Till the time I completed my secondary school education, I have stayed in different places. To make it clearer, in my fifteen years of school education, my last school was the tenth one. Well, one may presume that I am jabbering but I have memories of different and equally wonderful places.
We were in Anantnag, a small town further from Srinagar, one of the most beautiful places for a kid to grow up. We had a huge Chinar tree in our garden; it covered the entire garden under it. Every autumn it would turn bright with golden, copper, brown and red hues. So if you lie down under it, you would see an orange sky of leaves with shimmering sunlight peeping through it and the green grass under you; the grass was usually cold, but one can adjust. The lawn had a very high fence; I couldn’t see past it even if I stood on my tippy toes stretching to my full height, which wasn’t much(my mother used to believe I would be a dwarf all my life. thank goodness her fear did not turn to reality.) My father had put up a swing on the tree branch, which was my prized possession. When I swung forward was the only time I could see past the fence and see what was happening outside.
Another reason it was a good place to grow up would be that there were no schools near my house and those nearby were shut because of the fear of shelling. It was 1998, the year Kargil started, so I had home schooling. Home schooling wasn’t that great a pain, security reasons and bandhs kept my teacher at bay. He was wonderful and kind – before every session I was given a huge, juicy, scarlet apple. I always felt that the apple twinkled at me. Mum used to tell me every time how I should be deeply grateful because the man was one of the few who had the privilege of studying and was teaching me to make money for his college.
For me, a 6 year old, my swing and the garden were far better a company to have than him. I remember it was 14th August and next day was a holiday, but while he was talking to father my instinct told me the holiday was a dream. What was more annoying was that the session would start at 8 sharp in the morning. The next day, we were in the garden and he told me to sit on my swing, I willingly agreed. After a while, I could hear humming sound, and it became louder and louder, coming closer to us. i held my swing very tightly and anticipated what was going to happen. My swing started moving to and fro. I rose higher and higher after every push, till the time I could see what was creating the noise. I saw a chain of Royal Enfield Bullets – I couldn’t count them, but they were a lot. Similar to the one my father had.
In a quick glance, I saw multiple flags attached to those bikes and the bikers were young men, similar to the teacher’s age. They were all smiling and holding the flag in their hands. The flags looked spectacular, in the wind were the national colours fluttering to the spirit of the day. It was a beautiful sight. I had never, in the six years of my life, seen the flag look so vibrant and full of life. Over the humming sound was my laughter, I was too happy and my teacher was brimming and smiling. Later he told me about how he and his friends from the college student union had organized this to motivate the youth, to want them to feel like being a part of educating themselves and believe in peace and harmony.
Years went by and I moved to Mumbai for my college education. All of this came back to me, when this Independence Day, me and few friends were looking for a story to cover for our Reporting assignment at Marine Drive. It was around 10:30 and I heard the same humming noise. It grew louder and louder and closer towards us. It had my full attention and this time I could count. There were more than five hundred bikers who went past us on their bikes. It was the same with flags fluttering and the bikers driving their Enfields. Only, this time, they were not just college boys but men of varied ages. To our surprise, there were women bikers as well. We stood there awestruck during the entire time as the bikers too seemed to be very attractive, like they knew the purpose of life and at that very moment it was to see the flag soaring, bright and vibrant. They passed us by under the bright blue sky, covering the queen’s necklace.
As usual, ‘the curiosity’ kicked in and I decided to find out who these bikers were. So after a few calls and a visit to Bandra , I found out that this was an anonymous group of bikers who rode from Bandra to Marine Drive on the occasion of Independence Day. There were a total of 800 bikers who covered this distance to show their patriotism. When contacted, Mr. Harshil who works at The Brand Store, Bandra service centre said, “This rally is conducted twice a year on both Republic Day and Independence Day. This year’s theme was saluting the Indian Armed Forces. We have been having these rallies for the past 9 years. We began this initiative in 2004.” He further added that the bikers unanimously come together for the rally; there is no fixed association/group who organizes it.
In the usual procedure the bikers generally start assembling by 8 am and by 9 am they start off. They cover the entire stretch in 4 hours from Bandra (west) to Gateway of India and back to Bandra (west) via Sidhivinayak Temple, Mahalaxmi, Pedder Road and Mantralaya. The rally is specifically for those who ride Royal Enfield bullets and instructions like security and safety were given in advance. A few rules that the bikers have to follow are that they have to drive in a two row pattern, no overtaking, helmets and licenses were compulsory and speed limit was set for 30 to 40 kms. The rally is their way to pay tribute to the leaders who fought for freedom. Well, surely I have something to look forward to for the republic day or maybe it is just old memories I plan to revive and relive or look forward to create new ones.