Sunday, August 08, 2010

My two-wheeler diaries - week 1

Long years ago Che Guevarra embarked upon a journey to rediscover himself. And also to learn more about his own land - Latin America. From this year long journey sprang the Motorcycle Diaries'. I am sure most of us are acquainted with the book or the movie. But for the uninitiated, it is a chronicle of Earnesto Guevarra's travails through Latin America on a motorbike which first began as an exercise to practise medicine and ended up instilling a sense of revulsion towards the way life was for those in LatAm. So much so that he ended up becoming the world famous revolutionary, feted by communists and youngsters all over the world to date.

Now my chronicles are not so heroic. I cannot practise medicine (thankfully, did I hear you say?). But the likeness between Che's travels and mine, kinda hit me. Let's face it. If I began the post with 'On a hot sunny afternoon, we visited...' I'd have lost a reader! Rather, here, by opening with Che, I can be assured that you'll read this! Besides, Che went to practise medicine, and I am on a journey to rediscover healthcare in India. Che rode a motorbike. I rode on one!

So, my two-wheeler diaries are a thoroughbred CITYzen's look at an India on the roads. And I must say, Mumbai is definitely not India. And Ahmedabad definitely is not India. But for all practical purposes, Mumbai is an exception to the rule. Again, just like a very wise individual a year ago remarked to me that he used to ensure he got out of ISB every once in a while, just to get in touch with reality, since ISB was not Hyderabad, and certainly not reality, for me, a stint outside Mumbai opens up an all new India! Ahmedabad has an ethos about itself and a life of its own. A tier II city, nonetheless, but for me, any place not containing the hustle and bustle of Maximum City warrants an awestruck look!

So week one - keeping work related discussions aside - I noticed that the number of cows and bulls on the roads of AMD far outnumber the pedestrians! And when you travel pillion with someone, the sight of a bovine crossing is enough to make you freeze in terror. More so, what if the creatures look at you and you realize that you're wearing a red kurta! Furthermore, what if the creature has exquisite horns, much like the bisons of South Africa? Imagine you zooming across on a motor bike behind a big bus. You try to overtake the bus (don't say d-uh. All two-wheeler drivers here overtake buses. I wouldn't dream of overtaking a bus while sitting in the secured confines of a four-wheeler back in Mumbai, but nonetheless), and you shoot through their left or their right (thank God not the top, Chiranjeevi style). And moooooooooooooooo stands a bunch of bovine creatures! Screeeeech the bike goes. Mooooo the animal goes. Jeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeez my head screams. One animal is still ok, but more often than not, happy family get togethers happen on the middle of C G road, or Ashram Road or any and every other arterial road! Whew! Or rather Mhoooo!

Second. When you are a pillion rider, you have a knight in shining armor right with you! Yes, on your head, your protector, gleaming in the sun, glistening in the rains, the visor protects your face in the rain and prevents you from looking like a Chinki, if you were ever photographed riding pillion, squinting in the rain. And each time the bike swerves, the knight calms you, saying hushhhh, it's ok. When a bus makes a precarious turn at a crossing, just as the bike zips ahead, and you almost think that this is it. You feel that the bus will certainly at least knock your knee and you'll be on the ground, and the knight says, 'don't worry, I'll protect your squash even if you come under the bus. Max damage will be restricted to the breakage of 205 bones, since the skull will be left intact.' Thank Knight for small mercies...

So much for week 1. Next time - true blue insights. And my take on what I saw as an India apart from Mumbai.


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