Sunday, November 4

A time for deep breath in the life journey ...




In the ‘fold’ of our life journey,
a place to stop when one road ends and another begins, 
there is often time to rest,
recover from the past and prepare for the future,
but it is also easy to fear the unknown of what’s next.

Are we prepared to continue to trust God
into yet another unknown?


~~~

Photo:  A Frozen Himalayan Wilderness (from one of my treks).

Saturday, November 3

Middle-aged men in Lycra ...


Yes, finally, I am a 'Mamil' - a Malayalee 'Middle-Aged Man in Lycra! 
You like it or not, this is what it is all about it.

Come middle-age, it is time for a quick retrospection. The youthful years have just sailed by the seasons. Body metabolism has changed: needs more rest. Suddenly there is something very visible missing: the hairs here and there. How strange! Most of them have had to fall away and the others turned gray! God has lessened HIS struggle to keep them counted. A ‘progressive lens’ tells me that my age has progressed and vision improved!

On the gadget side, year after year one man troubles me, and his name is Bill Gates. He keeps on writing a new version for my computer forcing me to fling the old Windows out through the real window. Thank God! I am not attracted to the Apples with their i-2,3,4… and all. New gadget additions have put me to new challenges: from the code, over a codeless, to a cell. Crazy, the cell keeps changing every 6 months and frown at me with a “I beat you” face! There is a temptation to waste time on a Facebook than the real book. Facebook seems to be my new chewing-gum of engagement.    

At the 'middle' there are more things to savvy than poke fun with a nail-sized cell phone screen. Mature wines and old Jim Reeves taste awesome better than in the past. Of course, there are the fresh scents for my bedroom candles and new tricks in the bed. Quality has over taken quantity. My silver-gray hairs just don’t stop me with a full stop over here.

... when a MAMIL is bitten by a mountain bug, he takes refuge here!
Got to examine why middle-age is all about it: self-made cash in the wallet, worldly maturity in the brains and secret passions in the heart. Then one day, walking took over me. With my friends, I call it trekking.  Mountains in the 'middle-age' is absolutely gorgeous.  Long and stretched climbs into Himalayan wilderness and frozen heights became a magic that transformed my middle into mighty. Rolled with wool,the light-weight Lycra plays the trick here... and I love it!

Then two wheels rolled into my life with a chain and a saddle. That was my incarnation into ‘MAMIL’. With a great “Bang!”, a toy of the childhood became a toy of  my middle-age.  Why do I wear a Lycra cycling-brief and a vest to go peddling at this age? Is it the wallet, maturity and passion the real answer?  This Malayalee Mamil cannot find an answer. He is just the new Middle-Aged Man In Lycra (MAMIL)…That’s all I know about it!

Thank God ! it's a Malayalee MAMIL!

P.S : A Malayalee is someone who speaks Malayalam and 
is known as 'a Mallu' all over India! 

Friday, October 26

An adventure to save or Thoughts on a rainy evening ...


I have always closely observed two sections of men and women in my everyday living: those who spend and those who save. There is another category of men and women too: those who cannot spend because they aren’t rich enough to do so. I often think, if these men and women were rich, they would buy the whole of Himalayas! Like a bridle on a horse, the empty wallets hold down these people. 



The other day a smart looking early middle-aged man walked into my office.  He came near me and was preaching to me about his ideas on spending and living. From the way he was putting it, I understood that he wanted me to spend more. “Abraham, you can’t take it all with you! Before you wink your eyes, your will be bedridden with all the riches you have made in the hands of your children. They will squash away the way they want. Do you wish that in your life?”  As this man left the office, one of my staff came to me and said, “Sir, When did Azeem acquire all this wisdom to teach you personal finance?” 

As I came home, I went to my library and picked up a book that spoke to me something about Spending and Saving :

The book reads thus:    You will meet people who will urge you to spend your money freely; they will tell you, “You can’t take it with you!” As you get older, you will probably have friends who eat at expensive restaurants every night, buy the latest electronic gadgets or fashion trends, and spend vacations at fancy beach resorts. You must avoid the trap of spending money willy-nilly simply because you can. Not only is this a road to financial ruin, it can cause you to forget what’s important in life.
