On a lazy, dreamy (working) weekday, while browsing around the net something catches my eye. It was the perfect amalgamation of a smorgasbord and a rushof blood to the head. A link to ‘MIDNIGHT CYCLE RIDE WITH MUMBAI RANGERS’ caught my eye. It was going to be held on the weekend. But ain’t weekends supposed to bespent in quietude on our beloved beds. As a matter of fact, there are some crazy travel heads who think otherwise! Working 5 days a week- in and out godging our eyesin front of the computers under the whims of our ‘delirious’ bosses can be too much at times. Being new to Mumbai, I wanted to check out the famous night life ofMumbai and what better way to do it while riding a bicycle. “Let’s do it!” exclaimed my friend when I told him about the night ride. Like a small child ogles upona certain toy with the sole intention of getting it, we book our tickets!. Cometh the day, “I haven’t ridden a cycle for the past 5 years! How am I supposed to ride iton the streets of Mumbai” said I in a hushed voice to my friend while on board to Churchgate. “You sure you want to do this” he said in a worried yet mocking voice!
“Yeah! Let’s kick ass” was how I retorted. So, we reached Regal theater, with the other riders waiting impatiently.
“Mumbai Rangers” was how we acknowledged each other. Time for socializing, I suppose, in the backdrop of all the excitement and nervous “I haven’t’ ridden a cyclefor the past- let’s say 10 years and blah- blah- blah…..” there was this particular boy/kid that caught my eye. With well oiled-combed hair and a pinch of innocenceto his face he stood there holding his mother’s hand. His father had come off to drop his mother and him for the ride. Curious, I asked him, “You here for the ride orwhat”. “Yes bhaiyaa!” he said, clutching his mother’s hand even further, at which point the mother took over and with a bright vivid smile replied “Yes! For the ride,this is my son and we are here for the ride!”. But, you guys do know pretty well that it’s a 25 km ride was what I meant to convey at which point a dude with a bandana,spectacles and MTB cycle laden arrives.
“Ssup guys Alright alright alright (a bit Matthew McConaughey)! Gather Around. This is Makarand, your Team Leader for the ride…….”. After a brief introductionand “To Do- Not to do” ground rules and an encouragement (to the new riders) speech we get to select our cycles (geared as well as non- geared ones! I for a fact optingfor a non- geared one. Well, being a football player and a pahadi has it’s own gratifications! You are blessed with terrific lower body strength and the former hasyour calves all sculpted out!).
Our ride commenced at South Mumbai, crossing Gateway of India- cycling parallely to the revered Taj Mahal Hotel- through the Colaba causeway, this was happiness intandem. I had taken to my cycle as smoothly as Muhammad Ali would have placed his punch over his opponent. Although technically less apt, I was riding it and the windwould sweetly kiss my face and blow off across my hair. I always loved cycling. Not because it was convenient and easy to zig- zag your way out when stuck intraffic, but because it would let me talk to the wind! It was a perfect lullaby. Poetry in motion I suppose!.
There was a slight hint of rains along the way! Now how cool would it have been had it rained! The droplets only teasing us with it’s little squiggly cameo. Not all thingsare hunky- dory I guess!. Anyway, after riding in for a while we stopped @Girgaum Chowpatty settling in for some ice cream and ‘Golas’, meanwhile also welcoming thecurious public eyes. We were after all, the cynosure.
After some selfie moments and camera clicks, off we hopped to our next pit stop- Marine Drive a.k.a ‘The Queen’s Necklace’! We reached there around 1:30 a.m.and yes this was the night life I’d always heard off from my cousins (who live here) and heard as a folklore while growing up. Had it not been for my watch, I wouldhave never guessed that it was so late into the night! There were people roaming around as if time had no boundations! Curious people coming and enquiringly about the rideas to which Makarand happily answers all their queries!.”Best publicity is through the spread of word my friend!” he would later tell me when I asked him about thepublicity tactics of ‘Mumbai Rangers’.
My cycle was a crisp white BTWIN MTB model. Easy onthe hands and legs and was an instant click. Similar to the protagonist from ‘Avatar’ who fondles with his ‘Mountain banshee’.On our way forward, there was this beautiful stretch just when we crossed the ‘Hill Road’ and downtown, calling it the rush of adrenaline to the head would be a poeticjustice. Had this strange urge to just let go and speed our minds off, but had to follow the rules (Follow the rules guys, Makarand would shout every 10 minutes!).
Had to control the urge to not to give into the child in me. All this while, in the process crossed ‘Haji Ali’ and then ‘Siddhivinayak Temple’ from where we stopped in tohave a beautiful view of the moon- a momentary lapse of time (Pink Floyd anyone)!
In the process to buckle up and keep up with Makarand and company, I realized Mumbai has so many wonders to offer. Yes! the traffic and humidity is a bit of a concernbut hey! If you want to explore the actual Mumbai/Bombay or ‘Mayanagri’ for that concern, explore it out during the night. And guess what All this while that well oiledkid along with his mother- out of nowhere where actually leading the group (for a fraction of second before Makarand told them to hold their horses!).
Finally, at around 4:00 a.m reached bandstand where we stopped for our energy bars (sarcastic smile- because according to our dear Makarand it was an acronym for Perk!).Each one thanked it’s star for making it alive, in one piece, although overwhelmed for covering the full 25 thousand metres (thousand makes it look so much coolerright). After a few moments to preen and promenade for the cameras we dropped of our cycles which were then loaded into a mini truck. As everyone started to departto their respective places, I on the other hand decide to stay back and check out the sunrise. “Well after all, when in Mumbai when do you actually get to see the sunrisefrom the best of the spots”, I told my friend after I had become something of a pantomime villain after criticizing his cycling technique a couple of hours earlier.
Do not want to end my blog so abruptly but then again you never say never!. Until next ride 😉
It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them Ernest Hemingway