Why I Want Dowry

August 27, 2012

Dear Girl,

I am writing this letter to you with a deep sense of anguish.

Today you have declined to marry me because my family and me wanted the dowry to facilitate our happily ever after.

To my utter dismay, you rejected me!

This is unbelievable!

How could you?

How the f*** you had the audacity to decline my proposal?

Let me impress upon you the gravity of your loss that emanates from you rejecting me as your future husband on the flimsy ground of “not willing to pay dowry”.

You see I am an extremely well settled professional.

I work for a stupid blue-collar Indian software body shop where I, along with my one hundred thousand colleagues, work 24 X 7 to collectively promote mediocrity by performing electronic scavenging tasks for businesses based out of the “white world”.

My future is bright as I aspire to go to the “white-world” soon and I plan to settle in those parts of the world in the distant future.

I swear I don’t aspire to learn any of the cosmopolitan inclusive cultural lifestyle of the west but I aspire to immigrate just to dig more gold.

As I calculate, if I spend X years in the “white-world”, I shall amass enough wealth to buy a Farm House in Gurgaon and a Mercedes and thereby fulfill my life’s ultimate goal.

So, by declining my offer your future stands bleak, as you will be relegated to the job of a housewife in some dingy B grade town of North India- married to some desi oaf.

Now you also stand to miss out on being a part of my great family.

Our family is a very close-knit unit and you always have the pleasure of the company of my parents 24 X 7.

Privacy is a western concept and we don’t care about stupid western views.

But hey, we have an exceptionally well-decorated completely western style home in Gurgaon!

There are air-conditioners and 40” televisions in each of the 4 bedrooms and we even have a bar- though I must admit I have no clue what is the difference between whiskey and single malt or Martini and Margarita, beer and lager and so on….

We are very modern but we always consult vaastu to ensure each thing is kept at a place where the grand celestial design is not annulled.

We are very scientific and forward-looking but we completely believe in astrology and we have to find auspicious dates for doing all the important works.

We have all the latest “must-have” appliances but I challenge you to find a single book anywhere at home!

The closest things to a book that we have at home are cheque-books!

Books are boring and none of our family has the habit of reading books- they are only useful for passing examinations.

But we are very well educated (from D grade mushrooming colleges of course) and we speak excellent English- though we pronounce October as Uk-too-Bur, station as Us-te-ssan and so on…

I am proud that no one in our family has any hobbies.

Our only collective interest, obsession, passion is Money.

We are a bunch of living-breathing-f***ing price tags and we love to boast of that at all times- like the house we live in costs 1.25 crores rupees ($0.25 million)- the bar costs 200,000 rupees, the rug costs 40,000, the sofa set costs 80,000- the milk jar costs…..

Money is our real god- the reason why we are all alive and why we are here in this world…

My elder brother (henceforth called Bhaiya) is a great money machine.

Bhaiya works for a same type of company I work for and also has a surreptitious side business- though the side business has a conflict of interest with his current job- but who cares- he mints money!

Bhaiya  has an offshore bogus bank account and he has 40 lac rupees ($ 100,000) as black money in that (who cares about color in post apartheid era, it is money after all…)

He makes money in his sleep and dreams, eats, talks, breaths money at all times.

Bhaiya married his girlfriend but still managed to arm twist 800,000 rupees in the process- such the money making genius!

So, by not accepting my match you are sure to be cast to eternal despair of destitution of being married to some honest wager.

Finally, why did we demand dowry?

You see we married off my younger sister last year and we paid a hefty dowry there.

We also bought this great 1.25 crore home.

With so much outflow, I am sure you would agree, we need some inflows and what better than getting some dowry?

After all, this would have been your home post the marriage and should you not be looking out for the collective well-being of your would-be-in-laws?

Consider this, your father would be our relative post the marriage, so is his money not a part of ours in the larger context?

You must be weak in logic Girl!

And then again, I welcome you to look at the demands we forwarded.

As my marriageable resume in the matchmaking portal says- “No Dowry Demand”, we only wanted you to bear the full cost of the engagement ceremony, marriage function and the wedding reception- that is surely a legitimate demand after all I come from the groom’s side, don’t I?

And all we asked for you to pay for the small insignificant expenses like all the food and drinks, 3 day lodging arrangements, air travel for our 150 strong marriage party, entertainment options along with the usual ubiquitous deliverables like jewelry, clothing, gifts etc.

This is surely not a demand of dowry and there is no reason to over-react, right?

Wasn’t this a small price to pay for the awesomeness my family and me could have brought in your sorry miserable life?

But still you rejected me!

This is completely unjust and uncalled for.

Let me tell you, this is ultimately your loss as you are being deprived of the connubial bliss that you would have encountered with my cultured-modern-educated-wealthy family and me.

You lose girl, you lose big- now deal with it!

Yours Greedy and Needy,

The Awesome Boy

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Anna Hazare and the “Deathly Hallows”

August 29, 2011
Anna Hazare - The New Saint of India and the awakened Indian Middle Class

Anna Hazare - The New Saint of India and the awakened Indian Middle Class

History was made today. The great Indian democracy had another shining mantelpiece up its wall of fame of self-professed greatness. Anna Hazare and his thousands/millions/billion supporters (real number is unknown so choose your favorite approximation) made the JanLokPal bill a distinct possibility. Raise your glasses to a corruption free India folks- we did it.

As thousands gathered at India Gate to celebrate the historic turn of events in their stonewashed/gunshot denims, holding the tricolor in their manicured hands and getting a tricolor tattoo on their moisturized cheeks and shouting slogans hailing the victory, Mahender a 26 year old was busy logging the hours of the 100 odd laborers who toiled in muddy fields of the construction zone of super luxury apartments just a few tens of miles away from the great Indian Democracy’s victory orgy.

Earning 5500 rupees ($130) a month with zero holidays, zero benefits, zero raises and 12 hours of duty and a verbal employment contract, his job is to log the hours of laborers who earn 4300 rupees ($100) a month for 8 hours’ daily job (rupees 3500 for women = the lowest minimum wage, BTW) with zero holidays, zero raises and zero benefits and of course the ubiquitous verbal contract, Mahender has to support his family back in some god forsaken district of Eastern Uttar Pradesh.

I asked him, what does he reckon of Anna’s movement and more importantly his own future and he stared at me as if I asked him about his opinion on string theory and if the LHC experiment in the Alps would create a micro black hole. “I don’t know, but I think it will be good in the long run”. Here is a citizen of the greatest democracy of the world unsure about it’s second freedom movement and his own future. May be he is not important at all and his opinion should not serve as a dampener in the newfound atmosphere of celebration.

But then, I tend to be dumb and pause and think a little. The JanLokPal and government’s version of LokPal is silent on corporate corruption and now it is clear that the judiciary is also given its much-needed long rope. That should be a good news if you were a CEO looking to mine Bauxites or build an expressway- too bad Steve Jobs quit a day before this wonderful 2nd windfall, err…. independence day!

Indian middle class and upper class and the elite lives in a comfortable denial cocoon of what we subject our “lowly” unskilled, untalented, uneducated citizens to. Mahender and millions of laborers work with zeros (holidays, benefits, raises and even employment contract) each day to make the expressways on which our cars can use cruise control, malls where we can shop till we drop, plush marbled floor apartments with video door phones etc etc. This is the lowest denomination of corporate corruption- direct exploitation of humans (if they are regarded as one in the first place).

