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Old 2nd August 2013, 00:06   #1
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Default Every Ride has a Story...

The air is cool and laden with moisture and it blows straight into the face. The road that I take is empty and lonely. The traffic signals have been put on the auto mode and they blink in orange. I slow down, watch the corners and see there are no passing vehicles and then I lightly rev up the accelerator. As we climp up the curve, with a friend of mine as pillion, I down shift the gear for some more power to aid the slowing vehicle.

The curve straightens out and it merges into the single wide road, which then rises gradually in an even slope to form the Vidyasagar Setu.

The sunlight is mild and the tips of the bridge are lit up by it as I climb up the arch of the bridge. The arch slope down after a point and as I start going down, a sudden the cool wind from the Ganges crosses us and shakes the ride. We are riding far and away from the city on a weekend ride to enjoy the wide stretches of paddy fields, the meandering rain swept roads, the overflowing rivers, the occassional drizzle and the warm paranthas that you get at the dhaba.

We pay the toll tax and throttle down the roads. There are a few more traffic lights ahead, but beyond that its the country side and highway territory. The early morning sun always feels calm and peaceful and the air that we are cutting through whistles through the helmet. At times it gets very difficult and it feels that the helmet will topple.So, we park the vehicle and I tighten up the belt. As we ride, I see the shadow of the motorcycle and myself running along with us, in the same speed. Sometimes the shadows disappears when we ride beneath the accumulating clouds and then reappears again.

The initial excitement at the start of the ride has now subdued and we focus more on the road and the weather.At times I feel hungry and long for the dhaba to come soon.But later the thoughts of hunger go away.Up ahead we see a tea shop just opening up.

I yell to the tea shop owner for two cups of tea and turn the ignition off as the motorcycle comes to a pause.We stop by the shop and wait for the tea.

Theres a bench and we rest on it.

I ask my friend Rajdeep, "How, do you think is it going?"
"It feels good. Especially when we move under the thick clouds and theres no sun and the air turns cold."
He does not talk much. Thats the way he has been that I have known him for the past more than 10 years.

The tea arrives. It is extra sweet ginger tea and tastes good.

Tea done and bill paid,we rise up and I restart the machine.
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Old 2nd August 2013, 09:01   #2
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I try to look into the left mirror to check the rear, but I can only see Rajdeep's t-shirt. I adjust it on the move and ride ahead.

The traffic has now thinned, the traffic lights are gone and there are manned highway crossings near the villages which are buzzing with early morning activities. There are bazaars which are being set up, a rickshaw cart ships hay and there are trucks resting on the road sides. All of these look stationery, as we ride past them.

On a highway I love the trucks the most. They move steadily and dont complain.
Whereas it is the buses which honk and whine.
I love the white cars, which look bright in the sunlight.And then there are the oversized trailers,which, when you overtake, you seem to be doing for a long time.

I ride the motorcycle at a moderately steady pace and it must have been quite a while that I last changed gears.And then as I think about it I see a culvert rising ahead.

The clouds beyond the bridge have turned dark and heavy.I know that both of us are thinking about the impending rain. Being on a motorcycle and during the monsoon season we were hardly left with a choice.Speeding up was not supposed to help as the rain territory was up ahead and needed to ride through it.And staying put would have slowed down our progress even further.

We pause briefly while keeping the engine running.
"Shall we ride ahead?", I ask.
"Yes", Rajdeep eggs on as we resume the ride.

Once in a while we see milestones that indicate that we are around 1900 kms(and it keeps changing) from Bombay.Actually, the road that we are on is the Calcutta - Bombay road and which, most know to be one of the elements of the Golden Quadrilateral. It moves down South from Kharagpur and branches into NH60, which in turns connects to the NH5 to Chennai.

Meanwhile, the ride has not stopped.
Nor have the clouds rained.
Apparently our decision to ride ahead was prudent.

We are drawing to a close of the first part of this narrative as I can see Kolaghat's Sher-e-Punjab on the opposite side of the highway.But to reach the place we need to take an exit around a kilometer from where we are and then turn back.

The parking lot appears crowded and we get to park in a corner. We clean up the layers of dust from our faces and look up for a seat and wait until we find one.
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Old 2nd August 2013, 10:54   #3
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Usually when I travel along the Bombay road, I pause at this place for breakfast. So, after years of breakfast at this place, it has become a ritual now.And the same goes for the food.

Aloo Parantha,Dahi, A Subzi and Chae in Glasses- one glass enough for two.

And Rajdeep, being one person, who is usually miser with his comments said after having the Aloo Parantha, "This one is so full of flavour and tasty."

Sometimes Kolaghat seems to be an extension of the city.The number plate of the cars which are in the parking lot belong mostly to Kolkata.And it seems to be a breeze coming down to this place. It is the road from here that we usually do not take, will take us out of the city.
Out on the parking lot we have a smoke and then I adjust the saddle bags and ride further.

A little ahead from the dhaba we turn left.