I am not saying that you should never travel or buy anything nice. I am merely suggesting that you should think wisely about whether the thing you are contemplating doing or buying is really worthwhile or whether its benefits will be, at best , fleeting. I was once married to a woman who was always nagging me to buy a new sofa, a new TV, and so on. I’d explain that if we save and invested wisely, one day we could afford ten sofas or whatever. Needless to say, we did not stay married long, and now I am lucky to have your mother who shares the same attitude towards personal finances.
Happy, you already have five piggy banks, and you love putting money into them. Please continue to save. Those who save and invest wisely will face fewer financial woes throughout life. And please help us teach your new sister, Baby Bee, the importance of saving.  

The above quotation is from Jim Rogers, a millionaire and one of the most successful investors in the world. His words keeps talking to me. When he wrote the book , “A Gift To My Children: A Father’s Lessons for Life and Investing”, he must have really really thought what it is all to “think wisely” about saving and spending.

The Kerala State Electricity Board's
power distribution poll
could be more complicated
than some of today's
saving instruments!! 
It is sad that many people just doesn’t know HOW and WHAT and WHEN to save. I think, the gift of saving is the greatest gift that one can gift oneself.  As a child, I too had piggy banks: two of them. I aggressively stashed away all the coins that I found here and there at home into these metallic boxes. They had great keys. Impatiently I would open these piggy banks very often to see how much was collected.... and that was growing up years. (Oh! I remember my poor grandma who kept some coins for charity had to lock her dear coins to save them from my piggy banks !!) 

Today, piggy banks have been replaced in my life with stocks, bonds, metals, commodity equity traded funds, mutual funds, fixed deposits and real-estates. True, they are complicated than my simple humble piggy banks...yet spirit remains the same: it is all an adventure to save!... and I laugh at those who need a bridle on their wallets to keep themselves off from foolish spending.     


Sunday, October 21

Wheels of joy


WHERE is the market for you, my song? Is it there where the learned muddle the summer breeze with their snuff; where men endlessly dispute whether the oil depends upon the cask, or the cask upon the oil; where yellow manuscripts frown upon the fleet footed frivolousness of life? My song cries out, Ah, no, no, no.

… Hello River! We have come to share with you our cycling secrets, 
our peddling hopes and our wheels of joy !!
Where is the market for you, my song? Is it there where the man of fortune grown enormous in pride and flesh in his marble palace, with his books on the shelves, dressed in leather, painted in gold, dusted by slaves, their virgin pages dedicated to the god obscure?  My song gasped and said, Ah, no, no, no.



Where is the market for you my song? Is it there where the young student sits, with his head bent over his books, and his mind straying in youth’s dream-land; where prose is prowling on the desk and poetry hiding in the heart? There among that dusty disorder, would you care to play hide-and-seek?  My song remains silent in shy hesitation.

… and quiet flows the dawn





Where is the market for you, my song? Is it there where the bride is busy in the house, where she runs to her bedroom the moment she is free, and snatches, from under her pillows, the book of romance so roughly handled by the baby, so full of the scent of her hair? My song heaves a sigh and trembles with uncertain desire.


... Hello River! 
Have we stolen your silence? 
Have we filched your solitude?  



Where is the market for you, my song? Is it there where the least of a bird’s note is never missed, where the stream’s babbling finds its full wisdom, where all the lute-strings of the world shower their music upon two fluttering hearts? My song bursts out and cries, Yes, yes.

Poem : 'Lover's Gift' ... Tagore  
Photos: Shot during a Calicut countryside spin









Saturday, September 15

... Where have you gone?

The Boat and the rower, Where have you gone ? 
Today is an empty rainy day and we have come all the way to the river 
and you aren’t there!



