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23 December 2012

The birthday gift to myself...

You can say I am naive....

Just look at the birthday gift that I decided to give myself.

I celebrated my birthday about three weeks back. As a gift I committed to myself that I will do a cycling trip around Mumbai.

I stay in Kopar Khairne, a little nook in the suburbs of Navi Mumbai (which itself is a suburb of Mumbai, so kinda 'Suburb Squared'...). The idea was to ride from my location all the way to Western Express Highway (the good ole authorities added 'Express' wishfully and lived to regret it I am sure) and return back having completed a full circle. As I saw it, it was so easy, what with an 18 gear cycle and the world at my feet, I could cross this hurdle like a breeze and back home before lunch.

All those actresses in the cycling ads do it effortlessly without even a single misplaced hair strand. So why can't  I?

When I thought of taking this ride, one question that came to my mind was whether I will have the energy to cover this distance. Justified to myself by using the equation E=MC2, since I had a mass of X Kg, I will have enough energy and some to cover this distance. I used every tool at my disposal, including Science, to motivate myself to undertake this adventure.

The most difficult thing about starting a long journey is taking the first step. Once you have done that everything else kind of falls in place. I spend an agonizing 45 minutes in the morning before I decided that I was going to go with this. You see, eventhough I have this romantic notion that I like cycling, this was serious business. I was going to go on a ride in a territory that I was not familiar with, the distance I did not have a clue on and the route I have never travelled, even by car.

Still I was going along with this trip. 

I am naive.

The route that I chose was as follows.

Start from Kopar Khairne--> Ghansoli -->Airoli Bridge --> Eastern Express Highway --> JVLR --> Western Express Highway --> BKC --> Sion --> Chembur --> Trombay --> Vashi --> Home

See? Breeze, isn't it?

It was with air in my tyres and spring in my steps that I started off on this adventure trip last sunday. I had a backpack which contained the coolers and a towel. 

I took the Ghansoli underpass and entered into the Thane - Belapur road, and took left turn into Mulund, went straight ahead and crossed the Airoli bridge....

I took, you know, the route.

When you start cycling, you will realize at some point, somewhere around the middle, that this whole adventure was a terrible mistake, that you hadn't bargained for how tough it is to meet your objective. Then to your consternation, you also realize that you have come long way and it doesn't make sense to turn around now. You might as well go through with. 

That is the tipping point, the inflection point, where a pleasure trip become a laborious exercise. 

For me, that happened somewhere on JVLR, just after Powai flyover. Later I realized that it was only 25% of my journey and I would have been better served had I turned back. But since I was not aware of the route and the magnitude of my challenge, I cycled on. 

One has to admit though, that the Mumbai roads are heaven for cyclists. 

Most of the roads are concretized. One these roads, the cycle just glides along, there is little resistance. Added to that is the fact that the city is flattish and hence you can cycle at a constant pace without having to get down and push it upslope like you have to do in some other cities.

Even in the roads that are tarred, there is hardly any potholes, unlike in Bangalore. 

When you are driving a car, you always go over the flyover to reach your destination faster. But when you are on a cycle, never cycle on a flyover. If there is a parallel road going below the flyover (most of them have) take that. The world lives below the flyover. By zooming over the flyovers, one miss all that is good about a city.

From Airoli bridge, you enter EEH and cycle for about 3 kilometers before you touch the JVLR (see next para for details. It was early morning and I saw a number of wannabe joggers jogging (well, what else are they expected to do? Dance?) on the service road. There was one old man who was jogging along with a lot of determination in his eyes. That was inspiring.

I also saw a Kenyan runner jogging on the service road. This guy was serious and you could see professionalism written on each of his strides. He was very thin with steel framed body. The word is lithe. He was so slim, slim as a.... well, if you keep this Kenyan and a reed side by side, you can tell the difference only because of the difference in colour. If by chance you pick a black reed, you have had it.

He was as thin as a reed (color of reed inconsequential...)

JVLR (Jogeswari - Vikhroli Link Road) is the road that connects WEH to EEH. The road is about 11 kilometers long. At the beginning of the road, I saw a taxi driver and asked him the directions to WEH. He was shocked. "Are you going to cycle to WEH?", he asked me incredulously, "it is very far". I told him (rather bombastically, I think) that I have 24 hours at my disposal. "Suit yourself", he told me, "you have to keep cycling straight".

And I cycled straight.

Eventhough I have travelled across India, I have not spent enough time in Mumbai. My current tenure is by far the longest that I have lived in this city. So cycling along this route, I covered some of those places that I have read about a lot but have never seen. The places like Powai, Sion, Andheri, Mulund, Saki Naka etc rang a bell as I cycled on. 

It was not that the ride was not tiring. It was. I grossly underestimated the distance and the effort that was required to cover this distance. Whenever I was tired and wanted to give up, I focussed on the next pedal. I focussed on individual pedals. I tried to count the number of pedals it required to cover a distance of approximately 100 meters. I told myself such motivational lines as 'Little drops of water makes a mighty ocean" and "You create a mansion one brick at a time" etc to keep me charged up. 

You may think that I was over reacting. But it is not easy being on a new city, being on the road without knowing where I was in relation to where I wanted to go. I think it would have been easy for me had I been aware of the lay of the land. Had I been familiar with the route that I was taking. When you know where you are in relation to where you want to go, the journey becomes easy. 

My friend, what applies to cycling also applies to life in general. 

(I hear some of you say that if I had a mobile with GPS, at least I would not have had to stop and ask for directions. But the pleasure of such a cycling journey is to talk to the lazy assess you see on the road and see the incredulity and admiration in their eyes. "What? !! you are coming from Vashi? That is a lot of distance, you mean that you cycled all that distance?". You can never hope to get that kind of admiration and feel the same kind of pride with a GPS). 

I started at 7.00 AM and reached home at 12 noon. On the way, just before I reached home, I drank a glass of the greatest, tastiest, sweetest Strawberry juice ever. 

A sweet way to cap a great day.

(Note: Yesterday morning, I retraced the same route. Despite being familiar with the route, the trip was emotionally tiring. While in the first trip, the thought was "OMG, I don't know how much more I have to travel", yesterday it was like "OMG, I still have to ride SOOO MUCH distance".

In the evening, I drove my car for the same distance and it came to about 60 Kilometers.)

1 comment:

shirish shirsat said...

Dear Mr. Ram, when u narrated ur Cycle journey on lunch table , my long time pending urge to have somthing on this surfaced out tomorrow i will have my brand new gear cycle with me and will join u to have initially small rounds and then surely for long drives. Thank u so much for this inspiration !!!