Predicting political outcomes using Tarot – UP elections

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It was an open secret that the recent Legislative Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh were one of the most fiercely contested. A lot was at stake for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as well as the coalition of Congress and Samajwadi Party (SP). And therefore all the eyes were on Uttar Pradesh the last few weeks and more so last Saturday.

I have never dabbled in predicting outcomes of elections but this time my curiosity was piqued after someone very close wanted me to check which way the boat would sway on Saturday when the results would be announced. Ludy Lescot deck has always been one of my most favored or go-to decks, especially for its bluntness. So without any second thoughts I turned to Ludy a couple of days before the actual counting (excuse however the delayed blogging 😉 ).

First I did a three card draw for the outcomes that Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) or rather Mayawati could expect in the final counting.

BSP

The cards that came up were King of Pentacles – Two of Swords –Three of Swords

These suggested to me that probably Mayawati had spent a lot of time day dreaming. Maybe she was hoping that the fight between BJP and the alliance of Congress-SP would benefit her. She was definitely not as “into” the tussle as the other two parties were. And therefore the cards hinted at she being wiped out (read not finishing the way a party would like to ideally)

End Result: SP lost dismally

The next, I did a three carder for assessing the odds of the Congress-SP alliance and Ludy answered with Lovers- Nine of Swords – Star. (Clarificators: Page of Pentacles – Seven of Cups).

Congress-SP

Two Majors and a promising one at that (Star), but somehow the key laid in the hands of the central Nine of Swords. There were some chances that the alliance could expect, but it wouldn’t be easy. If at all they wanted to form the government they would need more help. These two parties on their own couldn’t pull it off. The Page hinted at more work being needed behind the scenes if they wanted to be in majority.

End Result: The alliance failed miserably. The nine came out strongly and well Akhilesh Yadav did try hinting to Mayawati to form an alliance to keep BJP away from power!!

And lastly the spread for chances of BJP coming to power.

The cards that came up were: Queen of Cups – Knight of Cups – The Chariot (Clarificator: King of Cups).

BJP

The Queen hinted at BJP being very much “into” the fight (something that didn’t stand out for Mayawati and company). The knight was charging and the chariot was also going into the distance. BJP had a good chance of winning. The knight suggested movement and the chariot about being in absolute control! The King as the clarificator further suggested the count would be in favor of BJP.

End Result: BJP won by a thumping margin!

In hindsight, I felt maybe integrating chances of all the parties in a single spread could have been better. A better comparison could have been got. But well, wasn’t it just a spur of the moment reading!

An experience no amount of money can buy!!

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Ever since I did my first overnight ride to Ramtek early this year, I had realized that a ride to Ramtek SHOULD never be missed. Never ever! And this last weekend, my postulate was once again validated!

Lenormand reading for the dayAs a habit, I started my Saturday morning with a Lenormand card reading to gauge how the day would unfold. And the cards gave me a strong inkling that this was going to be an incident free day that would be dominated by riding (read cycling) followed by a night under the stars (a stay in the tents at night). And this came out every bit true as the day unfolded.

I and my cycling mates from Saddle Up Guys assembled at the Law College square and pedaled off towards Ramtek by 3.30 pm. In order to avoid traffic and chaos on the Kamptee route, it was decided to take the Koradi – Parseoni – Amadi – Mansar – Ramtek route and also pick up a couple of our mates on the way.

WP_20150822_16_42_32_ProWP_20150822_17_22_35_ProAs the road wore on, we realized that this was a wise decision. There was not much traffic till Koradi and later on the ride from Parseoni to Amadi was a breeze. There was minimal traffic and the greenery on both sides of the road was a much needed soothing sight to the eyes in the peak afternoon.

WP_20150822_17_22_45_Pro WP_20150822_17_23_00_ProPersonally this was a stretch I had never explored and therefore the joy of discovering a new route to Ramtek was even more of a thrill for me. Amadi onwards, we latched on to the routine road towards CAC Adventure Camp, our abode for the night.