Then we have the unquestionable judiciary that always seems to be in congruence with the corporate urge of “development” and routinely finds it absolutely convenient to displace millions with the tiny flick of their mighty pen. In fact India has the world’s largest internally displaced population, that India leads the tally of industrial deaths in the world, that India leads the world tally of unresolved court cases (about 15 million) should speak for its undisputed champion status of corporate malpractices and judicial callousness.

And surprise-surprise, the LokPal bill of any flavor has left these two guys alone. They can’t be bad guys, right? This is the highest common factor of Indian corruption story, while the corporates are free to exploit the human capital, the judiciary is free (as it should be in a democracy) to be acquiescent about creating a Petri-dish where Mahenders can be trans-mutated into indoor heated swimming pools, tolled expressways, large dams, iron mines etc.

What are we celebrating for? For Anna Hazare has finally awakened the nation? Which nation? The nation that holds mombattis as if to taunt the millions of villages’ un-electrified status? The nation that celebrates one homegrown saint’s eating habits where 60% citizens of the same nation eat as much as Africa’s poorest countries?

Are we celebrating that we short circuited the democratic process of creating a bill, just as we like to short circuit the law’s course when caught for a traffic violation and blatantly offer bribes to traffic constables to do an on the spot settlement- you know a fast track justice, something our judiciary loves too – the fast track courts? Look we made great progress, now we have a fast track bill!

The Prime Minister of the world’s greatest democracy says he has no magic wand to cure corruption- may be he is reading Harry Potter a little too much – would explain his invisibility splendidly for he may have been wearing the cloak of invisibility after all!

Everyone, including the PM, agrees that the “whatever” LokPal (prefix, Jan or Dalit or whatever dish you like) bill be, if it does not cure corruption completely- would at the very least halt the juggernaut.

Now, if you are a Harry Potter fan you would know what does not die completely leaves Horcruxes (images of self, protected by black magic) which are extremely hard to find and even harder to destroy. We stand to leave the Corporate Corruption and the Judicial mess as two horcruxes that would forever crush Mahenders and millions others.

I don’t know should I also go to India Gate with a mombatti or should I start looking for the magic wand that the PM has lost, for the Deathly Hallows of corruption are still upon us. The Lord Voldemort, aka great Indian democracy’s corruption will be back.

You are hereby warned!

The “Fast”-ing Track Miracle Cure of Corruption

June 6, 2011

Indian mass is rising. The country is growing impatient towards corruption. The mood is getting increasingly upbeat. We, as a citizen of world’s biggest democracy, do not want corruption. Better, we do not want to tolerate corruption anymore! We will fight all the corrupt with our mass resistance and we will defeat them. That would be the pinnacle of the Indian awakening, the shiniest platitude for the country’s civil society. Anna Hazare’s potent start and Baba Ramdev’s selfless stir would take us there. We are just a stone throw away from the golden era! Let us all make it happen!

The above thoughts make everyone who loves this country feel energized- feel happy- feel optimistic. The government machinery seems to be yielding to the pressure. The light at the end of the tunnel seems seductively near!

So, should I expect the billions of dollars of black money to come back and fuel the economy? So, every village will have roads, every child will have education? No more dead mothers on the labor rooms? Jobs for all? A responsive government working as a vigilante superhero?

I don’t think so.

Not because Anna and Ramdev are corrupt or have their ulterior motives of power, political aspirations etc. Not because the government and the politico are hell bent to cling on to the last drops of power and money through the use of every tricks ranging from cheat and deceit to force.

In my opinion, it will just not happen because the method chosen is gravely wrong.

We grew up reading stories of good vs bad as children. We aged over watching Bollywood flicks of good over bad. Naturally, mentally we indulge in this good over bad role-play at all times. I am sure you are on the good side, just as I am, just as anyone else is.

But I am a corrupt guy. Well educated, well mannered, well to do, well established- but corrupt for sure! I have routinely fudged my small bills here and there just to save some bits and scraps of income tax. I buy stuff from shops and never insist on receipts- ensuring the shopkeeper can indulge into the same tax invasion. I have paid bribes in hundreds of places- a corrupt selfish act. So, am I corrupt? Hell yes! With more money at my disposal, I probably would get more corrupt.

How about you? Can you stake your reputation on the fact that if someone dug up your life, you will come perfectly clean? And here we are- you and I hoping that keeping a few days’ fast would eradicate the malice?

I said that this method is wrong, that the method of eradicating corruption is far tougher than what we perceive. By supporting Ramdev or Anna is like fast-food- it quenches the hunger but does not make us healthy. It makes hardly an appreciable difference. Why? Because till the time you queue up to vote and vote the guy just on the merits of your religion or caste all you are buying into is nepotism and hope of a favor from your own kind- a recipe for corruption. And then you make the redoubling mistake of backing a non-representative group to correct a representative group. It’s like hiring your driver to chasten your father!

Till the time we hope that the “other-than-state-actors” that we are backing are selfless and expect an undemocratic movement can autocorrect and bring about a golden tomorrow, our hopes are as meritorious as finding men on Mars tomorrow.

Bottomline, there is no reason to be disgusted of our politico as they are our reflections. They are corrupt because you and I are corrupt. They do not want to change because we do not want to change. And because we do not want to change, we want a magical solution that Baba Ramdev will get us there- without us making an effort. So, lets support this movement because “at-least-it-will-achieve-something-good”. Ironic is the case that we are fasting to make a point, as if the million odd deaths in this country for lack of food each year were not good enough to make a point.

Thanks to our ways, we love escapism and any promise of it. If there was a pill that could eradicate corruption, I believe we would totally take it. Baba Ramdev is surely a hope. For he can cure all kinds of cancer through Yoga…for he can make your hairs grow prescribing you just to rub your nails…for he can turn gays to straight by Yoga. He is my favorite for inventing that “anti-corruption pill”. But even if he invented that pill, it would still not work.

Why?

Because we can’t eat!

We are on a “fast-unto-death” deal- remember?

The remedy is there, we can’t take it. What a shame!

-Manasij Ganguli

manasij.ganguli@gmail.com

The Good, Bad and the Ugly World Cup……

April 11, 2011

Indian Team: World Champions

Yes folks, it has finally happened. India is the champion of the World Cup Cricket! An incredible feat from the men in blue, a great augmentation of national pride, a long cherished desire finally achieved, an awesome expression of a wannabe super power nation in the world stage!

A lot has been written/spoken/televised about the greatness of this win. We all know the “Good” part of the world cup. I am a huge sports enthusiast and for me it is surely a moment to be deeply satisfied for not only the game was good; my team – my country has won it. We all know the “Good” part of this world cup. I am happy that I saw it in my lifetime and it happened when I cheered for them with my friends- over my favorite pizza and my favorite drinks.