" The Day is dim with rain, 
Angry lightnings glace through the tattered cloud-
  veils. 
And the forest is like a caged lion shaking its mane in 
  despair.
On such a day amidst the winds beating their wings,
  let me find my peace in thy presence,
For the sorrowing sky has shadowed my solitude, to
  deepen the meaning of thy touch about my heart."

***
Poem from Tagore's  'Crossing'
Photo is from a location on the spin.  

Wednesday, August 29

a Bad Boy at Valparai ...

“The purpose of a fish trap is to catch fish, and when the fish is caught, the trap is forgotten. The purpose of a rabbit-snare is to catch rabbits. When the rabbits are caught, the snare is forgotten. The purpose of words is to convey ideas. When the ideas are grasped, the words are forgotten.            When can I find a man who has forgotten words?He is the one I would like to talk to.”
… Rev.Thomas Merton
***



The story starts ...



We reached the Kerala Forest Check Post at
Athirapalli around 6: 45 AM on this rainy day.
Soon, it was time to tune the bikes
and make final preparations.
Sunil had to fix his fork and all others
had something to quickly get going...
 

Finally, the preparations are over 
and we are about to take off… 
the day is dampen with drizzling, 
but the heart is beating with joy… 
Hurray Happy Bikers! 

***


















A great forest road beacons us to Valparai via Athirapalli: Athirapalli is 31Km drive from Chalakkudi. Valparai is around 80+ Km from Athirapalli. On a rain-soaked morning at 6:45 AM, 7 cycle lovers from Kerala reached Athirapalli Forest Check Post to spin through the woods and the steep paths … through the Elephant crossings and through the woods of wild-oxen… 
through blood-sucking leaches … 
through the sky of the Hornbills and through the silence of the crisp cool clear air. 
The path is a silent-steep. (At an early stage of this spin, a senior cyclist warned me, “Boy, two killer steeps await you! Don’t rush now. Take it slow!”) 
Yes, the 80+ kilometers of forest road bites slowly but sturdily.  For a constant spin, without any brake, it indeed is a kiss of endurance.  








Valparai is a hill station discovered by the British. Today, with a population of more than a lakh, it is the one and the only town located in a tiger reserve forest: the Anamali Tiger Reserve Forest.  
Malakkappara is an unexplored Kerala region bordering Valparai . Cocooned in snoozing green tea gardens and surrounded by rich evergreen forests and grass lands, Valparai-Malakkapara belt is a sleeping beauty... a joy of nature.  Located in Western Ghats, this region is 3500 ft. above sea level and forms the part of Anamalai mountain ranges. The steep path that takes the cyclists from Athirapalli to Valparai is one of the most scenic and romantic tracks in Western Ghats.    



The beauty of every spin is that there aren’t any words for it. IT IS SILENT! 
When luscious cascade of sights unravel the beauty of the nature, then the silence of the woods speak. 
The tantalizing steep climbs of the winding roads, 
the sparkling clean air 
and the hot cycle-saddle keeps cyclists on the spin … 
and then, it is pure heaven on earth… 
it is ‘nirvana’... 
'nirvana' on the saddle!

This blue-lit sky is the sight from our 
tea garden bungalow as the dusk sets in… 
far away we see the tea factory. 
  

“Oh! Hush my soul, and go ...and go 
and fill your heart with the cool breeze 
and the silence of the woods 
and the colors of the dusk lit sky...
it is one page in your life you’ll never forget” 




This is the Woodbriar Groups's Tea Garden Bungalow
which was exclusively opened for us ... 
... the romantic interior of
Woodbriar Bungalow.
After a great spin, 
Jan is working hard 
on his limes to give us the 
bitterest cocktail of our life! 
Cycling is a rejuvenating experience if it can be combined with proper rest and food.
The interiors of this lovely heritage bungalow added
to the warmth and cozy atmosphere which was
so essential for us after a long rainy day spin.


