फिर से

गाँव की एक गली जो नदी की तरफ़ मुड़ती है
वहीं रहता है वो चौराहे पे
ताकता रहता है रहगुज़र
शायद वो आएँ
जो छोड़ कर चल दिए थे एक दिन अचानक
पलट कर देखा तो था घर को मगर
जब चल पड़े थे
बंद कर सारे किवाड़ और खिड़कियाँ
सोचता है वो
शायद आएँ दोबारा
और खोलें फिर से
उन बंद दरवाज़ों और खिड़कियों को
कुछ धूल साफ़ हो
फिर चले ठंडी हवा आँगन से सड़क तक
और सड़क से आँगन तक
कोई सींचे उस एक सूखती टहनी को
जो लाचार सी आँगन के एक कोने में
अधमारी खड़ी है
कोई फिर दीप जलाए तुलसी पर
कोई तो आए
कोई तो आस दिलाए उस बरगद को
जो अटल खड़ा है चौराहे पर
उसी गली में जो नदी तरफ़ मुड़ती है

How I became a Randonneur

Rewind

November, 2015
After years of deliberating, I finally purchased a cycle. It was a Marin San Anselmo and was a good and comfortable bike, perfect for small distances. In any case, I did not plan to cycle beyond 25-30 km. That was till the bike came home. I was looking for training programs and one with the 30 Mile beginner cycling plan appealed to me. Even if I do half the distance, it will work well I thought and saved the pdf to my iPad, and started cycling as advised in the training plan.

My Marin San Anselmo with Tarique's Four Corners.
My Marin San Anselmo with Tarique’s Four Corners.

Soon I was easily doing distances I never imagined I could. On 6th February, 2016, I clocked 53 kms.  The training was complete, goal accomplished but I was just starting. Cycling is addictive, and I wanted to go longer distances.  By now Tarique and Aasim had already become Randonneurs having completed 200 km brevets in December 2015.

May, 2016
Since I was already doing longer distances than originally intended, Tarique gifted me a Surly Long Haul Trucker on our wedding anniversary. The bike was a dream to ride on. Following the convention of surly owners, I named it Dhanno (ref: the movie Sholay). I was clocking longer distances very comfortably now.

Surly LHT aka Dhanno
Surly LHT aka Dhanno

June, 2016
Everyone I know had told me not to attempt my first brevet in the crazy heat of Nagpur. But I had already done an easy  125 km ride on the brevet route in the month of May, when the temperature was touching 46 degrees, and I thought how bad it could be, I ought to give the June Brevet a try.
So I did. And I failed.

Fast Forward to October 2016

All through the monsoons, I kept cycling. My cycling speed improved, so did my technique and stamina. I decided to try and attempt the December 2016 brevet.

Preparations
I began the preparations earnestly. One of the reasons I could not cycle faster was because my muscle mass was very low. To remedy that I increased my protein intake by eating three egg whites along with my breakfast, and also took care that all my allergies were in control. During the training sessions, I pushed myself, did interval training to improve my speed and was now regularly cycling at an average speed of 20kms per hour.

The Brevet day was coming close, I learned how to keep myself hydrated and fed during long rides. One of the reasons tiredness creeps in during and after rides is due to the depletion of water and electrolytes from the body. Replenishing these at the right time is critical for me, along with a measured quantity of food as I am a diabetic and can not risk hypoglycemia.

December 18, 2016. The Brevet

I am one with the force and the force is with me!

A cold winter morning, I was alone as Tarique had already left for his 600km brevet the previous day. He chatted with me when he was at 400 odd km, and I had told him that I am about to leave for the 200 km brevet. I decided to enjoy the ride, and not worry about the result. I was carrying a small camera and was planning to take some pictures along the route.

The route, however, turned out to be quite a drab. We were cycling on the Calcutta-Bombay highway and there wasn’t much scenery on the way to take photos of.  A few of us had planned to cycle the route together, but everyone sped past me, and I was alone most of the route – not an issue – I do enjoy cycling alone, it gives me time to think about so many things. Then the truck traffic started. They sped by in great speed and too close for comfort. I was glad we split and were not riding in a group. An accident is just not worth it.

