“The chilly wind will not stop and the incessant downpour adds to the cold. The deluge has washed away the road at many places. In addition to the apprehension which every blind turn brings, there is a high probability of the tyres slipping in the boulevard. Slightest of error will bring me close to the river which I have been admiring from this high altitude and in rather precarious circumstances. But there is still too much to see and marvel at, the joy of riding in the rain, the delight of every morning. So I just move on and on…….”
“Only a biker knows why a dog sticks his head out of a car window.”
When I boarded the Garib Rath express to Guwahati I had only one thing in mind, I wanted to do a Dilli. But I guess this Chaiwala had betted a fortune on waking me up. It was not that disturbing feeling of a bug singing songs in your ear but a knock on the head to wake up. The tea smelt good; probably it had gathered some aroma from the passing tea fields. The kind that is devoid of milk and can barely be called lukewarm. So in one word the tea only had aroma.
If you have seen the secret inspirational documentary you will understand how strong desire formulates into results. Ask me how this trip happened and I can only say because of my strong desire. At least you will agree that there has to be coherence between two people and you keep bumping into the ones with whom your frequency matches. This is why the blog is named ‘Serendipity’ and serendipity it was when one of my close friend (In fact one of the very few from the fairer sex) was in Kolkata. I may forget the umpteen beverages we may have had together but a cup of coffee in a packed railway station is something I would always cherish for the rest of my life. Stepping in the train I was both happy and thankful that we met.
It feels like from the sets of a movie, ‘Before Sunset’ as my train speeds towards Guwahati. The only difference is that there is no beautiful lady on the other side, in fact there could have been one. When I boarded the train there was a lady and her daughter already sitting on my allotted berth. The lady said to me, ”beta aap agar akele ho to iis seat pe chale jao please.” At that very moment another female walks in and the lady repeats the same sentence to her. I had no choice but to pick one seat while the other chose one. All I can say is, ”Bhagwaan aakhir kab tak kaat te rahoge?” Bachelor life in India I tell you!
The last two hours of my journey towards Guwahati is very scenic. It reminds me of one post that Moli wrote while traveling on the same route. Assam and Arunachal Pradesh are two states where one can see the tropical rain forests. I verified the fact later but at that moment in the train I knew this has to be an evergreen forest. As far as you can see it was greenery all around and if you strained your eyes a little more you could see a brown outline of mountains covering this magnetic green. I went a step further and strained my ears to listen to the mountains calling me. So it was how I reached Guwahati reading a book and occasionally admiring the reflections of the sky in the clean streams.
Do you remember the temperature change we experience on entering the main gate of our college? It is exactly the same feeling when one enters the Bandardewa check post towards Itanagar. The distance from this gate to Moli’s place was 30 km and I was overcome by an inexplicable excitement. The hug seemed so familiar, seemed we had met just yesterday. We slept for half of the day and then met the other 2 biker friends. Later in the evening we had a game of football reminiscing of the numerous evenings we had spent doing the same.
P.S. Much of this was scribbled on a national highway when Moli was busy taking some video shots.
Mirrors on the ceiling,
The pink champagne on ice
And she said ‘We are all just prisoners here, of our own device’
Chapter 2 – Taking the Plunge
Appreciating small things in life keeps you moving, it fulfills the minimum joy requirements of a person on a daily basis. The joy of riding back home in rain after a game of football is immense. Rain not only pacifies the fury of the game but also brings some respite to the parched lips. The initial drops of rain which fall on the lips taste salty but nonetheless trigger the subconscious. Under a more alert stage one opens their mouth to let in the raindrops. Honestly only those who let the rain drop in understand the sweetness of it taste. I have realized that biking is all about seeking these small pleasures; enjoying the freedom to be on your own, drifting in unison with the clouds, dancing with the crops and riding on the wind. So with this attitude of not being the center of the universe but to become a part of the world, I sat on the bike to mark the beginning of an enchanting journey.
My friend Arpan always talked about living in the moment. I find sports are great for being in the moment, and the uncertainty of the game result keeps you driving forward. It was in this voyage that I found the biking to have the same effect. A little trepidation is important to bring us out of our comfort zone. With no challenge, no fear, life becomes shallow and mundane. Lance Armstrong has an interesting way to test whether he is going to live. He goes to a high cliff in a secluded place and jumps from high altitudes into the cold water below. This plunge into the sublime keeps him going. It is this fear, this apprehension that a plunge eliminates. The best part is there is no turning back, a dip, a gush of water through the nose and ears and then the upward movement to the open, to victory and to a world where there is no fear.
