Thriving Mindfully

Tag: The Bicycle Diaries (Page 1 of 4)

Who is a friend?

How we define a friend changes with age doesn’t it?
I remember when I was little, anyone who would choose to share time and space with me was my friend. And what an eclectic mix of friends did I have !
The carpenter working at home was my friend, so was the lady selling Jamun berries on the street. The scientist uncle who introduced me to the wonderous night sky to the toddler rocking in the pram next door,
The immediate world around me was full of friends!

But over time, as it happens to all of us, the group of friends narrowed down to a chosen few. We had limited time on our hands and had only so much of our attention we could give to people around.
Friends became our world but that world also shrunk considerably as compared to childhood.

We share a mysterious friendship with a childhood friend. Even if we haven’t talked to them in years, the moment we hear their voice over a phone call, we feel a profound camaraderie.
Why is that?

A few reason I can think of that could explain it :

1) A childhood friend reminds us of our roots, of who we were,
Of where we’re coming from. (Past)

2) They not only serve as a repository of nostalgia but also a messenger that informs us how much we’ve grown from who we used to be. (Present)

3) And most importantly, they care about our growth, about where we are headed. (Future)

It is a precious bond indeed.

Over the course of my bicycle journey I experienced an emotion I had never experienced before.
I felt a deep sense of friendship towards people who I was meeting for the first time. It almost felt as if they were all similar to a childhood friend in some mysterious way.

I realised that most of the people I met on the road exhibited one of the three above mentioned qualities

For instance, a little Thai kid on Phuket beach who lit a bonfire for me reminded me of my playful and exuberant childhood. He reminded me of where I came from. (Past)

A sister teaching her brother how to ride a bicycle on the street reminded of how difficult it was for me to learn to do the same. It had taken me several months.
And today, I’m fearlessly Bicycling into the unknown.
They reminded me of how far I’ve come.(Present)

Or an old Thai grandma who on realising that I had a long uphill ride to finish before sundown, chose to push my bicycle while I was riding to help me get to the destination.
She helped in whatever way she could because my growth, my progress mattered to her at some level. (Future)

These experiences only opened up my mind to consider everyone I meet as a friend.
Every beginner reminds me of who I was, where I started, where I’m coming from.

Every expert, through his work, helps me yearn for betterment. Despite not knowing me personally, I still see a friend in them because I’m sure my growth would matter to them if they came to know how much they inspire me.

Every contemporary guides me about my growth over the course of time I’ve known them.

I am of the firm belief that we can only design a better world if we all grow together, collectively.

For the growth of the world, personal growth is indispensable.

How do I see the growth of the world in the light of friendship?

To me, a friend is someone whose growth matters to me.
If I wish to see positive growth in the world, I need to see the same in the individual, in each human being.

In the interest of engineering a better world, we ought to care about each other’s growth, even that of a stranger’s.

Having this worldview helps to cultivate compassion towards everyone around us.

Your growth matters to me,
And hence, You are a friend in my heart.

I hope, in your heart,
I too am a friend.

And I believe,
Our collective growth,
Our collective friendship and brotherhood
Will engineer the change in the world we all wish to see.

What do you think, my friend ?


On thumbs up, selfie camera and creating culture

For the past few days I’ve been bicycling in areas where there is no mobile connectivity whatsoever.
No phone calls, no internet, no social media.
There have been frequent stretches that were challenging each an every bit of me. Since I am new to biking in the mountains in such high altitude and UV ray exposure, it only added to the challenge posed by the terrain.

At spots where I thought I had given it all and I needed to stop, a biker would pass by on a motorcycle from the other side and give me a thumbs up. And I would pedal on a bit further, energised by the validation of a fellow human.
Soon, I would meet more bikers and everyone should give a thumbs up encouragingly.
At times, only their heartfelt applause would take me ahead.
By the end of the day, I would get a thumbs by so many people that I would be energised and be able to complete my daily cycling goal.

