“Faith” is a concept, which bikers unknowingly rely on most. May it be our faith in the bike to make it through the ride, our faith in an ST Bus Driver that he will not run us over, our faith in the technically sound riders to fix our issues or even our faith in the gear we wear to keep us safe. Above all, our faith in the almighty is what keeps us going. It is this faith which drives us to the edge hoping that he is looking over our shoulders constantly.
I am not a very religious guy in day-to-day life. I mean, i am not one of those who stand in front of the lord in a towel just after a shower. I am spiritual though, i believe in this force that keeps the earth moving, that sends in the rain, that makes the sun shine and that makes babies cry. I never really went on an ROF over the last 10 years that I’ve been a thumper. The reasons may vary year after year, but there was something about this ride, which made me want to go on it since it was conceptualized. Somehow, this year I got this very strong calling from within that constantly told me to go on this ride. So i did.
14th September 2013
I wake up after a very weak sleep, I still can’t sleep a night before the ride. The fuckin butterflies in my stomach are like bats scavenging the nocturnal skies. I am joined by Ashish, who like my usual ride alarm turns up 15 minutes before our scheduled time of meeting, just to ensure i have woken up. Mom and Dad decide to come see us off at Siddhivinayak Temple in Prabhadevi. The blessings from my parents felt like it was from the Lord itself. We seek his blessings and gear up to leave. Karna’s love for his red slippers emerges and he decides to head back home and grab them. Amey tails Karna.
We head for Panvel to team up with those who chose to join us at Datta Vada Pav. Centaur starts complaining about his bike not ripping like she always does, I quickly switch with him at Vashi for a quick diagnosis. After a good 8 km ride, i have figured that our man needs to change his clutch plates. Centaur gets Ganesh to carry a spare Carb (I think a certain sixth sense told him this). En-route, Appu, who has been treating his bike like a HH Splendor with just 400 bucks of gas over the last 2 days, runs out of fuel for obvious reasons. We quickly get him some gas and get running. The JNPT stretch offers bikers to open up the throttle and I obliged. We race to Datta Vada Pav to meet Ganesh, Shark and some new members.
We are still at Datta Vada Pav. The boys are feasting on Sabudana Vadas, Batata Vadas, Misal and cutting chai. Not to forget, Nicotine, the breakfast of champions. I had this urgency to leave as I was needed in my farm office by 12 for some banking procedures. After some constant nagging, we leave for Mahad. Pushing our way through trucks and local bikers on NH4, we reach Mahad. A small and quiet temple just off the highway. Karna and I have pushed our bikes together for the first time, and loved every inch of blacktop we covered. On arriving, we get the sad news that Appu has lost all of the 9 cigarettes he purchased for the ride. Dismayed and helpless, our Mod seeks nicotine from everyone else. We oblige. After peacefully seeking the lords blessings, we are appraised about Talegaonkar’s breakdown. Our man has failed to bring any spares, service his bike and not help up us help him fix the situation. This is why I am stressing on a pre ride scrutiny. Anyway, I think we’ve seen enough of Mr.Talegaonkar.
Karna, Amey, Ashish and Myself ride ahead towards Pali to get my official business done and be ready for the pack. After some chai and baseless talk at my office, we head towards the Pali temple. Karna & Ashish head inside the temple for darshan while Amey and I look after our belongings. Thats when we find, the Carter Road nariyal paani wala. Why carter road? coz this dude is selling coconut water for 30 bucks!!! Appu would have died hearing this. Anyway, the heat was bigger than the price, Amey and I down 2 each!!! After finishing with darshan, we park at Hotel Atharva for lunch. A couple of glasses of chilled buttermilk later we ordered lunch. Isn’t it awesome, big beer drinkers settle for the simplest coolers. That’s the power of faith, or Rode of Faith in this case. After a heavy lunch, we are joined by the boys who finally arrive for lunch. Lunch Attempt no.1 – Rs.10/- coupons at the temple eatery, somehow this was good enough for normal people but not us. Lunch Attempt No.2 – Everyone comes to Hotel Atharva, I am guessing that they must have got cooks from neighboring restaurants to keep up with orders. Finally, Centaur, Headlight, Jugaad and Shark arrive. Mr. Talegaonkar has been packed off in a Tempo. Did i mention that I think we have seen enough of him?
The heat is soaring. We are in its truest emotion, feeling fucked. Jugaad is hit the most. All those attempts to fix Talegaonkars bike in the heat has got to him. Though it wasn’t a full blown heat stroke, it was good enough to bring our man Jugaad (who normally is quite a tough guy) to his knees for a bit. Some, Limca’s, Chaas and water later, Elektral powder happens to him. This should be the official Inddiethumpers Magic Potion. A litre of water with Elektral Powder and Jugaad is fresher than he was in the morning.
