A Face-off Ride!

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Pallavi: “This where Lord Parshuram rested.” A hush fell over the Bisons as they herded around her at the Panvel meeting point. The time was twilight. Magical. While the storyteller is a dietician in this birth, she held the attention of the Bisons with ancient seriousness that took us back to the serial Mahabharat. “He saved the Konkan from the Ocean with his Axe and carved the valley.” Pallavi Shanmugaraj, ‘Keeper of the Axe’, Bison, wife of Corner, continued to address the sleepy eyeballs in front of her. A quick whistle brought us forward in time and Gurinder Singh, lovingly known as ‘Paaji’ (only with a Punjabi accent please), introduced us to the Ride at hand. The Captain of this ride was Corner-a.k.a. Raja, (husband of the Keeper of the Axe?) and he took over and gave us a pep talk and some rules of the Ride. A few teas later and after chanting some ancient hymns in front of Pallavi, we all prayed in our minds, missing Father Sheldon’s presence and prayer.

We rode through Khopoli and the lush emerald green forests of Pali, moving into Nagothane and heading to Poladpur for a lunch break. Someones battery gave way and that had to be recharged, etc. Mihir Chheda-with-the-bandana-look, kicked into transport mode and took the biker to the next village, to recharge. Not before Paaji, Deelux and Corner had tried every trick-still-not-in-the-manual to start the bike.

We continued. Mild rain, though mostly sunny took us uneventfully and quickly to Poladpur for lunch. Not before I had a fish-tail. This is not food-talk!  Paaji was astride Shri Vinayak Rath, with the First Lady and was herding us onto a bridge. Not co-ordinating the downshift and the rear brake, I felt the rear tire swish in skid mode. (A flash of my son with my will crossed my mind) It was serious enough to get a talk from Paaji at lunch time. I still had lot to learn.

Dreaming about the next ride

Lunch was relaxing. Tasty. Bhavik regaled us with his knowledge on everything. He is a challenge to Wikipedia. After lunch, Manu Goel and the First Lady enjoyed the amusement rides in the eating area. It was for children. We all saw from a distance. Paaji was into 37 winks, I followed suit. Deelux distributed some chocolates, I was told he does that every ride. This place is named after Aurangzeb’s knight Poladjung who was beaten and buried here. We saddled up and left in bright sunlight. A bit of rain helped us to stay cool and the road wasn’t too bad either. Ripping sounds were heard all over. Crossing Chiplun, we took to the Ghats. The road was lovely and this helped me to understand corner turning. I understood that it will take a long time to understand.

The Kumbharli Ghats got steep. Tons of twists and turns, luckily sparse traffic and cool weather, took us ahead. As we rode parallel to the ghats upon facing them we could see the face of Lord Parshuram naturally carved out of the hill, gazing on the Bisons. It was awesome. We climbed 2000 feet to face Lord Parshuram. We approached a check naka at the tallest point in the ghats and discovered the Hotel next to it. This mountain resort was a copy from the house in Gumnaam the film. (“…Yahan koi nahin rahta hai…”) Everyone corralled into the compound and parked. It was around 5pm; chilly yet sunny and most thankfully, a very clear day. You could see forever. The Keeper of the Axe took everyone on customised tours of this natural phenomena. (Maybe she is a direct descendant after all!). In the face of the cliff you could clearly see a face. A stern face. A burly man. He was resting and gazing on the swathe his axe cut. Everyone took photos. The valley was green and refreshing and the days tiredness left everyone.

Lord Parshuram

Balancing a cup of tea

Mist mist everywhere, every road to ride!

A quick snack of veg and non-veg (I had both), got the energy back into the system and General started assigning accommodation. This Hotel is quite amazing. It is a three story structure. Has five rooms. We were almost 25 people. Bisons unpacked to chill. Chill? What can u do here I thought; the next light was the two people check-post and ofcourse a cute Hanumanji Mandir next to it. But Bisons know better. They carry their own entertainment. Nightfall and  along with came a campfire session. We had to imagine the fire though. We did and the following people were given the precious Dogtags, which means they were conformed as Bisons, qualifying the set conditions of two rides! These proud people are:

1 Silencer…a.k.a.Rakesh

2 Meenal aka Tai

3 Manu Goel aka Hawkeyes

4 Amol Pawar aka Gasket

5 Fafda…a.k.a  Bhavik

6 Lord Fusebox…a.k.a. Aditya Raj Kapoor (Yours truly)

From left: Silencer, Hawkeyes, Fafda, Tai, Gasket, Lord FuseBox, Gurinder

Everyone had to say something. I sang a song from my dad’s film…O haseena zulfonwali…and they all chimed in together. We were soon asked to move into the Hotel and shout. We did that. Inside some more call-signs were given….Deepti, Swapnil’s wife-Droppy. Pallavi, Corners wife-Sotty.

