Friday, January 11, 2013
A deus ex machina moment
Last Sunday, a bunch of us planned to cycle to Mysore from Bangalore, but most of the group developed cold feet, having never done over 50 km in a single ride and with Mysore 150 km away. Only three of us finally rode on Sunday morning. We decided to end the ride at Muthati, a village by the Cauvery near where it crosses into Tamil Nadu, about half-way to Mysore.
The ride turned into a rather memorable one for a number of reasons that are funny in retrospect. I’ve detailed it on Dailymile, but I failed to note the most surreal experience that day. It happened a little before 4 PM, when Zainab, Praneeth and I were sitting on the riverside at Muthati, waiting for the bus that may or may not give us a ride out of the valley:
Nikhil Kulkarni walked over and said hello and remarked about my forgotten wallet.
Step back and picture this: we had been up since 5 AM that morning. We had pedalled for six hours already. We were at the point of exhaustion – Zainab was complaining of a spinning head and had already taken a nap on the roadside before getting here. We had just eaten at a village shack that was nothing like the idyllic rural setting we’ve been brought up to expect – the only item on the menu at every shack was freshly killed chicken with rice and sambar. The ride downhill into the valley had been treacherous. The road was steep, curvy and broken. We were constantly in danger of going down a curve too fast (even with brakes) and bouncing off a pothole onto an oncoming bus. We made a curious sight in the village and everybody was whispering about us and our crazy ride from Bangalore.
We had felt relief at reaching the bottom of the valley. It was like summiting a mountain. You’ve done something hard and you are now alone on the top – and you still have to get down from there, arguably a harder task.
And then someone familiar shows up and already knows your story. A deus ex machina moment. What was Nikhil doing out here, 80+ km from Bangalore? How did he know about my wallet?
Turned out his wife and he had driven to Kanakapura and thought to extend their drive to Muthati, and of course he had been catching up with Twitter. I had not mentioned riding to Muthati, so meeting here was just a happy coincidence. Nikhil and I have often met at Barcamp, but I only knew him by face, first name and a company he’s long left. I didn’t know his Twitter id or that he followed me on Twitter.
It suddenly occurred to me to ask Nikhil and his wife for a ride. Could they? What car were they driving? Why yes, his wife said. With Nikhil and her in the front, the three of us could sit in the back. But what about the cycles? The car was a Santro, a hatchback. No chance it could take even one. Disappointed, we figured the bus was our only chance (unless we were willing to push our bikes up ~8 km of steep slope), so we left the riverside and rode back into the village.
That was when we found my tire was flat again. My options were to get it onto the bus and fix it when we were back on the road, or do it now before twilight. The bus, when it arrived, refused our bikes a ride. Maybe I could have sent it back in Nikhil’s car? We tried hiring a utility vehicle, but found we had just Rs 100 between the three of us. No one would take us to the road (20 km away) for that little, nor would they take us 40 km to the nearest ATM in Kanakapura.
Why hadn’t I just asked Nikhil for some money, promising to pay him back in Bangalore?
I scrambled for my phone. There was no network signal. I could perhaps find a spot with a weak signal, but would Nikhil’s phone be within network coverage? Then I realized I did not know his phone number, his Twitter id, or even his full name to do a (rather far-fetched) Google search to look him up.
The deus ex machina moment had come and passed. We were alone again. I fixed my flat and we got back on our bikes to ride uphill, reaching the main road some two hours later in complete darkness.