WP_20150823_08_10_41_ProBy 8.30 pm all of us had reached the CAC adventure camp and were welcomed with lemonade. The warm hospitality here floors you every time you visit. Saturday’s special that they had cooked up for us was predominantly fish – Fish curry, Fish eggs bhurji, Fish fry and Fish brain. The 16 kg fish was the highlight of the feast in the night! I would confess here that I started relishing fish only after my last visit to CAC Adventure Camp. The taste of the delicacies prepared by Anil sir back then still linger deep within and I sincerely feel that if not for adventure, one should visit the CAC Adventure Camp for the food it offers – simply out of the world!

Talks, drinks and dinner combined, we never knew how time flew and soon it was 2.30 am before everyone decide to hit the bed. But by then teams from Nagpur had already been decided for the upcoming Paris-Brest-Paris, Tour de France and RAAM events. And not to forget, the other educationally enrichening talks! Not just me but everyone was rolling (in the literal sense) on the floor as Sunil Sir and Monti regaled all with talks that would even put Kapil Sharma to shame!

WP_20150823_08_11_13_Pro WP_20150823_08_12_32_Pro WP_20150823_08_03_03_ProThe next morning heavy breakfast and hot piping tea lifted our spirits that were asking for more sleep at 7.00 am. The fun and frolic of the night had slowed us down, but the guys at CAC Adventure Camp cajoled us out after packing us lemonade and water in our sippers. And by 9.30 am, the Mogarkasa trail was on!

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WP_20150823_10_22_33_Pro WP_20150823_11_02_16_ProTar roads passing through lush green fields with a splatter of white flowering plants thrown in-between every now and then accompanied us until Musewadi. The scenery changed drastically as we took the road to Guguldoh. Tar roads were now replaced by loose gravel and kachcha roads. The forests of Ramtek were now beginning. Guguldoh was a small village where many of us topped up our sippers. The villagers were proud of the fact that they had cement roads, albeit for a small stretch. These cement roads soon gave way to a kachcha road that passed through paddy fields and onto the forest leading to Bhajimokasa. Somehow we managed a selfie session amidst cows as they made their way to the greener pastures.

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The road to Bhajimokasa was very confusing and we were lucky to be helped by a village girl who appeared out of nowhere and showed us the correct detour, else only God knows where we might have landed. A proper path was non-existent as we rode and intermittently walked in the forest. Inclines with big rocks were now the norm as all of us lifted our cycles on our shoulders to climb the rocks and advance towards Bhajimokasa. This was perhaps the toughest part of the trail and we were on it for about an hour or maybe more.

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WP_20150823_12_31_04_Pro WP_20150823_12_43_57_Pro WP_20150823_12_44_08_ProWe were cycling on and through grass. A momentary lapse in concentration was enough to cause a fall that would have those behind, piling up on you. Though it was 12 noon, the thick vegetation easily led us to believe that it might as well have been just 8 am. Anil sir led us through trails which I am sure we wouldn’t be able to re-map on our own even if we traveled through them the very next day. Amidst foot high grass, sand and gravel I was lucky to be trailing a bit behind because I could gauge the terrain a bit later and adapt, as compared to Anil sir who unwillingly had to ride through innumerable cobwebs that criss-crossed the narrow paths. We were lucky to not have a single cobweb in our face, because Anil sir cleared them for us during his descent 🙂

WP_20150823_13_03_27_Pro WP_20150823_13_08_50_ProAlmost an hour after starting the descent, we reached Mangarli, that falls on the State Highway that passes to Tumsar from Jabalpur. It was about 1.30 pm and we had a tea break session here after the tea vendor had finished with his monologue for us city dwellers who were according to him always in a hurry. Sippers were topped up at the hand pump that Mangarli offered us as we proceeded to Lavada. For a change we were now on tar roads. Off roading in the jungle through rivulets, streams, grass and loose sand and gravel made it a bit tough to adapt to tar again.

