A gash of violet and the twilight’s fading,
the moon’s out, half a pearl and waning
Someone’s out there with colour and paint,
He touches her, a bliss colour he paints so faint.
The moon in her eye sparkles a star,
lightens up another, twitches a scar.
The dawn’s here, the Painter is at work again,
touches him with paint and a bit of pain.
I’ve been hunched over my handles for ten hours and the last four-hour in pitch darkness but for the small round-red tail light of the Enfield bullet. My headlight serves more as a cautionary light to vehicles coming in the opposite than guide me across even ten feet. It’s like being on a manic ride in a theme park, sudden bright lights, followed by a rush of wind and then sudden darkness. Red and silver spots float around my eyes; little fire flies that die with the first hint of another bright passing light. We grossly underestimated the ride in the dark, made a clerical mistake of choosing a state highway to get to Bangalore from Shimoga, this highway turned out to be a double lane road with trucks and buses hurtling across with blinding high beams and utter callousness towards us nimble two wheelers. Several weeks later, when the euphoria of the ride had died, I looked up the route on google maps and realized a small detour via Chitradurga would have made our lives a lot easier, it was an additional seventeen kilometers and meant we would have ridden the Bangalore-Mumbai Highway back to Bangalore. The difference? Tolled six lane highway, lit up like a Christmas tree all the way to home sweet home with a reduced risk of getting running over and no freakish invisible speed breakers. But the ride was sweet along with learning a ton of lessons.
Learning lessons and drawing parallels, philosophical yes, but those little lessons learnt don’t come printed in handbooks, it’s on the road you learn and relearn. Ride one to Coorg, learnt never to wear briefs on a long ride, bums will be war-torn with red welts and no, Vaseline doesn’t help, boxers is the answer and bums are thankful. Lesson two, never carry backpacks, even if it weighs a feather, after sixty miles, that feather will weigh a ton and your shoulders will be screaming sore. Lessons learnt on this ride, never ever ride into the night fatigued. We started from Bangalore on a cool overcast November evening at seven and rode to Hassan, a ride of four hours in the dark, no challenges. But on the return leg, we took this experience as the benchmark and conveniently chose to forget that we had already rode two hundred kilometers for six hours, four hours into the dark and the fatigue checked in and we were in a constant state of panic. Panic of miss judging a corner, panic of going through a pothole and getting irritated with your riding buddy for no apparent reason and I was rubbed off when Adrian slowed to a stall and pulled over with an ember from the cigarette in his eye.
I still wonder how he managed to get ember into his eye, riding a motorcycle and smoking at the same time and getting unlucky at that exact moment. I go over and check it out; I have fears of seeing a blotch of black where fire made contact to the eye, and fears of Adrian being unable to see the bony finger that I’m pointing at his eye. But the eye seems fine, just the ash from the cigarette finding its way to the eye. Five more minutes and we are good to go and hit the road again. It’s cold, we are tired and hungry and it’s just the two of us on two motorcycles and we’ve got long used to the stares from people in cars. You’d see motorcycles during daylight on highways but not too many on a winter midnight in a remote part of the country.
The day is rushed, I skipped my run to make more room for all the tiny chores and tasks I need to complete by the end of the day, though the tasks are small and not time-consuming, it involves travelling all around town on a summer morning and I don’t want to be out in the sun at noon, the heat can really get to your air-conditioner-acclimatized head, but as it is for every thing planned, Murphy dropped by to say hello, I just couldn’t find the keys to the chain-lock that fastened my motorcycle. I had spare keys to my motorcycle but not the chain-lock. I spent the next half hour hunting for the keys, working up a sweat, emptied pockets, searched the refrigerator, sieved through the junk on my desk and nope, the little key wasn’t to be found. It was a tiny little key, with no key chain, the chances of finding it were slim.
So I pulled out the hacksaw blade, I was surprised I could locate it that fast, normally, things disappear in my house and reappear after a couple of months. I’m yet to set eyes on my race visor since they disappeared four months ago after a run. No hacksaw frame to hold the blade, made use of a small piece of cloth to get a grip on the blade and I started to saw off one small link on the chain link. I had to make two cuts so that a small piece of metal dropped out and I could slip the lock through the empty space created. It was a long half hour, squatting, stretching and getting to work, making sure I was sawing consistently. It went smooth for the first few minutes, I was getting used to the cloth grip and getting into a good rhythm when just like that the blade jammed in the jagged edges of the metal that it had cut through. If I pushed hard the blade would snap and that meant going out to the hardware store to pick another blade. That would be too much of a walk. Had some wild thoughts of sawing off the spokes of my wheel through which the chain link went, I resisted. The last time I got happy with a blade, I sawed off the legs off a chair, just like that.