The dawn broke. I stopped and clicked the sun rise across the highway.

Sunrise on the highway
Sunrise on the highway

The journey to the first checkpoint at 45kms was otherwise uneventful, got rid of my fleece jacket and gloves. I was well in time for a quick snack of Idli, biscuits and a cup of sweet tea. Despite being a diabetic, I make sure to drink tea with sugar while on the road, to give me an instant energy boost.

As I crossed the next village, the children there cheered and waved to me. A few of them shouted “Pick up, pick up”  – perhaps they meant “buck up” I laughed aloud as one of them gave me a high five.

Crossed several small rivers and hit the town of Bhandara. It was mid morning,  and the city traffic was bad. One of the motorcyclists slowed down started cruising with me and asked me a few questions. He wanted to know where I was from and where was I going. Then he asked me as to why am I cycling, and said it’s crazy to cycle around. My reply “because young men like you ride motorbikes” made him speed up, I did not see him again.

The river Wainganga was in sight. The graceful meandering river is very wide and a sight to behold. I have an affinity towards water, and I love the sight of any large water body. I got down from my cycle replenished my electrolytes by drinking 200 ml Enerzal, and took some photographs of the river. Decided to take more pictures on my way back and climbed back on the saddle.

Wainganga River
Wainganga River

Headwinds and crosswinds began somewhere around 9.45 am reducing my speed a bit.

Soon the road was passing through what seemed like a small teak wood forest, another quick break, took some more photographs before I pulled at the food point at 10.58 Am.

The food point was at 95kms and had Khichidi ready for all the riders. Met some fellow riders there, got rid of my remaining woolen clothes and gave to Mr. Aniruddha Kulkarni who was the volunteer at that point, to be carried back home. After a 35 minute break, T K Prashant decided to ride with me and I was back on the saddle towards the selfie and U-turn point at 100 km. Prashant had fallen down while coming was hurt and wanted to give up, I was urging him to cycle on.

While we were taking selfies, Nitesh pulled in. He too was suffering from muscle cramps. Told him to not give up and carry on the remaining 100 km.

I had eaten and was well hydrated so my energy levels were high and the return ride was reasonably fast despite the cross winds. Nope, there is no such thing as tail wind. I was cycling at 22-24 km per hour. Sped past a few riders and stopped over the Wainganga bridge for a few more pictures.

Wainganga River
Wainganga River

After Bhandara town, I noticed Poornima and caught up with her. The third checkpoint was about 12 km away, and she was tired. Urged her to keep up with me and we both reached the third checkpoint at 155 km almost together. Met Mr. Rajiev Narayan there. A quick tea and biscuit break and I was back on my cycle for the home run; Poornima decided to wait and eat something more there. As I crossed over to the other side to be back on the road, I hit my knee with the handle. A shiver ran through me as the pain took over. But I decided to continue. I had time, and even a bit of slow speed would get me to the end point in time.

The next stop was HB town at the edge of the city. As I entered the city, it was chock-a-block. Market day! I cursed the traffic but kept paddling. At HB town I had a glass of refreshing juice and was ready to brave more traffic through the Central Avenue. I had to reach the other end of the city where we had the end point -and my home. It took me one hour to cover this 16 km distance. 12.5 hours to complete the 200km distance, of which 10.5 hours were on the saddle and remaining was the numerous breaks I took.

Reached the end point amidst cheers of friends and called myself a Randonneur. My Surly LHT was a pleasure to ride and I was not tired at all except for the nagging pain in the knee due to the handle injury. A couple of hours later, Tarique pulled in having completed a distance of 600km.  Pleased with ourselves, we waited for more riders to come in before going out for dinner and retiring for the night.

Tarique finishes 600 km brevet
Tarique finishes 600 km brevet

Jahan gham bhee na hoN aasuN bhee na hoN bas pyar hi pyar pale

Aasim was a few months old and I use to sing to him so that he could sleep. Yes back then, I could sing. He would watch me sing with this toy in his hand, and with the gentle rocking of his swing, he would fall asleep.

This was his favourite song back then.

