Monday, March 27, 2006

The steed was de-lighted. Her lights were refusing to work. That fact came into my cognizance only after I'd slithered onto the Bangalore highway on my way back home. Which fact, you'll quite agree, is distinctly unfunny at a quarter past ten in the night on a dark highway, particularly when 15 km of that thoroughfare has planted itself between you and home.

During previous rides, the headlight being in order had quite attenuated my sensitivity to the fact that there were, in fact, no street lights on the said highway. I could, of course, navigate the steed by the lights of the city that loomed beyond the knolls and go at 70 or so, but proceeding for some 10 meters sufficed to convince me of the hopeless inadequacy of the said so-called illumination for the requisite speed.

I was by now 10 meters ahead, which quite ruled out the possibility of going all the way back into the city and clutching the old highway. There was lethargy pertinent to the extra distance to be driven, there was also what I was trying to tell myself was pride, and how I'd be proud to have driven at 70kmph in pitch darkness – tale for grandchildren and that sort of thing.

Easy does it, I thought. All I need do is latch onto another motorcyclist and follow his tail light. Other motorcyclists were quite at the desired speed, so I let go as soon as the next whizz went past, and charged ahead. Seeing a blot of red 20 meters ahead and heading straight on in that general direction shouldn't be that difficult, I told myself.

A curve announced its arrival by the shoving the road away to my right, and this I had to negotiate without the benefit of any sort of illumination, for the red dot lit no part of the road, and illuminated nothing but itself. Being on the edge of the road, ambitious of touching 70, it isn't the easiest of tasks to avoid contemplating the possibility of the tar underneath your wheels sprinting off to your right and giving way to gravel, or worse - to bushes and vegetation lining the road, or to ditches and drains that were in equal abundance, or for that matter to air which would gladly proclaim its presence whenever the road would prop itself upwards.

Thoughts of the sort, therefore, walked into my head, checked in and made themselves comfortable. By now, the red spot had drifted away. The gently rising embankments of the hillock lay both to my left and right – those on my right being pockmarked by sparks, by dots of various shades of yellow and white of the city lights that punctured the darkness like shards of broken glass glinting in sunlight, but which sparkles stubbornly refused to be bright enough to show me my way ahead.

There were other red lights I could chase, and I could even do so at 60-70. But to do so and simultaneously stay on the road was, I reluctantly admitted to myself, rather beyond my abilities, considerable as they might be. I therefore resigned myself to having to take the steed along at 30 or so. Due deceleration was effected.

Given the highway was this one, I feared that a pace of 30 odd would amount to sheer torture. The next swing of the road to the left drove into exile such, and all other thought, for I was by now really paying attention, really looking, concentrating, on what I could see nothing whatsoever of. Call it survival instinct if you must – not wanting to end up on a hospital bed, I must humbly confess, does come rather naturally to me.

For the first time since I had begun driving, I was actually looking ahead, forward, and not sideways. What was my sole concern was what was immediate, and not any of the accompanying frills or sideshows. Sometimes, while on the road, when you see, love the people, the landscapes, the hills, the rivers, the skies, you miss the road itself – it's easy to skip the obvious.

I could today see the dull, dark twin blotches stroll away ahead of me, and see nothing but that. There were occasional shimmers of the radium signposts flanking the path, there was the yellow-white stripe on the left edge following it loyally to the end of the world, there were thickets that you could only see the outlines of – that earlier rides had told you were the clumps of bougainvillea that had sprung from the dividers. The road waved about left and right in curls whose roundedness I had never noticed before – somehow all that seemed to have mattered before was the speedometer reading. Mohandas had told me too – there's more to life than increasing its speed. The smooth curvature – like that of an infant's cheeks, looked like one huge, unconcerned swoosh of some cosmic paintbrush.

Sometimes embracing the hillocks, sometimes breaking free to be all by itself, sometimes taking a peek at a the shimmying of a lake that lay downstairs, occasionally crawling underneath bridges, sometimes wiggling between cliffs, at times going up on its toes to skip across rivulets, the road stretched itself out upon its back as it lay down underneath the blanket of the inky sky, even as the occasional roar of an overtaking vehicle dissolved into a crimson speck in the distance.

It moved on seemingly in ripples - flutters that used to be concealed from you before by speed, preoccupations, everything else you thought was terribly important. It gently, softly sauntered up, making of itself a mound that you felt you could almost slide off, and as it leisurely ambled down the rise I saw a glimmering stream of golden yellow, which was all you could see of the lights of the few oncoming vehicles there were at this time. It was an incandescent dribbling brook of gold that sputtered irregularly forth from far ahead, and lay before you in a neat straight line comprising of fluorescent droplets. The intermittent, discontinuous garland of approaching embers threaded together by the black of the road gave out a dazzle that glared into your eyes as it approached, and for that reason I had to try all the more harder to see the road directly ahead, immediately underneath my tyres.



***

One is reminded of these verses. Also these, and these.

3 comments:

Anand Shrivastava said...

Hi da... great blog!! Read all your posts ...while being jobless in office had more than a little to do with it but it also helped that the posts were really good (specially the one about baths not being essential...it struck a chord somewhere) - Lallu.

Varun Sadana said...

I had a similar endeavour and well i think you have written it like the best i wanted to read it!! nice worl done.. and i'll make sure that ur travelgogues are read by this dilapidated soul..

Shamanth said...

[Lallu] - A pleasant surprise bumping into you here, da. Thanks. I've visited your blog occasionally too.

[Varun] - Thanks, man. I'm only beginning to love bikes, so there's a lot more to be experienced, and hopefully written about.

P.S.- Apologies for getting back this late - been traveling.