Sunday, November 11, 2007

My first century

In cricket, they say, every batsman remembers his first ton - even if it was achieved against the next street gang. Today I hit mine... not in cricket but in cycling. I ticked more than 100 Kms in a single day for the first time. Apparently, for those who do it very often its not a big deal. May be it is not. However, (like cricketers) I like to remember this day for a long time to come.

Sleep was intermittent. I was waiting for the alarm to go off... and kept checking time every hour. Finally it was 0400 and I woke up. Finished all morning chores, stretched a little and was on my way. The air was chill and frigid; the roads were empty. Its a nice feeling to 'own' the road. My 'royal' - king of the road feeling was fleeting - a group of barking dogs (at some distance ahead) made me change the course. Isn't it better to avoid trouble than fight it out? Terrain was mostly downhill interspersed with short spells of inclines. I took the beautiful RV road with trees on both sides to reach the inner of the two outer ring roads, and then Banashankari by 0515. I was supposed to meet Keshava here. How can I introduce this person to you? He is the epitome of propriety. I requested (almost ordered) him to accompany me on this tour. And he agreed - without much fuss; even though neither cycling nor a getaway would have interested him. Hind sight makes me feel very guilty of having forced him to do this. Thanks Keshava.

However, he was late... after 10 minutes, a 2 rupee idea struck me. I called him to tell I would be on my way and he can join me on Kanakapura road later. The road immediately after Banashankari till some distance is as bad as any in Bengaluru. After getting past it - a smooth downhill of Kanakapura Road awaits you. The road is very inviting. Villages come, villages go, but the road remains the same - smooth and down hill. The down hill nature of the road is quite intoxicating. Speeds of 45Kmph is easily reached even on a mountain bike. But this is a loop. Any altitude lost has to be painfully regained ;-) That thought negates every element of 'high' reached rolling down.

Half an hour into on Kanakapura road, Keshava did join me. I transferred all the baggage (water, et all) on to him and continued light. Kanakapura road does not carry lot of traffic at this hour. That may be another reason to be on this road at this time. If we include this route on the way back in the opposite direction, then we will have double trouble of traffic and the incline. Lakes are plenty along the road. Apparently every village has one. Beyond Kagglipura, past the exit to Yogavana, we saw a beautiful sun rise. It was quite a while ago that I saw sun rise of any kind ;-) If you observe the photograph, you will see something missing. All the lotus flowers of this lake were apparently plucked away to be sold for Laxmi puja in Bengaluru. Irony. Isn't it? A verse I saw in Kemmannugundi written by Kuvempu comes to mind - "Araluva hoova katta koydu... Kaggatilani kaggalla mele..." Jist is - Why do people kill a flower by wringing its neck (while its still a bud) and place it on a cold black stone in a dark room (sanctum-sanctorum)? The flower is also a beautiful creation of Him and is it not worship if it were allowed to blossom in the plant it self? Any way, a villager on his way to get milk enlightened me about the lotus business. He seemed more worried that it was not 'he' who did the business.

We moved on. Counting down the kilometers left to reach Harohalli. Although it was still early in the morning for the Benglurians, life had started well in the villages. Hotels were open and were smelling of fresh breakfast - making me aware of my hunger. Alas, my pilot was happily riding a kilometer ahead of me carrying the bag with chocolates and water :-( Apparently he wanted to be ahead and look out for the Harohalli junction. Any way my hunger was well satisfied by a plate of tatte idli served with utmost hospitality. It was good that the push cart owner served them on plantain leaves. One week would be my guess about the time after the plate last saw detergent. The taste however was superlative, irrespective of my hunger.

The left turn at Harohalli bus stand is difficult to miss - so are the craters that soon follow. 10 minutes on the same road, and you will start appreciating the surface. The reason for the drastic change is pretty obvious. The good part (24kms stretch till Jigani) is built, perhaps recently, under 'Pradhanmantri Gram Sadak Yojana'. I am impressed. Last year, I had seen a country road in Coorg built under the same scheme. While the roads in Coorg are known to vanish during rains, this one had survived two onslaughts of monsoon already. The bad part of the road was the responsibility of state government. Even the most apolitical of people can see the difference and hopefully attribute the shoddiness to the right person/family/ministry.

Surprisingly, the road continued to be downhill for some time. "Oops", I kept wondering "what am I getting into?". It seemed more altitude loss than I can (have to) regain later. Slowly the terrain became a healthy mix of ups and downs. The road was smooth and very inviting. There are few villages on the way and long with them... the curse of habitation - speed breakers. Why would one make such wonderful road and then kill all your pleasure by putting a speed breaker there. Anyway, 4-5 Kms into the road, came the first incline. I took it out with full gusto... "Cool, that was not bad." I thought. Then came another one, and another one. Promptly, the terrain turns downhill after every incline. Thank god for that. No matter how many times I have go past the Windsor-Manor incline, it does not prepare for these mild, slow and long inclines. Moreover, you dont know what's coming next... So you don't know if you should spend all your energy on this one or not.