I tried in vain as the blade kept locking up, the nice sawing motion was getting hard to get, then it struck me, all those long hard sessions on the work bench in college, while sawing, you do not apply strength, you just cut as lightly as possible but with more motions and voila the first cut was made and within the next ten mins the next cut too and a little piece of metal fell through and the lock slipped right through and my bike was free.
I held that little piece of metal, it was still warm with all that sawing, it was tiny, probably the size of a fat water drop and I was contemplating how fictitious the chain link looked now. All of two meters, grey steel and looking strong, and all it took to break it down was a minuscule drop of metal and it’s purpose was lost.
Probably all the troubles of our life is like the chain link, seemingly large and tough, but a little bit of persistence could just make all of that disappear. Some persistence, applying some old lost lessons and really getting onto your haunches to get out of a mess. Or to look at it in a different way, that little piece of metal is what is missing to make our life wholesome as we dream off, one little piece to fit into the puzzle and life I guess is just a long crazy journey to find that missing piece.
PS: I did find the key, it was under the sheets on my bed.
It’s an Indian wedding and more importantly a South Indian wedding. The groom and the bride stand on a stage, behind them two gaudy thrones, on which no one’s been seated for the whole evening. Gaudy thrones, gaudy couple and we the minion guests who mill around in an endless queue to wish the couple good luck and get on with the evening. Where did this peculiar practice start? Stand in a queue to shake hands with the groom and bride one hardly knows, exchange forced smiles from pursed lips and mumble something inaudible, face the camera, flash! and the photographer gestures you to move on, if you linger awhile to probably tell the groom that his cheap off-the-shelf suit looks like a gunny sack, the photographer gets impatient and tells you to get the hell off the stage. I didn’t get shooed off, I kept it short, went straight to the groom, shook hands, pushed the envelope containing a hundred bucks, contribution for the meal am going to eat, smile at the camera and walk away to the dining hall. Yet another queue at the buffet.It’s gonna be a long sultry evening.
The dinner buffet is a mess, the children at each other’s throat for the ice cream and the adults making a killing of the fruit salad. We live in flourishing times, no famine in the recent past, the trees full of fruit, boatload of fish, fields of sheep and goats to be devoured. The plates always full and no guilty pangs when half of the food finds its way to the dump. So, it’s difficult to assess the rush, hard to imagine the beeline and shoving for a measly looking papaya and overcooked paneer.
I don’t want to be here, but I need to. Friendly obligations from a long past, it is required that all don’t find out what a rogue of a son the gentleman had. True, am not my father’s reflection of being the most humble, respected person the town had seen, I try to be, but it’s a hard job to fill into my father’s boots and it is harder not to be quirky and slapstick to certain individuals. There was a gentleman once, a close friend and an aid of my father’s. He didn’t see it unusual to pick on a kid 30 years his junior and call me funny names just because I was real tall and lanky. There were comparisons to a tall Indian actor, lampposts, ladders, all the gentleman could conjure up were comparisons, so much for being 30 years older. No imagination. It wasn’t that I was sharp-witted, but I grew up among classmates who called each other flies, flies buzzing over a rotting corpse or a big fat house fly on a pile of dung. They went further and back-slapped each other when they referenced the stain on a toilet bowl to someone’s face. Full marks for the imagination there. So, being called a lamppost felt silly, I was too thick-skinned by now. That didn’t mean I didn’t sledge this guy, but calling him a pile-of-dung-with-a-fly just didn’t cut it. He never understood. I saw my game of calling him interesting nicknames fall flat on its face. So I had to stoop down to his level and give him a beating without my father extending the same courtesy to me.
If you’ve ever ridden a motorbike, in winter, through falling rain, you’ll already know what I’m talking about. It’s slippery, soggy and surreal.
Every inch of your skin is wet. It doesn’t start that way of course. It’s the shirt first, then the jeans. It’s a valiant effort by your Levis. Soaking in enough water to save a drought bit village, then, your jeans swells and brims over, the water seeping right into your skin. That accelerator is suddenly tougher to grip, the feedback from the engine long-lost to your numb fingers. The clutch is harder than normal and the leather seat biting you through your jeans. You really can’t see where you are going, helmet visors make it tough, without the visor, the sting of the falling rain in your eyes make it near impossible. At the crux of the battle between jeans and the seeping rain, the moment the last defense of your underpants collapses under the
incessant torrent of rain, when you feel the cold rain reach your warm crevices, that’s the moment you decide it’s futile to seek refuge under a tree. But you are enjoying this somewhere, riding ahead with a stupid smile on your face, the water slapping your face and washing away the grime of the day. A stupid wry smile crosses, imagining sheets of water cascading off a mountain face in a rain forest, that’s when you snuggle into your seat, lean in and twist the accelerator a little bit more.