Satoma Asadgamaya

In Memory

Migrated Datasets


Friday, December 10, 2004

Romancing the Roads

"Here Comes The Sun"

November 28, 5:15 am, The Ashram.

I was rudely jolted out of my sleep by the unrelenting alarm. If there's anything I hate, it's being woken up early. But there I was, up on my feet in a jiffy. I raced to the terrace where I saw a feeble sun trying to break through the dark sky. I knew it would be a great day.


November 28, 5:50 am, The Ashram.

Lonely planeteers, backpackers, hitchhikers, explorers, seekers - brothers-in-arms characterised by the same restlessness and instability and lunacy. And then there are the pilgrims - a special part of this special fraternity. In search of coherence and meaning, with a firm convinction that it does exist (unlike the seekers), pilgrims don't require much except for :

# A pen and some paper
# A machine (bike/SUV/boat/airplane/helicopter/snowmobile/dune-buggy/hovercraft)
# A digicam
# An iPod

But most pilgrims are an impoverished lot. Boats and digicams and iPods are beyond their wildest dreams. I want to be a pilgrim anyway.

"Travelling Light"

November 28, 6:30 am, The Ashram.

I did not plan to take any accessories along. Not even a backpack. Just a pen, a piece of paper, my mobile and a borrowed camera. There was no place in my pockets for the chain. Tried putting it under the seat,but it clanked jarringly. I then tried to wrap it around my knee. Very grunge. But I don't care two hoots for grunge and it was bugging me. So I just left it behind.

Final check. Brakes. Lights. Horn. Pressure. Oil. Fuel. And the papers. And, oh yes, I managed cram the Hindu down below the dome.

My Pulsar growled menacingly. I was on my way.

"Hungry Like The Wolf"

November 28, 6:55 am, Korathur.

Soon my stomach was growling as well. Not the way my liver and my project management do, but I had to stop for some grub nonetheless. Four great vadas and two okayish idlis - all for Rs. 12 - were enough to appease it.


November 28, 7:15 am, somewhere on NH-5.

I was out of the 100 ft road now and onto NH-5. I love NH-5. I love it because it goes to two of my favourite places - Kharagpur and Visakhapatnam. Later, I got a third reason to love it. The road was great but traffic and cattle spoilt the ride. And hell, the milestones were all in Tamil. Finally, my eyes lit up as I spotted a clear stretch ahead. My bike roared in glee as I opened him up. 70...80...90...a wobble...80...90...95...another wobble...80...damn the crosswinds. I shook my head and backed off.

"The Long and Winding Road"

November 28, 7:30 am, off the highway.

There's no point in biking on the highway if your speedometer does not hit the three figure mark. I had crossed the toll gate, about 30 km from my den, but I still hadn't done it. I was miffed. Maybe it wasn't going to be such a great day after all. About four kilometres from the toll gate, I turned right for the road that leads to Ponneri town. It was
a 7 km drive through farmland and an industrial cluster that took me to Ponneri. Ponneri is an uninspiring dustbowl of a town. I didn't even feel like stopping there so I continued on my way to Pulicat village or Pazhaverkadu (as it is popularly known), which was about 18 km away. The road deteriorated into a wavy ribbon of potholes and unmarked

"The Sound of Silence"

November 28, 7:40 am, still en route .

The first of them literally had me take off like a rocket. It wrecked my bike's suspension as well as mine.I decided to stop for a while, stretch my suspended back, back into animation, and then take a walk around. I trudged into a nearby paddy field. I could smell the lagoon, taste the moisture in the air and feel the breeze behind me. All that I could see was a sea of green and not a soul in sight. And I heard a sweet melody - the greatest of all melodies - silence.

"Here I Am"

November 28, 8:10 am, Pulicat waterfront.

It took me precisely an hour and forty minutes to travel about 60 kilometres. But I had a couple of pitstops, without which, it could have been done in an hour. Contrary to public perception, Pulicat isn't really that far from Chennai. Lake Pulicat is the second largest lagoon in India, the largest being Lake Chilka in Orissa. It is a remarkable one at that. There are numerous islands,some of which are a second home to migratory waterfowl that come all the way from the Tundra and the Taiga. One of the islands houses the heavily-guarded Sriharikota Launch Centre.The village of Pulicat, though, is a ramshackle undeveloped place. There's no tourist infrastructure whatsoever (which is good) but no local entrepreneurship (which is bad). There was not one tourist out there. In fact, all along the road, including the highway,I had seen lots of people on bikes but not a single biker.