I got the first glimpse of the river near Akashi Ganga at quite a distance from the main spot. But the very first glimpse insured that in some time I would experience a gift of Mother Nature alien to the human civilization. Greenish water flowing between grayish white rocks was so clean that there was no need of swimming glasses to find one’s way inside water. No prose, no clicks can bring out the beauty of this place. I can boast of having seen so many waterfalls and rivers in my previous travels but this was an awe-inspiring spectacle. Ideally I would have just plunged into the river but a previous experience in one of the treks brought in that fear.
This was my first tryst with flowing water of the trip and I knew there would be plenty of these to come. To jump or not to jump was the question and risk and safety were the alternatives. Taking a plunge at that moment was one great lesson learnt in life
I feel Arunachal is the best place for writers, artists and poets for genius thrives only in solitude. A true testimony to this is a 350 meter hanging bridge standing alone over a misty river. Standing in the middle of the bridge when I look down, I know that if I fall I will have enough time for a thought or two. But fears apart this is an experience which will resonate in my mind for a long time to come. Though nature can overpower anything, such bridges speak of immense human endeavor to conquer the unconquered.
Every new experience in life is plunging into the unknown and coming out victorious.
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
-Daffodils by William Wordsworth
Chapter 3-Into the Wild
“This is the most beautiful place in the world.” Standing on the peak of a mountain in Menchukha I am spent and revived at the same time. I am standing in the mist while a fog has just lifted between me and my conscience. I stand, holding the waving flag, surfing in the waves of independence and freedom. After a long time my conscience is at ease and i am in harmony with myself. It is in this wilderness I find a joy unknown to the concrete, corporeal and material world.
In the book, ’Into the Wild’ Jon Krakauer has reproduced some of the letters written by Chris. I quote here few lines from a letter which Chris writes to Ron,
”The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new different sun.”
I have lately become a recluse not because i hate people but because I want to get away from emotions. We live in a society which holds comfort as the highest ideal, the everyday expansion of consumerism is a burning example of it. Khushwant Singh rightly says that reality shows are a waste of time and i totally agree with him. We are an emotional lot and people play with emotions. Into the wilderness i have often found peace of mind and clarity of emotions. I think detachment is an important thing to learn in life and living some days on your own teaches you this. In the journey to the mountain top in Arunachal I started living again.
My professors at college would be happy to see that something made by their students did float! Far from the displacement calculations and resistance measurement this was made out of bamboo and ropes. The hollow structure of bamboo provides the buoyancy and horizontal wood sticks tied to the bamboo with ropes gives the strength. With a little practice of rowing in the shallow water, one could easily handle it in deep waters. Apart from the rowing, the water was too good for swimming and a good part of a day was spent here. To talk of food, my friends who all visited Arunachal last time would appreciate the taste of rice cooked in bamboo. I had rice, maggi while my non-veg friends had chicken cooked in bamboo shells. I had one of the tastiest lunches of my life, cooked in the wild.
At my friends’ village named Jini we had plans of lazing out and fishing but rains played spoil sport. But no rain could dampen our spirits and we explored nearby places in the downpour. This is how we landed to this river which was exactly like from the sets of a movie, ‘Into the Wild.’ It reminded me of the scene when Chris decides to return back and to his dismay finds the river to be invincible. I had always dreamt of being at such a place just with my friends with no human intrusion whatsoever, of a place where the only noise was of the roaring river, a place where humans and animals lived in harmony, of ice cold waters as clear as crystal.
It is in making my own trails that I have found so much joy. Come on friends pack your bags and head into the wild.
Eisenheim: From the moment we enter this life we are in the flow of it. We measure it and We mock it, but we cannot defy it. We cannot even speed it up or slow it down. Or can we? Have we not each experienced the sensation that a beautiful moment seemed to pass too quickly, and wished that we could make it linger? Or felt time slow on a dull day, and wished that we could speed things up a bit?
(A Dialogue from the movie,The Illusionist.)
Chapter 4 : Riding the Dream
The Sun has calmed down a bit and I am about to reach the day’s rest point. It has been a flat course on the first day of the trip except for the last 5-10 minutes, when I have had the first tryst with the valley, marking the beginning of what would be a romantic date with nature. An unknown calm sets in, I feel resurrected and small at the same time. I see clarity in my thoughts and understand that this is what we call as unbridled joy and freedom. Today at 4 a.m.in Itanagar I spent a minute or two in solitude, gazing at the cloud covered mountains. I could hear them call and at this moment I embrace them.