Due to countless delays, we decide to cut the ride short for the day by stopping close to Saswad instead of Moregaon. We head towards Bhor Ghats. Most of us feel at home in the ghats. This was evident with the widening gaps between riders. The curve huggers had a blast climbing up. We were eventually slowed down by heavy fog and slight drizzle. Once again, faith made its presence felt when the newer riders rode behind the seasoned with a sense of faith that they will take them through the ghats safely. We stop at a small stall by the road and enjoy the weather pairing it with some piping hot kanda bhajji, mirchi thecha and fresh chai.
Amidst all of this, the road conditions aren’t the best. My palanidol sinus ( a cyst in my lower back ) would give me immense pain whenever i hit pothole. The pain was excruciating but the need to ride was bigger. So i surged forward.
We reach Hotel Vaibhavi on the Pune – Satara Highway. Sandy has cracked a deal for us in the hotel as he was driving and got there earlier. We park for the night.
8 Thumpers in one room can be quite noisy. The noises vary from ass to mouth from time to time. Especially when Karna and I are in the room. Our gastro presence is phenomenal. We grab some vegetarian dinner, sol kadhi and bad ice cream. This was when Appu’s “small talk strategy” was revealed. We head back to our rooms and call it a night. Or atleast tried. Entertainment is a little far fetched when we are not drinking. But Ganesh didn’t disappoint. All the “Khado re Khado” and “pehchaan kaun” were good enough for a healthy laugh. At 1 am. We crash. At least i did.
15th September 2014
We wake up rather leisurely. Chais, pohas, Sandy’s Appams & cigarettes for round 1 of breakfast. Dumps and showers later. We head down to the restaurant for round 2 of breakfast. A dozen dosas later, we decide to leave for Moregaon. By now its already 11:30 am. This is by far the latest I have ever left a hotel on a ride day. Once again, we had Faith that we will make it in time. En-route we encounter some great roads. With throttles wide open, we rip through the heart of Maharashtra at 120 kph. Thats when Centaur’s saddle bag strap gets trapped in his rear wheel and completely seizes it. The chain cover totally warped and Centaur’s smile was washed away for a bit. To seize a wheel at 120 kmph isn’t the best of things to happen to you. But hey, with strong resolute and faith in the lord almighty, Rahul is all smiles once the chain cover has been removed and his chain has been tightened.
Moregaon temple was slightly crowded. That didn’t deter us a bit though. We reach Moregaon and seek his blessings. We now head towards Siddhatek. Once again, treated with winding roads and straight stretches between fields, the beauty of rural Maharashtra is just awe inspiring. We stop to take a few pictures and videos. These sutta breaks are in my opinion the primary contributor towards bonding between members. Imagine yourself in the middle of no where with another biker whom you’ve met just a day earlier. He offers you a smoke and some conversation. A relationship has formed. You will remember him as the guy you had a smoke with in the middle of a sugarcane plantation somewhere in the heart of Maharashtra.
Siddhatek is surrounded by the Bhima River. What’s amazing about this place is the fact that even though its proximity to a big city, this sleepy hamlet has not lost its rural charm. I remember taking a boat across the river when i went for Ashtavinayak as a kid. Now, a bridge connects the highway to the temple. Somehow, the bridge felt like Lord Siddhivinayak’s blessing to the local people. As urban citizens, we tend to take these privileges for granted. At Siddhatek, this bridge is lifeline. People’s lives depended on it, unlike ours, we depend on these flyovers, bridges, sea links and express ways just as a tool to save time. Our lives are defined by these, theirs was.
Once we got there, some fresh sugarcane juice awaited us. Siddhatek is in the Daund District, its somewhat the sugar capital of India. So the best sugarcane juice awaited us. We downed these in no time and went into the temple for darshan. Following this, we headed towards the local huts for some lunch. The stories surrounding this lunch place were by the dozen, so my expectations were quite high. Rahul assured me that I will not be disappointed. In the midst of all the riding, a secret angel was our good friend and Thumper Sandy Mohan. Since he was driving to the temples with his family, he would reach places before us and sort our lunch, dinner and hotel rooms. I couldn’t thank you on the ride brother, but Thank You!!! for everything you did on this and showing us all, what true Thumper spirit is.
