If you can see only vileness in humanity, take a long cycle ride in the hinterlands, in rural India; experience its idyllic setting where beauty thrives. This is not the beauty of glitz and glamour; this is real beauty juxtaposed with squalor and has no trace of superficiality about it.
|Riders getting ready|
The ride was special and named aptly – Moonlight carnival. We started the ride at 2.30 AM from Kollegal. The bus ride to Kollegal (situated 145 kms from Bangalore) took us a little more than 3 hours. In the moonlight, aided by conventional and miner’s torches, we set about getting the bikes ready for the ride. Having been part of 4 rides organized by CAM (Cycling and more) the team was extremely helpful and Manohar, our organizer for this particular ride can be easily named Mr. Cool.
If I can play a trick on William Wordsworth’s famous lines –
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!
And make it read,
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be cycling was very heaven!
I’d certainly not be lying!
The pleasant breeze and the silence of the night were a perfect invitation. Unlike rides that start during the day, where most riders like to speed off in the beginning, in this case, hardly anyone bothered with speed. We were more than happy to engage in the cyclist version of saunter. Our destination was the Forest rest house at the foot of the BR hills in Bylore, 45 kms away.
I started the ride alongside Nandini and listened to her experiences in NCBS (National Centre for Biological Sciences) as a research associate. It was a different world for me – biological research, fruit flies, state aids for research etc. Soon, Sandeep, Harsha and Rohan joined and briefly we were a group. In the darkness, except for the occasional stray dog, our own conversations and the rattle of the wheels against the road were the only sounds to break the silence. Sometimes a torch from an early riser would sweep to scan us…
|The colors of sunrise|
It is not that we have not been on night rides in the countryside. The difference here was the physical effort we exerted and the absence of the ugly engine noise. Indeed, cycles come closest to being nature friendly modes of transportation! At dawn break, I caught up with Neeraj, Kaavya and Megha just ahead of a dusty and stone-laden track of road. The sun was up before we realized – so sudden it was that the whole thing struck me as an anticlimax. The few minutes before sunrise were the best part as the last vestiges of darkness were swept off gently and the sky was bathed in soft glows of orange and blue.
At Odeyara Palya, we alighted to have tea. When we resumed, the villages on either side of the road sprang to life. We confronted idling men, busy women and pleasantly surprised children. The sunlight revealed swathes of green and reddish-brown vegetation. At 7.30 AM, we reached our destination for the morning.
|Bylore Forest Rest House|
Breakfast was simple and hot. While some riders took turns to freshen up, some others went to sleep. I took a quick 2 hour nap in a tent. Even as the sun steadily traversed an arc from the east, the heat was not unbearable. A game of cards was in progress and briefly I sat next to the group. By lunch time, almost everyone had taken bath. Lunch was hot sambar rice with cabbage, pickle and curd. After lunch, we lay down on mats in the shade…to do nothing, think nothing and look forward to nothing is a pleasure in itself.
At 4 PM, we started the ride towards Dzogchen monastery, off Odeyara Palya. The approach road was just about motor able and can do with some restoration! The Dhondenling Tibetan Settlement is a world in itself. Young women on bikes, kids beaming with the classic Tibetan smile, genial looks on old men and women – the picturesque settlement had all the traces of one that is coming out a time warp. Young monks in the monastery played with gay abandon and cherubic innocence is how I can describe their smiles. One wished the monastery was open though!
Riding back alone to the forest house, I met a curious girl who thought I am a foreigner. She demanded amusingly what my business was. When I said, we have no business apart from cycling, her pleasantly surprised expression had me in splits of laughter. The confidence with which she spoke in English and later switched to chaste Hindi was ironical since we were in rural Karnataka. I wonder whether this is because of feature rich mobile phones or satellite television!!
I spent the hours before dinner gazing at the stars and the moon through the dense foliage of a large tree. I recommend this as an exercise to come to terms with the insignificance of our lives – so negligible and pale as part of the cosmos, we often overestimate our own relevance and indulge in comical pursuits. After all, a grain in a haystack! Paradoxically, this realization bestows the power to love our fellow human beings. This love makes us powerful and strong, not weak and spineless because there is just awareness here; not attachment.
|Day 2 Morning|
Day 2 – we rose early to have coffee and a light breakfast. The sun had just risen when we started the ride. There was no human habitation on either side of the road – it was just endless stretch of mountains interspersed with sparse greenery as far as the eye could see.
We were a small group of 5 until Garemalam, border town between Tamilnadu and Karnataka. The undulating roads were smooth and easy to ride on. I felt an intense urge to freeze the moment. Mankind should invent something that makes this possible – to wrap all the enablers of a particular moment (such as this), add some preservative and bottle them up together in a container. Whenever one wants, one should just uncork the bottle and be able to relive the memory in all its vividness again!
The ride from Garemalam till Arepalayam was mostly a descent. At a particular bend in the road, we stopped for rest. It was time for bike salute and we took umpteen numbers of snaps here. After Arepalayam, we took a sharp right to take the road to Hasanur. Being a national highway, there were lot of KSRTC and TNSTC buses plying on this one. At Punajanur gate, Megha’s cycle got punctured and the guys led by Mr. Fixit alias Venkatesh sweated it out before we resumed. It proved to be a welcome break.
We reached the endpoint for the ride shortly before noon. Our Mr. Cool was swamped with all kinds of gadgetry when he offered to click group pictures! During the initial few hours of the short return journey, most of us took a short nap. Around 5 PM after a stop for coconut water, we started dumb charades. With some quirky names and equally quirky acts, we couldn’t have laughed more. Pavan’s act for Melina would easily take the icing here!
At 6.15 PM, I alighted at Jayanagar – with a single step, I was back in the harsh world of reality.