Aa chal ke tujhe main le ke chaluN ek aise gagan ke tale
jahaN gham bhee na hoN aasuN bhee na hoN bas pyar hi pyar pale.

On his 19th birthday today, my wish for him is that his world be filled with happiness always.

Kabhi dhoop khile, kabhi chhon mile
lambi si dagar na khale
jahan gham bhee na hoon aason bhee na hon
bas pyar hi pyar pale.

Happy 19th, betu.

Mughal-e-Azam the play.

Saturday, 22nd October.

I had specially flown to Bombay to spend the day with Urdu poet Janab Iftekhar Imam Siddiqui. I spent the day talking to him, listening to his kalaam and clicking a few photographs. Meeting his brothers Janab Noaman Siddiqui & Janab Hamid Iqbal Siddiqui, poet, and academician at Dinath building, in the office of Shair, the oldest, still in print Urdu literary magazine.

I was happy with the day’s work and was on my way back to Powai when I got a call from  Gaurav Vaz asking if I was in Mumbai on Sunday. He told me that he was in Mumbai to watch the play Mughal-e-Azam being performed as a dance drama. He suggested I go and watch it as well. I jumped at the opportunity and he graciously arranged for the passes. Thank you so much, Gaurav.

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Sunday, 23rd October, Jamshed Bhabha Theatre, NCPA

While Mughal-e-Azam was originally written as a play, it was made into an epic historical film by K Asif. I grew up loving this epic movie. Even today, I watch it at least once a year – it is that kind of a movie. I know each of the scenes, each dialogue by heart. So while I was excited that it is being performed on stage and directed by none other than  Feroz Abbas Khan Saheb, but I had my reservations. Staging a play based on an epic movie raises huge expectations. The standards were set too high by the movie.

As I entered the theater and took my seat, I noticed Mr. M S Sathyu sitting right next to me. I felt nervous.

The play began with a message from Lata Mangeshkar, She spoke about the movie. As the play started, I heard a collective sigh from the audience. From there on, it was spellbinding.

Every major scene from the movie was there in front of us, being performed live on stage. The grandeur of the movie was replicated with finesse. The movable steps, Mughal era pillars (that were raised and lowered as per the scene demands), the intricate jaali work, screens, front and back CG projections coupled with excellent light design took me to the era of Salim and Anarkali, just as the movie did. In fact, the play in that sense was better than the movie because a movie has the luxury of shooting a scene with selective camera angles and close-ups, which a stage productions does not. It has to be achieved purely by set and light design and performances.

mohepanghat-2

Prithviraj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Madhubala in the movie also set the bar very high for acting. The actors, Nissar Khan as Akbar, Priyanka Barve as Anarkali, Sunil Kumar Paliwal as Salim, did a very good job on stage. What stood out was the actors’ perfect Urdu diction, and that pleased me very much.

Songs play a paramount role in the movie, and what set the stage production apart and made it very enticing, was the flawless live singing by the characters. Priyanka Barve as Anarkali sang the difficult songs, originally sung by none other than Lata Mangeshkar, extremely well, and Ashima Mahajan as Bahar was equally good.

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The dances! Ah, the dances were mesmerizing, they breathed life into the scenes. The emotions of Anarkali was reflected in each step, each bhav of the collective troop of very talented dancers. I was told that the very best were auditioned and chosen from various kathak gharanas. Mayuri Upadhya’s choreography makes this production complete and a pure delight to watch being performed.

As I was watching the play, I remember waiting with bated breath for the song “Jab pyar kiya to darna kya” apart from the song and dance being timeless in itself, it was the depiction of sheesh mahal in the movie that had made big news. My expectations were raised as the play progressed, and my heart raced as the scene drew closer.

Jab pyar kiya to darna kya

Salim is on one side of the stage, and on the other is Akbar and Jodhabai. Anarkali is in the middle with her troop of dancers. The stage is a replica of Sheesh Mahal as it must have been in the Mughal era. There are huge arches with intricate jali and mirror work, and more mirrors hang from the ceiling reflecting the moves of the dancers dressed in long flowing costumes. Anarkali looking stunning in her gorgeous white and red ensemble singing “pyar kiya koi chori nahi ki, chhup chhup aaheN bharna kya”.