Lunch was basic, Bhakhri, Pitla, Vanga-Batata Bhaji and some killer Thecha. Jujit, now i know why you pack so much of it to take home. Half way through lunch, a new string of thoughts came up. I realized, how we complicate our lives ourself by adding so many flavours, elements, ingredients, options etc etc to our day to day food. The food we ate at Siddhatek was very basic. Hardly any oil, no trace of ghee, not heavy on garam masala etc etc. We all sat and ate for an hour. This food was made to suffice hunger and not tickle our taste buds. This is what made it great. The simplicity of it. So the next time we eat out, think of that very simple yet fruitful meal at Siddhatek.
After some customary photographs and a pile up on our dearest Vishakh aka Shark, we left for Theur. The initial plan was to camp at Ranjangaon at night but the trend of the ride seemed to linger on and we decided to camp at Theur instead. A few wrong turns and detours later, we were back on Solapur Highway riding towards Theur. I asked Rahul if we could ride in a file of 2’s. We haven’t done this in a really long time and we were riding on a notorious highway at night, so all the more a reason to do this. So, leading the pack were me and Rahul with countless memories of rides where led packs at break neck speeds and had a blast. We surged towards Theur. Upon reaching Theur, our Man Friday Sandy had sorted the hotel and dinner for the night.
After a quick wash, we head towards the temple for darshan. We are told that we can attend the closing aarti, we oblige immediately. The sight of 20 bikers seated on the temple floor with hands joined in prayer is a rather different sight from what normal people perceive us to be. This is the “Faith” that I am constantly talking about. Yes we are Bikers, yes we ride greased up machines and yes we hate the way society perceives us. We have kids, we have wives and yes we help the senior citizens cross the streets. The chances of a biker helping an accident victim is much much higher than that of car driver. Ever wondered why?? In my opinion the answer to this question is Karma. We as bikers live on the edge, racing into a corner at 120 kmph at 3000 feet in the Western Ghats not knowing for sure if we can make it out alive. That’s the “faith” again, a faith that the accelerator cable will not snap, the brakes won’t lock and the tyres will grip every inch of the road.
Getting back to the dinner, very basic and simple, I had started developing a liking to this food. It made me feel content and not full. Ganesh managed to score some late night “Sheera”. There is no better way to close a meal. A plate of freshly cooked sheera just seemed to be the need of the hour.
Now, with enough grub in the tummy, it was time for a quick round of introductions and some good old IT style tuning of new members. First up was Snehal. Everybody had huge hopes that Snehal would be a hot 22 yr old biker chick, what we got was a middle aged man. It was great to know that Snehal traveled all the way from Bharuch in Gujrat to Mumbai by train just to join us on the ride. Reminds me of Keshav, our man who rides from Vapi for almost 70% of the rides we do. The new legion of Inddiethumpers does look promising indeed.
Next up was Vishal. His intro was very basic and he seemed quite clear that he was more of a solo rider than a group rider. Either way, if he wishes to ride, I guess he is always welcome.
Last but not the least, Gaurav “Havan” Vidwans. Gaurav is our dearest Rahul Vidwans’s older brother. I think besides Sharang and myself, these are the only two blood brothers in the club. Rest of us are brothers by choice of course. Gaurav and I rode together for the first time when we did Rajmachi a month earlier. So I knew a lil but about him, plus he rode to Rajmachi in the rains, and that makes a new rider worthy of some credit. We heard stories as to how his bike got christened “Bhatak Bhavani” and what his future ride plans are. We then got Gaurav to do the “havan karenge” dance sequence from Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, with choreography tips by yours truly. Fun times. Its awesome how we can be so creative and funny without the aid of alcohol. Quite a realization for us.
16th September 2014
After a night of fun and games, we plan to leave slightly earlier than we did on the previous day. But once again, the morning ghost delays us. Jugaad, loses the key to his fuel cap. After looking around for a bit, I decide to go and assess the situation. I suggest that we break open the fuel cap. Here too, the almighty makes his presence felt. A fuel cap is not listed on anyone’s spares list. I mean lets think about it, why would we carry a spare fuel cap? It’s not even a working part of the bike. But our man Jugaad has one. Hence the decision to break open the other one is taken. I take up the task as I have done it in the past. Layer after layer, we final break open the fuel cap and replace it with the new one and we are on our way.
Next stop, Ranjangaon. This temple has huge Peshwa history and is known for being amongst the more affluent temples. We quickly head inside for darshan. After darshan we binge on some “modaks” from the temple kitchen. The temple walls were painted with the entire history of the temple and how it came in to being. Amey and I meticulously read through the entire storyboard. The boys have ordered some hot Masala Milk outside the temple. We join them soon. A couple of glasses of milk and we were set. Next up, Ozar and Lenyadri.
