14 August 2008

Ticket To Ride

Due to a dip in inspiration, my apologies for recycling the old... October 2007, Madras

I’ve been on these roads before. Done this route many times, but that was many years back. The lights are whizzing past like a blur. I feel that the other bikes are conspiring to fuck me. I slip in and out of the dream. I think of how there could be a God inside me who’s controlling everything. I’m the guy on his computer screen, being ordered around by nothing more than the handle of a joy-stick. The music from the twin violins is reaching a crescendo in my head (not in the song being played). I think of something and go into a dream. Since I’m not paying any attention to the road, my body and consequently the bike are put on auto-pilot mode. I simply follow the guys ahead and ride with an absence of awareness. Suddenly I get back to my senses and I look ahead at all the lights, which appear brighter, probably because I’d just woken up. I can’t recognise the roads. It’s been many years, remember? Did I tell you that I’m good with the bike? If I were any less, all the luck and God can’t save me now. Not that I’m brushing aside luck and God. I find myself begging to the God inside me to stop fucking around and show me the way. Then I remembered that beggars can’t be choosers and that I can’t ask God to do shit. Maybe I could request. If he likes having a little fun at my expense, I can’t do shit about it. Then I remembered how at all these times of vulnerability, when my soft tender flesh was waiting to get salted, somehow, something inside me has risen up to save me. How did I remember the route back otherwise?

Suddenly I remember the road where I am, and I tell myself that it’s been awfully long since I left Katan’s place and I’ve reached nowhere. All the dreaming made me feel like it’s been a couple of years on the bike. I thanked God for helping me recognise the road that I’m in. Then I think of God. I feel some dormant power which records all things important in my life – like this road, which is helping me survive right now. It resides inside me and takes control when I give up on everything, when I concede defeat, when I believe that things around me are out of my control, when things seemed to be conspiring in ways I can’t understand.

The Mount Road is long. I look all the bright lights and traffic from the flyover and think of the booming economy, all the wealth being created and cornered, and how happiness is poorly correlated to all of these. Ten years back, people would’ve been thrilled to know that things would turn out this way. To know that the lights would be so bright and so many. To know that tamilmatrimony.com would have a hoarding higher than the ones which said Raymonds and I don’t remember what else.

I remember all my limbs shaking at the Nandanam signal. You know how the involuntary shaking gets more uncontrollable as you tell yourself to stop. A shock runs up my spine and I shake my head violently. I think that everyone at the signal must be looking at me now. Every move I make is being watched and recorded. Then I look around to see people staring at nothing in particular, as if they were professional spies. I calm my nerves down and make an effort to kill the paranoia. That’s the mistake. You can’t kill paranoia. At best you can quietly slither your way out of it. The signal turns green and I look at the maddening traffic and listen to the ugly horns screaming behind me. I feel a need to escape the crowd and I’m off the blocks like a wannabe college fresher eager to show how to open the throttle in a straight road and on a stupid scooter. It doesn’t take much effort – you need your right wrist to work a little and some sense of balance. For me, the latter seemed like a bunch of marbles dipped in oil, slipping thru my fingers. It can’t be true, I tell myself. There are somethings that you take for granted. Like getting 3 + 4 = 7 correct, though I just checked that after I typed it. Sense of balance is one of them. No matter how fucked up my head is, some things don’t go away. However, holding on to that bike on the straight Mount Road with its bright lights, I can sense the doubts creep up like slush sliding between the toes.

I wonder why I’m racing with the other mad fuckers and I realise that I’m a little mad too. I’m nearing Spencers, and I have to take a left, and Alsa mall and it’s sandwiches are only a couple of kms away. My hands start shaking and I feel them being taken away from my control. Control is another thing I took for granted. My hands were obeying someone else. I knew that it was important for my survival, and that my hands would never let me down in such a moment of need. I plead with my head not to give up on me and black out. I promise it some rest as soon as I cross Taj Connemera. When I get there, like a greedy moron I try to fool my mind into thinking that the promise never happened. But whatever was driving me yesterday was smarter than my greedy fucked up head, and I had to stop. I remember thinking that if I black out, I have to call bro so that he can come and pick me up.

Back at the bridge near Connemera, I kill the engine and take my phone out and pretend to be occupied, so that no one gets suspicious. I read a message from Somesh asking me to get fuel for his zippo. I keep my phone inside and stare around without looking at anything in particular, blinking like the worst criminal ever born.

I want to leave before the cops got me. So I speed off and wait at the signal. Suddenly time seems to have passed by quickly and I’m almost there at Alsa mall. The last 100 metres are painfully long. The mall simply wouldn’t come any closer. It’s like one of those ancient screensavers on Windows, where the scenery on either side is moving past but the finish line stays fixed in the distance. I stop the bike and stumble onto my feet clumsily. I am so clumsy that I’m sure half the jobless fuckers sitting there know that I’m running short of stability. I walk to the sandwich guy and order whatever he suggests. I’d say 3 sandwiches, and his efforts at repeating the order would be “ok, 4 sandwiches… then?” Sometimes I think he’s wiser and better equipped to make these decisions and agree to whatever he repeats. On other occasions, I feel like retaining some self-respect, so I assert my original order.

The bread omelette guy gives me the bread omelette and stares at me suspiciously - so suspicious that I feel guilty at having done what I’d done, of which I have absolutely no idea.

I take the bike out clumsily. Oh, and I’d cut the music out earlier, when I stopped outside Connemera. I figured that my disobeying hands could be a result of the trippy music. It had taken me close to an hour and a dozen shaky kms to arrive at that thought. I wonder what to do with my helmet, and so I wear it. I feel like an idiot for wearing a helmet on an Activa. I feel self-conscious and uncool. I tell myself that it’s wrong to judge yourself on these things and that this is uncool. But at this moment, my need to look good and maintain an image takes over and I ride the long route back, to avoid the crowd sitting outside Alsa Mall.

I keep telling myself that I can go back and prove a point to myself. It would be cooler to conquer my image fears. In any case nobody can see the face inside the helmet. But my need to appear cool or run away otherwise is too strong. I feel ashamed and weak.

I ride awkwardly to Chetpet and Swami’s place. There is a bunch of unruly bikers, who could be fairly categorised as anti-social elements, who are in some sort of drag race or genuinely speeding for someone’s throat. I see a Yamaha whiz past me, making me feel like a smaller man on the Activa. I hear screams of ‘Oye!” and “Heeyyyyyyy” for the next 10 minutes. For some reason I feel like I’m being chased. I take the right at the Chetpet signal and things calm down. Soon after, I enter Swami’s apartments and ask many questions to the security guard who has no answers. Let me clarify that my questions weren’t smart or witty. The guard was just indifferent towards life. He didn’t tell me where I could park or where Swami stayed inside that building. Ok that’s the end of that ride.

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