Most Brilliant Experience in Cycling:The scenic beauty, the woody environment, the presence of the abundant water, the silence and the solitude of the forest, the cacophony of the animals and the birds (Cacophony??) , the cool and the green air all around, the steep climbs the path offer is indeed a breath of the nature . (Rajiv, my fellow cyclist had to stop, turn the cycle and speed back as a bison was crossing across the road into the forest). As we inched through the heart of Sholayar Reserve forest… as our wheels made sturdy progress… as the kilometer-readings on our cyclometer advanced, all what I whispered in my heart was, “Ha! It is the most brilliant experience in cycling I have ever had!”    

Watching us invade their territory, the lion-tailed macaques were constantly making warning cries to their lot… We saw lots and lots of fresh elephant dung throughout our path. That’s something we should be happy about. We are in an elephant country and they are there healthy and growing!


I only think about it :The machine and the spin...Our machine is personal to us. World will never know the bond that we make with them.


Our machine is personal to us.
World will never know the bond
that we make with them.
 Each of our machine has unique wheels… and each has a reason for it. The connection we make with our machine is a bond of joy. The rider will never be able to tell of it anyone… or to any onlooker.
the Bad Boy at Valparai ...

the innocent looking Cannondale Bad Boy 9 
has a “stealth-fighter inspired design 
and a radical fork” 
plus those two crazy wheels... 

Bad Boy surprises anyone who looks at him!


So is every spin… can we tell others of its joy and pain? Even our family will find it difficult to understand as to why we spin (that too at this age!), spin 100s and 1000s of kilometers. 
I only think about it.

We spotted a bison in one of the tea gardens …

Silence!! A Barking deer is near us!!

As the cycle platoon progress, is it a life without competition? … As we cut the forest air, there is so much joy that we have reached here and now. 
The monsoon rains sprinkle us with water, soaking every bit of our spin-wear… but that extra weight is a labor of love. We don’t complain! Then the sun poops out of the dark clouds. Is there a competition between the clouds and the sun?  We hear the singing of the birds. There too it seems a competition is in progress as to who sings best. ( I cannot stop to listen to the birds as the cycle platoon too has a ‘little’ competition at the heart of it!!)  
The mild sunshine dry our hands and feet… they dry our face. But the cycling vests, the briefs and the cap are thick with water… and the heart is beating with relish. 


As the Bad Boy reached Valparai,
we also had a walk through the woods... 
We reached this 200 year old wooden European bungalow and 
we posed for a moment of nostalgic flash…
that was the best we could do there and then !

Song throughout the day: We heard 100s of birds singing in the morning and in the evening  around the bungalow . However, I cannot forget this bird’s whistling as it carried food to its nest in the bungalow throughout the day! 
Can anyone tell me which family she belongs to? 

****

All good times have to end...
Jan and Christel are saying good bye.  

As we left for home via Pollachi, we saw Aliyar Reservoir from the upper winding roads.They looked great. 
The monsoon rain clouds were grouping up in the sky. 
Aliyar Reservoir forms a part of the Aliyar Dam and is at a lower level to the Aliyar Reserve Forest. 

****
Porcupine Quills and Good Luck
I always wish to carry home something tangible from every happy moment of my life. As life advances, precious memories may fade out. And, laptops may not work to bring back those great digital pictures. So, I picked these porcupine quills as we walked through the woods. 

Arun told me that it is a sign of good luck to pick a porcupine quill from a path. 
Hearing that, Biju gave me a quill he had picked up to add to my good luck!!

Good luck or not, these quills will stay with me for a long time to keep reminding me of the great Valpari Spin as a family of the Happy Bikers.   
****


Happy Bikers at Valparai 


Joseph 

Rajiv and Nisha
( with children Magha and Rohan)
Abraham
Arun 
Jan
Christel 
Sunil and Tina
 
Our Guest Cyclist from Coonor:
Satish, (Jacob's friend)
********



Measuring the growth: I found this strange granite post in a tea garden. 