It has become hotter and uncomfortable now. The road too appears to be potholled. And the oily paranthas that we had, adds to the discomfort. As we move ahead, slowly, over the potholled road, suddenly the progress seems to be very slow. This road is actually a diversion and work on this portion has not yet commenced and so there is a two way traffic on it. The trucks which come from the opposite direction look huge and the SUVs behind me look strong.

And we and the motorcycle look timid and small in this scale of things.
As I keep thinking about these and about better roads and better weather, all the time overtaking the vehicles ahead, that we witness the first droplets of rain. However the rain disappears in the next hundred metres and the thoughts of taking out the raincoat is shelved again. In the mean while the diversion has ended and we are on National Highways again.
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Old 2nd August 2013, 11:16   #4
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We make good time and cruise along. Here it looks to be more country side like. Fields stretch out from the road sides and trees line up the roads and cast shadows. The discomfort, which is more of a state of the mind, is gone. I take a look at the speed dial and the the sun reflecting off the chrome strikes my eyes sharply. So, I take my eyes off it and instead focus ahead.

I prefer riding on the left most lane where the fast vehicles do not bother. I usually keep it between 60-70 kmph. A higher speed rattles this motorcycle and makes the ride bothersome. And thats what I donot want to be in this ride.

I ride steadily when Rajdeep taps my shoulder.
"You see those vehicles coming the opposite way are all dripping with water?". He is the pillion and he has the liberty to watch and I thank him for this.

"So,shall we take out our rain coats?", I holler.
"Not just yet, lets head out and test the rain".

We are moving things and can definitely outlast the localized rain. However the intensity might be a factor and we decide if it rains heavily then we will take a shelter.

And then the deluge starts.The drops pierce our clothes. And I notice that the road ahead is wet and slippery. But we keep on riding. We do so for another kilometer and then we give in. There is small shop, at the side of the road and we pull over.

I pull out the helmet and let it rest on the mirror of the motorcycle and huddle under the shade.There are a group of motoryclists who have assembled here and we exchange small talk over a cup of tea.

The rain has abated now but we wear our rain coats and keep riding.It has not rained here, but the road is wet from the water of the vehicles that had passed through the rain. We have taken a right turn from the National Highway and are now into a State highway, which even though 2 laned is much more beautiful.

We feel secure now but at the same time the rain coat makes it hot. The state highway has snaked a number of times and it is really beautiful. The sky is overcast, the fields are dark green and there is an occasional farmer tending to his fields and there are some canals that have been dug and the trees which contine to sway - whereas we,the moving object in the scene, get to see much more as we trip even further.

It starts drizzling now but we continue further.We can see far ahead that there is a complete white wash and vehicles come out with their headlights on. With the increasing rain, I try to hold the raincoat close with one hand whereas I hold the handlebar with the other. But after a while the shoes become wet and the water starts to seep to the socks. That is when the discomfort increases.
Rajdeep shouts something in my ear. I guess he tried to tell me to stop. But with the heavy rain and thunder I can barely hear. There is too much noise.

The road has meandered and then after the rain stopped and the sun came out, we pulled over at the side of the road and got down the motorcycle. Removed the shoes, rain coat and stretched for a while. The rest of the journey to the destination remained steady.At one point I could sense the sea breeze - balmy and warm and the late afternoon means deserted streets,eateries closing down. We found our way to a decent hotel and parked the motorcycle, took out the saddle bags and checked in.

Its time to have a little amount of rest and some amount beer. It is hot here, so I turn on the air conditioner.
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Old 3rd August 2013, 11:25   #5
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The shoes are wet and soggy and I take a moment before taking them off. I get a little depressed thinking that there is not much activity to do.There is a movie going in the television which Rajdeep is watching.I instead, head to the shower and when I return, get the feeling that the air conditioner has really worked. The room is cooler and comfortable.

It has been an excellent journey so far.

I donot feel hungry, but its been quite sometime that we had the breakfast. We order a couple of beers and Chicken Pakodas as starters.
The beers and pakodas arrive and the waiter asks "Sir, please check whether they are cool", referring to the beers.
I touch and feel that they are very cold.
"Okay", I say.
The waiter opens the bottle and lays down the mugs.
We say cheers and I take swig at the beer. I feel it go down the throat.Very cold.
We sample the pakodas with a fork and the hot and cold combine to give a burning sensation in the stomach.

We order for a light Chinese lunch on Rajdeep's suggestion. Egg Chowmein and Chicken Manchurian. The beer has worked up the appetite pretty well. The initial feeling of depression, which I had on just entering the room is gone. I flip the TV channels and laze around for sometime.
It has been an excellent journey so far.I think again.

The food is full of flavour and vigour and very spicy. It knocked out the drowsiness that the beer had created. We finish up the lunch and then smoke a cigarette and then ride up to the beach.

After a few minutes the spectacle glasses that I am wearing become foggy from the atomized waves that lash on the shore. The sea breeze blows me humid whereas I watch the waves that continuously build up and break down time and again. After a couple of hours, when the moon is up in the sky and a light drizzle starts to follow, we decide to quit the beach for a bar.