Our next halt was now meant to be the Mogarkasa lake through Lavada. Anil Sir suggested taking a short detour through the Mansingdeo sanctuary as it would save us about 8 kms. The stretch was laden with significant amounts of loose sand and stones butting up every now and then. Cycling was tough but slowing down meant slipping into the sand. I figured out that the best way to be on the saddle in this stretch was to pedal as hard as possible, irrespective of inclines or declines. And I found steady company in Dev. As I pedaled on this stretch, I realized that one could easily be forgiven for assuming that he was being watched at from beneath the vegetation. 45 minutes of pedaling through loose sand and gravel with dense vegetation on either side took us onto the lake that was the highlight of the trail.

WP_20150823_14_29_42_Pro WP_20150823_14_17_46_Pro WP_20150823_14_29_34_ProMogarkasa is a small lake which is frequented by those wanting a picnic spot. Not very well developed but it is definitely a good getaway if one should desire one amidst the jungle! A stopover of about 30 minutes later we started the trek to Ramzanghoti. And it was once again through the jungles!

WP_20150823_14_51_15_ProThe paths were now a wee bit wider and cycling a bit easier. A rivulet crossing and we were onto the tar again! While two of us put their cycles in the pick-up that the CAC guys sent for us, the remainder of us made our way to Umri.

The off-roading was now officially over. And we had tar roads now. Umri is a small village, the kachcha houses of which are reminiscent of the traditional village life with each house having almost identical sloping roofs, and cattle outside their houses. We were soon out of Umri and onto the roads that led us to Chizda. The roads were fantastic and could at best be the perfect locale for a time trial. The absolutely dense vegetation on either sides made it tough for the sun light to come in and not once did I and Dev feel it was 3 pm as we rolled at speeds exceeding 30 kmph for the first time ever since we started in the morning.

WP_20150823_15_40_11_ProA brief halt at Chizda for a regroup and Anil sir once again led us through a detour to shelve off 3 kms from the total distance. The only difference being that this time the roads were tarred!! We were now back on the roads to the camp.

As I entered into Ramtek, a small group of kids started chasing me and as they ran along with my bike, they pleaded with me to change the gear of the cycle. The kids were aged less than 10 and the squeal of joy they gave when they just saw the rear gear shifting still rings in my ears. How easy it is for them to be happy and how complicated we have made it for ourselves to derive the same subjective emotion!!

As I pondered over this aspect, I rolled into the camp. The others too rolled in over a couple of minutes. Lemonade and lunch followed in quick succession since it was already 4.30 pm. The return ride started by 6.00 pm as all of us loaded our bikes in the truck that was arranged by Prasad. Had it not been for this arrangement, returning yesterday would have been next to impossible. The trek which was just 62 kms had taken us 7 hours to complete and with night starting to fall, the Kamhan – Kamptee stretch would soon be a nightmare for us cyclists!!

The return trip to Nagpur took us just 2 hours and we could immediately feel the difference in the air quality of the city as opposed to that in the jungles where we were, just a couple of hours ago.

The RAAM (Race Across Mansar) as Monti christened it was an adventure, whose hangover still envelops me. It would stay for a couple of days and I don’t want it to leave me any sooner. No words can match the experience I had and no commercial trip can give the ecstasy I was privileged to enjoy. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I labeled Anil sir, the Columbus of Ramtek!! What for me was just a town synonymous with the temple of Lord Ram or the ex-constituency of former Prime Minister P. V. Narsimha Rao, today has other synonyms too!

I look forward to the next season of RAAM and for those who didn’t make the cut this time, ensure that you make it next time. This is an experience that you would cherish for long!

A Sunday well spent – Pedaling myself another 200 !!

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This June 14th I participated in my second 200 km Brevet. The apprehension in self was there just as it had been during my first Brevet in April and somehow I felt my fellow riders in Saddle Up had more trust in my abilities than I had in my own.