Arun told me that these stones carry markings to measure the growth of the plants. 
I wonder if  there are posts in our life to measure 
intimacy, love , speed, skill and growth !



 For Happy Bikers' this spin created new records … 
and new heroes were born... 
and the world went spinning for a little fun ! 

As we reached Valparai, Jan's Garmin report stood thus: 
Total Distance : 81.71km, 
Duration 4:15, 
Speed 18.4 km/h, 
Height Achieved : 1610 meters. 

For Happy Bikers, this is a memorable performance 
over previous efforts on this terrain. 

***
A Very Special thanks to Mr.Sunil and Tina who meticulously planned and executed all the arrangements for Happy Bikers.
We missed Mr. Jacob who came all the way from Coonor and could not spin with us.
We also missed all other great Happy Bikers from Cochin who could not be with us to cheer and to crack a million jokes. 

And Jan, Thanks for that Wonderful Cake. I enjoy it at every spin!

Fine !!
-------------------------------------






Thursday, August 9

Telling " I "

I live, I learn.

I long, I desire,
I sleep, I dream, I forget,
I get hurt,
I'm human and 
I not so perfect.


I hate, I love, I romance,
I am tempted, I shake, I hug, I lust.

I see, I read, I touch,
I hear, I lie. 


I love, I laugh, I cry,
I invest, I lent.

I pray, 
I walk, I pause, I journey.

I father, I husband 
I spin.

I am just as I am… 


***
Photos: The seas around me





Thursday, July 5

... an uncertain world we invest in .

When uncertainty looms all over, what exactly one can speak to oneself?  The great interest that world shows to know her future have created a scramble for data in every field. Whoever gets the data first and analysis it and interpret the future of daily living. Creation of wealth and profit revolves around our ability to read the future. In every lifestyle, we are forced to look at the pros and cons of events that shape our future. In a way, we live in future… not in the present. 

For years, I drabbled with astrology.  In those days, there was passion to know my future. Instead of taking challenges into my hands, I would hear the soothsayer or fortuneteller tell me where my ‘luck’ stood. This cycle of dependence was broken only when I applied my belief in God in most everything in my life.

Sometime ago, I read a prayer that Blasé Pascal, famous French mathematician and thinker, wrote.  What struck me was the immense feeling of helplessness of this great and profound intellectual about his future and about the future of the world around him. Today, with enormous data being generated in the field of economics, finance, and world development, can we interpret our future?  No For Sure!

If Blasé Pascal feel so much insecure, how about me?

Blasé Pascal prayed thus:
“O LORD, I ask you neither for health nor for sickness,
Neither for life nor for death; but that may you dispose of my health and my sickness, my life and my death, for your glory… 
LORD, you alone know what is expedient for me; you are the sovereign master; do with me according to your will. Give to me, or take away from me, only conform my will to yours. 
I know but one thing, LORD, that it is good to follow you, and bad to offend you. Apart from that, I know not what is good or bad in anything. I know not which is most profitable to me, health or sickness, wealth or poverty, not anything else in the world. That discernment is beyond the power of men or angles, and is hidden among the secrets of your Providence, which I adore, but do not seek to fathom.” 

Tuesday, July 3

We know it’s all about the bike...

The bicycle saves my life every day.

If you’ve ever experienced a moment of awe or freedom on a bicycle;
    if you’ve ever taken flight from sadness to the rhythm of two spinning wheels, or felt the resurgence of hope pedaling to the top of a hill with the dew of effort on your forehead;

   if you’ve ever wondered, swooping bird-like down a long hill on a bicycle,
   if the world was standing still;
       if you have ever, just once, sat on a bicycle with a singing heart and felt like an ordinary human touching gods, 
    then we share something fundamental.

We know it’s all about the bike. 


***
Words quoted from Robert Penn's 'It's All About The Bike'
Photos : From my file, shot during the last spinning season.
***  

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