9:30 pm – I go online.
9:45 pm – I see a thread by Sadh saying that he is planning an unplanned 1 day trip starting tomorrow morning at 4. I quickly scan my mind of my possibility of joining him. Too short noticed I feel. I leave a thread asking him if he can postpone the trip by a day for me to prepare. I forget about it for some time and go back to my business of checking my mails and my facebook profile. In between I keep on switching tabs and refreshing the page. Hoping Sadh would reply. He doesn’t. He is not online on facebook as well. I go to his facebook profile and leave him a message along with my number.
11 pm – A final refresh to the page. No reply. I take a sigh. Logout. Turn off computer.
11:15 pm– I lie on my bed, getting ready to sleep.
11:25 pm – I get a call by an unknown number. The conversation goes something like this – Me – hello.
Sadh – Ramneek this is Sadh.
Me – hi, Sadh tell me.
Sadh – I m sorry I can’t postpone this trip as I m going with 3 other friends and we have kind of made a prior commitment.
Me – ok I was saying as it’s a bit short noticed for me and I m unprepared.
Sadh – but what’s the problem?
Me – I don’t have a helmet yar. I broke mine on my previous trip.
Sadh – no worries. I can arrange 1 for you. 1 of my friend has a helmet factory.
Me – that’s great yar. I guess I can join then. Where are you planning to go?
Sadh – nothing yet decided. I have a few places in mind. Its gonna be a day trip. Not more than 200 kms away. Can you come online? I’ll show you the places. We can decide then.
Me –ok I’ll be there right away.
11:45 pm – I go online and have a long discussion about the place. Some places get rejected because of the distance, some because of the road condition and most because of Maoist influence in the area. Finally we decided on Durgapur barrage. I am slightly reluctant to go as I find there is not much we will b able to see or do there. I ask him if we will b able to swim. He says yes. And that seals the deal for me. People will prefer going to the nearest swimming pool to beat the summer heat. I prefer earning that swim by driving 200 kms. The ride of the sake of riding (or swimming) is decided.
12:30 am - I pack my bag with stuff that I will need for the trip tomorrow. 3 hours back this bag had my work clothes and my lunch box.
1 am – I set my alarm for 3 am and go to sleep. But sleep is nowhere near. Durgapur barrage feels more near.
3 am–I get up. Get ready. My mom is angry as she is not informed about the trip. Come to think of it. 5 and a half hours back. Even I wasn’t informed.
4:20 am – I leave home. Leaving back an angry mother in the balcony.
4:30 am – I wait at Kona expressway. 5 minutes later I see a bike coming my way. The bike stops. I am not sure who this is. I haven’t even seen a photo of Sadh before. The rider takes off his helmet stretches out his hand and says “hi I’m Sadh.”
Introduction session begins. I meet Buku. 5 minutes later another bike comes to a halt near us. Arjun and Syan. The group is complete.
4:45 am – we finally embark on our journey. Driving along, I realize that im going on a trip with people who are literally unknown to me. But it’s the sheer passion of riding that brings us together. The ride for the sake of riding commences.
5 am – we hardly start the trip when I feel the first drops of rain on my wrist. I look up. The sky is dark with heavy clouds all over. It’s hard to believe as Kolkata had been burning for the past few days and just on the day of our trip its haunted with dark monstrous clouds. Memories of my previous last moment cancelled trip to Gangani come back to haunt me. I dismiss all these bad thoughts and continue driving. We hardly leave the outskirts of the city when the drizzle gets heavy. Our first un-scheduled stop. The tea stall which won’t serve us tea this early in the morning.our un-scheduled stop
5:20 am – we wait for the drizzle to stop. But it seems like one of those days when the skies keep on crying the whole day in small installments for reasons only known to god. Buku even suggests dropping the plan. That isn’t happening I tell him.
5:30 am – we realize that there is no point waiting as this drizzle is not going to stop any time soon. We leave in the drizzle. Driving cautiously. Within minutes our t-shirts get completely drenched. But its not that bad as well. I realize that the drizzle has made the weather just about perfect for a ride. After all its august and we are saved from the scorching heat of the sun. The drizzle turns out to be a blessing in disguise. We keep on cruising in the rain on the beautiful NH2. Absorbing the beautiful surroundings, the simplicity, the virginity, the serenity.