The last Brevet to Bor had been a tough one, and I had had a dismal finish time (12hr 45min). This was one of the reasons why I felt after applying various theories of mathematics subjected to supposed cross winds and predicted rains after breaking down the distances, that, perhaps I would not be able to complete the 300 km Brevet in the stipulated time. Thinking thus, I decided to participate in the 200 km Brevet in the hope that a better time this Brevet would be a better mental stimulant when and if I were to prepare for a 300 km Brevet.

The route for the 200 km Brevet was along the NH 69 starting from Zero Mile in Nagpur (MH), up to the 100 km reporting point at Teegaon (MP). I reached the starting point at about 4.15 am laced with my stock of Electral sachets and a packet of dates. The sky being overcast since the day before, I had different plastic bags for different stuffs – Electral, dates, wallet and my mobile.

A total of 24 bikers, 13 for the 200 km and 11 for the 300 km Brevet started from the Zero Mile point at 4.30 am sharp. Front and rear lights blinking, all with reflective vests, helmets and other cycling gear and in full gusto to make the most of the pleasant temperature and the empty roads – the scene was sufficient to make any one want to take up cycling.

With everyone pretty close to each other, the first flyover after the Pagalkhana chowk was where the first segregation took place. The riders on road bikes were now pretty much ahead and as the dawn broke all I could see was the blinking of the rear red lights in the distance. By the time the third fly over was over I was alone. About 10 guys ahead of me, and I was somewhere in the middle.

10457172_1013697935308318_931431136885127136_nPedaling pretty much alone, I reached Saoner bypass, our first check point, at 6.00 am. Coming across known humans on long stretches spent all alone is such a welcome sight. Rajesh Sir, Mahesh Sir, Saurabh and Mukul were waiting at this 35 km checkpoint. Bananas and water never felt so heavenly as they did now. A bit of stretching and I was on the roads again. The roads were nice and so was the weather.

About 30 kms ahead, I reached a board stating – Welcome to Madhya Pradesh. And trust me, this was such a big high. Cycling from one state into another gives you something to brag about for your whole life 🙂 And I had earned it.

However the inclines were now starting. The first one in MP was the one over a curve which sapped me up. Luckily Badchicholi soon presented itself and I could take a halt. I was determined to be on the saddle for longer times for the fear of breaking my momentum which was just about setting in. So immediately after an exchange of pleasantries, dates and chikki the power boosters for anyone attempting a Brevet followed by gulps of Electral, I was back on the saddle.

Badchicholi is a place worth visiting for the banyan tree cluster which is worth a dekko and which is protected by the MP forest department for the huge area it covers. I regret not being able to enjoy this scenic location for fear of losing momentum. Maybe soon someday, a breakfast ride with the Thumping Tigers, is what I thought and moved on.

The next 35 odd kms I had Sachin Jain for company. It seemed he had good knowledge about farming practices and for about an hour or more farming and its varied local rituals and practices dominated our talks. About 7 kms from the 100 km reporting point we saw Mohit returning. He had finished his 100 km and was now on his return leg. And he was on fire, pedaling like a man possessed!! And as he waved, I saw no signs of fatigue on him.

WP_20150614_09_39_48_ProAt the 100 km checkpoint at Teegaon, we were “welcomed” by Prasad Sir, Raj Sir, Anuroop and Mohammed. While Sachin left immediately, Mohammed refueled my water while I tanked up on the energy front with bananas. Meanwhile as Sunil and Aniruddha streamed in I was back on my return leg. It was almost 9.45 am and the weather was still surprisingly pleasant. I was in no mood for a break!

A plate of poha at Badchicholi on the return and I was on the road again. However almost somewhere around the time that I touched Saoner, there was a sudden change in weather. The sun popped up and upped the temperature almost immediately. What was until now pleasant, soon started turning sweaty. Electral, water and about 2-3 “date-breaks” ensued. I had been alone this entire stretch and the inclines after Koradi now seemed demanding. No one to talk through as I did these inclines which on usual Saturday rides seem so easy!