I realised that even if I do not have access to social media, where I would get a virtual thumbs up, here I was, getting a thumbs up validation in the real world by people who were physically present with me in that moment. That always made me feel that I was on the right track and I carried on.

A thumbs up has great power.
In the virtual world though, we use it far too callously in my opinion.

On social media, each time we hit the like button (thumbs up) we validate the person and his actions.
In the present cultural scenario, social media feed is rife with selfies and pictures people pose for. Natural pictures captured in the moment are becoming rarer.
Especially with millennials, who grew up with the selfie culture and trading likes for validation, a picture can get hundreds of likes by friends. This in turn populates the social media feed with more passive/ posed for selfies.

I must stress that I have nothing against social media and believe it can be of immense value if used wisely.

But as responsible users of social media we have a duty. We ought to be more discerning about what we validate through our likes.
Yes, even in passive scrolling through social media feed, we have the power to validate what we want more of and what we could do away with.

Maybe, we should admire pictures that were captured in the moment, without any kind of posing per se. We should laud pictures clicked by others, while the subject was doing something that was close to his heart, too engrossed to be worried about capturing the moment.

Yes, we might not have friends around all the time to capture the moment, but the selfie camera at times makes friends redundant!
Scary to imagine isn’t it!

The selfie camera should be used as a tool, in moderation, while being mindful that it doesn’t serve as a tool for self indulgence.

Coming back to the like button (thumbs up), remind yourself that you are setting a culture.
You are validating a stream of information.
You have the power to shape the discourse of social culture.

Choose wisely.
Like mindfully.



Smile, will you?

I had been bicycling uphill constantly for an hour and a half. I wished to reach a village called Marhi, 40 kms uphill from Manali, India.

At one point, the elevation was too steep for me to keep the bicycle in motion. I decided to stop catch a much needed breath. My heart was racing like that of caged mice on steroids. I leaned my head down to rest it on the handlebar and slowly let my heart rate drop with each deep breath.

In this incapacitated state, I heard a voice from behind.

‘Hey, where are you coming from?’ asked a man wearing a friendly smile.

‘I have been bicycling from Delhi. Today, I wish to reach Marhi, about 30 kms up from here.’

He took a good look up and down my petite body frame.

With an equal measure of wonder and resolve, he said,
‘I own a gym back home. But I myself feel quite unfit. I used to take a car from home to the gym and then exercise hoping to lose weight.
But today, after seeing you, I promise that I will get myself a bicycle and bike to the gym everyday.
You gave me great energy !’

I wondered, how could I, being in such a beaten down, tired state, could still energise a random stranger on the road?

His gesture eased my heart. I thanked him and continued onward.

At a point where I was vulnerable, this person acknowledged my presence, my pursuit and my grit and replenished me with energy.
I realised how much a person desires to be acknowledged.

Moving on, I saw a board on the highway that grabbed my attention. It mentioned the name of the army engineer who first envisioned and surveyed the Manali-Leh highway. I felt good to know of the visionary man who dared to dream of a highway in such treacherous terrain.

Further down the road, I saw construction workers toiling away under the full sun, building a section of the highway. A few kilometers ahead, there were people laying down optical fiber cables.

And I wondered, the names of these people will never appear on any sign board saying that they helped build a highway, or they laid the cables for the high speed internet we would enjoy.
Then, at that moment, I remembered how much I’d liked being acknowledged by the gym owner in the highway.

It is such a human quality after all!

Right then, I made a decision to wave at or give a thumbs up to each person I find working on the road.
And thereafter, no construction worker was ever left without a smile.
Some of them were apprehensive to smile. That just made me realise how rarely were they even acknowledged as humans.

This experience only made me believe that we should acknowledge and celebrate these name less faceless humans who work hard in oblivion to ensure our lives run smoothly.

Next time you find someone whose work would mostly go unacknowledged, choose to just smile at them, give a thumbs up, or if you can afford the time, talk to them for a bit.

Your attention and affection are precious.
Choose to ration a little of it to people who go unnoticed.
All of sudden, the world around you will embody more love and brotherhood.

It all boils down to your choice.