A journey is like the course of a river, it is destined to flow into the sea, but the path it weaves forms its essence. A journey is like a game of football; it is about the sliding tackles, the penalty kicks, the 50-50 balls, every second of the 90 minutes. Sometimes a journey is like swinging on birch trees, for a moment leaving the earth into a free space and then returning back to start all over again. I had a journey of stumbles, falls, jumps, skids, punchers, smokes, rivers, waterfalls, rainbows, mountains, clouds, grasses, winds, rubble, horses, rains, songs, teas, samosas, apong, maggi, rice, solitude, bliss, peace, clarity and on and on. I was fortunate that I had friends to share these with. Happiness is a way of travel and at some point in this journey I found my way.
On my second day on bike I knew that I was doomed to move in circles. At every 50-60 meters was a blind turn and brakes, decelerate, change the gear, honk, bend, turn and accelerate was to become a never ending regime for 10 more days to come. On an emotional level I was getting entwined with nature. The sweet fragrance of wet grass welcomed me as I entered the valley, but as the trip progressed i became a part of the aroma. What began as singing songs in the dark bubble of my helmet was soon replaced by a natural symphony. With the passage of time, the rain felt less harsh, the water less cooler and every passing turn on the road more familiar. I realized I was becoming a part of the eternity and this was not a dream.
Biking on a Royal Enfield in Ladakh was a completely different experience from what I was having in Arunachal. The best thing about biking here was that the roads prepared you for the next day. What started with flat roads on first day soon turned to never ending circles! Slowly these circles became narrower and landslides became imminent. And when I thought this would be it, it started raining. In fact I rode for one whole day in rain on the most difficult of the tracks. There are something in life that come expected and then there are those that are unexpected. It is this anticipation of the unexpected which makes biking so exciting. On a rainy day there were many instances when I had to just go into the puddle, leaving things to fate. I wrote of this earlier that I had to take the plunge.
The chilly wind will not stop and the incessant downpour adds to the cold. The deluge has washed away the road at many places. In addition to the apprehension which every blind turn brings, there is a high probability of the tyres slipping in the boulevard. Slightest of error will bring me close to the river which I have been admiring from this high altitude and in rather precarious circumstances. But there is still too much to see and marvel at, the joy of riding in the rain, the delight of every morning. So I just move on and on.
You are a bit tired from the ride and you enter a tea shop to have the whole place to yourself. This feeling of space made me often feel at home. If you have someone like Moli as your riding partner there is no chance of being bored. Often correcting his lyrics and understanding the theory of Adiabatic Penis, taking videos time just flew by. In the process I learnt discipline and patience. Someone has rightly said,”Patience is the ability to idle your motor when you feel like stripping your gears.”
Comes the morning
When I can feel
That there’s nothing left to be concealed
Moving on a scene surreal
No, my heart will never
Will never be far from here
(No Ceiling Lyrics -Eddie Vedder)
Chapter 5 : Falling in love with Arunachal
There are times in life when you get stuck in a moment and wish it lasted forever. But moments are like bubbles, like waves hitting the shore one after the other. It is this fleeting nature of moment that makes it so precious. Passing by the signboard which read, ‘VILLAGE KAMKI’ filled me with an admiration of the friendship I shared with a special person. Six years of laughs and tears and a ephemeral moment.
Whenever my mind takes a stroll down the memory lane it inadvertently reaches Arunachal and fills me with sweet feelings of freedom. A place where life is not piled upon life, where strangeness and wonder of existence is emphasized, where humans, flora and fauna co-exist in harmony. Nature has bestowed equal opportunity of growth to everyone and so every living organism stands out bold and tall overlooking a canopy of green.
Arunachal is a paradise for the solitude lovers. Probably this is the reason why we find Mithuns in the valleys of Arunachal. It is fun to meet someone who is like minded but it’s a rarity to find your resemblance in an animal. Mithuns are an integral part of the culture and hold paramount significance in rituals. But these animals are freedom lovers and live in the wild. They pay occasional visits to their owner’s house. As they say that animals have an instinct and this one really had some. He also wanted to see a human counterpart and turned to the owner’s house, the very day I was there.
I took this journey to swim away from the human responses of anger, fear and judgment. I wanted to swim to an unknown island hidden within myself. In this journey I met many new people, lived a new culture, made awesome friends and in the process found my soul.
Thanks for being with me in the journey. Would love to know the chapter of my journey you like the most.