I was now feeling sapped and hungry. However somehow the Zero Mile getting nearer helped me kill these bodily needs for the moment. Majority of the traffic signals turning green as soon as I reached them too were helpful and I managed to report at the end point at 14:23 hours where the last leg of volunteers, Dev and Yash were in their “respective saddles” (in Dev’s car). That I was happy could have best been an understatement. There can’t be anything sweeter than completing a Brevet and more so when it is in sub-10 hours. I had completed it in 9hr 53min.

WP_20150614_14_25_02_ProHowever the toughest ride was to start now – the 10 km ride to my home from Zero Mile! This ride took me almost 45 minutes including a coconut water break. And when at home, nothing seemed softer than the welcoming cushions!

In the two Brevets that I did, I would just say that attempting one is not a test of your physical endurance. But rather it is a test of your mental strength. Agreed physical strength too does matter, but I would place mental strength to Physical strength at a ratio of 51:49.

God willing, maybe my next brevet would be a 300 km. But until then I would bask in the surge of happy hormones released in my blood stream post the Brevet. The Brevet high does last for a long time.

When one passion points to another – Tarot cards speak about Travel

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Over the past few months that I got regular with my daily draws, I started observing certain cards that would pop up with amazing regularity towards certain happenings. Since I travel quite a lot – by train, bike and cycle it was easy for me to figure out the cards that hinted at travel, or stuffs related to travel therefore.

A few of my observations for certain travel specific cards as elucidated from these daily draws are as below.

Three of Cups (reversed)

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The Three of Cups is about bonding and enjoying with friends. However I discovered a new meaning to this card when it started coming up reversed during my motorcycling travels. I usually bike about with my motorcycling group – the Thumping Tigers. As is our tradition, we travel together in a group so that if someone’s bike develops a snag there is always a biker brother at hand to help. However on the days that this reversed card (Three of Cups) would come up, I would invariably end up traveling solo. For some reason or the other, there would either be a collective decision for me to ride ahead solo, or I would fall back to assist someone and then make a sortie to bring more help or I would just end up lagging behind!

The Tower (reversed)

the-tower-reversedThe Tower is always a frightful card to come. And its probably even more frightful when you are on a road trip on your bike. I was actually frightened when I got this card one fine day when I was on my Tour of Bhutan with my motorcycle group. This particular day we were supposed to start from Gangte and head towards Bumthang. The exit from Gangte was laden with the worst amount of slush I have ever come across. And add to it the incessant rains and the cold.

The morning of this journey I got the Tower reversed. For a moment I got the feeling that this would definitely be about me sustaining some crash while negotiating the wicked slush. However when we started our journey from Gangte, there was immediately a breakdown of one of the bikes from our group. Oil was gushing out from the oil chamber and the bike was definitely not ridable any more. As it turned out this happened due to this biker negotiating his bike sharply the previous night when we were trapped in slush and were making our way slowly to Gangte. The Tower reversed here therefore proved to be about an upheaval that disturbed our riding plans for the day due to something that happened the previous day.

Knight of Cups

knight cupsAfter these two cards related to motorcycling, there is this one card related to cycling that pops up every now and then – the Knight of Cups. The Knight of Cups is a slow mover and obviously cycling is a slower sport than motorcycling. I have observed this knight come up in my daily draws whenever I intend to do long cycling trips either solo or with my cycling companions – the Saddle Up Guys.

Eight of Swords

8 swordsMy work often has me traveling by train and there is this pattern with respect to daily draws that I have recognized during trips undertaken by train. The most common is the occurrence of the Eight of Swords. This card has come up with amazing regularity whenever I would be undertaking a journey by train. The imagery of this card has this lady who is blindfolded and within a circular pattern of swords. Isn’t this how one is in a train compartment? You are in a space from where you can’t get out, even though you might be bored of staying in the carriage/compartment for a prolonged period of time. Eight of Swords to me is therefore a strong indicator of travel by train.