As the song progresses, the dancers gain momentum in graceful rhythmic steps they match the lyrics, and dancers emote every emotion that Anarkali is going through.

Parda nahi jab koi khuda se
BandoN se parda karna kya

At this point I was completely overwhelmed.  The sounds of hundreds of ghunghroo, rising to a crescendo, the fast, continuous pirouettes transport me to the era of Salim and Anarkali. It was magical, to say the least.

The other place where choreography wins is a scene where Anarkali gets her last wish of being “Hindustan Ki Malika.” Bahar is singing “Jab raat hai itni matwali to subah ka alam kya hoga Anarkali gives Salim the drugged rose, and Salim is about to faint. The emotions of both Anarkali and Salim depicted through dance were outstanding.

The meticulous attention to details in each scene, right from the start when the Sangtarash begins to narrate the story till the end when Anarkali pardons Akbar for her murder, is what makes this epic drama as timeless as the movie.

akbardarbar

There can not be a better tribute to K Asif, to the playwright Imtiaz Ali Taj and to the movie Mughal-e-Azam than this. Go watch Feroz Abbas Khan’s Mughal-e-Azam on stage; I guarantee you will be richer by the experience. Here is a quick link to take you there: Book My Show

mughal-e-azam-brochure

Photos courtesy: Team Mughal-e-Azam.

Another milestone reached. Aasim leaves for Drexel tonight

For all these years we have been preparing ourselves for this day. The day when Aasim will leave for the US for his undergraduate studies. He has secured an admission in Drexel University, Philadelphia, with a decent scholarship and will be attending the Close School of Entrepreneurship. He is flying to the US directly from Nagpur tonight, thanks to Qatar Airways flight via Doha.

There is excitement, and anxiety but also a reassurance that he will do well for himself. Being in Pune for the last two years has taught him vital lessons in survival though by no means all the life lessons. Those he will learn as he grows and grows up. While a parent can not stop being a parent ever, as parents, a major part of “upbringing a child” for us is over. We now have to take a backseat and just be there for him whenever he wants us. We too are preparing ourselves for this role.

So here’s to the future. Aasim’s and ours. Cheers!

गौरी

गौरी। कुछ ५ साल की थी जब उसकी माँ इलाहबाद की गर्मियों की चपेट में आ गयी और २ दिन में ही इस दुनिया से चली गयीं उम्र इतनी नहीं थी कि सब कुछ समझ पाती, मगर पापा थे, भैया थे, दादी थीं, तीनों बुआ थीं. खयाल रखने वाले काफ़ी लोग थे। ज़िन्दगी इतनी बुरी भी नहीं थी। फिर कुछ सालों बाद उसके पापा की दुसरी शादी हो गयी। पापा नयी मम्मी के साथ रहने लगे और गौरी और उसके भैया इलाहबाद में चाचा चाची के साथ। कुछ दिन सब ठीक रहा, स्कूल भी ठीक ही चल रहा था दोनों भाई बहन छुट्टियों में पापा से भी मिल लेते थे। गौरी छठीं कक्षा में पहुंच गयी। फिर एक दिन अचानक ख़बर आयी  – गौरी मर गयी।
मर गयी? कैसे मर गयी? कुछ भी तो नहीं हुआ था उसे।
पता चला किसी ने ड्रग्स की आदत लगवा दी थी उसे।
ओवर डोज़ ने उसकी जान ले ली।
गौरी मेरी ममेरी बहन थी

The 200 km brevet that I failed to complete

Behind the scenes

Brevet or Randoneering is a long distance cycling event in which the cyclist attempts to complete a distance of 200 km or more, passing through predetermined and timed checkpoints, completing the entire distance in a given time.

I started cycling after a break of 25 years in November and was happy doing small distances. Then Tarique and Aasim participated in their first 200 Brevet in December 2015, while I went along in the support vehicle. It is then that the brevet bug bit me.

