2009, I was in the last semester of my engineering. It was the time for placements, TCS was coming to town, so my natural reaction was to get the fuck out of there.
Asked Naveen, and he was obviously ready to go. He knew a junior in the hostel who said we could stay at his sister’s house in Jammu, we obviously accepted.
It was a bad time to go to Jammu, worse to ride there. It was November, cold as balls, thick patches of fog everywhere. But we were going, so that was that.
There wasn’t much packing to do, we were wearing most of our clothes in layer after layer, because it was cold as balls. What little was left fit into a bag that the pillion would wedge in somewhere.
The bike was a Pulsar 150, it had taken us through similar badly thought out trips before. There was no riding gear involved, we only had helmets. Mine was a cheap one that fit badly, Naveen borrowed one from a friend. I had half finger leather gloves.
We started from Chandigarh at 5 am, the fog made it difficult to see things a few meters away. We were immediately shivering, 5 layers of clothing weren’t nearly enough.
Naveen’s brother lived on the way, so we stopped at his house, woke him up, and borrowed a bunch of newspapers. We stuffed the newspapers under our jackets for added warmth. They didn’t do shit.
So we carried on riding and shivering, sometimes Naveen rode, but mostly it was me. It was my bike, so naturally I had dibs. We stopped by a road somewhere to piss. I pissed, then returned to the bike, then went back and pissed more than I had pissed the first time. It was cold as balls.
The sun came out after a few hours, we felt like human beings again. We barely took any stops, we were young and had too much energy. After crossing the Pathankot border, we finally sat down and had some food. Then it was time to ride again. We took no photos, no time to stop.
We were in Jammu, we had expected to reach there by night, it was only 2.30 in the afternoon. Got the directions to Naveen’s junior’s sister’s place and got there in a few minutes.
It wasn’t a house, she lived in a single rented room with her husband. It was a small room, we were going to sleep on the floor. It somehow did not feel awkward, she was extremely sweet.
Since we were young and had too much energy, we decided to go visit the sites of Jammu. We went to the famous Raghunath temple, it felt like visiting a shady website, with random pandits appearing like popups and forcing us to buy prayers. We got out quickly.
We went to Bagh-e-Bahu, it was pretty. The aquarium at top was about to close, but we convinced the guard to let us have a run through. It was nice. We got back, had some dinner, and slept.
In the morning the sweet lady had made us special breakfast. When I casually commented that I like curd, her husband went out and bought me some. We sat in the sun and enjoyed the food.
We decided to head out to Katra around afternoon. Picked up the bike and enjoyed the twisties quite a bit. Naveen wanted to ride, but that was obviously not happening.
We took the bike all the way to the gate through which the trek begins. Got parking for the bike too. Then we realized we had to go back a bit to get tickets. Took the bike to get that done, Naveen was riding.
He was riding a bit quick, we were on a small road with people walking by on both sides. An old lady who was walking parallel to the road suddenly turned perpendicular and came directly in front of us. Naveen tried, but we hit her from the side.
I was scared, there was a mob gathering around. I told him to keep riding, but he said no. We turned back and went to the woman, her family was around. People were getting angry and shouting at us, but because we hadn’t run away, there was an element of respect too.
The old woman’s family told us it’s alright, they had seen what had happened. We left them, got the tickets, and rode back to the parking, much slower this time.
The sun was setting by the time we got walking. We took the shortest route via the stairs, young and too much energy. We were at Ardhkuwari cave soon. There was a massive line, we took the ticket to get into the cave, but our turn won’t come for at least a few hours.
We decided to walk up to the main temple and get back before our turn came, young and energetic. We reached the top pretty soon, I refused to bathe in the ice cold water before going in. There were lines, but it all went by quickly.
It was midnight by the time we started back downhill. We were back at Ardhkuwari soon, so soon that our turn was still quite far away. We rented an itchy quilt, and slept on the floor for a bit. It was noisy as hell, there wasn’t much sleep.
We went through the cave, there was a moment where I thought I’m stuck, but I saw an auntie more than thrice my size gliding through, that helped. Dawn was approaching when we got out, we decided to keep walking down.
We reached the bike, it was only 9 am. We thought about what to do now, we could just keep riding north towards Srinagar and the Himalayas, but it was risky, there were terrorists about. We had little money for hotels and food, we had no idea just how bad that road was.
Decided to head back to Chandigarh and live a little longer. I started riding, I was tired and sleepless, hadn’t removed my contact lenses for 24 hours, I was making mistakes. But I kept going.
Naveen was resting behind me, as much rest as you could get on a badly ridden motorcycle. We lost our way near Gurdaspur, I missed the highway and went into the wrong direction.
Didn’t realize the mistake until much later, turned back and joined the highway again, it cost us an extra 60 kms. By the time we reached Hoshiarpur, I was dead tired, and cold.
We stopped by a busy roundabout on the highway. My legs were cold. I sat down on the pavement, took off my jeans, picked out the pyjamas from the bag, put them over the warmer, and put the jeans over that. It’s good to be a guy.
Naveen rode, I sat at the back dozing in an out of sleep. It was scary, I picked myself up at moments on the edge of falling off the bike. We kept going. It was dark, the streetlights kept flashing by, they looked exactly the same as they had a 100 kms back. I must have been hallucinating.
We reached the hostel after midnight. Security wasn’t happy letting us in at that hour, but we made it through. We slept through the entire next day. We had missed the TCS placement exam, some of our friends had jobs. We were happy.