But then if you ask me what is top most sporting success that I have witnessed in my 30 years’ lifetime on this planet as an Indian, then unfortunately I would not be able to rate this world cup victory as my top moment. That would be Indian women’s relay teams’ 4×400 meter victory in the Commonwealth Games of 2010 at New Delhi’s JLN stadium. There is something spectacularly visual about seeing your team out-sprint the much stronger sides (like Nigeria, UK, Canada and Australia). You don’t need 6 weeks and 8 hours each day to see your team through to the podium.

And as soon as Dhoni lofted the final six of the game and a huge pandemonium broke out- an absolute orgy of nationalism and chest thumping. And that is where my gripe with this huge hoopla around the World Cup victory starts to surface.

The winning moment

For last seven days the newspapers, tv channels and every media front end is just catering to this hoopla. This is the “Bad” world cup. When all traffic goes one way, you can be sure there will be a traffic snarl. With every penny, every dime and every dollar going cricket’s way I wonder why would someone ever pick up that javelin, that bow and arrow, that oar, that racquet, that football, that cycle, that running shoes and worse of all that hockey stick (the moronic national game, remember?)!

The money on the table for cricket is a sky-high mound as compared to the other “less than important” sports. Your son plays for Ranji and plays for IPL then his base price starts at 2 million. Your son wins a world cup- gets millions in prize, land in premium locations, frontpage picture, even you get an interview….etc-etc. But if your daughter wins a gold medal defeating all powerful international challenges, gets 500 grands and a place in 11th page of the newspaper. Why would someone play other games?

If we want a sporting nation, a nation that wins sporting events then we cannot afford to keep all eggs in one basket- read just fuel cricket. Money distribution is always a zero sum game. You spend more on clothes; you spend less on food- simple. You spend huge on cricket and miniscule on athletics- you never win athletics. As a sports loving person, I am pained to see that we just got a little farther away from the wholesome sporting culture by going top heavy on cricket.

A friend of mine who trains with Indian national cycling team laughed when I told him that Indian cricket team has million dollar pay-cheque psychiatrists who tells the boys how to cry on his shoulder when they drop a catch to recover quick. He said- “The national cyclists don’t even have their own cycling jerseys which cost a few thousands”.  The “Bad” world cup is this. A nail in the coffin for other inferior sports for they have no money to bury their own bodies.

But there is one part, which completely disgusted me over the past few days. How can we equate a sporting event with national pride? The media and the public attitude towards the game of India vs Pakistan was such as if we were at war. As if losing was not an option. The corporate and the media have played a great hand on the naive middle class of this country. We have been made to believe that it is a matter of national pride to decimate our opponents on the 22 yards. Just 22 yards- never has been the concept of nationalism so narrow.

Indian vs Pakistan: Nationalism or Sports

What about our famed national pride which is battered and bruised and beaten black and blue and made to bleed blue in all the Olympic games for last 100 years? But then why would the guy with the cash care? The more cups Dhoni lifts, the more the middle class will drink, the more will they eat, the more will they wear, the more will the cash counters ring! So, the concoction continued to be passed around, each party pleasurably scratching other.

The great Indian middle class, that has the aspirations of a developed nation and therefore deems it as a right to have a sporting identity in the international arena and is ready to play this dangerous game of nationalistic fervor for a sports run by a body that has no government funding, no democratic process, not even a respectable track record of honesty! Is that what a country needs for its desperate nationalism- a bunch of vandals and corrupt leeches? This is the “Ugly” world cup.

The other ugly part is religion-izing of cricket. To make it look like a crusade. To turn our cricketers into demi gods (one is already elevated to the god’s place); this is dangerous.

Finally, look at this from a neutral angle. We laugh at American University Football’s world cup. But at least there are 200 teams there. Here, a cricket world cup has 6 teams (come on, don’t refute that by citing the fly by night teams like Ireland and Canada etc). Its like a mega soap opera with just a handful of actors (read nations) becoming evil, saintly, great, nasty etc at different times. Can you wear a world-beater image in say Indonesia? China? Japan? Germany? They have never played cricket- and never will.

So, the only place where we can carry our jingoistic world-beater image is Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh? Did you see the ugly nationalism being passed in your blue drink?

Savor this fantastic victory but if we really want to become a sporting nation, the nation that wins medals and laurels in really well participated sports events, we need to cut short this cricket craziness and embrace other sports. Otherwise we give in to this greed of naked nationalism and end up looking as clueless as some Poonam Pandey!

Ponam Pandey: The girl who double guessed everyone

BSA-TFN 2010: Day 8 – Adios Amigos, Its Over – Just for Now!

December 25, 2010

Rosanna Nitti and the 9 year old Rishi Nair: The mother-son pair of BSA-TFN 2010

After 8 days of hectic cycling, loads of great efforts, heroics, ignoring pain barriers, making friends, exploring amazing natural riches and riding through 900 kms through the lush Nilgiris of South India and climbing some 8500 meters by the 100 riders and with the inspiring support from 30 odd volunteers- India’s biggest and most coveted biking event the BSA-TFN’s 2010 edition came to an end today.

At Gonnikoppal, the 100 riders were flagged off for the one last time this year. The route was short- only 84 km to KrishnaRajSagar Dam and the mood was that of festivities. People exchanged their bikes, took lots of pictures, slowed their pace to just stretch the day a bit but finally it had to end 😦

The ride could be divided into two distinct parts. The part one was through the state highway till support station 1 which had shocking road conditions and the second part was through the super smooth and lightning fast expressway with lots of headwind till the destination.

The riders were pleasantly surprised when a huge tusker appeared on the road to the support station 1. Some of the riders stopped by and clicked photographs and some moved on towards the destination. It was an interesting start of the day.

The tusker who stole the thunder on the last day

Naah...I am not in for tusker trouble, I am going past this now!

I keep going, I have seen enough elephants in zoo

One more angle....

However, soon the road conditions of the state highway turned to hell. The surface quality was shockingly bad and heavy traffic on the route slowed the riders down. One of the riders Vandit Kalia, a famous MAMIL (Middle Aged Men In Lycra), who is an expert downhiller (superfast downhill record from Ooty) suffered from loss of sense of humor owing to the road conditions and fumed “Now I know how the dinosaurs got extinct; the space-rock that killed them had landed on this state highway otherwise how do you explain the size of all these craters”?

The road was filled with slow moving bullock carts and bully bus drivers and insensitive mobikers. To make things worse there were speed breakers on an already broken tarmac. “Why do you need speed breakers on a road that is back breaker by itself” said Priyesh, one of the riders who was finding it uninteresting to negotiate the conditions.

Potholed, Cratered, Broken.......

Check out the width of the road- hardly as much as a seal!

some open sections were relief but that would be ephemeral mostly

Anand Sinha: Apparently he risked his marriage to come to TFN 😉

yeah how can you travel in Indian roads and not see a bullock cart?

Traffic snarl caused by two bullock carts- thats how wide the road was!

Siva and Rakesh Nair was seen ambling on the road in a much less intense pace that they are well known for- what the heck it’s the last day of the tour, right? Rishi Nair, the 9 year old kid and already a celebrity among the riders toughened it out with his mom Rosanna Nitti. Mark, the rider from USA, found the roads as minefields but negotiated them well to reach the one and only support station for the day.

The support crew was efficient as ever. These guys made the tour happen. They put in days’ and nights’ of efforts to ensure that the riders get what they wanted at all times. Great job guys, it is a tough job and you guys did it with some panache!