Smile, will you?



On Good Gossip

For the past four days I have been riding in the mountains near the lower Himalayas. Most of the other vehicles on the road run on fossil fuels. There are motorbikes, SUVs, buses and Army trucks for the most part.
I barely saw another cyclist on the road.

And while all other vehicles on the road have it much easier, my vehicle runs on pedal power. All throughout my journey I have seen people mumble the word ‘cycle’ across the windowpane of their car. If it were a bus or a motorbike, I could hear the word, ‘cycle, cycle’ in the conversation that followed after spotting me.
I could make a good guess that for another five minutes, the people would be talking about the bicycle, the challenge and the spirit of human endeavour.

After a point, I realised how natural it is for people to talk about other people!
Some people like to call it gossip.
The word gossip has a bit of a negative connotation. But can gossip not have a positive spin to it?

As I imagine it, there could be two ways how we can create a culture of positive conversation.

1) Do something remarkable, something positive so that people can notice and talk about it

2) Always be on the lookout for good things people do. Try to start a conversation based on that inherent goodness.

I believe that by bicyling uphill in such a challenging terrain, I inadvertently gave people a positive topic to talk about.

Our actions need to be engineered such that they are remarkable, sharable and worth talking about.

While we are doing something as natural as talking about other people, we should also be mindful of the culture we are creating in the process.

Next time, when you’re with friends, choose a positive aspect to talk about and when you’re busy with work, always strive to do something remarkable, so that others have good things to talk about.

We can’t help but gossip.
Let it at least be refined
Let it be inspiring.



Lesson from bicycling to the highest motorable road in the world

My bike ride uphill was already in its 7th hour. I was ascending towards the mighty mountain pass named ‘ Khardung La’ arguably, the highest motorable all weather road in the world.

I had reached an elevation above 5200 meters. Oxygen was scarce and I had to push my bicycle at times just so that my heart rate stayed under control.
Patiently, with all my soul, I moved on.

Past a hair pin bend, I saw a milestone:

‘Khardungla – 1km’

Excited to know that I will be at the highest motorable road in the world soon, I got on my bicycle and pedalled onward.

After 15 minutes, I, with my racing heart, finally reached the summit.

I felt an inexplicable calm at that moment.
I had anticipated that I would jump and sing after achieving such a challenging goal and crossing out one of the tasks on my Impossible list.

But I felt tranquil and meditative.

At that moment, I wondered,’Have I changed as a person because of this achievement?’

‘Am I any different at the summit as compared to who I was at the last milestone?’

To my heart, there wasn’t any difference at all between the two states of being at the two different places.

Then I extrapolated this thought further.

‘How was I any different at the last milestone as compared to the second last milestone?’

‘Extrapolating further, how was I any different at the beginning of the ride uphill as compared who I was at the summit?’

I realised that I was much stronger in my mind at the beginning than at the end.
To dare to bicycle up Khardung La is no mean feat.
Especially when you don’t know the terrain, the temperature is low, the UV rays are burning your skin and you have limited oxygen to inhale.
At the beginning of the journey my mind was steadfast.
And I made my first decision.
Of choosing the right path.

The second decision was made out for me by the road itself.
There was a milestone after every kilometre of the road, giving me constant feedback about the progress.
Even if I was moving at a measly average pace of 4.5km per hour, each milestone informed me that I was on the right path.

I realised that along with my willpower, these two decisions of choosing the right path and having milestone markers made sure I reached the summit.

Without any of the above three,

a) willpower
b) the right path
c) milestones

I would have not been able to scale the mighty Khardung La.

Drawing a parallel to how we approach a challenge in life,
We ought to have these three factors in place to achieve something.
We need to develop the willpower to persevere, we need to choose the right path and finally we need to have little milestones that reassure us of the correct direction we’re headed in.

Say, if someone has the goal to be a better artist,
He needs to

a) Show up everyday to practice his art and stay away from distractions (willpower)

b) Choose a way of life that ensures maximum learning (the right path)

c) Have an archive to see how better he is as compared to a time in past, have a mentor who could give him honest critical feedback (milestones)

If one designs a way of life based on these three simple steps,
Progress will become a way of life.
Scaling summits will become a habit.

