to see Riya calling. The time was 9 PM and there still were 3 hours before the calls would start to flood in. Her hello lacked the usual cheerfulness and had too much gravity in it. I jokingly asked - "Why so serious, teri shaadi set ho gayi kya?" She didn't reply for a moment before breaking into tears. I realized the bad timing of my joke and apologized numerous times but it was too late. After 15-20 minutes, she became a little normal and said "It is all over now and it is better to end our relationship with the year. Let the new year be for new beginnings, whether we like them or not. Forget me and move on . . ." I knew she switched to English only when she was not comfortable in speaking something but her abrupt ending of the call was too much to handle for me. 

I called her non-stop for the next 2 hours but she didn't take any of my calls. None of my messages were proving of any use. I was unable to understand the situation that why she was avoiding me like this. It was killing and frustrating me at the same time. Whatever was between us, be it friendship or love, we could at least talk about our situation. Even if she wanted to break up, we could discuss it sensibly. I think our relationship had that level of maturity, but something or rather she changed in a day and I was unable to accept this. 

In these 2 hours, my frustration and her avoidance led me to anger. My anger and helplessness to do anything to make her talk to me led me to depression. All of our 2 years started to flash in front of my eyes. My depression combined with these memories made me anxious and may be this anxiety killed my rationality. It was 5 minutes to midnight and I was walking furiously, thinking unstably in my balcony. I called her one last time and she didn't pick up. At that moment, I lost everything, I lost even me. Next moment, I was standing on the edge of the balcony. Rockets started to fly in the sky, there were noises(must have been merries) from all parts of the building and I felt weightlessness. Physics says it would take me less than 3 seconds to hit the ground but the speed of thoughts is much faster than light. I saw millions of memories flash by in that little time when my phone rang . . .

I was holding my phone too tightly and it was ringing. I was still delusional if I was still in my dream or had woken up. The time was 9 PM, it was still 31st December and I was still alive. I chuckled a little on this new sensation. I finally paid attention to my phone call - it was displaying Riya calling. I cheerfully attended the call but her hello had too much gravity in it. I was starting to feel deja vu when my natural instinct asked her - Why so serious, teri shaadi set ho gayi kya . . .