An old member of the motorcycle club (let’s call him ‘S’), through whom I came to know of the club, calls me on my mobile phone. He wants to know whether I will join the long ride (135 kilometres either way) the club is to undertake the next day. When I reply in the affirmative, he asks whether I would bring along a passenger (let’s call him ‘P’) to the starting point for the ride. I agree to that as well.
The next day, I pick up P from the designated point near where I reside and reach the starting point. It is actually a Dhaaba (Indian food joint), so every one, including me, sits down for breakfast. I am soon joined on the table by two people, ‘C’, whom I had met earlier when he came for his first ride with the club, and ‘H’, whom I have never met before.
There is plenty of friendly banter at the table. ‘H’ says his employers often hire content writers (which I also am) and offers to refer me to the company, if I send him my resume. Only later in the day do I realise that his designated role in the larger scheme of things is only to let me know that he has acquired permanent residence of Canada and to try to inspire me to apply for that.
C, however, has a different role to play. He also tries to act as friendly as he can and generously buys me a water bottle as well (while not forgetting to mention how he very generously does that quite often for people).
Soon after we hit the road, C’s real purpose becomes clearer. While riding in front of me, as the entire convoy of motorcycles moves in formation, in double file, he hits an orange-coloured traffic cone with the leg-guard of his bike and sends it flying towards me. However, I have been fortunately maintaining some distance from his bike and the cone merely hits my rear right-hand-side leg-guard lightly, before bouncing off.
As we go further down the route, two men on the motorcycle nearly parallel to mine in the double file begin to pass some suspicious comments. As I adjust my bike’s speed and come abreast of them to listen to what they are saying, C, who is now riding behind me, hits my bike hard with his. His motorcycle’s front wheel hits the silencer (muffler, as the Americans call it) of my bike on the inner side (i.e., the left side, facing the rear wheel). The silencer gets bent outwards and I lose balance, falling towards the right. Fortunately, once again, I manage to put my feet on the ground and the bike tilts only to come to rest on the front and rear leg-guards.
C walks over to me, helps me pick up the bike and reassures me that the bent silencer can be bent back into shape easily. None of the others in the convoy seem to take much notice of my fall and, as soon as I pick up the bike, we are on our way again. Meanwhile, the two riders who had been making the suspicious comments seem to have disappeared.
When we reach a designated stop on the route, another Dhaaba, I manage to locate the suspicious riders’ bike and memorise the registration number.
In the meantime, another drama is unfolding. A senior member of the club (let’s call him ‘R’), who was supposed to be riding at the rear end of the convoy, is claiming that he has hurt his knee. According to his story, his bike’s brake lever got stuck in something at the side of a lorry he was overtaking and he continued riding like that for a while, before the lever got disengaged again on its own. He supposedly hit his knee against something during the episode and it is hurting now. In any case, that effectively takes away any attention from my fall.
Interestingly, on closer inspection, I find that R’s trousers are completely clean. That is strange because if he hit his knee somewhere against the side of a lorry, there should have been some kind of a mark.
Also, it is strange that he and his motorcycle did not fall or get dragged along by the lorry, if his story is correct.
In any case, he hops into an accompanying car and the ride continues.
After spending some time at the main destination, where there is a waterfall, we go on to a nearby wildlife sanctuary, where there is a temple as well. Most of the group members have lunch there, eating saambar-rice, which is supposed to be ‘prasaad’ (offering to the Gods). I decide not to eat, since I don’t want to take off my shoes and socks and expect to have lunch at the designated place (the Dhaaba we had stopped at earlier) on the way back. No one tells me that the stoppage has been cancelled.
On the return journey, the riders ahead of me decide to ride quite fast (90-100 kilometres an hour) and I fail to keep up, especially as the roads are crowded and the traffic also mysteriously seems to be closing in on me, often causing me to come to a complete stop. Soon, however, I come across the car of the club’s photographer and decide to follow it. It’s only after I have done that for a while that a ride marshal comes up from behind and gestures me to follow him. Soon, we find the convoy waiting for us alongside a petrol pump on the route and we join it to ride together again.
A few minutes later, they stop at another Dhaaba. As soon I dismount the bike, C comes up to me and asks if I would like to have something to eat, to which I agree. However, before the order is served, I manage to straighten up my bike’s silencer with the help of another group member.
When the food comes up, I notice that we are the only ones eating, but carry on.
After a little while, when I am nearly halfway with my meal, the group’s founder (let’s call him ‘L’) walks up to the table and begins to scold me (even as he ignores C, who is also eating) for having delayed the ride unduly. He says I should have eaten at the temple or waited to reach the Dhaaba at the end of the route. C tries to act charitable and to reply on my behalf that we would finish our meal quickly. L appears to agree and leaves in a huff, once again asking us to be quick about it.
I gulp down the remaining bites of the chapatti and am off for the ride again.
At the final point of the ride, i.e., the Dhaaba where every one had assembled in the morning, P, who had left me and ridden pillion with another rider for the entire journey, asks me if I would drop him home. I agree to do that, while wondering whether he had known all along that I was going to take a tumble on the way and, therefore, not ridden with me. His excuse was that he wanted to take photographs, but he could very well have done that while riding with me on my bike as well. Anyway, nothing can be said conclusively about that, as about the events during the rest of day.
As P and I ride back home, some one at the roadside comments, “ye keh rahaa hai ab dobaara nahiN jaayega!” (He is saying that he will never go again!).
I smile ruefully and ride on, wondering what ‘they‘ have in mind for me the next time, as they seem to continue to infiltrate every group or institution that I am part of and to try to intimidate me in newer ways.