India 5 months and a bicycle Part 2
by Keveen Gabet
India by bicycle (continued)
Bicycle journey through India continues....
The moment I left Goa, my journey went back to normal and miracles reconnected with me.
An Austrian fellow stops to talk to me on his Enfield Royal 500 (the Indian Harley Davidson if you will). He throws me an dodgy rope which I attach on my handlebars. I feel connected to this gentleman by an umbilical cord that separates me from death. We quickly reach 60km/h on the roads of Karnataka, and I feel blessed to avoid the huge slopes I was to face....
However, the downhill part is another story, my brakes are not as good as his, and I often overtake him admiringly avoiding major accidents (I have never seen a bus bumper from such a close distance). He will drop me 80km farther after a warm chai and some samosas to celebrate our separation.
I am back on my solo trip, heading towards the southernmost point of India, keeping the sea on my right as sole map and compass. Daily, the heat grows unbearable, and I often collapse from heatstrokes. In order to soothe my bodies internal thermometer, the gods are blessing me with night showers, which cools my mornings.
At 4:30 am hens scrape the ground in what seems an ancestral gesture, old women tirelessly swipe the earthy floor, the younger ones walk to the well to get water for the day, men go to their fields and kids happily run to school in their uniforms and ponytails. The rain forces me to find a roof every night (banana tree leaves, turned over boat, shelter by crematoriums...), which forces me to bid farewell to my improvised beds under mango trees, by the beach and so forth.
Day 84, I strategically decide to put my bicycle on a train and to get it back 10 hours later in a village of Kerala. I spend the entire evening bewildered by the night life surrounding trains. It seems to revolve around tea, coffee and snacks. Each stop is another opportunity to hear the ‘Chai chai coffee coffee chai’ song. Crammed with my fellow travellers in the cheapest carriage as if to keep ourselves warm, I sit uncomfortably between dry feet hanging form the bunk bed type of platform, the open mouths loudly snoring. I cannot sleep as I am so avid of chai at every stop.
I get off the train at 5 a.m, alone on the foggy platform. I patiently wait for someone to unload my bicycle, but nothing happens. The train slowly continues its journey and although I shout and try to prevent its departure, I remain helpless, powerless and emotionally hurt. I sadly realise that I have just lost what has been my best friend, confident and best travelling partner for the last three months. I could not do anything. I lay down on a bench and wait until sunrise to be told that my bike is probably on the terminal platform (about one hundred kilometers from here).
They tell me to come back the following day, and the next one, and the one after the next one... I cannot bear it any longer, if my bicycle will not come to me, I will go to it. I jump on the first train and find it waiting for me on the terminal platform as mentioned, with my two red bags still attached to it.
I have to sign five different pieces of administrative paper before hitting the road again. However, because of a lack of time, my bike will not see the southernmost point of India. I had to attach it by the train station and jump in another train to reach Kanyakumari, some 80 km from here.
The same night, I finally bathed in the point where two seas and the ocean meet, under the amber lights of sunset, where I say my prayers that I hope will be dispatched across the oceans. I turn around with tears dancing on my cheeks and grab my bicycle. It is the end of my cycling trip, of my love story with my bicycle, an entire era that becomes part of my autobiography. I cowardly sell it to a rich jeweller for just enough money to reach Mumbai and a promise that he will take great care of it, and allow me get her back should I ever return.
This is the precise moment when I turned into a lonely tourist, limited mobility, and doomed to take trains, buses or hitch hike. My best friend is no longer here to carry my bag and my back misses it. I no longer crave the horizon.
I end my last month riding a train through the villages where I stopped and spread love. I managed to stop, see some people I met on my trip south, and share my new linguistic skills; finally thanking them properly for all their love. I am leaving a people rich in love, emotions and simplicity to fly back to the place I call ‘home’.
(Click here to return to Part 1)