Daydreaming

Day DreamingOne of the worst things that could happen to anyone in my position is this: the realization that your daydream will not be a reality. At least not immediately. You’re right up there among the stars, imagining how different your life will be and how you are going to spend the suitcase full of cash you just found on the sidewalk – a car each for yourself and your wife; maybe a new Harley for those exciting road trips on which, taking a car would be lame; a new house, perhaps two; a very strong and comprehensive health insurance plan for the entire family – yours and hers – to ensure that everyone who’s important is taken care of; and some extra leftover money invested in low yield bonds, savings, deposits and other such inane piggy-banks to ensure your financial independence. Of course, you’d first pay off your credit cards and loans and become debt-free.

You and your wife would then quit your respective jobs. You’d move in to one of your new houses, make it a home and give out the other one on rent for a decent family to ensure that you get paid monthly. You consider this income as your primary income which is earmarked for groceries, food and fuel. You then buy yourselves a pair of fancy smartphones that have the very latest features and you use these phones to tweet about how excited you are about what you’re planning to do next.

Once the tweet has been published, you pack your bags and you hit the road to being the longest journey of your life – a long road trip all over the country, on a quest to visit each and every state, drive on every road, experience all that the beautiful country has to offer. You’d spend almost a year on the road and you return to your new house (which is still new because you haven’t lived in it yet) and you spend a few months domesticating yourselves. You do the occasional trip on the Harley to a few places here and there that may have escaped your radar during the year-long road trip.

After about a year of the domestic life, your wife starts getting restless and insists that you do something out of the ordinary. She wants that excitement of living out of her backpack again. She wants to drive into the sunset and sit on the hood of your big SUV, looking out at the setting sun and smoke a cigarette and drink a Diet Coke, while you stand next to her with your beer can in hand, lean over to you just as the last rays turn the sky red and kiss you softly on the lips. She urges you to do something about this urge.

You walk over to the window overlooking the beautifully landscaped garden in front and you think about what to do. You wake up the next day and decide to sell off your other house. You contact your lawyer and find out that the rate of the house has nearly doubled in the two years since you bought it. You make the deal with the first buyer you find and a week later, you’re richer by an insane amount of cold, hard cash, sitting pretty in your bank account. You spend a weekend researching the best way to spend a whole year backpacking in Europe. You make the arrangements, book your tickets and your hotels, and you go out on Sunday evening to the mall and buy brand new backpacks and new travel accessories for yourself and your wife, and come back home in time for dinner. When your wife asks you where you were, you deflect the question innocently and move the conversation over to mundane things like the weather.

The next morning, you ride your Harley over to the bank and realize that you have far more money left over than you initially imagined. You then convert a lot of the money into Euros, a lot of the money into Dollars and a lot of the money into travelers’ checks. You also instruct the bank to issue you a Visa travel card, into which you pre-load a lot of money.

You then go back home and tell your wife that you have something important to show her. She is confused, obviously. But curious. When you reveal your master plan and the preparations you’ve made so far, she is fantastically overjoyed and you get the best sex of your life for being the best husband ever.

You realize that you’re in a public place and you have a hard-on. You quickly clear your mind, pull down the visor of your helmet, start your bike just as the light turns green, and continue the ride to your office.

Advertisements

Hampi: The Great Escape

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything on the blog. Part of the reason was my persistent writers’ block. The main reason was that I had nothing interesting to write about. Sad as that may seem, I was living in mortal fear of having nothing left to write about. Then, on a windy Friday night, it all changed.

A call was made on my behalf to a travel agent and bus tickets were booked in my name to Hampi. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that I can’t postpone my trip any longer. A loaded gun was held to my head and I was made to pack my bag and marched all the way to the bus station. I was violently shoved into the bus and the door was pulled shut behind me. I was on my way to Hampi, the cultural capital of the country.

I have a tendency to exaggerate a bit at times, and though my departure to Hampi wasn’t as dramatic as I described, it was still a decision I had to take despite a lot of leftover work. Half my mind was on my impending vacation and the other half was working on publicity strategies for my clients. I tried hard and put that part of my brain to sleep and told myself that I’d take it as it comes. I convinced myself that I needed a break. I looked forward to three days of blissful peace.