Six of Swords

six ofswordsThe Six of Swords came up for me when my train ticket was Wait Listed and when my journey depended entirely on the ticket getting confirmed. Though my number was pretty down on the list, when I saw this card in the morning I was pretty sure that my ticket would get confirmed. The imagery has the boatsman leave behind turbulent waters and row towards silent waters. Turbulent waters may very well be the mental tension about whether my tickets would get confirmed or not. The activity of rowing towards peaceful waters in the imagery was about my ticket getting confirmed and me embarking on my journey!

The High Priestess

RWS_Tarot_02_High_PriestessThe High Priestess was a surprise for me when she started to show up in my daily draws on days that I would be traveling. This is a passive card and I initially couldn’t associate it with traveling. Initially this card started coming on days when I was using the bus transport for roaming about and indulging in sight seeing in Himachal Pradesh. Himachal Pradesh is a beautiful state and even the bus journey offers a feast to your eyes. So well maybe the High Priestess was about staying passive and taking in the beauty as I toured. Later on this card again re-appeared when I had a Wait Listed train ticket. Since this card meant I would travel, I was sure my ticket would get confirmed and that it was a call to stay passive and enjoy the journey.

And well, the ticket did get confirmed thus adding this card to my list of travel related cards.

With time, maybe I would come up with more cards that would also hint at travel. But, until then I thought its better I pen these observations down before I forget!

My ride to Ramtek and what it taught me!

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An extended weekend courtesy the Republic Day a couple of days ago made for an ideal time for testing my cycling endurance.  That Saddle Up Guys, my cycling group scheduled a cycle ride to Ramtek during the same weekend was the perfect deal since it combined a good occasion for a personal time trial and that too in illustrious company.

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The ride was going to be roughly 60 – 65 kms from my place. I and Aniruddha started Sunday afternoon with our destination in Ramtek being the CAC All-rounder camp, a place which I was visiting for the first time. Enroute, as we made our way towards the outskirts of Nagpur, Dhananjay latched on to us and the three of us rode on towards Kamptee. I was in the illustrious company of two randonneurs and the thought often crossed my mind as to how I would fare in their company.

IMG-20150124-WA0009A brief halt for tea prior to entering Kamptee was our first stoppage. I had assumed the traffic would be thin since it was a Sunday, but I was grossly mistaken. The traffic upto Kamptee and into Kanhan was thick. In addition to pedal power there was a decent amount of effort needed in maneuvering through the two and four wheelers and the potholes which were but constant company. I have ridden upto Ramtek a couple of times on my Bullet, but I now believe that you start understanding the terrain much better only when you cycle through it. An awakening towards the frequency of potholes and the minor elevations was but slowly dawning.

Meanwhile 30 kms onwards, Vaibhav joined the three of us at Kanhan. His was a fresh pair of legs and while he and Aniruddha soon raced pretty much ahead, I held onto Dhananjay for company. Somewhere around this time I even realized that I was exceeding my expectations of lasting with the peer group.  The roads were now beginning to get better and got butter smooth as soon as we hit NH7. Speeds of about 20kmph on the saddle ensured that I was also absorbing in the scenic beauty by the roads. Farms on either side of the road and occasional potholes now had my full attention. What’s more I even realized the existence of a temple of the Sindhi community by the NH7, a fact that never caught my attention in the umpteen trips on this road.

By about early evening the four of us reached Mansar, had a beer each and were on to Ramtek again. A couple of halts to enquire the directions to the adventure camp and we were at our destination within 20 minutes.

There was no electricity when we reached the camp, and this probably added even more mystique to this place which was situated on the other side of the famed Ramtek temple. Meanwhile on a personal note, I was mighty pleased that I lasted the ride of 63 kms, my first big ride. I had exceeded my expectations ‘coz as such I was not even feeling tired! Wow!!

Meanwhile it soon dawned on to me that Anil Sir who had reached here in the morning with Mohan Sir had indulged in heavy fish-ing (read shopping of fishes) at Ramtek and had cooked up a string of delicacies which he was eager to unleash onto us. Booze for the night stocked up, the fish munching started immediately.