The scenery is pretty... Not the Malnad kind. But this is the best you can get around Bengaluru. Too bad that best of the scenery was always on the right of the road - facing the sun. No Photos. Keshava promptly waited for me at the top of every incline to inquire if I needed water. How can I thank this guy enough? I knew it was getting pretty boring for him. The terrain repeated itself - mild incline, flat, some downhill... Until we reached Uraganadoddi. I remember reading that its gets steeper after this point. 8 Kms to Jigini. It was here, that pass showed 'who's the boss'. 2 Kms of adulterated incline. Just when you think it was over, the road unveils a bend beyond which there is one more climb - just as hard as the one you just proudly went past. I went to the largest of the five cogs and hoped I would never have to get down - I did not. At last, I saw Keshava at a distance. That should mean the end of the Uraganadoddi incline. Boy, was I not happy to see him? Finally I was on top of the climb - 4 pts (perhaps the same points given to a Cat 4 climb in the tour). I felt like a man... a man on the tour. Well, there is the Alps and the Pyrenees and here the Harohalli pass :-)) You can laugh at the comparison but doing this at least once will make you see the tour riders with a new found respect. I also realized that I am so not ready even for Nandi Hills ;-))

After the Uraganadoddi climb, there are a few more. But none as hard as the last one. In fact, the scenic quotient of the route drops considerably after that. We enter the semi-urban areas and its just one long way back to Bangalore. After about 27 Kms on the Harohalli-Jigini road, there is a left turn to be taken. This will lead us to the Bannerughatta road. Riding on these roads is more like a individual time trail (Again, you are free to laugh at the comparison). There is nothing much happening around you. Its only you, your bike and the road. Cars, buses, motor vehicles may overtake you. You may overtake a slow one... But all that doesn't matter. Its just you and your speed - and the damn speed breakers. The only interesting building is that of "Sarala Birla something". My first thought was - why would any body build such a grotesque piece of concrete. Well, then I realized....If you have that kind of money, why not? From far it looks like a.. like a... Its like nothing that has been built by humans before us, even in their most insane moments.

Then we paid Diwali visit to a friend's family in Bannerughatta, a gated community just outside of Bengaluru - called Himagiri Meadows ;-) My friend's Dad [Salutations to the man. An army man. He has been in combat, more than once, so that you and me can enjoy the freedom we so dearly cherish] was impressed that I had by then ticked 84Kms. I felt proud. But he brought me back to earth by asking "Is this the longest you have ridden?". However, he was quick to add words of encouragement. We disappointed the lady of the house by being strict vegetarians. She had planned sumptuous breakfast - involving eggs. We had Masala Dosas for the second breakfast of the day. After another 90 minutes of break, we headed back to the city. I took leave of my faithful lieutenant of the day at Hulimaavu.

Bangalore looked entirely different at noon. At, 5 in the morning, it a different set of businesses - newspapers, flowers, vegetables, milk, some hotels. At noon, its a different set - vehicle service, shopping malls. The roads were filled with people... where were they all going to? Strangely I was lost - even after knowing that in that part of Bengaluru, there are two outer ring roads. Grrrh! I went all the way back to Kanakapura road in search of the beautiful RV road. Again, have a hearty laugh it you wish.

By the time I reached home, I had ticked 108 Kms... my first century.

For the statisticians :

: Nov 10, 2007 - Saturday
0430-0515 - 14 Kms [Rajajinagara - Banashankari]
10 min wait for Keshava
0525-0650 - 28 Kms [Banashankari - Harohalli]
15 minute breakfast - tatte idli
0705-0850 - 27 Kms [Harohalli to Jigini]
0900-1000 - 15 Kms [Jigini to Himagiri Meadows via Bannerughatta]
Diwali wishes to a friend. Second breakfast ;-)
1120-1245 - 24 Kms [Himagiri meadows to Rajajinagara via Banashankari]

[*Distances as per Google Earth]

Total time: 8 hours 15 minutes
Total ride time: 6 hours 30 minutes
Total distance: 108 Kms

Updated with photos:

Keshava off his bike

Me on my bike

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Nature of Questions

In English questions are segregated into who, when, where, how, what, which and why. There may be others, but they would be derivatives (negatives, plurals, pronouns, etc...) of these basic forms. The questions that arise in our minds (framed in which ever language) also fall into one of the above categories. If you notice, all of the above except "why" seek evidence. The answers to those questions lie in this physical world. It is there to be dug out by any body with enough perseverance and motivation.

The "why" alone fails to find an answer in physical evidence. The "why" therefore is very trouble some. Unlike other questions, the "why" does not have a single right answer. Some times, it only has answers without a right-wrong classification. There may be "why"s that have no answers (should I say no answers that we know of?).

The "why"s fall into 2 categories... its not the question that differentiates them, but the answers. Answers to one set of the questions lie deep inside our own mind. We can find them, if we introspect enough. The answers to the other set lies outside of us... (perhaps in another person's mind?). Such quests are bound to come back empty handed. The wise ones say that those answers can be sought by expanding one's consciousness to the entire universe (pretty tough thing to do).

For fear of not finding an answer (and thus losing sleep over it), some (or most) of us kill the "why" questions in our mind. We amuse ourselves by answering whole lot of "How"s and "What"s and call them discoveries or inventions.

World would be much better if every one were to ask more "why"s and seek their answers, help others to resolve their "why"s too. Wouldn't it?

Typical Whys?

(first category)
Why am I so happy?
Why do I get angry?
Why do I work?
Why do I like her?
Why did I just lie?
(second category)
Why is there misery in this world?
Why do people fight?
Why does a perfect theoretical solution (of love) not work?

The mother of all Whys?
Why do we exist?