There I was - looking like Michael Rosenbaum - standing in front of the lake. And then, my bike and I were mobbed by a horde of boatsmen. It was like a school of piranhas swarming all over a piece of meat. I was almost driven bonkers by the way they clawed and pawed at my bike, and hardsold their boat rides. I was sure that the apple of my eyes and I would be parted forever if I left him there, chain or no chain. I tried looking for a police station where I could park him but failed to locate one. I just had to do by driving up the road and parking him in the busy little market. I put a twenty into a shopkeeper's hand and asked him to keep an eye over my baby.

"Sunshine On My Shoulders"

November 28, 8:40 am, my own houseboat.

I walked back to the waterfront with a badly-crumpled Hindu in my hand. I took a path along the shore for a while before settling down in what seemed to be a derelict boat. The warm sun was beating down on my face but I didn't mind it one bit. I just took my shirt off, lay back and read the Sunday Hindu. It was cool.

The Pulicat is amazingly shallow. I could see people about 100-150 m into the lagoon, standing in waist-deep water and fishing.And I actually saw a bullock-cart coming right through the water from the lighthouse island right opposite to the main wharf. I don't know whether the bullocks were swimming or walking but the very sight was unbelievable. And I missed that photo opportunity.Damn me. It's the sort of place where even non-swimmers may frolic about and play a game of water-polo or something.

I started to dream. "I must down to the seas the lonely sea and the sky"..."I chatter chatter as I flow...for men may come and men may go"..."Blow bugle blow...set the wild echoes flying"...". Tried to write a bit. Did write a bit. Maybe some other day.

"Don't Look Back In Anger"

November 28, 9:35 am, on the lakeside trail.

By the way, there's a regular boat service to the lighthouse island which is pretty cheap - all of Rs. 5. They overload the boats but I don't think anybody's ever drowned in the Pulicat. These boats are of an ancient stock but most of them do tend to have an outboard motor. I wasn't too keen on heading across the channel because a) the island looked pretty nondescript and b) they didn't allow people up the lighthouse.

They told me that there was a ruined Dutch chapel and a cemetery on some island nearby. And that most of the important and biologically-rich islands were far away, about 2-3 hours by water, in the jurisdiction of gultland. Basically what I understood was that bird-watchers ought to approach the lake from the Andhra side. But since I don't watch birds, both the ones that fly and the ones that don't, it didn't really matter to me.

But what mattered was riding the lake.I remember how I tipped the guy at the Idukki dam (during my training at Trivandrum) a full hundred bucks in order to have all sorts of spectacular turns and leaps during our ride. And I remember asking him afterwards how much the boat cost. A simple fibre-glass shell with a basic Yamaha engine - three and half lakhs. Wow! Maybe someday.

A whistlestop trip around a couple of nearby islands costs Rs. 400 per boat. Each boat can seat 20 (at least that's what they say). Trips deep into the Pulicat, may cost Rs.1500-Rs 5000, depending on the distance. It's not expensive by any standards as long as there's a quorum at hand. I was tempted to shell out Rs. 400 but a look at my wallet reminded me of the pauper that I was.

I was angry. I never rode the backwaters of the Pulicat. For those who want to, perhaps, it's a better idea to go to Sullurpeta across the border and throw in a trip to Tada as well.

"Coming Back To Life"

November 28, 10:10 am, on my way back.

I walked back to the market, hoping I wouldn't be greeted by anything to worsen my mood. I wasn't. I took him down to the waterfront again, put on my goggles and said to the Pulicat, "I'll be back."

My spirits returned as I felt the reassuring growl of my faithful companion and the nonchalant whistle of the wind. And what more, I actually spotted a wine shop tucked away around a corner. Sore temptation. I'm not much of a beer-guzzler but a cold beer under the hot sun is just the thing. I can solve differential equations when I'm drunk but
it's better to stay dry while riding. This time I was more careful with the nasty speedbreakers. Branched into a couple of smaller roads, hoping that they'd lead me somewhere around the lakefront, but they were false leads. I guess there are no motorable road with a view in that part of the Pulicat at least.