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First on the menu was Sikkar, also called Poshti in local parlance. As such I have always been a chicken lover, never loved fishes as such just for the fact that eating them was difficult. However that Sikkar was skeletally similar to Pomfret had me happy. It was a fish that was relatively easy on the fingers. Just when I was starting to enjoy the fried delicacy, Anil Sir presented the next one on the menu – fried Tiger Fish. Two fresh water fish delicacies and despite both of them being fried, the difference in their taste was immense!

Just as all of us were admiring the taste difference, the next delicacy was out of the kitchen –  Smoked fish. First bite of the fish and what struck me immediately was the 180 degree change in taste as compared to the first two delicacies. Words fail me as I attempt to describe the taste. I had never thought that a fish delicacy could be so refreshingly tasty. However even before everyone could finish appreciating the smoked fish, Anil Sir presented the fourth fish delicacy – Birmunji fish.

This was a fish that was even more different than others structurally. To be eaten in whole, this small fish, the preparation of which resembled cooked beans was going to be the icing on the cake. A taste which I would never be able to describe! I loved the dish personally for two reasons – the superlative taste, and the fact that I did not have to sit sifting through its bones. As Anil Sir pointed out when we were eating, this was one of those rarely found fishes (in the local market) which was known for swimming against the water flow in a shoal. Personally I have always liked to eat food that has a fair amount of history behind it. Sort of reminded me of the dinner sessions that I had during my Leh trip! Each new delicacy, be it Kashmiri or Tibetan had a story behind it.

Four fish delicacies in a single sitting, well this was a first for me. And it seems there was more to follow. Curry of small prawns was next on the platter. I have always been a lover of prawns and though I was full with having tasted a wide array of fish delicacies, I “had” to have the prawns. And they were mind blowing.

It would be a monumental mistake to compare and grade the five delicacies I had had in the two hours or so. Each one was in a league of its own. And I was now in the state they call – “Pet bhara par dil nahi bhara” !

By the time everyone was done with the prawns, in came the chicken curry. I am pretty sure everyone would have attacked it with gusto had it not been for the culinary delights that were already resting at the base of everyone’s stomachs. Being a chicken lover, it was tough to resist this and I couldn’t stop myself from tasting it when goaded by Anil Sir. No doubt I was indeed worried about now having an upset stomach at the back of my mind!!

Never ever in my life have I feasted upon six non vegetarian delicacies in one go. While I was happy that my stomach wasn’t rumbling, I felt that the feast could have had been done more justice by a gourmet than a bunch of casual foodies. Unfortunately for me, this is one of those feasts which would not be done justice either in my blog or even pictorially since there is not much of photographic evidence due to the power outage that we had in Ramtek during our feast. Like they say, many good things are best stored in memory. For me this feast was one of them!

Meanwhile as everyone indulged in more booze and talks post the feast I decided to sleep early. It was already 1 am 🙂

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20150126_070836The next day started on a lethargic note. While Dhananjay left for Nagpur early with Anil Sir, I was lucky to catch a glimpse of sunrise at Ramtek in the open lands. I wasn’t equipped with a camera, so I missed the opportunity to capture this moment as well as that of two Giant owls nesting in a tree by the Adventure Camp. Though a lazy affair, breakfast of pohe with chicken of the previous night made for an interesting combination.

At around the same time, since some of the guys at the camp were leaving for Nagpur by car, the three of us were lucky to get a lift back home. Our bikes too got one in a pick-up. And by 2 pm I had touched base.

My first long ride was over. I know many would find the ride of 65 kms a miniscule one, but for me this is hopefully just going to be the start. And, more than the achievement of the ride, it is going to be the culinary delights that I enjoyed on this ride which would stay etched in my memory for a long long time.

Move over Ramtek, the land of temple of Lord Ram. Come on in over, the land that taught me to appreciated water residing entities!

Bhutan Diaries: Day 16 – Guwahati (AS) to Kolkata (WB) to Nagpur (MH)

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This day passed off very quickly. Maybe because everyone was now missing home all of a sudden with Diwali celebrations to start a day after.