There is a light music playing and the bar is well nigh empty.We order a couple of vodka and chat . During all this conversation, I remember a cloudy evening in Gangtok and feel happy.It was much like this day.
My wife and me had spent a good deal walking from the hotel, around 3 kms away and reached the mall. The walk had left us very hungry and we went to a restaurant, seated on the first floor, beside the large windows from where we could watch the street below. People were seated on the benches, underneath the largely decorated lamps. There was a thick cloud cover and all of a sudden it started to blow cold and then there was a mist shrouding the entire place and then as if from no where it started to rain. The street, which was bustling with activity just a while back was now empty. And I remember the momos,chili chicken and vodka that we had could not have been more tastier. Later, after the rain stopped, we took a long walk, spent a few moments standing beside the cold railings watching the valley below caught in the thick mist. We finished off the packet of crunchy popcorn that the wife had bought and then we walked down the paved road to reach the hotel again.

It takes a moment to return back to this bar. We talk for long about lot of stories and then leave for our hotel.The streets are vacant now and from here I can listen to the roar of the waves and gradually as we ride in the opposite direction, the roar fades away.

A fatigue has developed as I lie down on the bed and it is not before long that I go to sleep.

Last edited by sayakc : 3rd August 2013 at 11:28.
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Old 3rd August 2013, 12:06   #6
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The next day we wake up early and head to the sea and spend a couple of hours before the water becomes too hot to be in.The sea bath leaves with a very hungry stomach and we have a a couple of cups of tea, luchi and alo subzi. For those of you who know, it is a very typical Bengali breakfast.

We freshen ourselves and ready for the journey back home.We pack up the belongings,freshen ourselves and reach the motorcycle and then crank up the engine.

It is well past noon that we start.The cycle comes back to life and then we head out of the town.

We must have been riding back home for a sometime now and have reached a point where there are little flower beds blossoming and a small but beautiful garden has been created. A few trees have been planted that cast their shadows over the plants and saplings. I remember having come along the same road during the summer month of April. But back then the land was parched, the trees were devoid of leaves and it reflected a period of deprivation.There are dark clouds gathering in the horizon,so we ride faster and faster and the garden becomes smaller and smaller in the mirror.

We lean a little as the road curves sharply.This road has turned and curved and there are ample photo shoot opportunities. But we do not stop.

But after sometime Rajdeep says, he back aches and even I feel that my shoulder joints are a little stiff. So, we halt.
This is a bridge where we have stopped.And there is a railway line which passes beneath it. At a distance, far away, I can see a goods train chugging in our direction. Rajdeep insists on leaving this place, but I stand and listen to its whistle as it grows louder and louder and then it crosses us. The train continues to whistle but the whistle becomes feebler and then fades away and then is finally gone.

This thing about horizons, the train that came from the horizon and disappeared into it, made me remember an incident from my childhood.

There is a dyke, in the place where I have grown up, to protect the town from the flooding river.So, once I had wanted to see the sunset and my father took me to on top of the dyke. We could see the horizon, far away,where the clouds were low and the sun had turned orange.

I remember asking my father, "Dad, why don't we go there,I want to catch the clouds?" pointing at the horizon.
He replied, "When you will go there, you will see that the clouds have risen up once again".

I narrate this story to Rajdeep. He smiles through his tiredness.I too feel drained but resume the rest of the ride.

The remaining ray of the sun disappear and darkness looms everywhere and we turn on the headlights.On a journey, you learn to trust the cycle and every successful journey increases the faith on the it.

We are now in the city and dear reader you may follow this scene, nothing
extraordinary, but like they show in the movies,in a fast forward motion.

The blue skies turn pink and then dark as the sun goes down. The street lights are lit up and the we have merging traffic ahead. And then the camera zooms onto the motorcycle and the couple of tired riders who ride on it.The collars flap against the wind and there is a look of anticipation on the faces.Layers of dust has piled on everywhere. And then the camera,remains at its place as the motorcycle drone fades into the darkness of the night.

So long for now!
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Old 13th August 2013, 12:47   #7
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Default Re: Every Ride has a Story...

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 14th August 2013, 13:49   #8
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Default Re: Every Ride has a Story...

Lovely languorous story. Your flashbacks were the best part - Gangtok and the horizon!! Would love to read more of your travelogues, since as you say - every ride has a story
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Old 14th August 2013, 16:58   #9
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Its quite a long narrative and thank you for your patience for reading off this piece!
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Old 14th August 2013, 23:50   #10
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Default Re: Every Ride has a Story...

Sayak, loved the style; it amplified that the journey is important than the destination.
by the way, what was the destination - Digha?

Missed the U turn after the breakfast, and was assuming you were heading back home from Kolaghat.
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Old 15th August 2013, 12:12   #11
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Yes, Arindam Digha was the destination! In order to reach Sher-e-Punjab Dhaba the nearest exit is a little way off, hence the U-turn.
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