When I started out of home with the cycle, it looked like a normal day. There was a thin cloud cover which had been hovering on the city for a few days now, but it hardly looked like it is going to rain. I took off with the usual thought - 'been a nice weather, let me go now'.
I made past Jayanagar and to South End Circle and picked up a few magazines from a news agent there, the ones that I could not find near home. I was about head back and suddenly realized I had not noticed the fading light. It was only 3pm but looked like 6 in the evening; clouds had loomed in the sky and a few drops had already fallen.
'What to do,' I wondered. They were dark clouds, covered the whole sky and it thundered once in a while. Downpour was imminent and from the looks of the clouds, it would last for more than an hour. To head back or to wait was a hard decision to make, and I must have taken good five minutes figuring out and trying to put some logic into my mind. It would be a long boring wait if I were to wait for the rains to stop and clouds clear up. I decided 'lemme get drenched if I must' and took off.
Light drizzle and a gentle wind teased me as soon as I took off. Those who have known the leafy road passing along Laxman Rao park would know how much fun it would be to pass through it on a nice cloudy day with rains coming on and off. I cycled a kilometer or two with few drops falling on me every now and then. 'Such pleasure being here', I thought, 'I hope it doesn't rain hard till I reach home'. Before I knew, it had started pouring but I did not realize it as the rain takes much longer to drop down through the thick tree cover.
I got the first taste of big drops on me only when I passed through a junction with a patch sans tree cover. It started coming harder as I moved forward and in a moment it started pouring like mad. The few bikers on the road parked their vehicles and ran to find shelter. I was already pretty wet and decided to move on anyway, as I did not find any place near by to get under. I thought it is going to be a painful ride home but in a flash I figured I am actually having a ball out there in the middle of downpour. It was only a mental block that was telling me characteristically that one has to escape from rains and getting drenched would be a painful experience, but the thought drifted away in that moment of realization.
I rode ahead having absolute fun even as the rain hammered down at a speed that I had not seen in many months. Visibility was coming down and a few cars on the road had turned on their headlights. Some older cars without air conditioning had pulled over, unable to see through fogged windshields. It rained harder and I was reminded of BBMP's signs at the entry to Laxman Rao road warning that trees and branches tend to fall on the road on stormy days. But I rode on as my spirits were high and there was hardly anything I could do about it anyway.
Within a few minutes roads had turned into rivers and at times I had to get down and walk. Instead of staying off from them, I walked right through the puddles and played in the water, dragging my feet through the flowing water. At times when I was riding through the flow on the road, it felt as though I am gliding on them, and sometimes drifting with the flow. The tree lined road to my house was dimly lit and heavy drops from the leaves dripped on me continuously as I passed through them. For all the fun I was having, I nearly considered continuing further away from home in the rains.
My clothes, wallet, phone, the magazines I had bought, everything was completely drenched when I reached home. I was in such good mood, it hardly mattered. And coming home and standing under the shower was almost like letting the rains continue to pour on me all over again.
Slowly and steadily, I am venturing farther and farther with my bicycle. I had never before cycled in city's heavily crowded main roads. Until recently I had only heard from others that riding on those two slim wheels is not the safest mode of transport. All those 'others' had done a good job in scaring me, which means I ventured out only in the odd non-peak hours and did not go beyond a few kilometers. But I kept going farther by the day and faced more aggressive drivers, and finally at times immersing myself in the big mean and noisy thing called peak hour traffic.
People who warned me of the dangers were very right. For some reason, every driver and rider who is gifted with the controls of an internal combustion engine seems to, miraculously, become blind to bicycles. When they turn left or right, or go in the wrong lanes or in the opposite direction in a one way as typical of us proud Bangaloreans, they somehow manage to see all those giant buses and trucks and even cars very clearly. And then they seem to get attracted to bicycles and at the same time don't get to see it, and end up trying hard to drive straight into the cyclist. That means the cyclist must start his ride with an attitude to be prepared to run or prepared to get banged. Most people choose the farmer option but still, fairly often we see riders who have ended up with the later.
The worst enemies of the cyclist are the cars and trucks parked illegally on the roads that have so lovingly planted 'no parking' signs. Time and again I come across them and am left with a difficult decision to move away from the comfort of the curb and to the center of the road. And moving to the center of the road often involves having to face the 'bicycle-blind' drivers in the heavy traffic. I have still been a chicken and often get down and then get into the footpath. But then how many of our roads have footpaths? The next big enemies are the two wheelers who just love riding on the extreme right side of the road, or in case of a double road, on the opposite side. There are so many such people, I have a feeling Bangalore has a cult of such riders. The third enemy is the cyclist himself, who I have seen, often jumps signals and cuts tersely into the center of the road oblivious to the fact that everyone else pretends to be blind to his presence. And soon after he cuts tersely, goes bang!
Five kilometers is as far away from home that I have ventured yet. I would love to sneak out farther early in the mornings but haven't done that so far. But then, cycling is love, and I know I will be spending more and more time with it. It has been such fun riding just for the sake of it. And it is keeping me from the guilt of burning fuel, and contributing to the already horrible traffic with my automobiles. Come, let's build cycling culture in this 'once-green' city; I am sure you will enjoy it.
I attend this wedding of a friend, meet a couple of friends and chat with them for a while and then walk up to the couple to wish them. I wished the girl, who is a good friend of mine, and then whispered to the guy - "I need to tell you something, just be careful, she is a very dangerous person.
"Well, thanks," he replied immediately, "it's a little too late to tell that now."