With Tarique and Aasim in their 200 km Brevet, December 17, 2015
With Tarique and Aasim in their 200 km Brevet, December 17, 2015

I started training, hoping to do the April night brevet and slowly started gaining miles and saddle time.  On 6th February, I did my first 50 km. Steady progress, I was happy. But I could not continue. I got a nasty viral, during which I traveled, and the viral brought out all my allergies. The Asthma was so severe that I could not cycle without taking several asthalin puffs. The frequent and extended hot flushes during the ride did not help either. I decided to give up on the April event.  Tarique completed his third brevet the 200 km night brevet on 17th April. 

I decided to take charge of my life and met Dr. Rajesh Swarnakar, friend, a fellow cyclist, and most importantly an allergy specialist. He assured me that my allergies can be taken care of and started me on medications.

Things seemed to be working fine; my asthma was in control, and I felt I was ready. Tarique promised to help me train for the June 12th Brevet. With just eight weeks to go, I was cutting it a bit fine,  but I was determined, and we rebooted my training on 19th April.  I struggled a bit, managing hot flushes while on the ride – and there is no escaping them given my age. But then a new issue cropped up. I started getting leg cramps at night. The cramps were so bad; they would wake me up from a deep sleep. Realized that the medicines (for diabetes, high triglycerides, and the new allergy meds) I was taking are known to cause cramps. I continued for a while and then on a whim, I decided to stop Lipicard – the drug I was taking to keep the triglyceride levels in check. Managing hot flushes while on the ride and night cramps were getting too much for me.

A week passed, the cramps reduced. On 14th May, I cycled 100 km on my newly acquired Surly LHT AKA Dhanno .  Happy with the progress and with the new bike, with about three weeks of training left, all I needed was a little bit more speed which I was sure to gain in the coming weeks.

First 100 on Outer Ring Road
First 100 on Outer Ring Road

Till…

One day I woke up and realized I have pain on my right thigh which turned out to be thrombophlebitis. The pain radiated down my leg and left me limping. I cursed my luck and wondered as to how will I train after a week’s break which I was taking to travel to Pune for Aasim’s graduation.

Aasim graduates from MUWCI
Aasim graduates from MUWCI

Thankfully, a week’s rest did me good. The 12th June brevet route was declared, and on 28th May, we decided to attempt a 125 km ride on the same route. This was to be my last long ride before the event, and I did manage to complete it without any problems despite it being very hot. Everyone I know said  I will easily be able to complete the 200 km brevet in time even though I had some doubts about the last sector, the long, lonely, barren stretch of Outer Ring Road.

My Surly LHT AKA Dhanno
My Surly LHT AKA Dhanno

11th June 2016

The weather on 10th June was good. On 11th, there was a cloud cover most of the day, but it was hot and humid post 1 PM. It rained a bit in the night. Doubts started creeping in. Heat and humidity can be a killer in long distance rides, so I prepared myself, deciding to drink a lot of water and keeping the electrolyte balance. Packed some extra stuff on my bike.

Action! The Day of the brevet – 12th June

A cool morning. I checked the weather forecast, and it predicted 43-44 degrees, no chances of precipitation, 75% humidity, UV index of 10 and predicted wind speed (WSW) of 11-14kms per hour. This should have been a warning, but my adrenalin filled mind was rearing to go.

The scenic zilpi ghat enroute Bor Tiger Reserve
The scenic zilpi ghat en route Bor Tiger Reserve

I was ready for the brevet. Tarique, despite being a much faster rider (he averages 26+kms per hour) had decided to ride slow with me. Uncle, Dr. Bhupendra Arya, decided to escort us till the first checkpoint at 39.4km which was Bor, the nearest tiger sanctuary we have.

I cycled through the city and reached the beautiful Zilpi ghat, enjoying the cool and gentle breeze, cycled along watching a hornbill fly past, listening to several cuckoos, spotting Grey Tit, Treepies, a pair of Iora and several other beautiful birds. Despite the climbs, I reached the first check- point in good time. The route was scenic and passed through the buffer area of the tiger reserve.   I thought I spotted a bear amongst the bushes about 200 meters from the road, but I was cycling fast, and it vanished from the sight very quickly. If this were a Bollywood movie, I would be singing a happy tune for sure.

