Tuesday, June 12, 2012

It's About the Bum

Crossing over from Goa to Maharashtra,

Crossing the Karli river, had to really convince this guy.

My ride on the boat on the river Karli

Wadantar Back waters, near Vijaydurg

Vijaydurg fort, it was a relief to reach here, the ride till here was never ending.

Can I get a Thums Up please

Crossing over from Vijaydurg to Jaitapur

 Thank God ! it was low tide.

My highest climb, so I thought near Ratnagiri.

 from Dhabol to Dhopave.

When you are down you just have to look around.

A huge ancient Masjid in Dhopave.

Just before crossing over to Raigad.

The terrain, roads were fairly good !!

Crossing over a bridge in Jaitapur

Siolim bridge in Goa
My journey through Konkan on a cycle

"Fear is a good thing."
The night before I started my journey was a nervous one. Packing, unpacking, trying to make my backpack lighter, question's all over me - What if I get robbed? What if I break down? Will I enjoy the journey? and many more. I could not sleep a bit and was just waiting for the Alarm to ring so that I could hit the road very unlike Vinod who just did not want to wake up.

Vinod had been awake for a while but just did not want to get out of his bed, he was pretending to be sleeping, thinking of excuses of avoiding the inevitable. He was stressed and the tension was making him feel sick in the stomach. Eventually he had to get up and go to school though he tried persuading his mom that he was not feeling well . The first few periods were uneventful and as the time passed Vinod grew pale and blue and then, the bell he feared the most rang, the 4th period, the Biology class, Padmavati Mam. Frantically Vinod started asking his friends weather they all had finished the homework assigned for the weekend. He almost cried when he realized that all of them had finished it but he fought back his tears and when his friends asked him about the  homework he lied that he too had completed. In any other subject Vinod would have escaped with a minor warning or scolding but not in Padmavati Mam's Biology class. She also happens to be Vinod's Mom's classmate and good friend. Padmavati Mam used to humiliate the students who did not finish their homework and also handed over a good enough spanking. Vinod could not imagine the humiliation he was about to receive in front of the whole class, last week she had slapped a student and also tore his book. There was no escaping now as she had entered the class and Vinod started preparing himself. She immediately got cracking and started calling students by their role number to her table. She seemed to be in a happy mood and most of the students started getting good comments and encouragement. Vinod started feeling worse. There were only about 3 students left in the role call before Vinod would be called and just then a peon walks in and calls Padmavati Mam to the conference room, Mam quickly gives all an assignment and leaves only not to return for the period. As the bell for the recess rings, Vinod is relieved and a happy boy again. All his suppressed energy was released and he came back to his self in the following period to help his team win the Volleyball match.

All my apprehensions had been put to rest when I started hitting 12 to 15Km an hour passing beautiful beaches, temples and climbing steep hills.

"Performance, a state of mind"
After 2 day's of cycling through Konkan, the 2nd day being the toughest, I entered Ratnagiri crossing over to Jaitapur from Vijaydurg by boat. From the 3rd day I started enjoying my journey.

Calm and poised Nikhil's body language was full of confidence as he was walking down to the restaurant. He reached there before his usual time, after all today he knew was going to be extra special. Nikhil worked as an assistant to the Waiters at a prominent restaurant. His job included cleaning tables, serving water, replenishing soiled linen, cutlery, crockery etc and also helped the waiters in what ever they needed. The section of the restaurant that he worked in was managed by 04 Waiters and 04 of their assistants. Today 02 of the other assistants had quit the job and the third one was very ill to work, this left only Nikhil to manage the whole section. On any day it often gets difficult for all four of them to manage the ever demanding requirements of the guests and also of their waiters to provide a good service. Nikhil had come in early and was preparing for the humongous task lying ahead of him. He always wanted to be a waiter, he had learned the trade well and was one of the better known employees of his designation. He knew that if he did a good job today he could pitch himself as a strong contender for being a waiter. Nikhil was getting everything organized, he filled extra bowls of sauces, pickles, kept the napkins, cutlery, crockery everything ready. He was ready about half an hour before lunch service was to begin. He ran himself through the entire sequence and rechecked if everything was ready for the onslaught. He had to hold fort for 4 hours, after which the Lunch service ended. As the guests started coming in, Nikhil was spot on, not wasting a single second, He had prepared and planned well. He filled a large flask of hot water for fingure ball, had cut enough lime to last the afternoon so that he did not waste time in cutting them every time a demand rised. He was a man possessed and even when he had to leave his section for replenishing cutlery and crockery, his mind was there he knew which table was about to finish the meal, which one needed the bill, which table is consuming more water, who is the more difficult of the guests, As the day progressed Nikhil was a well organized and  synchronized machine. He had hit the groove and there was no stopping him, he had pulled it off. At the end of it, Nikhil was very satisfied, he knew he could do it but the efficiency he showed surprised himself. In a way he was exploring new avenues of himself and now in his mind he was already thinking of the dinner service.

For the next 2 days I enjoyed my journey and the experience, the food was great, I met wonderful people and the journey was going good.

"Disappointment, sadness or displeasure caused by the non-fulfillment of one's hopes or expectations" 
 After 06 days on my own on the road, it was getting very tough. The nights were more difficult than the days. Spending my evenings alone in shady hotels was very demoralizing. In Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri I stayed in temples and homestays where I had good company till late night. In Raigad I could not find good places to stay and I had to stay in hotels, homely food was replaced by tasteless Chinese and other international cuisine, roads were filled with traffic. I was also missing my family and it was getting really frustrating, I had begun to hate the cycle.