The BSA-TFN 2010 Volunteers: The guys who made the whole event possible. Super effort people!

 

Support staff ensures all these bikes are transported to Bangalore without any scratches

and they ensure luggage is tagged and that they reach the to destination each day and then to the rightful owner!

Neeta Shankar: The official photographer and my partner in crime in covering the whole event. Our days would start at 6:30 am and end at 4:00 am. Hectic but enjoyable!

On duty photograph of yours truly. Run from this place to that and capture the event, take notes, interview folks and reproduce it in writing

 

Post the support station, the ride went to the National Highway to Bangalore and the conditions changed instantly. It was a smooth dual carriageway that carried on for next 40 km and the riders sailed through this to reach the destination in an upbeat mood.

At the destination, all the riders got an amazing welcome from friends and family that had gathered to cheer for their loved ones. The cell phones kept ringing and the guys kept congratulating each other.

yeah we did it!

The sight was heartening. People exchanging contacts, hugs, handshakes, broad smiles, laughter- filled the place with a vibrant energy. It was hard to believe that from tomorrow onwards there would be no rides with 100 riders in the beautiful Nilgiris. The BSA-TFN 2010 is officially over.

So, how did the riders feel? Here is a quick assortment:

Item Riders’ Views
Overall experience of BSA-TFN 2010 Awesome
Scenery Great
Length of Tour Good
Road Conditions Patchy (Good, Bad and Ugly)
Food OK (a bit too spice laden though)
Accommodation Good (a few great ones, a few average ones)
Support Staff Awesome
Medical Care Awesome

It was a great experience covering the event and I had great time writing about it. Yes, it was a job that makes one work late nights but the friendships I carry back from this event would be for a very long time. If I close my eyes, I still see a pack of riders in their striking colored outfits coming down at express pace through the mountainous loops of Ooty in the great backdrop of lush green tea gardens and a clear blue sky. I hope you enjoyed my coverage as much as I enjoyed doing it!

thats me- yours truly

Would you not like to be a part of this great event in 2011? Would you not like to be involved in India’s most coveted bike tour? I bet it would be a great experience the year next as well.

Adios Amigos, Its Over-Just for Now!

-Manasij Ganguli

manasij.ganguli@gmail.com

BSA-TFN 2010: Day 7- The Ride Rajnikant Would Fail to Do

December 24, 2010

There will be days when things would be easy and it would be all about smiles and sunshine. There would be days it will be tough but there will be inspiration around to keep you cheerful and focused. But a real rider and a winner is one who does not need anything. You throw a daunting uphill, uninspiring vistas, road surface that acts like landmines, heat, humidity, lackadaisical traffic, exhaustion, fatigue- whatever you got and the rider would utter nothing but produce another pedal stroke towards the goal! Day 7 of BSA-TFN 2010 belonged to the hero cult as it brought out the best of the riders’ character.

The morning air was fresh and nippy. As the riders gathered around Santosh, you could sense a palpable tension in the mega-herd of 100 strong riders. This is supposed to be a killer day. It would be hot and humid, it would be long and hard, it would have long back breaking ascents and extremely steep descents and above all the tarmac at many places would have been obliterated by nature. And all this would continue for only 140 km from Kalpetta to Gonnikoppal!

Riders lined up to start the Day 7 of BSA-TFN 2010

Naturally, in a day like this you need some guardian angels looking after you and sure enough one of our eclectic riders, Bernard Randall, showed up at the start line with a Santa mask on his face- as if all one wants the Santa to deliver was an easy ride!

Santa bring us lots of downhills and good roads please.....

Santosh: The guy who takes the support job to a perfectionists level. Hugely respected.

So, the day’s start was pretty much as everyday’s. The riders gathered around Santosh who tells what to expect en-route and the riding conditions plus the safety instructions. Santosh is a hugely popular figure and he always has the last word before the ride begins. The riders roared into laughter as Santosh said “and beware of the craters on the road”. Finally, after the daily briefing, the riders rolled out of the resort. Check out the procession in the following video.

The first 30 km of the ride was through nice Kerala village backdrops. The thing that amazes everyone about Kerala is that how it is a continuous succession of villages all along. Rider easily rolled through this part and it looked to be a relaxed day.

The Army Connection: YVR Vijay

BSA-TFN 2010 had 10 women riders....way to go girls!

Ride on Pritish.....BTW his surname is not Nandy!

Then a mad downhill greeted the riders. It was super duper steep and unlike the Ooty downhill which had an excellent tarmac, this one was bad roads. Loose gravels and sand beckoned the riders on a steep incline. There was no scope for an express descent and one had to be extremely careful to negotiate the perils. All the riders passed the long downhill without any hiccups. T was not so lucky for a trucker whose vehicle fell some 100 feet off the road in the same downhill a few minutes before the riders passed.

“It was the steepest and scariest downhill of my life” declared Prem Sagar and many riders echoed the same sentiment. Well done guys!

Downhill all the way....

The route was through the picturesque Waynad tea estates and the views were as usual stunning. One could see the green tea shrubs all along the mountain faces and the riders had great views. The riders found it a great opportunity to relax and pose for their facebook profiles and get themselves captured on camera with their new found friends.

Captured through the lens of the Official Photographer of BSA-TFN 2010, Neeta Shankar (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

Beautiful views of the tea estate as you go downhill (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

yeah pose for it guys, now that you are friends!

Soon after the downhill, the 1st support station came up. The support guys who provide the much needed relief to the riders start their day at 4 am. They split up in group of 4, each group in charge of each support station on the route. They load the provisions, the paraphernalia for erecting temporary structure, water and medical equipment and head out before dawn. By the time the riders sail into the support stations, the unit is fully ready to cater to the riders’ needs. Impressive, isn’t it?

Near Support Station 1 (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

Support Station: Time for some stretching (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

And some yoga may be.....

Post the Support Station, the tables were turned in a jiffy.  By now the riders had crossed the Boys’ Town and a massive climb began towards the Makoot forest. To make the things worse for the riders, the mid day sun was out full blast.

And then the climb began- 15 km of pure close in bare knuckle fight with the gravity! The day time temperature soared to 37 degrees Celsius and the climb was on a steady 5-6% gradient. Only solace, the tarmac was of good quality. The hot sun made the climb an unbelievable suffer fest. Unlike the massive Ooty climb, the scenery was not great in this climb and it was a pure test of the riders’ will against the tugging gravity. It was a slow painful climb and every rider suffered through it. But, no one gave in. No pull outs, no retirements! Everyone climbed to the top of the massive 800 meter climb.

Climb starts on good roads

and it continues for 15 km! The organizers were right, this was a TFN of the climbers

gravity vs determination

Fight...fight...fight....Never give up!

Heat was the major killer in the ride and soon after the uphill, the surface quality turned shocking. It was rutted, potholed and completely un-ridable but the riders were still not throwing in the towel. Interesting tid-bid events kept happening to make it an interesting ride.

