I wrote this travelog 5 years after the ride happened. 5 years is a long time for memories to fade. 5 years is long time to forget friends. In fact 5 years is a long enough even for deep wounds to heal. But it was not long enough for me to forget this ride. I may have forgotten some details, but I distinctly remember the emotion in this trip. Every moment, every hour, every gush of wind, every act of madness. Yes, it was madness. The people I was traveling with were mad.

Rewind to Friday evening: Techfest 2003 team in some IIT hostel room. Susu, Kota, Tiwari, Gogo, Pika, Dasa, Navendu, Bhussi, Mittal and I. And Bhandu. The marketing folks in the team had to meet some event sponsors in Pune. Someone suggested he would tag along with them. Another one suggested we should do a bike trip to Pune. Everyone else jumped in at the idea. Deal sealed.

Fast forward to Saturday early morning: 11 people. 5 bikes. Actually 4 bikes and a scooter. Anyways, the point was 10 seats and 11 people. We either arranged another bike quickly or leave one person behind. Bhussi was sent to fetch Bhandu. He came back saying it was impossible to wake up the sleeping buffalo. Alright, the problem was solved.

At 4:00 am, engines thundered into life, petrol fumed and rubber burned. 4 motorbikes roared past the campus gates and a Bajaj scooter whimpered tamely behind them. 10 young men had set upon a road trip from Bombay to Pune. The passion in these mad men was evident in every twist of the throttle and every screech of the tyre. I was 21 then. All of us were 20-21. Young. Wild. Sometimes stupid. The exuberance of youth was spilling. And it was a perfect setting for an adrenaline rush. I was actually scared that in all this enthusiasm, our adventure might turn into a mishap. Thankfully, that didn't happen. I now reckon that however mad these men were, there was a streak of control-freak in all of them.

The first stop was a roadside food stall - vada pav and cutting chai for the hungry stomachs. The sun was still rising as the band zipped through Western Express Highway and Aeroli Bridge to the outskirts of Bombay city. After debating the right way and the wrong way, we finally hit the Bombay-Pune highway.

The onward journey to Pune was an exciting one. Halts at fabulous Lonavla and Khandala hills. Detours to off-beaten tracks. Pick-nicking at waterfalls and reservoirs. To this day I think the Lonavla and Khandala hills are the most sensuous place in India during monsoons. I was carrying my Nikon FE10 with a black and white roll. Someone else was carrying a cheap point and shoot with a color roll (this was the time well before digital cameras made their advent). We took a lot of pictures. All of us bundled up together grinning ear to ear. Walking down the road in a single file like some mafia dons. Sitting on a water pipe with hands stretched out - ready to fly. All things that college kids do.

On one of the steeper sections of the road through the hills, Pika and Navendu (the two healthier asses in the entourage) had to get of their scooter and give it a mild push while riding it in 2nd gear. Others zipped by more comfortably. The real cake of the ride was when the highway merged with the expressway for a brief section. The speed of the bikes was always constant - top speed - only the angle of incline changed with the curving roads. As I told you at the start, these men were mad.

As we got closer to Pune, the scenery became less exciting and the journey became more tiring. The pollution in Pune city outskirts didn't make the experience any pleasant. And the marketing folks in the team had a meeting to attend. And more importantly, we were running out of office hours when we could meet the company guys. The throttles twisted 45 degrees and zig-zagging through the city traffic, we got where we wanted to get. A quick change of clothes behind some bushes, our boys became 'men'. The meeting was good (I think we got some moolah for Techfest that day).

At the optimistic age of 21, every shred of good news called for rejoicement. We hit Susu's friend's house. Unwound for an hour and set out for our little feast in Pune later that night. I don't exactly remember where ... was it Burger King? Anyways, it was popular burger joint in the city. Someone boasted he knew for a fact that college girls in Pune were into prostitution for some extra 'pocket money'. Another detested the fact and said it was preposterous. Another one didn't care and just wanted a smoke after the heavy burger and coke. It was late in the night and it was time to get horizontal. All ten of us snuggled into whatever bedding we could grab at our host's place for the rest of the night.

On Sunday at around 6:00 am, we set out for Bombay. After a modest breakfast of eggs, chai and biscuits, we began what would be the marathon ride from Pune to Bombay. Except for two halts - one in the magnificent hills of Lonavala to catch the foggy views; and another on the outskirts of Bombay city waiting for the Bajaj scooter to catch up - the ride was uninterrupted. The CBZs sailed at 105 and 110 kmph. The Yamaha wasn't too far behind. The Bajaj Chetak was slow but steady. More importantly, it did complete the ride from Bombay to Pune and back without breaking down. We were sorry for our asses which were now beginning to hurt. I didn't know what others were thinking but I was just craving for a hot shower. Around 3:00 pm, we broke up at IIT Main gate, promising to meet for dinner.

I showered for 30 minutes of bliss. And crashed for the 4 hours that followed. And we did meet for dinner at SP for chicken tikka and masala papad.

Interestingly, the mad men I traveled with in September of 2002 have done really well in life so far. 7 of them have started their own companies and created employment for several others. One is happy with all the green he makes at an oil firm. Yet another one is a fiery journalist with Indian Express after being a Rhodes scholar at Oxford. And I am the one who works a mundane 9-to-6-job during the days and logs memories of time spent with some fantastic people during the nights.

Oh, a few days after the trip, we realized Bhussi never reached Bhandu to wake him up.



Tags: India, Ride

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  1. Your ride with your Techfest team takes the cake of nostalgic emotional accounts, something that reminds me of a lot of days during my four year stay at IIT Bombay. - Rakesh Verma