Sunday, May 11, 2008

Storm rider

It was about 9:45 yesterday night, when I was on the way back after dropping a friend home. Calcutta roads were their usual self with killer potholes and bumper to bumper traffic. So the summer evening breeeze decided that things were moving a tad too slow for its liking. It stepped up its pace a little bit and the reactions of all the vehicles around me indicated that emergency measures were being put into motion. People ran for cover and two-wheelers quickly parked themselves alongside the footpaths. It was time for some "tumool jhodd brishti" (Violent tropical rain storm in Bengali). A regular Calcutta feature, I am told in the summer months, when the humidity gets beyond what the already melancholic Calcutta resident can withstand.

My ride being the love of my life these days, my brand new motor bike - a blue Pulsar 180. Owning this machine was a long nourished dream and the dramatic way the bike made an entry into my life makes me covet it even more. So here I was doing the biker thing, riding full on with dust blowing into my face. Vegetable vendors on the roadside bazaars were frantically trying to bring disobedient tarpaulin sheets to account and all kinds of things which a stormy breeze can pick up were flying across the roads. The first little raindrops had already started pelting down with the sting of the rain becoming quite a discomfort now and I flipped my helmet visor down. Then there was calm as my face was now curiously insulated from the mayhem all around. A very eerie sort of calm which made me quiver with excitement for what was to come. I had revelled in such massive, flash Calcutta downpours from the confines of my house or on the road, but never had had the good fortune to catch one on a bike.

With a deep throated rumble of thunder, the rain came tearing down. I was drenched to the bone in a couple of minutes but I couldn't care less. The rain went sweeping in curtains ahead of me creating waves wherever it touched the ground. The flashes of lightning revealed what was already evident. The fact that I was the only madman out on a two wheeler during the most violent phase of the storm and that I had only a handful of hulking, slow moving buses for company.

That a few minutes of rain can cause such a massive influx of water is only clear when you are out on such a night. I gripped the accelerator and twisted it up a little more just so I could hear the engine groan louder as it pounded its heart out to get me through the rising water. There were places where I knew that if the bike stalled I'd have to drag my bike home on foot, hardly the most appealing thought. But I had made my choice and the thrill of the ride ensured that I wouldn't repent it. The way the bike felt as it roared through the deserted, semi-flooded streets made me forget just about everything else. The streetlights were mysterious orbs suspended in air when seen through the sheets of rain. The road had lost its existence for the moment and there was only water, below me and in the skies above. I love the rains and I worship the open road. Yesterday I got to live in heaven for about 20 minutes.