It was 6 AM in the morning when I woke up, jolted by a particularly nasty pothole and was aware of a painfully full bladder. I looked out the window and was stunned by the landscape we were passing through. in the dawn’s early, hesitant light, I looked at a river flowing in all her might, past the greenest trees I’ve ever seen. The scene was killed mercilessly by a burst of black smoke that the bus belched as it wound its way up an incline. I walked over to the driver and asked him if he could stop for a bit so that I could relieve myself. I was told that we would reach the final stop in under 20 minutes and that I should hold it.

I stood there, squirming in discomfort for the next twenty-five minutes until at last, we stopped for the last time at a place called Hospet. I rushed out of the bus before anyone else, ran out on to the other side of the road and experienced the second most pleasurable thing a man can experience by himself. With a satisfied smile on my face, I took a deep lungful of the clean, crisp village air and hailed an auto-rickshaw to Hampi, twelve miles away. I didn’t know it then, but my journey had just begun.

Mowgli Resort & Guest House

Mowgli Resort
Mowgli Resort
View from my room
View from my room

Hampi is a strange place, geographically speaking. The Tungabhadra river cuts the village into two clean halves, which are linked either by small ferry boats across the water, or, when the water levels are dangerously high, by a thirty mile road trip all along the river and over the dam. I had the privilege of taking the road trip.

The thirty miles seemed to pass in a blink of an eye as the auto-rickshaw tuk-tuk’d its way through small towns, smaller villages and some absolutely fantastic scenery. I saw a few semi-hot village chicks and waved at them as we went by, and saw them give me strange stares in return. We arrived at the Mowgli Guest House & Resort at around 9.30 in the morning and I dismissed my auto. I was quite surprised to find that I was the only guest there. I was even more surprised to find that the kitchen at Mowgli had been closed for a week and they were only now opening it up for me. Tourist season, I was told by the proprietor, did not begin for another month. I was early. Lucky me.

The guest house is a quaint place set in the middle of green paddy fields all around it, with a great view of the river. A typical backpackers’ destination, this resort and other similar ones in the area , boasts of an international menu at entirely desi rates. Imagine having a mouth-watering margherita pizza for Rs. 100! But, as luck would have it, being the off-season, the pizza wasn’t available.

I spent most of the first day lounging around, reading a good book and listening to the soothing sounds all around me – the insects, the birds, the wind and the river.

Scooty Streaking

The Scooty Streak
The Scooty Streak

I hired a Scooty Streak on the second morning and rode all over the neighboring villages. I covered almost fifty miles in under four hours, absolutely mesmerized by the landscape and the ruins. One of the strangest things I discovered about Hampi is the atrocious angles at which boulders sit on top of each other. It almost defies physics. it was one of the best mornings I’ve had in a long time. The open roads, the pleasant weather and the vastly amusing looks I elicited by the villagers all added up to a brilliant morning.

A three hour nap later, I went to a small, rustic restaurant that was quite ostentatiously called ‘Laughing Buddha’. With Bob Marley posters adorning the walls and ugly reggae music playing in the background, I sat by the river bank and had a very satisfying chicken sandwich and a much-needed cup of hot, sweet tea.

By the time I returned to my room late at night, I was highly satisfied and at peace. I was beginning to question myself about going back to Bangalore, back to my stressful life.

Hampi & Her Ruins

My Favorite Ruin
My Favorite Ruin

The last day was by far the most fascinating. I took a chance with the over-flowing river and paid a boatman a bit extra to take me across to the main city. After much hesitation and much negotiation, he got his boat out and ferried me across an angry river. I sat, clutching my life in my hands, as the boat rocked and threatened to topple over any second. Safely across, I met my trusty auto-rickshaw driver, and for the next seven hours, he took me on a comprehensive tour of all the sights of Hampi. The once-mighty Vijayanagar empire that now lies in ruins in and around Hampi is quite a sight to see.  For a glimpse of what I saw, check out the album.

I am constantly in search of peace, and more often than not, I mistake peace for momentary pleasure. Hampi is a place that has taught me quite a bit about peace and how to achieve that state of mind.

It is definitely a place I will keep coming back to.

How To Kill The Nerve Endings In Your Bum

It’s very simple, actually. Does not involve any major surgery, does not involve a great deal of torture. All it takes is a 6-year-old motorbike that has seen better days, a 220-mile stretch of a badly maintained road, total disregard for the well-being of your ass and the ability to risk peeing blood for a week. That’s all it takes to kill the nerve endings in your bum.

