I had the most wonderful afternoon and it all started with falling off my bike and twisting my knee.
Let me back track a little bit. Five months ago, my husband, two close friends and I decided that we were going to be bad ass mountain bikers. So we made a trip to a bike shop on MG Road and after a brief test ride, I was most comfortable on the Cannondale and my husband on the Merida. We ended up switching later because turns out, I meant to point at the Merida when I pointed at the "white bike with bigger wheels." I didn't know anything about bikes and it took me a couple of weeks to learn that MTB was an acronym for Mountain Bike.
Fast forward to five months and many rides later, here we were trying to conquer Mangar forest, third time for me, and fifth time for the hubby and our buff biking buddy, Ricky. Riding with the boys isn't easy. They pedal fast and hard, and I am often left behind. I try to keep up by pedaling harder, changing gears faster than I should, and scrunching my face into a distorted, hideous expression. I desperately want to be one of the boys, I don't want to be left behind nor have them think that "this chick is slowing us down." I do slow them down and they are kind enough to wait at turns and bends. They are also worried about my safety, since it is Gurgaon/Faridabad and they are probably rapists lurking behind trees with their pants down, dick in one hand, weapon in the other.
The ride started at 6:15 AM and the next 45 minutes were pretty fucking rad. I was sailing over rocks with the ease of a young Lance Armstrong, my tyres were responding well to the sandy parts of the trail, and the sun was roasting my brown arms sparingly and I was smiling to myself and thinking " I is a legend." But that was rather short-lived. Like a happy movie that takes an unexpected turn where one minute the couple is driving down the freeway singing Old MacDonald had a farm, and the next they find themselves slaughtered like the animals on MacDonald's farm.
The trail meandered downhill as most trails do but this was a lot more challenging as the surface was completely covered in rocks, big, small and turbulent. The boys were out of sight and I got off my bike initially and then I thought to myself- "If they can do it, so can I." Just then, the boys shot me a warning and told me to get off and push my bike downhill instead. I pushed aside their warning, scrunched up my face and got back on. Half a second later, I was flying off my bike. My knee decided to cling to the bike and in the process it twisted in mid air. I landed ass first, knee later.
The pain was excruciating at first, and involuntary tears streamed down my hot cheeks. I was lucky, the pain subsided quickly and with the coaxing of my husband I wiped away my tears, grunted and got back on the saddle.
We reached our destination, stuffed our faces with watermelon and bananas, and drowned our insides with water that had now turned warm. I tried to get a cab back but no radio cab comes to dum duma lake. I had no choice but to ride back. After about half an hour of struggling, more from the heat than the pain, I finally admitted that I couldn't do it. My arms, knees, legs, ass cheeks had given up.
We spotted a white mandir, in a semi fenced compound. A baba lay on a charpai under a large, chirping Pipal tree. I demanded to be left there while the boys got the car, but of course my husband stayed on with me while Ricky, hopped on to his bike and promised to come get us as soon as he could.
The baba awoke, thin but not frail, expressionless yet kind. He instructed us to put the charpais under the Pipal and Neem trees so that we could rest. He was happy to host us and didn't care who we were or where we came from. He moved around his little compound, watering something, barely attempting to fix something, smoking something and taking periodic naps. The baba slept to my right, my husband to my left, on charpais that creaked under our weight.
The blue sky, tent of green leaves, and warm wind, eventually rocked me to sleep. I have never felt so comfortable at a stranger's home. And this home didn't even have a roof. He had such little to offer but he offered it anyway. Water, thandai and a delicious soup and noodle concoction called chow chow prepared for us by another baba who emerged an hour later. Shorter, with golden dreads, and a lot more energy. There was no way the Musafirs could leave hungry. In between hot mouthfuls, we thanked the babas. They smiled, not understanding why we were so grateful. But we couldn't get over how they let us invade their sacred space for two whole hours. We didn't need to make small talk nor did they ask invasive questions. They simply cared about my leg and our comfort.
Two hours later Ricky remerged in his white swift, dark from the sun and limping from a fall. I was a little sad to bid farewell to the two babas and their dog Kutti who loved my tickles more than I loved the chow chow. They promised to visit us if they ever made it the concrete jungle called Gurgaon. Although we warned them against it.
As I limped away, the baba sank back into his bed, lit a biri and closed his eyes and the Pipal tree waved goodbye.
And that's what I call a perfect afternoon. In the middle of a jungle, somewhere between Mother Nature's mercy and baba ji's pity.