Shreyas, one of the speed daemons, was flagged down by another rider of similar kind Sunil Menon, who apparently wanted some plain water and before Shreyas could bat an eyelid Sunil had emptied the bottle down his throat! Rohitash was seen begging for water from passing by vehicles. All the guys who had cut down on carrying excess bottles to save on climbing dead weight suffered as they started to run out of water before the support station. By the way, everyone was not thristing for water. Ankur chased a motorbiker with beers for a drink but the bad roads made it a futile effort. He made amends at the day end though! Amit Mukherjee had unbelievable 4 flats during the day taking his overall tour count to 8. He is surely the “Flat Champion” of the BSA TFN 2010.

Finally the riders reached the Support Station 4, the last one of the day. Soon after 5 pm the sweep truck swung into action collecting riders on the way. It is a sad thing for any rider to get swept. Pramod looked absolutely shattered at the end of the day. “This was the first time I got swept” he said shaking his head. Namit Nagia was equally dejected. “Had it been less hot or the road would have been wee better, I would have been a finisher”.

Ride, walk, crawl, roll but finish anyhow..... thats pure spirit

Heat- no problem. Climb- no problem. All is possible in company of friends

The day’s ride had two major heroic acts. Jagannath Raju or Juggy, the oldest rider of the event at 61, had a fall and it was suspected that he had a hairline fracture on his little finger. But Juggy chose to ignore it and continued to ride and finished strong! Navin Thangiah, an ultra marathon runner who was riding initially with Sudarshan and Anjana was caught up by the sweeper truck at 6 pm. It was already dark and he was asked to give up. He refused and said that if he is swept, he would run the last 10 km. Finally Deepak and Santosh rode their motorbikes ahead of him and Navin finished the tour in pitch darkness.

Jagannath Raju: The oldest and one of the most inspirational riders of the tour- rode with a hairline fracture in his finger. Inspired enough?

Overall, it was a day which was universally accepted as the toughest day of the tour by the riders. Sarvanan, who was involved in a photo finish with Amrish today said “This was no ride, this was punishment”. But then there had to be a day which would bring out the real hero out of each of the riders. Day 7 did that for it was an incredibly tough day and even Rajnikant would fail to do this ride!

The mood in the camp is upbeat as tomorrow is the last day of the ride of BSA-TFN 2010. It would be a short day but would be high on emotions and camaraderie.  Alas all good things come to an end.

-Manasij Ganguli

manasij.ganguli@gmail.com

An unusual place to rest. Make most of all opportunities and finish strong!

BSA-TFN 2010: Day 6 – Roasted, Potholed but Highly Spirited

December 22, 2010

Waynad Loop of 80 km: BSA-TFN 2010 Day 6

Take a tangy bit of Kerala, Gods Own Country’s backroads, get a few bananas, add a dash of coconut water, barbeque it with potholes in high humid heat and garnish it with bike riders and Jhonny you got the Day 6 of BSA-TFN 2010!

It all started at 8 am on Dec 21st, the 6th day of BSA-TFN 2010 from Kalpetta in Kerala. The plan was to take an interior of Kerala village roads and do a nice and short 80 km loop around Waynad, Kerala and return to the base camp. The morning air had a slight nip as the riders started the day’s odyssey.

Soon enough the quaint Keralite villages appeared with all the goodies Kerala has. One could see numerous banana trees and huge congregation of coconut trees along with miles of expansive cultivation fields crisscrossed by many small murky looking rivers- Yeah baby you are in Kerala!

Morning roads with a few locals

coconut and banana everywhere- well what do you expect otherwise in Kerala?

and lots of rivers here and there

Initially it all looked quite alright. The morning traffic was light, the surface quality pretty decent and the air cool enough to make it an enjoyable outing. However, Mr. Murphy had other plans for the day. As the day progressed, the traffic increased on the roads with drivers of suicidal and homicidal tendencies. The weather turned hotter and humid and finally the surface quality went from decent to bad to worse to @##%&*#. However, the riders toughened it out on those roads which looked like lunar craters! It is tough to bike on a hot day and the effort takes whole new proportions when you add bad roads and traffic to it. It requires skill, determination, tenacity and resolve to live through. The riders showed it brilliantly. One rider, Sandesh wanted to quit on wake of the circumstances but he pulled himself through. Thats what you want to see, people overcoming odds.

a biker in stand out colors looks really striking

thats the wisdom tree and now that Vinay has gone through its overhang, he is surely a wiser guy

Rekha Menon: One of the most versatile women in the trip. She is a livewire 🙂

Biker in a rustic surrounding. We love it as it is such a refreshing change from the cities!

all smiles despite broken tarmac and heat- spirit is a great leveler

Soon enough the sight of the 1st Support Station gladdened all. The support station served the nice refreshingly cold beverages and some refreshments. It was a very short day and the riders were all relaxed and enjoying the outing despite the odds.

1st Support Station of the Day

People exchanged notes on what all they have been eating on the way. Keralite Porota and Appam Curry seemed to be the choice of food many had tried to sink their teeth into. Gaurav, one of the support crew, narrated the incident of being called Harry Potter by a kid (he looks quite close to that for sure). But the most hilarious incident happened with Abhinav Munshi. He was flagged down by a guy and before Abhinav could fathom that he was in an inebriate state, the guy had taken the hydration bottle from the bottle cage and emptied it into his throat!

Post the 1st support station, the surface quality turned good and the views became nicer. The riders were now passing through massive banana plantations through an undulating terrain. Every now and then they would be going over a small river and descend into enchanting village settings.

enchanting banana plantations

the surface quality became very good after the 1st Support Station and the riders were back in rythm

rivers and irrigation canals are plenty in Kerala

hunting in pack

It turned quite warm by the hour and the riders were seen scurrying to get back to the base camp. It was indeed a short day as all the riders came back before the lunch gong could sound.

It was little different story for the racer ilk today. They decided to ditch the village roads and went ahead to the Kozhikode beach by the bikes. It was nice 140 km paceline for the faster guys and they came back all pumped up.

lets push hard and reach the destination quick

I smell food and I got to hurry to reach it early enough

bye bye fellas, I am outta here

looking back, it was not really a bad day at all. you saw the rural Kerala, banana plantations, rivers...

One interesting incident made up for the hardship of climbing and grinding through the rutted potholed roasted ride of the Day 7. Yogesh and Vishnu were lured into a local eatery with the fragrance of coconut curry and hey presto they landed on a lunching camera crew of City Plus television channe!. So, in full glare of 100 onlookers, Yogesh and Vishnu had their share of celebrity moments. So, that is another benefit of riding a bike- you get famous!

 

Hi viewers, I am Yogesh and this is my friend Vishnu. We are riding for world peace, gay rights, saving tigers, conserving rainforests, promoting friendship, saving environment....blah blah..... In short I am now a new celebrity who believes in everything is worth savin

The evening at the resort was made memorable by an assortment of Keralite delicacies and the riders enjoyed the great cuisine.

Tommorow, the ride has a long grueling day in which the riders cross some 140 odd km to sail into Coorg, the coffee plantation heaven of Nilgiris. It promises to be a great scenic affair once again with lots of uphills and downhills. It a coffe plantation and as you know a lot can happen over a coffee so stay tuned for more drama.