It was one of those Sundays that you wished was a Saturday. Wait, why does this statement sound familiar? Anyway, my friends and I decided to take our bikes out on a (very) long road trip this past Sunday, and it turned out to be a pretty amazing day. Except for the fact that I walked funny for two days after and couldn’t sit on anything for too long without my bum muscles cramping up. We were six of us, on three totally mismatched bikes – a Bullet cruiser bike, a Yamaha sports bike and a Bajaj Boxer. Yeah, the Bajaj Boxer was mine. (Non-Indian readers, FYI – a Boxer isn’t a type of underwear here. It’s the unfortunate brand name of a motorbike.)

We set out from Bangalore early, around 6:30 in the morning, and drove up on State Highway 7 towards Mysore. After frequent stops each half hour to regain blood-flow to our asses, we stopped for breakfast at Kamat Lokaruchi, next to a place called  Janapada Loka. They had a south Indian breakfast buffet and I did not miss the chance to stuff myself with all the vada I could eat. After deciding on the route to Talkad, we headed out and cruised along for the next hour-and-a-half. The roads were so good that even my rickety old Boxer touched 80 mph. That’s around 65 kmph, and that’s her limit. She tends to get a bit ‘cranky’ if I push her harder.

Talkad - Shores of the Cauvery River

Talkad was a pretty neat experience – sat on the lake shore, ate an enormous amount of cucumbers and washed them down with some ice cream. A local guide offered his services and we took him up on his offer, and for the next hour, we were treated to the entire history of the place, and a running commentary of all the six temples as we walked past each one. This is heritage site, according to a recent government declaration and it was quite interesting to see 2000-year old temples being resurrected.

Talkad - A temple in the process of being excavated

We had our lunch at a local ‘mess’ in Talkad – it was the best lunch EVER because we had an unlimited amount of rice, sambar, rasam and papad. The taste was not too bad either.

Once we were done with Talkad, we got on to our bikes and headed south towards a place called Shivana Samudram. The roads were atrocious and my bike finally decided to call it quits. Twenty minutes of engine cooling time and an oil change later, we were back on the road.

There are two waterfalls in this place – one was a mile-and-a half walk from where we parked and the other was accessible by road. We were so tired that we decided to ride up to the second one, and were thoroughly disappointed by the thin stream of water that we could spot with difficulty at a great distance. We decided it was the best time to head back to Bangalore.

Free Beer to anyone who can spot the water fall

Four hours and a very sore ass later, we finally entered home stretch on the Bangalore highway. I dropped off my friend at her hostel around midnight and headed back home to a warm and comforting bed. I could not sleep on my back for two nights after.

All in all, it was a fantastic journey. Everyone had a great time and one of the highlights of the day was when my battered Boxer overtook the Bullet cruiser bike on the highway at full speed. I was at full speed. The Bullet was standing still on the side of the road.

The Joys Of Riding In Threes

It was one of those Sundays at the end of which, you wished it were a Saturday.

Six of us decided, I don’t know why, to take our bikes and go on a long road trip. And we decided to do it on a Sunday, with all of us having to work early on Monday morning. Yet, the enthusiasm of youth (or stupidity) made us go ahead with the plan. Out came the three mismatched bikes (a Bullet, a Yamaha and a Bajaj) and with a pillion rider each, we set forth on the path to serendipity.

I will write a longish post about the trip with photographs by tomorrow.

We did, however, witness something weird on our sojourn. No sooner had we left Bangalore, we started seeing a lot of bikes on the road with three people or more squeezed on them. I think the record was five – two adults and three kids on a scooter.

The trend continued all the way to Talkad, some 160 kilometers from Bangalore. On our way back, we saw a family of three clutching on to dear life on an aging bike that had seen better days. The funniest one was where we saw two fully-grown men on a bike, and behind them, a woman in a silk saree sitting sideways. The guy who was driving was almost sitting on the gas tank. Twice or thrice, they almost toppled over, and given the fact that it was slow-moving bumper-to-bumper traffic, the balancing act was that much harder.

I have never ridden in threes on any bike. Maybe because I’m huge, but I like to consider myself a very rational human being. I wouldn’t want to torture any bike with three people, where one of them is me.