Friday, October 17, 2008

The fight

Have you ever been through that phase when you feel you need something exciting to happen, some landmark event that changes the way you deal with life, that forces you out of your comfort zone, and lands you right in the middle of chaos, with only your wits and your MacGyver-ish instincts to lead you into the light. If you are as old as I am, you probably cross yourself immediately and pray the universe was too busy to process your rogue thought. You have been there and done that already, and lived through situations that demanded more than you thought you had, and you don't want to willingly put yourself through that turmoil ever again. 

 In this immediate regret, you probably realise that you are simply tuning in to the self-preservation instinct that all of us have built into our psyche. It is this very instinct that both holds you back from doing something stupid and potentially dangerous, while also forcing you to hold yourself back from taking up anything that is challenging and beyond your current capabilities. How does one decide between the former and the latter. While it sounds easy to spot an opportunity for disaster versus one that opens you doors of learning and challenge, I personally cannot distinguish these for myself, and am forced to let fate throw whatever it has at me, while I battle away, picking up more scars than platitudes. Is this the fate of everyone else? Does everyone else on this third rock from the sun allow the universe to decide what their next battle will be, whether they will gain from the fight, or simply be crushed by its random, unpredictable cruelty? 

 All we have for reference is celebrity. Records of famous persons battling with circumstances, suppression, violent retribution and sometimes plain old hatred. For instance, Muhammad Ali was stripped of his boxing title, and banned from competition for some years. Right at the peak of his physical form. What did he do? Screamed, shouted and raised hell, but bore the punishment out, came back to the ring and still wasted his opponents. His career then slowly declined, and the inevitable enemy of age caught up with him. But he fought the good fight, and survived it. Did he gain anything apart from the adulation that we shower on him? Did he personally change for the better after battling adversity? I do not know. All I know is that he lost out on some of the best boxing years of his life to live by his principles. Perhaps that seems like a huge price to pay for the rest of us, because we may not be as rigid in our own principles as him. Who knows. 

 The 'greatness' factor comes into play at this point. What qualifies someone to be termed as one of the 'Greats'. Is it simply talent and performance of his physical body, strength of mind and character, his personal triumph over his personal demons, or collective good that came from his personal struggles? Why are there just a few of such 'Great' people. Are they simply better people to begin with? Or do they adapt and change and achieve 'greatness' over a period of time. Or is it just that the opportunities that life dealt them to exhibit their strength and prowess were not available to the rest of us. In our hubris, we'd like to think this is the case. That given the same opportunities to right hook and upper cut our own demons, we'd always walk away with the Gold. But it is an open question, and will remain so always. Each small battle fought leaves its scars, and adds a little toughness. During the course of each battle, there have always been negative thoughts weighing us down, pushing us to take the easy way out, to give up. Each battle has many smaller fights with the self to defeat the defeatist mentality, and persist. There is always the hope that given enough time, even we can fight our way out of this mess. Of course, there are many battles lost for every spectacular victory won. And after all the fighting there is just the one result...survived or dead. Leaving you nothing to hold on to. Nothing of the fight that you can turn back on and scrape for some confidence. A part of you aches to fight some more, just to be in the fray, and live out the madness. Another part fights against you, hoping you will take the easy way out and continue living without the madness. That is the one true fight. The fight for control on your own self. We have not yet won this fight, it never ends... it is played out each time an opportunity presents itself. Let us begin again, and let us end.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


At the end of a tiring workday, I was really looking forward to a traffic-free ride back home on 'Stella'. Yes, you heard right. I name my bikes. The bullet is Bull and the yamaha is Stella. Cue snickering, finger pointing laughing. I dont care, I just like them to have names. I dont overdo this naming business, my guitar is a Hobner, my laptop is a vaio and my desktop is a plain old desktop. There have been others who have gone that bit too far, and crossed the threshold....but thats another story. 

 So, Stella rides like a dream, she's crazy fast, can turn on a coin, and can give these electric shaver contemporary bikes a run for their money. I ease my way through the crowded Bandra roads, turn out of Dharavi's slum, out of Sion and onto the Eastern Express Highway. For those of you who live here, you would now realise that after the 25 minutes of crawling traffic until this point, everyone who hits the highway just cannot resist its wide openness, and will break the speed limit, very quickly. So no prizes for guessing what I did. Stella's throttle is like a dream. She sounds like a couple of mad rottweilers thrown into a tube, and God! can she fly. I did the superman thing for a little bit, until I hit Ghatkopar's traffic, cue entrance music for the villain of this piece. This other yamaha screams past just as I slow down for the tangled mess of cars ahead of me. I must mention, the rider had on a skull cap and a beard, not that I have a problem with that, I'd just have preferred if he had on a helmet and the beard. 

 It is difficult to explain this feeling to people who have never ridden bikes, more specifically, people who have never ridden bikes the way they were intended to be ridden. Stella, is primed for speed. Every inch of her is built to be strong, light and fast. I have customised her, throwing away any un-needed metal, with tyres for better grip and lean, with an engine that is spanking new, and well run in, with a free flow muffler and with a mad balls-out fearless jackass on top. Given all of this, it just didnt seem right that the other yamaha flew past, leaving Stella behind. This sort of thing could ruin her confidence. Shake her self belief. Badly injure her prestige, while insulting her racing pedigree. She'd have nowhere to show her pretty face. Her peers would run her out of town. Maybe I need to stop rambling. Ok, I will. Next paragraph.

 So I down shift into first gear, tuck in to offer less resistance to the wind, find an opening in the traffic, and let Stella do what she was built to do. From 5 kmph to 25 in first, upto 35 in second, 60 in third(she's screaming by now), shift into fourth right when she's at her loudest, and fly away at 95 kmph. All this while, I've gone past a whole herd of commuter bikes, about 20 yuppies in their cages, and a pathetic pulsar who thought he could keep up with Stella. I havent really seen the other yamaha that triggered all this madness. Then I hear it behind, struggling to keep up. This situation just had to be utilised. I had to rub his nose in it, right? So I did. Downshifted to third, tucked in again, flew away and left him for dead. 

 In all this madness, not once did I risk kiling myself, or anyone else (or so I'd like you to believe). I was simply riding faster than the speed limit, and in an almost straight, predictable line, easy enough for others to avoid, but impossible for them to ignore. Its not often that you see someone as big as me, tucked in flying past everything else on the highway. It's probably likely that you thought you saw me, but you cant be sure, cuz I was just so damn fast :) He He. Forgetting all the insult, the chagrin etc, I decided to be a little lenient with the other yamaha. After all, the guy probably tried all he could, and is related to Stella. So, I slow down a little, let him catch up, and signal for him to overtake us, smiling all the way. He moves alongside, folds both hands (yes they're off the bars) in a namaste, bows his head, and leaves the highway at the next exit. Smiling all the way. What a ride, what a ride. The pleasure is just too beautiful to describe. Doing it again tomorrow.