The path sculpts a man into who he could be if he chooses to get past milestone after milestone while demonstrating the willpower to keep moving no matter what.

Coming back to the question I had posed myself earlier,

‘How was I any different at the beginning of the ride uphill as compared who I was at the summit?’

In the begining, while downhill, I had only the sight of a goal, a solitary summit I had to scale.

At the end, while at the summit, I have a vantage.
I have gained a wider panaroma, a broader worldview,
And from here,
I can choose the next summit of the many that I gained access to.

You climb up, not just to enjoy the view, but to gain a perspective,
to choose the next summit in sight,
Higher, mightier,
But never beyond
the undying spirit of human endeavour.

I wish you too choose a summit of your own to climb, and from there scale on further and gain wisdom and perspective in this elegantly revealing process.

May you realise more of who you truly are.

Crossing off an ambitious goal from my Impossible List,
I am ready to dream bigger,
Dream anew.

To the undying spirit of human endeavor.



On Age, Marriage and Responsibility

‘You have grown up quite too much now!’ remarked my mother over a phone call on my birthday.

‘Well yes, I have turned 28!’

‘Now it is time to be more responsible in life !’ she alluded.

‘We are not talking about marriage mom !’

Laughing at her fruitless attempt she said,
‘ But you are at the right age to take the next step in life.’

‘Will you listen to what I did today Mom before we continue further ?’

‘Yes , surely. Tell me.’

‘Yestersay, while trekking up a hill in the lower Himalayas, we noticed that there was a lot of garbage lying around everywhere on the route. It left me quite sleepless the whole night. The next morning, with our heavy backpacks and a garbage bag, we set forth to do our bit to make things better.
All throughout our 5 hour downhill journey, we knelt down and picked up as much trash as we could. In the end, my friend and I had collected a total of 5kgs of plastic from the trail.
Now, my dear mother, tell me,
Am I not taking responsibility ?’

‘ Yes, I am glad to know about how you decided to do your bit, when it was easy to just walk past and not do anything.’

‘Mom, I feel that one should not wait for an age to start taking responsibility.
I cannot promise to bring a bride home,
But I promise to be a responsible human being at every living moment.’

‘Do what makes you happy my son.’ she said encouragingly.

The conversation with my Mother on my birthday made me realise how we use an age as a benchmark to start being more responsible.
At a certain age, you should take responsibility of another person, start a family, earn a living, buy a house etc…
And most of us in the urban middle class succeed in doing all these things.

But accomplishing all these life imperatives does not necessarily mean we are being responsible.

Let me cite an example.

If one is not responsible enough to take care of his own health, exercise, eat well and sleep on time, is he in a position take care of another person?
If someone chooses to jeopardise his own health with vices and endanger his life,
Is he being responsible about the gift of life that has been bestowed upon him?

Once someone is responsible about his own health and well being, does he seek more responsibility to change things in the little world he dwells in?

Only when we start looking at the act of taking responsibility as a way of life, do we head in the direction of creating positive change both within and without.

Maybe while talking to kids, instead of saying ‘Be Careful’ we should say ‘Be Responsible’ more often.

I urge you to think about how responsible you are being about the immediate world that you interact with.
And try to be a little more participative, a little more responsible with each passing day. It should be a way of life !

Today, as I was approaching the end of the downhill trail, I saw two contrasting events.
Behind me was a group of young urban yuppies, choosing to throw wrappers on the trail.
In front of me was a group of village kids, sweeping the streets to keep the lanes litter free.

Who is older?
And who is being more responsible?

I leave you with that thought,
And the promise being responsible holds.

To a better world of our own making.



