Karizma, Me and the roads of Ladakh
It was definitely not love at first sight!
I always had a rather sceptical opinion of her-
Pretentious, showy, lacking substance and may be brittle,
Haryanvi-Japanese roots not withstanding, show-boat basically.
When I met her, in flaming red
There, I said, overdressed for the purpose,
and daintily shod too, in fancy street-going footwear.
And the numbers, HR 36 J 7231
Did not add up to my favourite number 3, 6 or 9;
not a very auspicious beginning.
She was more Kate Winslet than Angelina Jolie or
Hilary Swank for that matter.
And the big R on the fairing did not do anything to allay my feelings,
but you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
A hundred kilometers down the highway
I was a bit less sceptical, and
as the milestones passed by in a whirl,
[should we call them kilometer-stones now?]
She had started to grow on me.
When the road started winding and climbing
Then was the beginning of appreciation,
if not the first stirrings of love.
On plain roads she warbled a love song with her exhaust,
I hummed and the wind hummed back and the road acquiesced.
When the going started getting rough
With the altimeter spinning above fifteen thousand feet,
The barometer dropping to fifty centimeters of mercury,
it was love in full bloom.
While I gasped and panted,
She showed her colours, clawing up slopes,
Matching the macho, ageing, blustering king of the road,
at every turn and climb, with a muted scream,
with tautened sinews, snarling and panting but ready for more.
On the treacherous down slopes, grit, sand, slush,
On engine braking
She gurgled and grunted, never missing a beat nor cog
As sure footed as a ghural, the mountain goat.
Keep her spinning at more than thirty five hundred rpm
and downshift in to the right cog,forget the front brake
was the mantra to make her your lovely, faithful girl
on treacherous terrain.
My New Zealander friend of the road Ben, looked at me and especially,
At her in askance, not believing she’d brought me so far,
put it succinctly, “You’ve got the nerve, ma[i]te!”
We parted company at Jammu,
after two thousand odd kilometers and more,
not because she was unwilling, but
my old bones protested. I often wonder what she could have done
if properly shod, in off-road rubbers
and stripped of her fancy clothing to bare essentials.
I still dream of you Karizma HR 36 J-7231.
Farewell, friend and travel mate,my Rocinante, having seen me
through the highest and most dangerous roads on planet earth
and biking Nirvana!