November 24, 2010

Willing A Wanting In Curtorim

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.


Riot Kitty said...

Beautiful photos. Mr. RK loves to ride bikes...why are you no longer riding?

Anuradha Shankar said...

Its been ages since i have been on a bicycle... considering that the last time i was on one, i managed to fall and sprain both my ankles, which still trouble me, I am not too enthusiastic about them anymore...but your post reminded me of the time I loved to cycle around the place I lived, in thane, which was then a small suburb with small houses, no buildings... i used to find new routes (usually to my library) everyday, and loved thinking and imagining about things as I drove, which is why i chose the smaller roads anyway :) your posts make me think of so many such forgotten things.. thanks a lot!

Kay said...

"chasing silence" ... I like that. very much so.

Anil P said...

Riot Kitty: Thank you. Because Bombay roads offer no peace or safety to meandering cyclists. There's no concept of dedicated cycling lanes in the city either.

Goa did not need dedicated cycling lanes, the terrain was pleasant, the traffic was minimal, though that is most definitely changing.

Anu: Thank you. Cycling is truly a fun way to meander distances. I can imagine how it must be to have a small suburb with open spaces about to cycle around.

Kay: Thank you. Chasing 'silences' can be a rewarding experience.

Magan said...

Anil, Your post after long (wait).
I remember my bicycle rides although I did not notice with the keen sense that you do. But looking back, I remember the wonderful days.

I reckon that the long moments of silence that the gods enjoyed along the far away sleepy serpentine roads is a rare commodity now as Goa 'progresses' along the path of modernization.

We had the huge play-field in front of Vaidhya's flour mill to practice riding bicycles among the small mounds of mud that once was an agricultural land. We learnt riding the bicyle by holding the bar and one leg under it. It was quite a strange way how kids back home learnt to ride a bike.

Those photographs perfectly fit the silence you have portrayed.
Perhaps in the next few weeks when the people in the village will pray to the god, the god may be asking them with intended pun ,'Can you please bring back the peace?'.

Anil P said...

Magan: A post after a long time, yes. Had very rough times to weather lately.

Now that you mentioned it, I do remember the way many of us learnt bicycling, the right leg through the triangle. Thinking of it now it sure was a strange way to learn to ride a bicycle, I learnt riding it the very same way. Cycling in Goa was fun, and it helped there so many roads, byroads, bypasses, lanes, and dead-ends to explore.

The 'modernisation' mention reminds of what Jairam Ramesh mentioned recently, or was it yesterday, about the dangers of Indian Urban class adopting a consumerist lifestyle.

So long as Goan politicians, most were never a conscientous lot to begin with, leave the hills and the paddy fields alone, Goa will not change character much. Village Panchayats will need to take a firm stand and not know-tow to politicians or political parties on land conversions to satisfy builder lobbies.

The Gods must be an angry lot now.

Niamh B said...

I used to think I could control the sun when I was a kid, wishing for a shadow, and then letting it fade, wishing it back etc etc.
Always worth a visit here.

Indian Bazaars said...

You write so beautifully... the line "chasing silences I like telling myself" and the many lovely thoughts in the post!

Anil P said...

Niamh B: Thank you. I'm sure the Sun considered your wish back then, only he had to juggle it among the many he would receive. Shadows play an important part in the games children play.

Indian Bazaars: Thank you. Always a pleasure to learn you liked the post.

dr.antony said...

Hi Anil,
After so long.
Missed your posts.How well you write!
Beautiful pics too.The cycling story brought nostalgic memories.

radha said...

You bring to life what otherwise might seem just ordinary everyday sights captured through your camera. Glad you are back to regular posts.

anoop said...

Anil, your narrative is fantastic. I only know of another person (among my friends) who could write this well. And yeah, even I have done a fair amount of cycling and photographing when I cycled. chasing silences and counting shadows are things which i can relate to as well.


Anil P said...

Dr. Anthony: Thank you. I'm glad you liked it. Cycling is fun.

Radha: Thank you. The delight of the seemingly unordinary will surpass most things, most times.

Anoop: Thank you for your kind words. Always encouraging to learn the post is liked.

I do hope there'll space left for cycling as India's spaces shrink gradually.

Ajay said...

Hey Anil, great writing as always, you know what? i miss those reading sessions of your writings!

I also remember our cycling trip to Bondla and brake failure on your cycle :))

I cycle regularly through Curtorim, nice roads, fields and light traffic. However, our highways are becoming scarier by the day!

Anil P said...

Ajay: Thanks :-)

I remember those sessions as well, seems such a long time ago, also those travel narratives. Miss them too.

I'll never forget that Bondla trip, and the near accident I was involved in. We did 50 kms on bicycles that day to and fro.

Specially that long slope down the hill and the very sharp U turn where the brakes of my bicycle failed and I rode free with no traction and fear building in the heart. I did not expect to pull free of that sharp turn and actually braced for the crash down the side of the hill.

Ramaswamy was behind me and I remember him screaming watching me careen down the slope. He told me later that he closed his eyes thinking I would be gone for good :-)

Can't believe that I actually survived that day.

Highways are scary, especially in Goa, more so the outstation traffic. It reminds me of Retish being knocked down by a truck on the hignway at night and left alone in a ditch by his motorcycle. He lived to tell the tale. I believe it was raining then.

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Anil P said...

Claudia: Thank you for your kind words. Glad you enjoy reading the posts here.