To every people is a term appointed: when their term is reached not an hour (moment) can they cause delay, nor (a moment) can they advance it! - Surah Aaraf verse 34
“The number you’re trying to reach is either switched off or unavailable. Please try again later”. We had been waiting for him for the past half an hour. We wanted to get worried but were restraining ourselves. Surely he would catch up soon.
Three days earlier, on Saturday, Bhan, Masab and I had set out for a week long road trip to Rajasthan under the guidance of Sir Araib. At 12 o’clock in the afternoon, we took a right turn from MG Road onto NH8 and headed out west on the highway. The weather was hot and dry and the sky was bright azure. We had almost 7 hrs of sunshine left to travel to Sambhar Lake.
Initially, the heat and the traffic made the going tough. But once we crossed Daruheda, it was the broad expressway and us. Although the day was hot, the roads were clean and wide. Often, a cloud would diffuse the sun to a bearable degree and the ride would become cool. Most of the time, though, the sun was blazing down mercilessly.
Araib had a saafa (cotton scarf) and the others had scarves that were very effective at shielding the neck. The helmets protected the face from the sun. It was only the wrists that were exposed and susceptible to sunburn. And burn they did.
We have never been able to master the art of tying luggage to a bike and our first stop was to straighten the payload that had shifted to one side of the bike. We had just two bags amongst us but we did not have a saddle for the bike. Hence we had tied them together on the backseat of Bhan’s Classic 350. Where they would slowly shift to either the left or the right, depending upon their fancy.
Bungee cords aren’t the best of things to tie your luggage with. They might be good at holding something down, but when it comes to preventing sway, they fail miserably. As a result, the bags, although they would never fall, would shift to one side of the bike. So after pressing them down with bungee ropes, we had them tied up with an additional rope. Supposedly to constrain the rolling and the pitching. It was very untidy and an awful amount of rope and quite a few bungee cords had been used up for this purpose.
Shortly after Bawal, we saw a 100 cc bike with a dismally narrow rear tire carrying two fat men, and behind them was suitcase on top of which was a gas cylinder, tied to the rear of the bike. With one single rope, the suitcase and the gas cylinder had been neatly tied up. It was God’s way us showing us how naïve we were.
At one stop, Masab, reenacting the Ku-Klux clan scene from Django Unchained, took out the cotton bag the rope had come in, and put it on his face to protect himself from the sun. We planned to cut eye holes in that sack and butcher a few negros later.
We stopped for lunch at a dhaba, and I used the opportunity to offer the Zohar namaz. We wanted to avoid going into Jaipur due to the traffic and so we looked for a bypass to Ajmer on Google Maps. Some 70 KMs before Jaipur, NH8 turns right and goes directly to Ajmer and then onwards to Ahmedabad. We had to take that route.
Masab and Araib missed this turn of NH8 and went straight ahead, but I was fortunate to see it. This portion of NH8 had little traffic compared to NH8 between Jaipur and Gurgaon, and as the early evening had set in, the air became cool and the riding became pleasurable. We made good speed and the Unicorn, which had done 45596 on the odometer so far, was doing well to catch up with the Bullets.
Apart from a stop for tea and Namaz, we kept moving, hoping to reach Sambhar Lake before sunset. But we got late. We were some 40 KMs from Sambhar lake when the sun set. After a group discussion, we decided to stay the night at Sambhar, and go straight to Pushkar the next day. We would skip Ajmer.
The road to Sambhar Lake is a narrow village road that first goes through a village called Naraina and then takes a turn right towards Sambhar Village and Sambhar Lake. As night set in and we turned on our lights, I found that the Unicorn’s headlight was illuminating the treetops on the other side of the road. The technician at the Honda service centre, in trying to secure the headlamp and instrument cluster, had botched up the beam. So like we had done on our trip to Bhutan earlier, Masab showed me the way by driving behind me as I drove ahead.
We had thought that finding accommodation at Sambhar Lake would be easy because it was a tourist spot but we forgot that it is drivable distance from Jaipur. Hence we found that there was only one hotel that had stay facility (all the other hotels turned out to be restaurants) and that hotel too was used more for drinking and whoring than for accommodating tourists. We also needed a place that was gated wherein we could park our bikes safely. This put us in a fix.
We were then guided to a Dharamshala that is perhaps the biggest building in Sambhar Lake City. Four storey high, it looked like a promising place. It was also totally vacant. But Rahul Ji, the caretaker was missing. Expecting no-one, he had gone away.
The local boys gathered around us curiously and in between their interrogations, we managed to get the number of the caretaker. He gave us a room with a double bed and 2 extra beddings for 600/-. The room had an attached bath, but there were some five bathrooms and five toilets near the veranda also that we could use. We thought they would suffice.