Young Mohan worked in the illicit alcohol trade. He had to fill bottles, label them and seal them. There were many kids who worked along with him. He enjoyed it more than his previous job as it payed him more but they had to work in filthy sheds, They worked through the day and sometimes even till late nights at times they would get a couple of days break when the cops get cracking but most of the days they worked for more than 16 hours. Even after working so hard they did not have a proper place to sleep. They would sleep where ever they got place in the shed. The rainy season was the worst as the drain used to get blocked filling  the shed with sewage. The kids used to take refuge in the pavements but they were generally picked for sexual favors and they dreaded that. The safest place was the railway station but it was an hour's walk away and they used to get too tiered to make that long walk. Every night they used to hop from street to street, hunting for a safe place to sleep away from predators. One such night as they were looking out for a place to sleep, in one of the commercial buildings they found a service staircase which lead them to the terrace of the building. The terrace was just perfect, it had a porch which protected them from the rains and also was completely safe. The kids were happy with their knew discovery and they discussed among themselves not to tell any one about the place. Mohan had good nights sleep and was happy the next day, they got up early and left the terrace. This continued for a couple of weeks. Mohan and his friends managed to keep it to under wraps and also they did not attract any attention. One morning as Mohan got up early as usual, he saw a couple of monkeys in the terrace, he got up and walked  out of the Porch to see a whole gang of them. The left over food had attracted them. Mohan was not very worried. He woke the other boy's made sure they did not leave anything behind and left the place. The next morning also the boys woke up to the monkeys and this day the monkeys were a little more aggressive and also more in number, as they were trying to make way from among the monkeys it created a commotion which alerted the security. They just managed to escape from the monkeys first then the security and make it to the shed. Mohan now knew that they could never go back to the terrace.

At the end of the journey, once I was in the comfort of my home, resting my sore legs and sensitive bums, I realized that I did not have any cycling to do the next morning, I did not have any place to reach, no more new vistas, experiences, people, food. No more surprises. No more discovery. No more anticipation only till the next journey.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Coming of age......2012

2011 has taken us to Pangong lake in Ladakh (one half of this lake is in China) and to Matra the southernmost tip of Sri Lanka (from here 2000 Km is Antarctica), from the northern most tip of India to the southernmost tip of our subcontinent with a lot of travel to different destinations in between. While for others traveling comes as a leisurely and relaxing experience for us it is mostly a very stressful and exhaustive affair. When destinations start getting stressful we start enjoying the simple things in travel. Some of the most memorable travel experience of 2011 was not among the beautifully barren landscape of the Trans Himalayan deserts or at the emerald islands but came very near home at Thivim Railway Station while waiting for a local train which would take me to Kudal. It was in the early hours of the day and civilization was just waking up to the reality of modern day travel conveniences. The train I usually catch arrives Thivim at 0630hrs just at the break of dawn in the winter months. Along with me waiting at the platform was a young boy may be of 5 years with his mother. They were both dressed up as to go for a function. The boy was full of energy and was asking questions about the various aspects of the train from how does it move ahead to how many bogeys it has, the boy kept comparing it with a toy train he had received. His mom was patiently answering all she could. Only for education otherwise I could vouch for a brilliant engineer in the making.

The announcement comes that my train is about half an hour late, I did not seem so worried as I was enjoying the boy’s performance but on the other side the Boy’s mom’s face showed a clear regret of not paying attention to her physics classes. She will have to explore her imaginations for another half an hour. The boy also seemed disappointed as he wanted to finally be in probably one of his fascination or temporary fascination. After a while of challenging physics the boy started giving away to other worldly pleasures. His latest fixation was potatoes only that he wanted it in a green packet called Lays. His mom started resisting this demand, instead she offered him delicious aloo parathas (Potato Pancakes). The home made variety of potato did not impress the boy, after all the tried and tested powers of branding and packaging had to work. I wonder if someone in the classrooms of IIM or other reputed business school might have imagined the almost the same scenario while making a presentation supported by data and studies of the percentage of boys who like green color or relate to Saif Ali Khan (brand ambassador). For a moment I felt sorry for myself and the boy as we were all figured out by bunch of analysts and google, they seem to know everything about all of us. 

After persistent demanding by the boy, his mom came up with a deal, he  could buy his favorite Lays, but he had to do it himself, he would be given the money, he had to go to the station vendor himself, ask for his favorite Lays, pay the money and get the change. The boy did not want to go through the efforts and kept persisting his mom to get it for him but his mom was firm on her stand. After a few more minutes of pestering the boy gave in. He agreed to get it himself.

His mom was probably not expecting this from him, was pleasantly surprised, she gave him the money and asked him to get it, the boy started walking to the vendor hardly a few feet away, after a few steps the boy retracted fast to his mom and started again giving a final last try of asking his mom to get it, for the first time in the morning I saw a firm resolute in the mom’s face. She started ignoring his demand and reading a magazine. Once he realized that it was not working out he again attempted at doing it himself. The vendor a few feet away was going through his morning chores unaware of the developments. The boy walked a few steps ahead and looked back, his mom was pretending to be too involved in the magazine, he took a few more steps closer to the vendor and looked back, this time his mom was looking straight at him and was encouraging him to go, he smiled back and then finally went to the vendor and asked him for his favorite Lays.

Happiness and pride were reflecting of his mom's face a moment of coming of age of her little boy. She couldn't stop smiling till he was back with the change and his lays. I felt like she saw the entire life time of her boy and there was a feeling of content in her face that everything will be fine. As soon as he was back, she hugged him and kissed him. The boy after his latest achievement resisted as if he knew now he was big now and was ready for the world and finally he got his lays and started digging into it. As he was enjoying the potatoes of his efforts, I feel that it is going to be a good year ahead.