5:45-8 am - NH 2 is without doubt one of the best places to drive. It’s as smooth as a silk, in fact even smoother. There is a strong chance that one might fall asleep while driving on it. It feels like a live movie is being played in front of you through the small space in your helmet without a glitch. Thoroughly enjoying ourselves we keep on covering distance at a good pace. It is my first group ride and the new experience of keeping up with other bikers is a good one for me. Keeping a track of my fellow riders in front and in the rear view, Sometimes leading the pack, sometimes being lead is good fun.national highway no. 2 - simply beautiful to ride on
8 am - In no time we reach Saktigarh and we decide to re fuel our growling stomachs. Saktigarh is truly the adobe of langchas (Bengali sweet). After crossing many langcha palaces, langcha ghars, langcha neers, we finally settle into one langcha bhawan and have our breakfast. Which of course include the must try langchas.for my non bengali friends, translation - thats the langcha bhawan
8:45 am – tummies re-filled, we leave Saktigarh. With picture perfect weather, not a single drop of rain, sun playing hide and seek with the clouds and the beautifully smooth NH2. I feel blessed and happy about my decision of joining this trip.
9:30 am – we reach Panagarh and the roads change drastically. All of a sudden the smooth two laned NH2 is suddenly diverged into a crowded, pot filled, truck full bazaar road which slows us down to a good extent. Thankfully our two wheels keep rolling and in 15 minutes time we are out of the mess.
10:00am – we almost reach the outskirts of Durgapur and our quest for the barrage starts. We ask direction from a few people and after a few lefts and rights we finally drive adjacent to a stream of water which makes us realize that we are almost there. In a couple of minutes we reach a bridge. Once on top of the bridge we realize that it’s the barrage itself. The huge river flows on both sides of the bridge and it reminds me of crossing the Farrakka on my first trip to Darjeeling. We cross the barrage and park our bikes on the side of the road with the question of what now. After covering all the distance we realize that there is not much to do. We ask a local if there is a way to go to the bank of the river and he shows us a mud road which goes to the bank. he also tells us to go there on foot as the road is not fit for riding a bike on it. None of us has a prior experience of off roading and it seems like an exciting opportunity to try it and the local's warning has made it just the more tempting. We go for it without giving second thoughts. Driving on the narrow mud track with grass on both sides turns out to be a wonderful experience. after a few slides and slips we reach a point where the track merges with the water and it is here that we stop our bikes, take off our helmets and marvel at the combination of natural and man-made beauty in front of us.the man made beautythe natural beauty
10:30 am – five minutes back we thought that there is nothing much to do here, now we have in front of us a river that we need to swim, a tree that we need to climb and a dam that we need to click pictures of. We need no more. My first instinct takes me to the tree and I start to climb it but unfortunately its bark has a protective shield of thorns on it that prevents me to do so. This makes me shift my attention to the river.I change into my shorts and finally fulfill my desire of swimming in the river. The water is just enough cold to make me enjoy it and not feel the shivers. A local walking past advices me not to go very far from the bank and I stick to his advice. After a point I get tired of splashing the water and silently sit till neck deep water. The sound of the wind, similar to that which I get when I’m riding my bike engulfs me. And I sit there for a long time, enjoying the moment, watching the birds fly by, the water going up and down, the clouds going past in the sky and the vast dam forcing out water from its gates.the rides beside the river, getting the attention they deserve
12:30 pm – we sit under the shade of the tree, tired of swimming and taking pictures. We let our clothes dry and just take rest for some while.It gives me time to reflect on the journey so far. I realize this short, un-planned trip turns out to be one of a kind. Even though the distance traveled or the terrain conquered is nothing to boast about. It still holds a special place in my heart. I had always thought about that one thing that I am really passionate about. After my experience today, I am sure that now I know what it is.
12:45 pm – content with our experiences we wrap up and get ready to leave. My heart craves for more but given the fact that we have planned to reach the city before sun down and we also have lunch to take care of, we leave the surreal place, looking forward to the journey back home.
1:30 pm – we leave Durgapur behind and reach Panagarh. The single laned, pot filled, crowded, truck full road greets us again. The sun is shining brightly on top of us not willing to compromise with its heat this time. I spot a dhaba and given the circumstances, we decide to put up there for lunch. The food is almost edible. Even though the less said about it the better it is.