After the caretaker left, the local boys also departed. All but one. His name was Gajanan Ganesh, and he asked us if we wanted a massage.
We were taken aback by the word ‘massage’. Moreover, who would administer this ‘massage’? To this, he replied that he was a barber and he could give us a body massage for twenty five bucks each.
We breathed easy at his being a barber and not a pimp, but the twenty five rupees aroused our curiosity. It was too low to be without a catch. So we told him that we would confirm him later.
We put our bags in the room, showered and changed and went out for dinner. Before going out I asked the others if they were in for the massage. They were all uncertain. It wasn’t possible that he would steal. We could use the caretaker’s bed at the front and not let him into the room. But it was not theft that was on the minds of my three friends. They thought the barber was definitely gay. That was why he had asked for peanuts as a price.
It made no difference to me whether he was gay or not, so I asked Gajanan to come after one hour. The day had been long and I had a little back ache from the ride. I could do with a massage.
We had dinner at Classic Family Restaurant and it is the only good place to have food at Sambhar. Atleast amongst those we found. Some people had suggested Baalji Dhaba but they only served snacks. Dinner was a time for long discussions on the vaguest topics. The food was good. The night had become pleasantly cold too. The trip had been good so far.
Back at the Tatiwala Dharamshala, Gajanan was awaiting our return. He had already made some 3 visits to out hotel and was looking extremely keen. I again asked the others if they wanted a massage but they shrieked off. They were extremely paranoid about the guy being gay. That guy being gay didn’t make a bit of a difference as long as we didn’t feel gay around him. Their paranoia was irrational. But neither did they agree, nor did they approve. So I went ahead with the massage well aware that if I took it, I would be reminded about Gajanan for the rest of my life.
Instead of taking him to the room, I laid myself down on the caretaker’s bed out in the open and asked him to massage my back. I must admit, he was bad at it. But it was helpful nonetheless. After some 10 minutes, he asked me to turn around. But instead of turning around, I sat up and told him to massage the shoulders and crack my fingers. After that I told him to stop. Then I gave him 30 bucks, 5 bucks extra as tip, and told him to leave. He seemed disappointed.
As I handed him the three ten rupee notes, I noticed the nail polish on his fingernails. Good riddance!
Sunday had begun with being reminded about Gajanan. Masab’s t-shirt, which he had hung out to dry at night, had flown off with the wind and could not be found.
We checked the oil level in the bikes, topped up the oil in the Unicorn, checked out of the dharmshala, got breakfast and decided on the plan for the day. We planned on going to Pushkar, spend a few hours there, and then stop for the night at Jodhpur.
Masab, who had by now mastered the art of tying the luggage, did it single-handedly this time.
When we had seen it at night, the lake had looked enormous. But in the daytime, we found the water at the sides to be either shallow or dry. There was a road that was going around the periphery of the lake to the villages nearby and we took it to reach the dried salt pans. As soon as we could, we left the road and rode out onto the dried lake bed.
The lake bed has salt and minerals mixed in the sand and so it reflected the sun’s rays brilliantly. Although the lake bed looked dry, it was moist underneath the glitter and riding a bike on that surface was hard. We left no dust in our wake.
It was a huge expanse and we freaked out racing around its extremes. Reaching this salt flat and riding the bike on the lake bed was a pleasant surprise that we had not expected.
Many a times during summer, we see a glitter on highways that looks like there is water on the surface of the road at a distance. As you approach it, the illusion of water disappears from that point and gets shifted farther ahead. It’s called a mirage. On the surface of Sambhar Lake, that mirage almost replaced reality.
We had gone to the far edge of the lake bed and when we turned back to return, we saw that the dry river bed we had left behind now appeared as a lake full of water! Instead of the glittering yellow sand we saw an expanse of water till the edge of the lake. It was good enough to fool us into thinking it actually was water, where as we had been at the place a few minutes ago, to the effect that we started riding along the edge of the lake. The water kept receding the closer we got until we realized it was all a mirage.
One can imagine the kind of paranoia such a mirage would create on a thirsty man in a desert. It would be an endless chase for apparent water, till the time of dehydration. And a sandy grave. Life, I guess, is no different.
One can imagine the kind of paranoia such a mirage would create on a thirsty man in a desert. It would be an endless chase for apparent water, till the time of dehydration. And a sandy grave. Life, I guess, is no different.
When we got back on the road, we set off for Pushkar but had to turn around when Masab did not catch up. He had stopped his bike and was talking to a local villager. Curious at what it could be, we turned back to find out that the old man was asking for petrol as his bike had run out of it. Masab wanted to help the man. So we took out some from Araib’s bike and sold it to him; his smile was our currency.