The newcomers spoke about their life and we all listened. Mihir spoke about how he took up a career just to buy a bullet. It sent a pang into everyone’s heart. I was thinking, Mihir, in normal clothes looks so endearing. BUT as he wears his bandana, a transformation comes over and he wears his spinal jacket, a-la-batman, spiderman, spinalman, and looks so perfect and welded to his bike. He walks on two wheels!  He is a great rider, starting from the age of 15 or so. Surely everyone has a story and most have lightened their hearts at such campfires.

Dinner was gobbled up as it was served. The staff was astonished and they asked us to eat slowly. Some slept in tents, on the floor landing, some squeezed into rooms. I slept in the cafeteria. They called it Kumbharli-cafeteria-en-suite. Come to think of it, I had the best deal. Just 6 of us on beds on the floor. Of course, Fafda, set up his north-pole tent and just before he retired as in sleeping beauty, he warned us, “I talk in my sleep” so don’t get scared. It’s just me.” I told him about wolves in the ghats who enter the compound and carry off anything that speaks at night. We all slept silently.

I woke up at 4. It was dark. Then at 5, still dark. By 6, the sunlight ventured out on the ghat and as we all ran out, we saw a pea-soup mist that enveloped the entire ghat. Fafda told me that visibility must be not more than 30 feet. It was raining and all bikes got cleaned. Poha and Bhurji with tea, got the Bisons going. I had breakfast with Rashmi, Deepti and Pallavi and they all quizzed me about what made me ride. Rashmi insisted I start from birth. It was a long story; they listened very patiently.

Saddling up, the mist yet all over, we took our signature pic with hands in the air. Gave the Bison calltune and rode off. We couldn’t see the face-in-the-hill and realised that the view yesterday was the benevolence of Lord Parshuram. Within a drop of 200 feet the air cleared up and we sped towards lunch. Along the way came more tech problems and we had a leaking tank. Paaji, Deelux and Corner used their skills to correct the issue successfully. Of course, Deelux oil-topped my bike when Paaji inspected and told me at the Hotel this morning that I was out of oil. Hmmm, I needed to be more attentive and not punish others with delays. Another lesson.

Lunch at Poladpur was deja vu. We ate together, Paaji rested after lunch, so did I, Manu and the First Lady used the amusement equipment again. It was still for children. Of course, Fafda, again regaled us with his knowledge. Sitting with the ladies, (cause they don’t smoke), I drifted into the conversation and realised that the ladies were most animatedly discussing Divorce and the Indian legal system. This was led by Fafda/Bhavik, who is unmarried. I could see Raj, Swapnil and Deelux stealing glances at the conversation, wondering what’s leading up. She-Bisons talk hard.

Corner and DietPal

So we rode on and on and on, ripping for an hour till dusk, when it began to rain heavily. We had a puncture and luckily that was near a village so we stopped and helped out. As the light faded, and the rain intensified, Paaji called a halt and we stopped a few km out of Khopoli. In 20 mins the rain lightened up and we sped. These last 30 minutes to Panvel shall always be remembered as we all tried to get there before the next cloudburst. All were tired and all ripped to get back.  Fortunately all arrived safely. Manu had to backtrack to see if anyone including me was left behind and got his tyre stuck in mud. Sorry about that Manu. All counted for at Panvel, we dove into tea and anatakhsri, between the guys and the girls. It was lively and took our attention away from the tiredness.

The ride closed on a note of seriousness, when Paaji asked us to stay in numerical formation and look for the rider behind. It was a lesson in safety and we appreciated the reminder.

Six more of us went home as Bisons.

God bless the Bisons.


Written by Aditya Raj Kapoor aka Lord FuseBox