DSC02569Our first flight was at 12 pm (Guwahati – Kolkata). We checked out of the hotel by 9 am with all of us wearing our club T shirts. That we checked out a bit too early helped us avoid the peak hour rush in Guwahati conveniently.

We were in Kolkata by 2 pm and we had a good four hours to ourselves before our Kolkata – Nagpur flight at 6 pm. Myself, Yogesh, Vandan and Tushar used this opportunity to visit the local Haldiram’s at Kolkata and even had lunch there. By 4.30 pm we were back at the airport and we never knew when it was 6 pm, our take off time from Kolkata. Time flew by soon and by 8 pm we were all in Nagpur.

DSC02570DSC02571I am sure many of our co-passengers might have found us crazy for the delirious shouts of achievement we let out when we landed in Nagpur. I am short of words to express how joyous I was when we landed. I would just surmise by saying that we were pretty much over the moon when we landed! After all the Thumping Tigers were the first group from Central India to complete the Tour of Bhutan all on their own! And yes, without a back up or support!

DSC02572Quite a few of our riders had their families come at the airport to receive us. And, well, what a reception it was. We had been living until now, for almost 16 days and 2980 kms, a life where we were the cynosure of everyone’s eyes. Be it in India or be it in Bhutan. Ten guys on ten Bullets riding together does generate a cult status and we experienced it wherever we went. The welcome at the airport from the family members and a few of our Tigers added to this feeling. For a few minutes, with the crowd around us and joyous pictures being clicked left and right, I was definitely feeling like a celebrity.

However it was going to be a difficult transition the next day. Being treated like a VIP for 16 days, to now reporting at work, as just another common man! The fairytale was over.

But well, this is life!

And I will always miss you Bhutan!

Bhutan Diaries: Day 15 – Samdrup Jongkhar (BT) to Guwahati (AS)

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Today was our last ride in Bhutan, or more so our last day of riding. Within minutes we would be in India. We started by 9 am and I for sure had a very heavy heart as I left Samdrup Jongkhar. I had fallen in love with Bhutan.

DSC02561Within riding of a km, we encountered the final checkpost – the checkpost on one side of which was Bhutan and on the other India. Formalities done we were in india within 10 minutes of starting from our hotel.

DSC02563The first thing I spotted on entering Assam from this checkpost was a Tata Nano followed by a host of cycle rickshaws and the omnipresent cows squatting on the roads as the quintessential road dividers.

The traffic, the population, the civic sense of Bhutan was lost in an instant and it wasn’t tough realizing that we were in India now. However, the transition being immediate it was definitely unsettling not only mentally but also as a rider, getting used to the road sense.

The roads of India post the checkpost were nice for about 50 kms. However the bad stretch started as soon as we latched on to NH31. Small and big potholes, diversions, etc soon became very common on this supposed four-lane National Highway!

DSC02564In about 2 hours, and a 102 kms later we reached Hotel Lilawati Grand, our destination in Guwahati. Guwahati was a very chaotic city and we were lucky to have a local on a Honda Activa weaving us in and out through traffic and the lanes of the city to help us reach our hotel.

After checking in to the hotel, we were soon off for GATI where we spent a couple of hours arranging transport for our bikes back home. However in a course of a few days, we realized that this was the worst decision we had taken with regards to our bikes.

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DSC_1121Post the GATI office, our next halt was at Hotel Lilly’s, the club office of the local Bulls of Assam motorcycling club. Though all of us Tigers were tired, the bonhomie with Sanmoni, Abinash, Bhaskar and Richa Devi (the first lady rider from North East to scale the Khardung La) made us forget the fatigue and instead we ended up discussing our next riding plans with them. And lest I forget, the chicken momos at Lilly’s were awesome.

DSC_1125The day ended with a promise to the Bulls that the Tigers would catch up with them in NERM 2015 and ride somewhere in the North East after the NERM. And as I look forward to catching up with the Bulls of Assam riders again, I have my fingers crossed!