Then at Naraina, Masab took a wrong turn. I had to drive full throttle for a minute to reach him and tell him to stop. We turned back and headed out for Dudu. Pushkar was some 90 KMs and we were hopeful of reaching there by early afternoon.
The sun was bright that day but there were a few clouds in the sky too. Also, there was a very heavy wind. So heavy that the bikes would sometimes start to change direction of their own volition.
We stopped at a place for petrol but the pump did not accept credit cards. Some 40 KMs later, Bhan’s bike, being ridden by Masab, ran out of petrol. I noticed Masab standing on the curb, waiting for me to catch up. He had noticed the bike getting into reserve some 30 KMs back, but the thought of filling the tank up using some of the cash we had had not come to him. I drove a few KMs ahead to get petrol for the bike. In the meantime, Araib and Bhan also caught up with Masab.
At the next petrol pump, we encountered a truck crew who said they had run out of cash and were asking us for our help. The driver could speak Hindi but he asked us if we knew Marathi. What was the probability of finding a Marathi speaking man in a Rajasthan desert against finding one that speaks Hindi? Anyway, he went on to explain his predicament in detail in his native tongue but we will never know what it was because none of us understood Marathi. We left without lending a helping hand.
We finally made it to Pushkar at around 3 o’clock. I went to find a mosque where I could offer my prayers, while the others went to the market for a snack. The mosque at Pushkar I went to is beside the road and is the smallest mosque I have ever been in in my lifetime. It was big enough to accommodate some 10 people!
We regrouped later and went to the temple. Both Masab and Bhan did not go and pray at the temple, the only temple dedicated to Bramha in the world.
Masab was exceptionally pleased by the feel of Pushkar the town and the Pink Floyd Café he found there, and he said that he would go there again and stay for a few days.
By the time we were ready to leave, it was time for the evening prayer. I left before the others with the understanding that we would assemble at the bus stand. When I reached the bus stand after the namaz though, I did not find them, I called them up and found that they were still in the market. Bhan’s bike was not getting started and they had called a mechanic.
When the mechanic came and saw the bike, he said that there was nothing wrong with the bike and that they had just run out of petrol. Duh! By the time we left Pushkar for Jodhpur, it was 5.45 in the evening and it would be dark soon. So we decided to ride till the sunset and to stop for a break thereafter.
By the time the sun set, we had reached the city of Merta. This city was critical because we had to take a detour from here onto SH21 for Jodhpur.
I stopped in the city to offer the Maghrib namaz and in that time, the others missed the left turn onto SH21 and went straight ahead. I met up with them 5 KMs ahead of that turn. Whereas GoogleMaps was showing the way through SH21, which we had left behind, there were road signs that said Jodhpur straight ahead. Perhaps the road through the state highway was a new one. Anyways, after a group consensus it was decided we would follow the road signs instead of GoogleMaps and would carry on ahead. The road took us through a lot of twists and turns, through industrial areas and villages and the Birla Cement factory to get us back to the same SH21 we had left behind.
But before we set out on that road, we had to align the high-beam on the Unicorn. By adjusting the ropes that were tying the front headlight assembly to the frame, we were able to get the beam pointing straight. But it still shone high and was illuminating the sky instead of the road. We needed something to use as a spacer at the top, which would push the headlight assembly down.
Masab, ever the innovator, brought a branch from the road side and nudged it between the frame and the headlight assembly. The beam became straight and so effective was this jugaadh that we did not have to readjust the headlamp for the remainder of the trip.
The road we had taken had little or no traffic, and we were spared from the glare of coming traffic of SH21. Also, towards the end of it, the road turned into a bilane that ran straight for as far as the eye could see. The sky was starlit and the air was chilly. Here, we slowed our bikes down and turned off the lights.
With no oncoming or outgoing traffic, and no village in sight, we rode for a while under the brilliance of the star lit sky. We would put our lights on if we saw some oncoming traffic and to inspect the surface of the road from time to time, then we would put off our lights again. We rode for quite some distance that way. It was a dangerous and stupid thing to do, and yes, we are guilty of giving in to the temptation.
At 8.30, when we were some 50 KMs from Jodhpur, we stopped at a place for tea but ended up having dinner instead. Finding a place to stay in Jodhpur late at night would be easier than finding a decent place to eat.
It was around 11 when we reached Jodhpur. We entered through the army cantonment area and we could see the Umaid Bhawan Palace lit up in the background. After enquiring from an auto-wallah and some locals, we found a place to stay at Hotel Sahara.