At Selu, the 60 km point, while Tarique stopped to take cold water from an eatery, I took left on the route and got onto the state highway. After a scenic ride the traffic was annoying, but it was ok till one car driver overtook a truck and came on too close to me. The side mirror of his car hit me on my hand and made me get off the road scaring me a bit. Nothing eventful happened throughout the road till we reached the second checkpoint at 83.8km well in time.

“Take a right, go two km left, take a left again and cycle three km till you the national highway, then turn left” were the instructions. We followed them. This was a route through the Wardha MIDC area, and the terrain was mostly flat. So while it was hot and humid, I sailed through it.

The national highway was, as expected, traffic ridden and had a gentle upward gradient. So far so good, I was doing fine, and suddenly the sun hid behind some clouds. I heaved a sigh of relief but noticed the headwinds were beginning. These would turn to crosswinds as I will turn right on the Outer Ring Road, I remember thinking to myself.

Around 100 km mark, Tarique had a couple of punctures, and his cyclo computer died. He opted out of the Brevet and called Aasim who was in our support and backup vehicle.

I decided to continue. I wasn’t very tired, and it seemed doable to me.

The winds were getting stronger but so was my determination. At 114 km I turned left to climb the outer ring road (ORR), as I reached up, a traffic police car stopped me. They were just curious. They offered me water, but it was luke warm, I needed cold water, so I told them I will buy it from a Dhaba on the ORR. The one sitting inside the car wondered loudly as to why would an almost 50 woman (they asked me how old I was) even attempt a physically taxing thing like cycling for 200 km.

As expected the winds were stronger, but they were cross winds so while I wasn’t exactly fast, I felt that I will manage a 40 km distance to reach the third checkpoint at 153 km in time. I decided to stop at the first Dhaba that I came across to buy cold water. The owner of the dhaba gave me a complete account of the riders that had stopped over and ate rice and asked me as to why I did not come with them. As I was finishing the conversation and paying the man, I saw a traffic police car stopping by the road side. They waited till I restarted my ride and then sped off. I did not think much about it.

The sun was burning down my back.  The humidity was killing me, the crosswinds were making it difficult to paddle fast. The Temperature must have been around 43 degrees, but it felt like 46. I experienced a hot flush.  While I have gotten used to hot flushes on rides, this one took me by surprise.  As it passed, I shivered and felt cold. So much that I had to get off the bike and stop for a few seconds. I took a gulp of Coke (whatever the black poison is, its like Amrit for sugar deprived riders like me) and started pedaling again.

The crosswinds were steadily increasing. I remember cursing aloud. The one liter cold water I had bought did not even last me 15 km. I saw another dhaba and stopped for a refill of water and a coke bottle. This time again after about 3-4 minutes, the police car appeared. While I was talking to the serving boy trying to satisfy his curiosity about me and my cycle, the man in the car asked: “Sab theek hai madam?”  I replied in affirmative and realized, the good folks were just keeping a watch over me and taking care that no one troubles the lone crazy woman on cycle on the ORR.

The featureless expanse without even a single tree lining the roads rose the temperature of the outer ring road considerably.  Humidity factor was high and the winds had started taking its toll on me. My speed was reducing on climbs and I was unable to paddle faster on flats.

The Bhandara Road flyover was in sight, and I was happy. I was hoping to gain some speed after this last flyover on the route. But nature had some other plan. The wind intensity increased as I crossed over.

At 140 km, just after crossing the Bhandara Road flyover, I was hit by another hot flush. I stopped to catch my breath and saw the time. It was around 1.30 PM, and I had missed my lunch. I gulped the sandwich I was carrying, drank 200 ml of electrolyte, topped it up with 100 ml coke and a few sips of water and was back on the saddle.

A few kilometers more, I kept telling myself and then I will take a U-turn which was to be the last leg of the brevet. Around Lihigaon,  I saw a rider approaching on the other side of the road and was surprised to see that it was Aniruddha. He is a strong and a fast rider and I had expected him to be off ORR and finishing already.
“Don’t give up,” he shouted from across the road “keep peddling”
I shouted back and asked him “how long for the 3rd check point?”
“10-12 km more” he replied.

