Chicks and the ride

I was a little apprehensive about a long ride today, especially the part which involves me riding alone on the last stretch of the treeless Expressway to reach home under a scorching sun. But I didn't want to miss it either. Our destination was the Badkhal Lake in Faridabad.

The "lake" turned out to be a big disappointment since there was no lake at all. In fact, it was all a huge trench, parts of which had filled up with shrub-like vegetation. In the remaining bits, which I suppose could resemble the lake-bed, there were people playing cricket! There wasn't even a drop of water and I doubt if there was a lake even ten years back. Though of course there was a large sign board in front of it, describing its dimensions, depth and so on. It was more tragic than funny.

Even the roads we took today were poor. There were far too many potholes, far too much of unevenness, and gave us the illusion of "off-roads" which our MTBs are made for. Lots of bad smells too. We even encountered many crowded lanes along our way. Far too much dust, noise and utter confusion, really. We rode through the kind of unappealing India that's often shown on television.

Despite it all, we were making good time but just as we were about to start our return journey, one of my mates pointed out that I had a flat tyre. It wasn't any of the stones, the rubble, or even glass, it was only a small dried twig. Setting off to repair the puncture wasn't tough as there are many shops around in the city and its outskirts. But it ended up taking a lot of our time and delayed us considerably. For the return journey, unable to find the short-cuts we had taken while coming, we had to wade through the worst kind of traffic Indian roads can offer. Anyone comes in from any side at any time without any warning. Large buses zig-zag and stop wherever they like, most often it is a screeching halt in the middle of the road. Some have blaring horns which they blow for no reason whatsoever. No one hesitates to ride two wheelers up sidewalks if there are any. There is also a large amount of construction ahead of the Commonwealth games and the dust from it makes visibility poor. In this chaos, there are hawkers and vegetable sellers selling their wares on portable four-wheeled shops. Even the heat was excruciating. Whenever we had to slow down, it felt like a giant burning octopus had spread its tentacles over me.

But as it happens with quiet pedalling, the mind begins to focus very well. As if it were a muscle, it becomes pliable and even firm when needed. What I felt I was observing under those numbing conditions wasn't restricted to the present moment. The fluidity almost allowed me to see everything before it happened. I could anticipate all the gaps, large enough to fit only a bicycle, that weren't there but would appear by the time I'd reach. Every movement was seen before it happened. This allowed for consistently fast pedalling. My friend who was riding with me, asked after a while if I wanted to stop for a break. All I said (perhaps rather groggyly) was that I had a long way to go, so I would like to continue pedalling. Sometimes our voice belies what we feel.

The last stretch, as I had feared wasn't pleasant. But I clocked 80km in all, crossing a couple of states in the process. Cycling invariably does good things as was the case today, despite, or perhaps beause of all the challenges.

P.S. Photo above - These are three pet chicks of a cycle-repair person whom we had initially reached once the puncture was discovered.

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