I am a Volunteer for Life

I’ve been riding my bicycle in India for ten days now. And it is the first time I rented a place to stay at night. On all other nights I would either sleep at a Gurudwara or a temple or at a friend’s place.
Today is my first paid stay so to say. I feel such a huge difference between the experiences of being hosted and paying to stay.
The place where I am staying looks like a chawl in Mumbai suburbs of the 90s. There is no fan, shower, Wifi, clean linen or even a doormat. There is a 50 watt bulb that infuses gloom in disptempered walls.
Frankly, it is quite a sad place.

But that is not what bothers me the most. I’ve stayed at places where I’ve had to sleep on the floor, in under construction houses and on one occasion I even spent the night on a bench at a bus stop.
I’ve spent most of my nights at a Gurudwara or a temple in India.
And I was totally okay with the utmost basic facilities I had at these places.


Because I was invited with open arms without any expectation of a transaction.
I had the freedom to move around and look for opportunities to help in the best manner I could.
I have volunteered in community kitchens, served food at the langars, swept floors, helped wash dishes for hours and on one occasion I even volunteered to clean up a disgusting community toilet out of my own desire to make things better.
I’ve slept in community halls on the floor after the long day filled with 6 hours of cycling and volunteering thereafter.
Yet, I have always slept like a baby and woken up with enthusiasm and purpose with the first light of the sun.

But today, in this enclosed space in the guest house, I feel sleepy, drained and devoid of energy.

I realised, maybe a transactional reality is not the context that brings out the best in me.
Here, at the guest house, I pay money and get a place to stay.
A transaction.
It doesn’t serve my spirit.

I would rather wish to engineer a context where I am free to contribute in whatever way I am capable of, at a place where I can engage with people and hopefully make friends and leave behind the place in a better condition.

It is not even about being a stingy traveller, who is always careful with money. I contributed monetatily at most places I was hosted for free, because I wish these places to exist and multiply, so that we have another context to experience. Because I want places that foster brotherhood to thrive.

While I know, the people running this guest house need money for sustenance and I’m happy to give them business, I realised this is not the best context for me to stay at.

In the interest of feeling more energised , enthused and eager to contribute I would choose to stay at a temple or a gurudwara or a kind host’s place.

This experience also made me understand why people choose to volunteer even on weekends despite a busy work week.
Volunteering is such an energising experience!
It will only fill you up with love and hope.

Maybe this weekend, instead of choosing to sleep over till late in the morning and going out for a brunch at a restaurant, I would like to suggest an alternative.

Go to a Gurudwara and volunteer at the community kitchen. They accept help form anyone who is willing to volunteer.
Instead of spending money at the restaurant, eat at the Langar in the Gurudwara for free.
I assure you, the experience will only leave you happy and energised.
And you will wish to donate a fraction of the money you would have spent at the restaurant to the Gurudwara donation box.

It is a much better investment of time and money.

Tomorrow, I am going to leave my bicycle behind and trek with a couple of friends to Kheerganga, Himachal Pradesh.
It is likely that I will pitch up a tent for the first time in India.
Since I would be hosted by mother nature in the valley, I am wondering how to be of help to her.
I have a huge garbage bag folded up in my backpack.
Maybe, I will just pickup all the trash that doesn’t belong in mother nature’s lap.

I can’t help being helpful.

I choose to be a volunteer for life.

I hope you have a fulfiling weekend my dear friend !



Where are you bicycling to?

While passing through the hilly roads in Himachal, I would often pass through little hamlets. By the surprised look on the villagers’ faces, I guessed they wouldn’t be seeing many bicyclist on this steep terrain.

They would often ask,
‘Hey where have you come from?’

Not knowing how to answer that for myself, I would just say,
‘I’ve been bicycling from Delhi.’

‘Really? Where are you going?’

And that’s where I had three answers in my mind to choose from.

1) I could say the name of the very next village, (A commonplace goal)

2) Or the name of the next city. (A difficult but achievable goal)

3) Or, I could share my ultimate aim,
Of until which point up north I really wish to bicycle to.
(A Big Hairy Audacious Goal)

I always made it a point to share the third option.
And when I did, the villagers would take a good look at my modest physique and deep in their mind assume that I was crazy.