I tried to push a bit but my cycle refused to go any faster. The wind, heat, and humidity were fast sapping me. I need to be there in an hour. “I know I can do this”,  is what I was thinking. It was a mind game, I had to stay positive.

I kept going. “Bhaiya Kanhan ka bridge kitni door hai? I asked a passerby. “Bas 4 km” he said. After 4 km… nothing! I had to stop myself from cursing aloud. I was loosing time; my speed was decreasing and there were unexpected gradients. After a couple of kilometers I spotted Didar bhai across the road getting out of the car “I gave up, he said and added, “keep going!”

A bit ahead two more riders across the road. “Bhaiya is waiting for you”, he said. “How much more?” I asked to which he said “bas five more minutes” I cycled for 5 minutes and there was no river or bridge in sight. The five minutes turned to 15 when I finally  spotted a structure that looked like a bridge. I laughed. Aloud. I tried to paddle harder, but I could not. I climbed and got off  the bridge, and had ridden about a kilometer or so when I spotted what seemed like a checkpoint and then looked right to find Tarique coming towards me in the innova.
” You are late” he said.,”we were tracking you on Find my Friend and Aasim kept looking out for you” he added. I did not utter a word. Handed him my cycle and opened the car door.

I quietly sat in the car, took huge gulps of coke, while he took my bike cycled the 600 meters distance that was left to reach the checkpoint. I was late by 6 minutes to report on the third checkpoint.  I was hot, hungry, tired and depleted but I surely wasn’t ready for this. I wanted to complete this brevet, but after missing the third checkpoint it didn’t make sense.

At the checkpoint, I thankfully ate the soft homemade idli made by Bhavana, Jitesh’s Wife. She also took care that I drank some juice and gave me water.

Food, AC in the car and some cold water brought my core temperature down. After waiting for a while we took a U-turn and headed back when Tarique received a call from Pushkar that he wants to give up because of bad leg cramps. We tried to edge him on into continuing but he was just not able to walk due to  the severity of  cramps. With both our cycles inside the car, we had to tie Pushkar’s cycle on the carriage over our Innova, and he sat with Jitesh in his car along with Bhavana and Aasim as the two cars continued the journey towards the endpoint.

I was checking my WhatsApp when I saw a message from Aniruddha saying that he is huddled up with Neel and Rajesh in a small roadside tapri because of bad weather. The crosswinds that I had faced while going towards the third check point had turned into full-fledged headwinds for the returning riders as the sun was setting.

While we were going to meet the trio, we spotted another rider, Dr. Urmila who was with me till Jamtha (about 112 km) and then had lagged behind. She was obviously late and wanted to give up too.

Neel had already left by the time we reached Aniruddha and Rajesh. A cup of chai and some laughter later Anirudha and Rajesh started the arduous journey towards the end point. We expected around six riders who were already heading back to complete the brevet before the end time of 6.30 PM.

We drove down to the end point to find Bharti and Sudarshan waiting for us with ice cold salted nimbu pani. We parked our car and were discussing the vagaries of weather when there were messages of Balraj and a few others quitting. Aniruddha, Neel and Rajesh were the only bravehearts, still on the road battling  the heat, humidity and very strong winds.

Brevets are not races, and in most brevets, most of the participants complete the event. But this one was different, and was aptly named “the burning man brevet” Three out of 16 riders completed the 200 km “it’s hot” brevet. Kudos!

Neel, Rajesh and Aniruddha, the brevet bravehearts
Neel, Rajesh, and Aniruddha, the brevet Bravehearts

You learn most when you play against an opponent who can beat you
– Richard Bach (The messiha’s handbook)

My first try at the long distance cycling challenge failed but not without its rewards, the lessons I learned. The foremost being, I need to work on my cycling speed.  A moving speed of 17km per hour is too less. With the number of stops I had to take, the total speed came below 15.

And as for the experience, like Uncle, Dr. Bhupendra Arya, wrote on my Strava ride”

“Girte hain shasawaar hi maidane jang mein
wo tifl kya gireNge jo ghutno ke bal chaleN”

Picture abhee baki hai

My heart will go on....
My heart will go on….