I have had out of body experiences before. Like the time when I was 8 and was carried out of the house by my dad when an earthquake had hit. Or the time when I was coming back from that deserted island in Andamans in the middle of the night and 10 feet high waves. Or the time I was drowning in Thailand. But in each of these cases, the situations themselves were surreal. Deep sleep, earthquake, drunkeness, drowning – pretty surreal circumstances for everyone. This time, however, it is different.
As I sit in my chair in the vastly familiar terrain of my home in Mumbai and look back at the last three months, I see myself. Huffing on the top of the mountains. Bored in the deserts. Scared in the jungles. Stuck but determined in the mud. Drenched in the rain. Squinty eyed in the night. It feels it was someone else who was there. Not me. But I know better.
The most difficult part of a journey is not any of these formidable circumstances. Its the end. Its the knowledge that it is now all over. And that the next journey will take a long long time.
So how did the journey go? They say life should be counted not by the number of breaths you take but by the moments that take you breath away. Were there such moments? Plenty.
The night in Pang where temperatures dropped far below zero and I was in a tent. The morning after when the bike was covered in frost from top to bottom. Its a good thing the bike got its name right there.
The Sunday twilight in Wagah Border watching India and Pakistan do what they do best – try to outdo each other. Feeling the most patriotic and stupid I have ever felt.
The evening spent in the sand dunes of Jaisalmer with the singers and dancers.
The night spent riding across Kanha National Park with my eyes darting either ways both expecting and fearing a tiger.
The day and night spent riding across the Palamu forests and across the naxalite infested areas.
The serenity and sheer difficulty of riding up to Gurudongmer Lake. And the horror of finding kilometers of solid ice to ride on.
The sudden emergence of Chilka Lake and the sheer expanse of it.
The smile on my sister’s face when I went to Keymore to meet her.
The joy of riding over the East Coast Road. The horror of finding the massive oil leak (which is still not fixed).
The helplessness of getting stuck in Dhanuskodi. The elation of getting it out all by myself.
The stillness within while sitting at Varkala beach.
The sheer pain of riding a 1000 kilometers. The screaming happiness of doing average speeds of over 100 kph.
I don’t know when I will be out on the road again. I just know I will be. I also know that this journey is going to last forever.
My journey across India may have ended. My life as a traveler has only just begun.