“Why don’t we go for an early morning ride to Colaba?,” Santosh came up with the brilliant idea. It was 4:20 in the morning. He was over with his drinks, and I, in spite of putting in a lot of efforts, was neither able to write down any of my thoughts nor was able to get any sleep.
I had been awake since 2 a.m. It was a Monday morning and I had to go to the office.
“Man, I need to get some rest at least, if not a proper sleep. Have to go to the office,” I brushed aside the suggestion.
“Office? How can anyone not go for such a beautiful early morning ride to Colaba, and choose instead to go to the office? And, in any case, you leave for the office only by 9:30 a.m. Right? Don’t worry, we will be comfortably back by that time,” he retorted, looking at me in such a manner as if I had just committed an inpardonable sin.
I still looked uncertain. So he added, “And obviously, me being drunk, it is you who is going to ride all the way.” He had come up with the trump card. My good friend is obviously aware of the intoxication that I am going through these days in the matters related to bikes. “And I can show you a little bit of fast and efficient gear changes as well,” he added further.
Needless to say, it was such a nice proposal that going to office fast became a distant second thing in my mind. I am still left with one sick leave for this financial year, and suddenly it occurred to me that I could always use the same in case I did not feel like going to office after coming back from the ride.
So, we got ready. Fast. By 4:50, the Honda Unicorn had already been brought to life.
It was Santosh, who rode at first. When we were at the Western Express Highway, he showed me how fast the gears can be changed and how they can be put to other uses like slowing down the bike and providing it with additional power as and when required. It was against the back-drop of brightly illuminated dome of Hotel Sahara Star that I took up the front seat.
And then it was a smooth ride. The bike is in an urgent need of servicing and makes a lot of protesting noises in the city traffic where it must be kept in the lower gears. But soon, we were in the fifth gear, and it was moving smoother than a hot knife can move through butter.
Except for a few trucks and four wheelers, there was little traffic on the road. However, whatever little vehicles were there, they were all in good enough speed. The weather was cool and we could feel the early morning chill. The helmet that we use has long lost its plastic face cover and hence I could feel the air directly in my face.
Soon, we were cruising at a speed of around 78 kms/hour, my highest till now. And although I could not maintain it for long enough duration, it was still an exhilarating experience.
We would have reached Marine Drive in less than next 20-25 minutes, in case we had decided not to stop to have a chai and sutta break at one of those night-time mobile bicycle-shops that are so common in Mumbai; and in case we were not stopped at the early morning police naka, at a place somewhere near the Ray-Road railway station.
We had almost crossed the naka safely, when the hawaldar gave us the signal to stop. He asked me to show my driving license and the papers of the bike. When handed over, he looked at the license and asked, “Patna ka hai?”
Yes dude, agar Patna likha hua hai to Patna ka hi hoga na? “Saala. Ab to fatka lagne hi wala hai,” I said to myself.
When he had gone through the license and the registration papers of the bike and found them to be satisfactorily in order, he asked for the insurance. Paisa agar lena hai to le hi lega, bahana chahe jo bhi ho.
Forget insurance papers, Santosh has been riding the bike all over Mumbai for the past half year without a driving license. There was absolutely no chance that we could have carried that extra burden with us. Ultimately, it was only after he made us pump up Rs. 200 into the already over-sized Indian black economy that he let us go.
Soon we were at the ultimate end of the Marine Drive, the Land's End. We had reached the place fast. It was still dusky and the sun was yet to smile upon Mumbai.
The Marine Drive. Sorry, the early morning Weapons of Mass Destruction were still to arrive. We were probably too early :-(
Santosh had Keema Pao at the Al-Rehmani Restaurant in Byculla (Close to Sewa Niketan). Even though he came here after a gap of almost a year, the head waiter still remembered him. May be, it was because of Vincent, the French guy we grew close to at the hostel. Vincent must be the only white guy that this restaurant has ever been host to and will ever be.
In front of Sewa Niketan. Pay your respects Mumbai! The new biker is in the town ;-). Santosh rode the bike from Marine Drive to the hostel, and I took it up from here till our place in Andheri.
1) The journey on the back had nothing much to write about. Ultimately, not only did I have my longest ride till date, I also managed to reach the office well in time.
2) The incidents mentioned here took place on 1st of Feb. To read the story of the first half of the night, click here.