-Manasij Ganguli

Manasij.ganguli@gmail.com

BSA-TFN 2010: Day 4 and 5- The Real Nilgiri Scenic Treat

December 21, 2010

 

Boni Gopalan- The Single Speed Champ comes to make a corner with his 1000 watt smile

 

Yesterday’s pain is tomorrow’s gain- no other saying conveys the spirit of Day 4 and 5 better than this. The Day 4 of BSA-TFN 2010 was the perfect day to bring smiles to the faces of the tired riders who fought the daunting demon of gravity to reach Ooty.

It was a rest day and the riders largely chilled out. Some went to Cunoor, some went hiking and some just lazed under the fleeting clouds in the rolling grasslands. In the evening the riders sang and told stories and made the most of a well earned rest day.

The Day 5 of BSA-TFN 2010 proved to be one of the best ones a cyclist can imagine. Long sweeping downhills, beautiful natural vistas and great food and it all continues for a long 146 km to make it an unforgettable day. It started a little late owing to a short rain spell but the damp start did not come anywhere near dampening the spirit of the riders.

Start of Day 5 in rainy conditions

 

But the spirits were high!

 

The speed guns were out as the riders just went for a pure adrenalin rush by taking their bikes for a fly in the downhills. The surface quality of NH 67 was excellent and it was a great opportunity to effortlessly roll under the gravity’s influence and enjoy the nature.

Some of the riders however decided to make it a fast affair. They just whizzed past everything and rushed headlong downhill on their mean machines. It was hard to glimpse them as many of them clocked 70 kmph on the descents! The riders bending at a curve would be the most dramatic snaps of the day.

Downhill...yayyyy!!!! Now lets stretch some legs and clock some serious speeds!

 

Amrish, the uphill champ. May be he lamented the fact that it was a downhill 😉

 

At USD 10,000 thats the costliest bike on the tour- Paul the proud owner

 

Roopak Suri making it a light work on his LiteSpeed

 

Nitish: An unsung hero. Finished Day 1 as 3rd rider, climbed Ooty with a twisted ankle. Way to go!

 

Check out the bank angle of the rider....fantastic to watch!

 

Life @ 70 kmph, faster than motorbikes and cars in turns makes the bikes tracer bullets in downhills

One guy is racing another one is camera facing!

 

All these shots were taken from the same spot in less than a minute's interval. It was breathtaking to see these guys kill the curves at high speeds.

 

A word about the natural beauty would be surely fitting here. And, beautiful it was. The green trees, still fresh from the rain, merged with the tea estates and the beautifully contoured grasslands. The sights at the spectacular lake were again at its best. The fog played a great hand at augmenting the beauty. It would all of a sudden engulf a part of the hill and then magically lift off opening the curtains to the distant views. The riders would push the downhills and stop frequently to pose in these surreal natural backdrops. Now you know the mountains punish you on an uphill but reward you with spectacular spellbinding views in the descents. The BSA-TFN delivered that promise with aplomb.

Views of the lake. All smiles today for there is no uphill 😀

 

The road surface was nice all along making it a dream downhill with excellent views

 

Magnificent Vistas..... (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

 

Beautiful clear view of the winding roads of Nilgiri

 

Now the roads get enveloped by fog making it surreal (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

Tall trees kissing the blue sky in a lush tea estate- what a sight!

 

Fogged up tea estate...

enjoyable biking experiences through the beautiful Nilgiris

 

Come to BSA-TFN if you want to be amidst this fascinating natural backdrop

 

To matters more enjoyable the road was marked by the BSA-TFN marksmen with interesting quotes. These guys work incredibley hard to keep the tour on right tracks. They go out each night at 2 am and cover the whole tour route and make markings on it and also add a dash of humor and sensibility. Great job guys, without you the BSA-TFN would go nowhere!

An excellent example of the BSA-TFN 2010's marksmanship (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

 

The food was again in the high priority list today. People stopped at many eateries to try out the flavors of Nilgiri Tea. Impromptu stops for egg rolls, paranthas, plum cakes made it an interesting descent from Ooty from gastronomical perspective. Broad smiles and laughter filled the air. That’s what you want to see with an eclectic bunch of people, don’t you?

An impromptu tea stop (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

Vishnu cooking egg roll for TFNers.

 

Finally, as all good things come to an end, the wonderful downhill ended in Gudalur and a short climb ensued.  However, this part proved to be great for nature lovers as well. Lush tea estates flanked the road and the moderate climb ended up being another high octane scenic treat.

The last leg of the day was also beautiful making it a great day for nature lovers

 

the great blue sky adds to the drama

 

going through a beautiful tea estate

 

Finally the BSA-TFN 2010 entered “God’s Own Country”, Kerala. For next two days it would stay in Kerala. The final section from Devala to Kalpetta was a route hugging a ridge and again had rich vistas. At the end, the whole jamboree of BSA-TFN descended into Kalpetta, a small town in Kerala and ended what was the most amazing scenic platter in the offering to the riders.

The Day 6 of BSA-TFN 2010 promises a superb loop through the beautiful Waynad. Looks like the tour is surely making its marks felt. Stay tuned for another lipsmacking day’s account from the God’s Own Country.

 

-Manasij Ganguli

manasij.ganguli@gmail.com

 

A full Bike Salute to BSA-TFN's most scenic day

 

BSA-TFN 2010: Day 3- “Yenna Rascala…Climb It”!

December 20, 2010

Amrish: The climber of the Day! (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

Sir Issac Newton is not the best friend of bikers anywhere in the world, for no biker likes to fight the Sir Issac Newton’s biggest discovery- The Gravity! But then on the very date (18th Dec) America had abolished Slavery back in the year 1865, our 100 riders of BSA-TFN 2010 subjected themselves to the slavery of fighting Earth’s gravity and was it just a coincident that the total climb of the day was exactly 1865 meters? Just like the appalling custom of slavery was defeated, our riders pulled out every ounce of character and strength from their faculty to defeat gravity and reached Ooty, the crown jewel of Nilgiris. That was BSA-TFN 2010’s Day 3 – A day of heroics.

The start of the day was measured and composed as opposed to the pacy starts in the last few days. All the riders knew it would be 90 km of uphill biking to Ooty and therefore conservation was prime on their minds for sure.

Paul and Ravi Ranjan in lead as the riders enter the enchanting forests

The route soon entered the bio-diverse Madhumalai National Park.  For the sake of riders’ safety the volunteers batched them in such a way that no rider was far from the vigilance of any support vehicle. Soon enough, the reason became pretty apparent of why such caution was observed. One could see many birds, peacocks and monkeys on the route but then Arun spotted a leopard and many other riders also saw the magnificent creature.  Many riders spotted elephants and then they saw the Niligiri Bison. It was a huge animal, declared Vinay Pydah.

When in forests, you see animals. Here are the riders with an elephant in the backdrop.

Travelling through the forest, the group clumped into riders of different paces. Out in the front was again Ravi Ranjan, reaffirming why he is considered such a great rider, followed by Paul. Roopak was also not far behind. Soon enough the pack descended into Gudalur, the base of the climb for Ooty.