Ozar and Lenyadri are very close to each other. With a proximity of about 20 odd kms. Upon reaching Ozar, while the rest of the group walked in to the temple for darshan, a couple of us decided to cool of with some chilled Lassi. Man, the cooling effects of Lassi are phenomenal. Once we were done with our darshan, we saw the entire pack engaging in good old IT style masti. Josh and Jugaad tried their hand at riding in the much and eventually got stuck. I did a quick burnout myself. After all the shenanigans, Sameer turns up with a bag full of ‘vada pavs’. The smaller pleasures of life.
We now head towards Lenyadri, the final temple. Lenyadri is the oldest temple amongst all the Ashtavinayak temples. Nestled in 1st century AD caves, the 300 step climb to the top is a true test for one’s devotion to the lord. While Atul, Snehal, Prasad, Sameer and the rest of the initial lot start the ascend to Lenyadri, Centaur, Jugaad, Shark, More and the others wait for us at the base. Upon arriving at the base, Centaur notifies me about a leakage in his gas tank. Call it divine intervention or just outright planning, Shark has carried a packet of Wet MSeal which is the perfect remedy to temporarily fix gas tank leaks. I guess, these are lessons learned from Malik’s infamous gas tank leak during the 2010 Lonar ride. I was a witness to that too. Anyway, we apply the sealant and start our climb to the temple with the hope that the sealant will do its job.
Inddiethumpers are not really the fittest people in the world. Especially the likes of me!!! After huffing and puffing I somehow catch up with the boys at the top. Amey keeps me company through the entire climb. We walk into this pre historic cave and seek the lords blessings and thank him for giving us the strength and perseverance to complete the trip. The descend seemed rather easy, especially for someone like me who gravity pulls like freaking magnet. Anyway, we reach down, grab a quick bite and saddle up to leave. We have managed to temporarily fix Rahul’s tank with Mseal and Surgical tape.
Riding through Malshej Ghats is always a pleasure. Day or night, fog or rain, the twisties of Malshej brings a smile inside every bikers helmet. We race through Malshej, scraping one side of the foot peg to the other, shifting our bodies like Roman gymnasts on a balance bar. Some of the boys choose to open up the throttle a bit, must have been fun. Rahul and I lead the boys to the base and stop for some chai. Appu in the mean while has made the most of the break and ordered some batata bhajji’s to go with the chai. After a Herculean effort to rake in the contributions to settle the bill, we are finally ready for the home stretch.
The Murbad – Kalyan stretch of highway is probably the worst place to ride. The rains and heavy truck traffic have made craters on the road. Potholes looked like a school girl in a pink frock compared to these ass wideners. We keep riding forward though. Hit after hit, the bikes and our bodies take quite a bashing. It was not surprising when Sameer’s bike eventually gave in. Appu, Rahul, Jugaad and I wait back and try to get this fixed. Given the experience that the 5 of us had in fixing issues, it seemed like a left hand job. But the bike had other plans. We have tried every combination in the book to get the bike started, but failed. It was then decided that Rahul would tow Sameer’s bike with the aid of a towing rope (one guy must carry this on every ride). We begin our slow and painful ride towards Kalyan, where the rest of the pack awaits us. Jugaad and I lead Rahul through the entire stretch making way for them. At one point, I notice a tree fallen on the road which covered almost half of it. I slow down and suddenly see an ST Bus coming in my direction. For a brief moment, I thought it’s all over. My entire life’s memories flashed before my eyes, almost as if I was reliving it for that brief moment. My mom, father, brother, wife, bikes, I saw it all. But “Faith” prevailed. I managed to swerve my bike off road screeching to a halt. I signal Rahul and Jugaad to do the same. This entire episode must have lasted all of 5 to 7 seconds, but look at how much life managed to teach us. It takes me back to my opening statement of this write up, as to how we have this faith that God is always looking after us. I get my thoughts together and head towards Kalyan.
En-route, we get pulled over by a cop. He claims that it is illegal to tow a bike at night. We break in to an argument and a valiant Appu makes his point, the cop, realizing that he is on the weaker side, lets us go ahead. We soon rejoin the pack, who have patiently been waiting for us over two hours. A tight hug from Karna makes me feel better. We park the bike in a local restaurant and begin our final ride home.
Amey, Ashish and I share a smoke at JVLR, discuss the ride in a nutshell and head home. I pick up a beer, lie in bed and enjoy the moment. A moment that I probably wouldn’t have been able to, if it wasn’t for God and my “Faith” in him.
That my friends, is my Ride of Faith.
Thump Away Thumper Way…..