But I was always bid goodbye with good energy.
They would always wish me good luck and wave at me as I moved onward beyond their vantage.

In life, we are also asked similar questions by people. Mostly, concerning what we are doing and where we are headed.
And we are all guilty of sharing the most commonplace of activities we are engaged in, the most mundane of goals we have.

We feel we might be ridiculed if we share our grander goals, and be laughed at if we fail to achieve them.

So the conversation always goes like this.

‘Hey man, long time no see. What’s happening?’

And you say, ‘Same old, same old.’

Now, aren’t we guilty of limiting ourself?’

The common defense is,
‘My goals are none of their business. I like to keep my dreams to myself.
I might get jinxed.’

But deep inside we know, we are just afraid. We aren’t even afraid of our failures. We are really afraid of our own achievable greatness.
Plain and simple.

But the moment you choose to share your grander goals, ambitions that bring a beaming smile on your face as you say it out loud,
You reinforce the dream within you.

Our mind needs a constant reminder of what we are capable of and what we should be aiming for. Repeating our grander goals in front of people does just that.

Your dreams might seem outright crazy and unachievable to an someone who doesn’t know you so well. And mind you, just because someone is family or has been a friend for long doesn’t mean they know you well enough.

But share your dreams nevertheless. The crazy ones.

Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

Sharing your grander dreams will over time, only inspire confidence in people to do the same.

On that note,
I should share where I wish to bicycle to.

Laddakh, India.

Wish me luck 🙂



Lessons from watching 31 Sunrises

As an effort to sensitise myself about the unfolding mystery of dawn, I challenged myself to wake up every day before sunrise and write a page about it. To step it up even a bit further, I wrote the whole page with my non dominant left hand.

Since I have been traveling in the month of May, I had the fortune of witnessing sunrises at varying latitudes, longitudes and altitudes. I was at beaches, piers, highways, temples, in bustling cities and rustic hinterlands. Witnessing and documenting the experience of sunrise at all these places has been a great creative journey.
Today, I wish to share what I learnt from the whole experience, which was part of ‘The Power of Everyday’ project for the month of May.

My learnings :

1) The Sky has a Personality

No two sunrises were ever alike. I feel it holds true for ever since the sky has existed. Most of us wake up inside a house and never get to witness a sunrise, but believe me, even if you watch the same sky from the same place on two successive days, they would be quite peculiar.
The sky is alive.

2) We have become color blind

For as long as I can remember, every single landscape drawing of a little kid in school has a blue sky.
But if one takes initiative to watch a sunrise with a kid, they’ll be mesmerised by the range of colors exhibited in the sky. I would only come up with newer descriptions of colors, just when I thought I had exhausted my imagination. Such is the splendor exhibited in the sky.
I had to compare the shades in the sky to popcorn yellow, cashew white, Bunsen burner blue, misty Clementine, scarlet red, princely purple etc.
The experience truly enlivened my imagination.
We should all spend some time transcribing colors of the sky !

3) The Celestial Game

We have grown up to believe that the sun ‘rises’ in the east. But in reality, it is the earth that turns from east to west and experiences night and day in the process.
While watching a sunrise in rural Thailand, I imagined it to be not just ‘sun rise’ but also ‘star-set’.
The countless twinkling stars are outshone by the might of the sun. With the rising sun, stars disappear.
I would see Venus set every morning in the North-West horizon, as the cresent moon rose, only to be obliterated by daylight.
All of a sudden I would see a morning not just as sunrise. I got sensitised to more celestial phenomenon.

4) Clouds- Unsung Heroes

Clouds are the true painters of the sky. The most mundane sunrise I’ve witnessed was one where there wasn’t a cloud in sight. And the best sunrise I experienced was at a sunrise point at Samet Nangshe in Thailand, where I could see a storm in one part of the horizon and spent clouds hover just behind the behemoth of limestone piers as the sun rose. It was one breathtaking experience.
Clouds scatter and diffuse sunlight, infusing the sky with hues of their lively imagination.
They’re the true painters of the canvas of the sky.