At Gudalur the ride took an optional diversion. A few riders took a small detour and travelled to the Vidyodaya Tribal School. Charity Rider Sudarshan Krishnamutrhy led the pack of ten odd BSA-TFN riders that included Sameer, Mayank, Jagannath Raju, Supreet, Anjana, Navin, Vishnu, Prem and Shankar. These riders cycled some 2 km with the local school kids to reach the Tribal school. There these riders were welcomed by a huge gathering with tribal songs and dances. The riders were gifted a handmade bracelet by the kids. It was a great experience and the riders moved with a warm glow of affection. This was BSA-TFN’s resolve to get resources to the local community at its best! It is an uphill climb to have a just society but BSA-TFN is not giving up!

Dont give up. True for all causes- riding uphill or making a difference in the society

Meanwhile the cycling bunch reached the 1st Support Station. By now the lead group had Ravi and Paul and they were 5 minutes ahead of anyone behind them- a big margin in climbing! With Roopak close to their heels it looked like business as usual on the lead pack story. However, there was one great surprise package waiting to explode into action that would not only reverse the trend but would set the Nilgiri tracks on fire. Amrish Kapoor was mounting a charge from the pack of middle paced riders. He works for Yahoo as a Front-End Lead and he had exactly that in mind – to lead from the front! The guy was on fire and he kept knocking the gradients with his relentless pedaling. An upset was well and truly on cards….

Push - push - push....thats the way this bloke bikes (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

On the other side of the ride were the “Leisure Pleasure” riders- an exact ante-thesis of climb quick and reach early philosophy. These were the guys who want to ride to explore the beautiful country side on their bikes. Just like on olden days the explorers went in packs, these guys also made their happy hunting pack. Yogesh Rao, Vishnu Raned and Manju Mysore, Pramod and Anand Almal formed a great group. They more or less ignored the Support Stations and stopped at each tea joint. “The shop next sells excellent cardamom tea, 5 km ahead is a tea joint famous for honey tea and we must stop for those plum cakes….” Looked like these folks were on a Tea tasting mission.  Manju declared TFN is “Taste of Nilgiris”.

Yeah please click me, I need this to tell stories to my great grand children. Leisure Riders had a field day.

The markings on the road lifted the spirits of the riders. This one says, you reach a support station in 2 km. Loved them all through the route.

Meanwhile the climb was living upto its reputation. The surroundings were magical with tall eucalyptus trees flanking the roads. The magnificent tea gardens would make a magical appearance through the slowly lifting fog. One could smell the fresh mountain air and listen to bird calls while you huffed and puffed up the climb.

the beautiful views in the climb. you need these for motivating yourself for such an arduous job

amazing fog covered route. the fog would set in and lift periodically. made for some spectacular sights.

breathtaking view of the lake. check out the color scheme in play here. blue sky, green trees, clear water. just superb!

"the world is a stage and we are riders", check out the grand spotlight cast on the route by the sun.

The villagers were pretty amazed at this sudden onslaught of so many riders. The site of people in colorful gears in the great hilly backdrops made heads swoon. The incoming vehicles would have peering heads on all the windows and mostly they cheered the riders. Everyone understands that climbing a hill on a bike is not an easy task. However, your luck always ends somewhere and it happened with Shyam  when a rogue trucker came just too close to see what gear ratio he was riding in- almost trampling him. Quick thinking and fast reactions meant that Shyam bailed out of the bike but his knee bore the brunt. He had to pull out of the climb. He was fine but rued a missed climb.

Also unfortunate was one of the most jovial and friendly riders of 2010 pack, Darshan Rathode. He picked up a knee injury and a bad shoulder sprain and had to quit. He was examined by Dr. Mahesh who is associated with Manipal Hospital, Bangalore. The ambulance that accompanies the BSA-TFN 2010 riders is a fully functional state of the art medical unit with emergency medical and trauma care equipments ready at all times. Darshan had an instantaneous ultrasound of his knee and was advised rest. Having a skilled doctor and a well equipped ambulance calms most nerves. Well, you all buy health insurance policies for the peace of minds, don’t you?

Darshan getting an ultrasound on the spot in the ambulance. Now that is what tour management is!

By the second Support Station, the lead pack’s composition had changed. Amrish Kapoor had pulled out some extra ounces of energy and inspiration to overhaul everyone on the climb. He had erased the 5 minute deficit in some 15 km of climbing and was now the leader of the climbers! Paul, Roopak and Ravi Ranjan completed the lead pack. In fact Amrish went on like a diesel locomotive right till YWCA Guest House Ooty and completed the climb in 4 hours and 45 minutes!

Rishi Nair, the 9 year old kid was, meanwhile, still climbing strong. He and his mother Rossana made the maximum heads turn. It was a great sight and it looked that a true champion is in the making.

The pair that inspired everyone

Despite the continuous 5% gradient of the climb, the good humored climb continued. Ameet asked for sunscreen in a Support Station only to be reminded by his fellow rider that support stations are not supposed to keep “beauty products”. Amit Mukherjee, a professor in IIT Kanpur threw an impromptu party to his fellow climbers. What was in the menu? Freshly plucked raw carrots and radishes. Mind you, you did not need the circuit design of the “Virus Inverter” to qualify for the free food (throwback to the 3 idiots’ dialogue between the professor and his students at the marriage function).

The climb’s intensity petered off after Nadavattam and it was all rolling hills till the final stop of the day at YWCA Guest House at Ooty. Everyone looked pleased and pumped up after completing the toughest day of the tour.

A pleased rider at the end of the climb- Bernard Randall. Check out the chain!

Just have a look at the day’s stats for fathoming the climb’s intensity.

 

Ooty Climb Profile

Yes, climbing a hill is a tough ask and Amrish was the mountain goat of the day and others also were heroic but to me, two efforts were serious stand outs. One was Boni Gopalan’s effort of climbing to Ooty in a single speed bike. It is extremely tough to do so with a non-geared bike and Boni showed that it is not about the bike. The other was Nitish’s effort of climbing the whole way with a severely twisted ankle. When you climb, a small boil feels like ulceration and to climb with a twisted ankle showed that it is not about the body.

So, what is climbing about if it is not about the bike and the body? It is about the mind. It is the never say die attitude. It is the will to succeed- the desire to make it happen. The BSA-TFN 2010 riders showed that today and boy wasn’t it awesome?

Time to flaunt and pose for I have climbed to Ooty!

Tomorrow would be a rest day and the mood in the camp is light. Therefore I thought to end at a lighter note. So, what could the title for this blog be? Victory of Will? Great Climb? Naah….it is not corporate meeting room naming stuff. I am in Tamilnadu, land of amazing Tamil Movies and I immediately thought of SRK’s flick Om Shanti Om’s spoofy Tamil dialogue “yenna rascala, mind it” (mind it you rascal) and changed a bit of it to suit what all these guys must have said to themselves when their head, knee, ankle, muscles hurt in the climb – “Yenna Rascala…Climb It”

-Manasij Ganguli

manasij.ganguli@gmail.com

BSA-TFN 2010: Day 2- 155 km Day and a 9 Year Old Rider – A Child’s Play!

December 19, 2010

Rishi Nair: The 9 Year old Marvel at BSA-TFN 2010 (Credit: Neeta Shankar, http://www.neetashankar.com)

Somewhere between the leisurely morning tea and the newspaper in the local tea shop, in the regular day’s activities of Kollegal, a tiny city of Karnataka, was this proverbial storm in the tea cup as the 100 lunatics of BSA-TFN 2010 stormed out into the city roads to commence the day 2 of the ride.