"Born To Be Wild"

November 28, 11:05 am, NH-5/Ponneri road junction.

It was time to have some liquids. Mirinda suits me just fine.

But it was too early to go back. I would have made it back to my den in 45 minutes at the most.

No. I had to do something. I decided to head for gultland and breathe in its free air. I had no idea how far it was but I knew it couldn't be too far. I mounted my steed and set off in the other direction, away from Chennai. NH-5 took my breath away. This stretch was even better than the one before. And it sure is safer than ECR where they don't even have dividers. The traffic was minimal but wind played a spoilsport again. It was difficult to control him even at a measly 60 Ks. It was bloody irritating but there was nothing else that I could do. We just crawled along the highway.

I don't know what did the trick - a bend in the road or the wind's sympathy. I set him up as I felt the wind die down a bit. With eager anticipation, I opened the throttle. 60...70...80...a wobble...70...80...not again...70...a big one. This was freaking me off. I backed off again and tried again after a while. No change in the results.

A red film exploded over my eyes. Chuck it.

I opened him up yet again. 60...70...80...a wobble...90...another one...95...wobble...100...105...wobble...110.

I wish I could have seen myself. When one wears a skull of impenetrable crapium (the densest element known), I guess anything's possible. What the hell are winds and wobbles? And I went 'Woooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!'
- a la Ric Flair. And I found my third reason to fall in love with NH-5.


I think I could have gone faster but that's the fastest my machine can go.

I don't remember how many times I broke the three figure mark thereafter. But the first one was the best one.

I'm in really bad shape and I had been riding for 120 kilometres. My back was hurting so I decided to turn back, without crossing over into gultland. I took a U-turn a few kilometres after Gummidipindi town, about 25 kilometres from the NH-5/Ponneri junction. And what an awesome return trip it was. I simply thundered away with a frighteningly high speed-consistency that I didn't know that I had. Overtaking at 100+ was something I had never done before but I just lost count of the number of times that I did it that day. I believe it was my graduation day.


November 28, 11:50 am, beyond the toll gate, towards Chennai.

I slowed down to a snail's pace and brought my machine to a stop by the side of the road. I took a deep breath and took off my goggles. And I just sat there on the ground, panting and out of breath, flushed and red, with my heart pounding and my eyes streaming. No, I wasn't crying. They always water at high speeds. Myriad thoughts flooded in and out of my mind as I looked at my hands that were still vibrating.

One of my friends had recently remarked that solo biking, and indeed solo travelling, was an exercise in soul purification. I don't know if there's a soul but I felt unfettered and unbound. It was magical. It was ecstasy. It was rapture. Somethings just have to be done. Instinctively.I would do it again. And again. And again. And again.

I just sat there for some time, absorbing the blue and the gold above, the brown below and the green all around. I felt part of the universe.

"On My Way Home"

November 28, 12:30 pm, the same spot.

Did I mention that I had spotted a few solitary bikers on the highway in the meantime? Perhaps they were late risers. None of them had pillions. They were all lone rangers, meandering like the lazy river, raging like the mountain stream. Perhaps they were
pilgrims. It felt good to see them. Brothers-in-arms. One guy, a big fellow on a black Karizma, actually smiled and did a 'half-salute'. It was really great. I wish I could have reciprocated but I still have a few things to learn.

I cruised back to Chennai at 60 Ks, feeling on top of the world. I looked around for a dhaba to satiate my taste buds but there was not one to be found. But I knew where to find one. As I headed into the heart of Anna Nagar, I turned right at the roundtana
and made for the Dhaba Express. Home territory. The lunch buffet. Wow! What a day!

"Champagne Supernova"

November 28, 2:00 pm, The Ashram.

I patted him lovingly. "Well done,boy! Go to sleep." And so did I. I had sweet dreams.


Biking on NH-5 : 10/10
Biking off NH-5, towards Pulicat : 5/10
Pulicat village : 2/10
Lake Pulicat (extrapolated) : 9/10

Mental Baba's prescription : Bike all the way to Sullurpeta/Tada and then head for Lake Pulicat.

//STATUTORY WARNING : High speed biking may be injurious to health.

Management Class : Unravelogues

mental baba 11:52 PM
baba ka katora |