Monday, July 24, 2006

2nd whiff of freedom

Continuing on the ‘felt free’ series…..

Once I went to a water camp at Karwar, a few kms from Goa. I freaked out like a total water baby there, refusing to come out of the waters even after dusk for almost two days. Water just fascinates me, never mind the fact that I almost drowned twice, but still it holds a unique attraction for me that I can’t deny. Whenever I come near a water body (tank, pool, river, sea, ocean….) it is pretty hard to resist the temptation to jump in. So it was no surprise that in the welcome absence of any parental authority around and the unobserving company of chilled –out fellow campers, I let my body loose and set my soul free to sway to the rhythmic, soothing sound of the waves and literally managed to stay drenched for 75% of my time there.

Water however is not the main element of this story. After a day and half of canoeing, rafting, swimming followed by a boat ride to see an ancient lighthouse, we cycled about 5 kms to this place that had an ideal setting for rappelling. I was cycling after a long time but it felt like I had never left it. For the first 5 minutes, I was cautious but then I felt settled like I was always meant to do it right. I started picking up speed. The road, gloriously smooth and devoid of cracks and holes, edged me further. And then within 2 minutes, I raced to the front of the entire gang (about 10 of them being guys). They couldn’t believe it for a while. And then they started racing. It was fun thereafter. I never finished first, there were many too good to beat but it felt nice to make a great headstart and initiate a race that everyone joined in. Rappelling was fun too and though it was my first time, it was thankfully not injury-ridden. And then the real thing started.

Warning: Don’t try this anywhere. Not especially the place (or others of its kind) where I did it.

It was getting late to go back to the camp so the camp leaders asked those who were done with their rappelling stints to go ahead and pack (we had to leave for home the same night) while the others finished theirs. I hopped on my cycle and began to hurry back. The way back was through NH11 (National Highway No.11), the same that we had come through. But this time I was alone. I was riding in the opposite direction of the lane discipline and had so far managed to stay out of the vehicles’ way. The road was awesome. The sun was hurrying to go home and kept peeking through long stretches of fields and forests, trying to steal some last glimpses of the gold smeared earth, while creating a smattering palette of vibrant colors in the evening sky. I kept alternating my view between the heaven above and the heaven below. Suddenly a thought struck me. I slowly withdrew my left hand from the handle. The cycle unsteadied a bit but glided further smoothly a second later. I was relieved. Thought I had forgotten how to do this, but I hadn’t. The last time that I cycled like that must have been about 7 years ago.One hand free, eyes glued to the road, legs maintaining the steady speed and the mind absolutely focused on cycling. It felt good, real good. And then another thought struck me.

I began to increase my speed with fervor, trying not to unsettle my one hand free biking. But it was getting tougher. So I held onto with both my hands and started accelerating. The wind grew cold and a chilly, tickling sensation ran down my spine. The vehicles began to flash by, fast and furious, their horns blaring into my face. But I did not deter, kept going faster and finally when I thought it was good enough, I did it. For the first time in my life. Lifted both my hands off the handles and kept cycling. My heart almost popped out, my head went into ecstatic frenzy. The horns of the vehicles around suddenly stopped blaring uncomfortably and if I had felt like I was gliding before, now I felt like I was floating. All alone in this world, yet perfectly happy. Happy as a bird, let out of its cage into the open sky. Happy as a fish, let out into the ocean, after being confined to the claustrophobic water bowl. Yay!! I screamt to myself silently. There was no one there with whom I could share that feeling, but I could hear the silent applause of the motionless road, the beaming sun and the trees that seemed to sway to my side now. It was phenomenal. I was riding, hands-free for the first time on the NH11; breaking the lane discipline, having overcome my fears of failing, heedless to the safety norms, oblivious to the danger…..I…was…riding.

It was after I came to a halt that I realized what I had done and what all could have gone seriously wrong. But my elated, freshly energized heart didn’t let me dwell too long on this. The whole experience had unlocked a part of me that I was vaguely familiar with, but eager to know. A self – confessed rule abider; I had openly flouted all the warnings, all the risk factors and cycled my way to feeling FREE (all capitals justified). Nothing had felt quite like that before. Of course it was very dangerous and definitely not something I would advise anyone to do, but I will never forget the way it made me feel. I don’t know if I would get a chance or have the guts to do that again. But if I do….maybe I won’t….maybe I will….

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