5) Sounds

The transition from the buzz of insects at night to the rousing awakening of birdsong is a lesson in dynamics for a musician. A simmering symphony of nature orchestrated by the sun’s inevitable advent.
I always wondered what the birds sang about in the morning. Then one day, I realised, maybe they are just singing in surprise of the daily unfolding of colors in the sky. Encrypted in their song are reams and reams of passionate poetry.

6) We are losing our Sky

It was disheartening to witness a sunrise in India. Our bleached skies look pale and diseased. Every single day, we deprive ourself of the wonder the sky could be. Our actions are polluting the sky and if we don’t act soon, we will lose a priceless gift of nature.

Sometimes I wish,
If I Bicycle more, maybe there will be less pollution, and we might see one more star in the sky.
If a billlion of us choose to do the same,
Imagine how a sky with a billion stars would look like?

I hope we all take collective action, and reclaim the sky from our own doing.

Let us celebrate each sunrise with the same enthusiasm as birds and trees do.
And with each sunset, lose ourself in the infinity of the sky.

I leave you with that thought,
In sincere hope of fostering,
Existential awe.



A sleepless night

Two days ago, I started my journey from Delhi towards the mountains up North. While I have experience of touring on a bicycle in Thailand, this was my maiden attempt of touring in India.

There is an uncertainty about this mode of travelling. On most days, I would not know where I would get to sleep at night.
In Thailand, I had the option of staying at Buddhist temples. So even if I did not know which town I would end up in at the end of the day, I only had to find a temple to spend the night safely.

In India, it turned out to be much difficult. I did not know where I could stay at night. Since my motive is to see as much of the local culture and community as possible, I try to avoid staying at hostels.
On the first day, I looked at the map, early in the afternoon to check where I would tentatively end up.
I saw a village named, ‘Gharaunda’ on the map about 40kms away. ‘Gharaunda’ is a Hindi word that translates to a ‘little cosy home’ in English.
All of a sudden I felt a sense a relief dawn on me. I thought as if the name of the village was a sign. I thought as if I am cycling towards a cosy little home.
And I continued on.

On the way I saw a board :
‘Karnal – 50 kms.’

On looking at the board, I realised that an old friend used to stay in Karnal. I had no clue I was going to pass through Karnal so it came as a pleasant surprise. I called my friend only to learn that he’s been transferred to another place but his mother still lived there.
He called his mother and arranged a stay for me.
That night, I truly slept in a ‘Gharaunda’, a cosy little home.

The next day, I found out I will pass through the city of Mohali. I asked a friend who’s studying there if I could stay with him. He happily agreed to host me.
Again, I found a cosy little home, the second day in a row.

After bicycling so much everyday, the moment you find a place, you fall asleep instantly. Having found a place to sleep, I rested myself ready to be taken to dreamland.
It all works out doesn’t it?

In bed, I got thinking about the landscape I had passed through in the past two days. It was the most polluted landscape I have ever seen.
Within the first hour of cycling out of Delhi, I saw many homeless labourers sleeping on footpaths.
It was an unsettling sight because in my mind, I had no clue where I would be sleeping that night. I wondered if I would have to sleep on the pavements like my friends sleeping on the roadside.

I am grateful to have found shelter on both days since I left Delhi. I used to think that since I bicycle so much under the full sun, my hard work earns me a bed to sleep on in some mysterious way.

But my labourer friends, who would work everyday in the summer, who would feel much more tired, and be much poorly fed,
Always have the same shelter. A six feet feet space on a pavement under a flyover.

There is a tragic fixity in the fate of the downtrodden.
No matter how hard they work, they will probably sleep at the same pavement all their life.
All they can do is, work hard enough to earn a little food and a deathly sleep that takes them through the noise of traffic at night.

I write this sleeping on a comfortable bed at my friend’s hostel. I am tired after an 8 hour cycling day.
But the experience of witnessing the life of daily labourers in Delhi up and close,
Only leaves me sleepless.



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