When I’ve time on my hands like I sometimes do on my occasional trips to Goa, I ride the backroads, chasing silences I like telling myself.
It’s a wonder how I rarely suffered punctures considering I would be bicycling in the Sun till the pedals threatened to come off. I would keep my eye on the road and actually count the shadows the trees cast on the road, in time learning to distinguish between them and soon I came to pride in my ability to recognize trees from their shadows on lonely roads. Looking back now I’d imagine one seeks unlikely companions when free-riding down quiet roads. Needless to say it took me a long time to get more guesses right than wrong.
My cycling days are over, for now.
The last time I rode one was two years ago when we went cycling on rented bicycles in the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary in Rajasthan. Show me shadows now and I doubt if I can tell a dog from a tree.
Given a choice I’d rather ride pillion now. While it’d mean I would see fewer things than if I was riding it, now I can linger longer on things of little consequence, like straining to see if anyone would emerge from a bend in the road past a brightly whitewashed roadside Chapel, and if it was a lady would she be wearing large floral prints, or if there’re lighted candles on the altar.
Sometimes, no degree of willing an event or a want will make it happen. Even before I can reflect on my disappointment if I can call it that I can already see the next bend in the road to will the next want. And then another. Soon miles burn away, only pausing by roadside shrines where the gods are largely left unmolested. The gods came in peace, only they haven’t been left in peace ever since.
So, occasionally I’d rather keep my distance and take in divinity from afar, and seek to proffer instead of ask, like the day we went riding through Curtorim some years ago.
Stopping by a wayside Chapel past harvested paddy fields I willed peace for Christ even as I kept a nervous eye past the bend in the road, dreading someone would ride into view and shatter the quiet.
No one did. But that was more because I chose to move on before someone actually did. And in that moment I was reminded of the limits of mortals, and how unwise it would be to play god.