2 pm –we leave the dhaba after having the almost edible food. Rows of trucks wait for us. We dodge past them and try to cover as much as distance as possible. I get an open stretch and zoom past the trucks and get a considerable lead over everyone. I see in my rear view but don’t find any of the two bikes behind me. I still keep on riding, hoping that they would catch up with me soon. Just then I see a policeman frantically waving at me asking me to stop. For a moment I feel he thinks that I’m some burglar who has just robbed a bank and is fleeing (dhoom style). But he comes close to me and asks me till where I’m going. My reply surprises him a bit but then he asks me if I can drop one of his colleagues to Bardhman. He says there is an emergency at his place and he needs to reach home as soon as possible. I agree to help and he hops on my bike. He says he has a 3:45 train to catch from Bardhman, I tell him we don’t have much time.
2:15 pm – we are out of the traffic jam and we hit the smooth two laned NH 2. I ride as fast as possible zooming past other vehicles. Trying my level best to make the policeman catch his train on time. My speedometer touches three digits. Even at that speed I see a state bus go past me. He tells me it will go till Bardhman. I suggest to him that the bus will take him faster than my bike and he agrees. But by that time the bus has sped away from me. It will be tough to catch it. I see it stopping in the distance. I realize this is my chance and increase the throttle. The distance between me and the bus decreases and just when the bus starts to pick up speed we reach it. The policeman’s uniform does the trick and the bus stops for him. He heartily thanks me and gets up on the bus. I hope that he gets the train.
3:00 pm – in the mad pursuit of the bus I almost forget about Sadh and everyone. I park my bike on the side of the road and wait for them. 10 minutes later the two stunners come to a halt with a common question – “kitna tez chalaya bhai?” “Long story”
I tell them. We take a butt brake for some time and Sadh suggests that he knows a good dhaba near Bardhman where we can get good food (and drinks) and also a place to rest for a while. We decide to go there and leave, driving again at my preferred cruising speed.ride back home
3:30 pm – we reach the dhaba and it actually turns out to be a better one than the one where we had our lunch. Along with the food it also had provisions for us to quench our thirsts and unanimously we decide to fish some kings. I lie down on the wooden bed enjoying my rest. The almost without sleep night, the ride, the swim, all take a toll on me and I go to sleep without even realizing.
4:15 pm – after the short power nap I get up, fresh as ever. I see Sadh and every one having a good time outside and I go and join them. Tea gets served which makes the evening adda complete.
4:30 pm – after the little re-energizing session we finally leave for Kolkata. On our way back we start riding a little faster. Our speedometers increase by a minimum of 10kmph from what we had riden so far. The leads of the ride change more often in this stretch than in the whole trip. And we zoom past other vehicles more often than before.
6 pm – we reach the outskirts of the city with the sun setting. A dark cloud hovers on top of us getting ready to burst up and drench us. It starts to drizzle and as soon as we take a left towards the Kona expressway the drizzle turns into a downpour. Within seconds we get completely wet but we decide to continue riding and even experience this one of a kind feeling of driving in a downpour. After driving another 3-4 kms I reach the place where we would go to different directions after being together for more than 400 kms. I bid farewell to my newly made friends. I go right, they go straight. I reach home after 10 minutes. I am welcomed by an angry mom. There is a lot of explanation that needs to be done.
These whole set of events happen in the matter of just 20 hours. Just 20 hours back I had read that thread by Sadh from where it all began. It could have been like just another day but destiny had other plans for me and it gave me 20 hours of franticness, 20 hours of riding, and 20 hours of living a short dream, 20 hours of pure bliss, 20 hours that I will never forget all my life.
After thought –
Days after the trip as I sit here and write this trip log I realize that life is about small things that bring us joy. It’s about knowing your passion and doing what it takes to do what you want to do, nothing will give you more happiness than that. Whatever we do in life will be insignificant, but it’s very important that we do it, coz no one else will. I had gone for this trip with complete strangers. The strangers have become my friends now. Had I not replied to that random thread, I would have been at my office on that day working my ass off. But thank god I did reply and felt this one of a kind experience. Which makes me say the old Hindi saying with a little biker’s twist- “Meel meel pe likha hai safar karne wale ka naam.”
Signing off with that thought.
Ride, Eat, Sleep… Repeat. (photographs by Sadh) (text my myself)