The mood was upbeat after the 1st day’s 185 km’s Herculean effort of each rider as they embarked on a somewhat shorter day of 155 km to Bandipur, a small town in the foothills of the Nilgiri’s darling Ooty. The route for today was through some enchanting village roads with lots of undulating terrains. The promise of a scenic route made for a joyous start. The occasion was more than joyous for Haresh Amre who celebrated his 40th birthday.

However, the ride started in a terrific tempo as Roopak, Paul and RACF’s Managing Trustee and TFN’s very own Ravi Ranjan brought a dramatic very early break off from the peloton.  The group stormed into the excellent National Highway’s tarmac in a formidable pace-line that was averaging above 40 kmhr! It was a treat to watch the serious riders turn on the heat and the best moment came when these guys drafted behind a bus for a little over 3 minutes covering 3.5 km at an average pace of 65 kmph! Hats off to you guys, you have muscles of steel!

Ravi Ranjan, Roopak Suri and Paul. Missing from pic - Rajesh Nair!

Roopaj Suri: On attack

Ravi Ranjan- One of the most respected bikers in the group (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

The ride continued on rolling hills and undulations. The smooth highway was flanked by tall trees and with greenery around the riders had enough inspiration from mother nature. Speaking of Inspiring figures, the ride saw a mother son pair of Rishi Nair (9 years old!) and Rosanna Nitti ride together. It was a brilliant sight and everyone was all praise for the “Junior Nair” (son of legendary racer Rajesh Nair who had to miss out the tour because of Visa issues). With Rakesh Nair also holding the Nair flag high, the TFN looked like Tour of Nairs 🙂

Rakesh Nair (Credit: Neeta Shankar, http://netashankar.com)

Rossana Nitti (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://neetashankar.com)

The 1st Support Station came up really quick at 45 km from the start line. It was perched right besides a sugarcane factory that produced jaggary and sugarcane juice.  That generated a lot of interest in the riders and some went all the way to learn the tricks of the trade. One such guy was Vinay Bhatia, who went into the factory probably hoping to get them to sign an MoU or something! At the same time, a fresh coconut water vendor had himself swarmed as riders opted for the natural revitalizer.

Sugercane for energy (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

Vinay Bhatia with jaggary maker (Credit: Neta Shankar @ http://www.netashankar.com)

The cocnut vendor was much in business and the riders flocked him

The Support Stations are important nervous centers for the tour command as each rider is required to sign against their names so that the tour directors can keep track of the progress of the riders and their last positions. The tour has a plethora of volunteers on motorbikes and cars to keep track of all riders and their safety. With the safety assured, the riders ride at their favorite pace and enjoy the tour to the fullest.

Support Station Drill. You are not going anywhere without signing that paper. (Credit:Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com )

Also the Support Stations are a point where riders engage in a bit of in-ride socializing that ranges from light hearted banter to giving massages to each others to even grooming each other. The camaraderie between the folks was a heartwarming thing and more so when you contrast the friendships with the most frequent question in the tour “Hey I missed your name, it’s kinda hard to keep track of the 100 names….”

massage, grooming, chit chat- story of support stations

Post the first Support Station, the ride took a dive into the back roads from the billiard top of the National Highway. This brought about two changes. First, the route’s scenic quotient went up many folds as now it was steep ascents and descents of short length on a route that was punctuated with several ponds and water bodies and second, the surface quality dropped dramatically and now included a bit of broken tarmac and packed gravel and soil. To make matters a bit more challenging for the riders, the sun was out in full blast and it got from warm to hot to burning by the mid day.

The backroads for riding on Day2. The heat was on as the sun beat down hard. The ride was however on a refresing natural patch

 

Was the route beautiful? Oh yes!

By midday, the riders made it to the 2nd Support Station which was pitched by an enchanting water body. It was a great hang out place. The place exploded with laughter as Kavitha was leisurely applying some ice over her shoulders when someone remarked “It looks like you are posing for the Lux soap advert”. Yeah it had all to make it a soap advert- A babe, a water body except that the bar of lathery soap was replaced with ice!

 

However, everyone was not smiling. Nitish looked a bit off color from his usual upbeat self and we got to know that he had dropped his Garmin Forerunner  somewhere in the way 😦  Dr. Kumaraswamy’s problem with not smiling was however caused by a fall from the bike that needed a few stitches on his lips.

By midday, the ride was now going on under an unforgiving strong Sun. However, it still brought out some cool gestures from people and the riders. Vishnu and Pramod had stopped for a small hydration break and struck a conversation with a local who was so impressed with BSA-TFN story that he invited them for a stay at his home and promised to provide local site seeing! Somesh, on the other hand, was offered with an option by a local motorcyclist to trade their machines for some time so that the guy could try out Somesh’s sleek bike! But the top honors went to Rohitash who laid a lavish buffet of biscuits to a crippled puppy.

A perfect snap for PETA folks! Should marvel the photographer's eye as well (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

The lunch was served at the 3rd Support Station, 55 km from the Country Club, Bandipur, and the final destination of Day 2. The lunch was well received by the riders but our friend Randall Bernard’s stomach did not agree well and that meant some dumping of some natural fertilizers for some impoverished flora. The only thing this dude lost, which he rued, was some precious glucose water (you know for what purposes,  right?). The riders were exhausted by the heat, suffering from the surface quality’s erratic nature but never short of enthusiasm. That makes a rider, isn’t it?

Ride with a Smile (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

or ride with a style (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

or ride with grimace

or ride with grimace (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

but ride after all..... (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

The Day 2’s monster laid its teeth bare after the riders crossed through the Bandipur National Forest gates. A monster gradient of 10-12% for the last 10 km or so made a bad breaking climb after already pedaling through 140 km! The mountainous terrain meant an early darkness and the sweeper vehicle picked up a few riders in last leg of the climb. Those who escaped the sweeper vehicle by a whisker had that cunning smile on their faces that said “yeah…beat that!”

just before the end- its all smiles (Credit: Neeta Shankar @www.neetashankar.com)

The dreaded Sweep Truck- Your time is up! (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

The Country Club, Bandipur proved as an excellent final pit stop for a hard laborious day under a scorching sun. The riders were greeted with great food and a well deserved break.  The day’s elevation-distance stats looked like this:

The Day 3 of the BSA-TFN is supposed to be the hardest and the most scenic of all. The riders are supposed to do a 90 km day with a 40 km unbroken climb to Nilgiri mountain’s crown jewel Ooty. It promises to be an epic as the climb is monstrous. Expect more drama, more heroics, more show of character from the 100 lunatics. The 9 year old kid Rishi Nair showed today that all the things that are considered difficult and perceived as impossible are actually a “child’s play” if one is willing to hang in and deliver the best. It will be a serious test of character on the long laborious Ooty climb tomorrow.

Go for it guys, you rock!

One of the many road signs that the Marksmen put. The Marksmen get out on road at 3 am and mark the whole way for the riders. What a tough job! (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

-Manasij Ganguli

manasij.ganguli@gmail.com


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