The hotel manager had offered us 2 rooms for 600 each. We were tired and perhaps there is a co-relation between tiredness and stupidity, because instead of taking the two rooms for 1200, we had somehow managed to bargain for 1 room and 2 beddings for 1000.
That night, we started a series of discussions that kept us awake till 3 a.m. Our first discussion was when Bhan asked me that if I had to choose between my family and the love of my life, who would I choose. It was a tricky question, but in my case, the answer was clear. I would favor my mom and dad.
The answer was clear because all through my life, I have been a disobedient and headstrong son. I have not been the ideal son that is epitomized by the Indian culture. So in that sense, I have hurt my parents on many occasions. So in a case that would have a big impression on them, I would have to succumb to their happiness. I owe it to them.
Some obedient son, on the other hand, could afford to favor the girl, because his obedience at all other times would make up for it. And anyway, the guy’s family, especially if the guy is the only son, would give in sooner or later.
Not having the opportunity to make such a choice in real life helps in my blabber about it.
But I was not going to be let off so easily. Masab then asked what I would do if I knew the parents were wrong.
One should always choose right over anything else, including over the parents. But the right girl is not the kind of right that is meant here. In case of a girl, it is our opinion that the girl is right. It does not mean that there are not more parallel girls who could be right for us.
The definition of right here is the tricky portion, and one has to be very careful in defining what is right and what is wrong before pitching that right as a reason to alienate the parents.
Sure, there can be times when parents are unreasonable, but the decision has to be very careful and considerate towards them, and the reasons have to be reasonable.
Throughout the day I had been reminded of Gajanan by Bhan and Masab. Crude, cruel were hurled at me and my anger was rejoiced at. So to put a stop to it, I joined in the jokes and took them to another level of cruel and crude until we reached a point from where any of the jokes hurled by Bhan and Masab appeared petty. That night, we put the ghost of Gajanan to rest.
We then went on to discuss God, because Masab and Bhan had refused to go to the temple at Pushkar. Bhan was still undecided whether he wanted to believe in a God. Masab did not say it clearly but I think he did not believe in one. I definitely believe in God. Araib was asleep.
I was reminded of an episode from Boston Legal where, at the end of the episode, two old lawyers sat in discussion about God. One of the lawyers said, in answer to whether he believed in a God, that suppose there wasn’t one and someone died a believer. There would be no problem, as death would bring the end of his existence. However, if there were a God, and suppose someone died being a disbeliever, then his existence would continue even after his death, and he would be screwed. Because it was the safest thing to do, the lawyer said, he believed in God.
If you could prove that there is a God, then there would be no need to believe in His existence. Because then it would become a fact. Belief in religion is so hard, because there are no hard and fast proofs of the existence of God. There are just indications and traditions, and based on these, we ‘believe’ in God. We don’t know it for a fact.
That is why the concept of Iman is so important in Islam. What is Iman? Some people describe it as Belief climbing a slippery slope. It is a non-static belief that sometimes climbs higher and sometimes slips and falls. Following the traditions of religion strengthens our belief and we climb higher. Doing charity and being humble do the same. Questioning and analyzing may either increase your will to climb or give up on the quest altogether. The events of your life may make you slip and fall or take you higher. Hence, with the passage of time, a believer may become a disbeliever and a disbeliever may openly, apparently or silently turn into a believer.
One of the important aspects of any religion, perhaps most effectively seen in Islam, is to do actions that protect this belief and make it stronger. That is why five times during a day, a Muslim turns to Allah and asks Him to show him the path of the righteous, the ‘siratul mustaqeem’, so that his Iman remains strong.
Anyway, the discussion ended when we decided that the question would remain open and undecided, but we agreed that the question would always be whether there is a God or there isn’t one. The question would never be whether there is one God or many Gods. There is only one possibility for that.
On day 3 we woke up late, mostly due the late night but also partly due to the fatigue from the previous day. The Unicorn took in the remainder of the oil from the container just to reach the minimum mark. The oil consumption was getting worse. It had now consumed 900 ml oil in a distance of 600 KMs.
We decided to keep our luggage at the hotel and visit Mehrangarh Fort. When we were checking out, the guard at the hotel asked us for a tip, citing the extra bedding he had given us last night. Although we had already bargained for what we had got, and giving this tip was not an obligation on us, we gave him another 100 bucks nonetheless. Afterall, we were keeping our luggage in his custody and we needed to buy his honesty.
After a horrible breakfast, at a restaurant where almost everything that was on the menu was physically not available, we went on to Mehrangarh Fort. It is a nice palace and the view of the city from the top is amazing. The buildings all line up in colourful geometric squares and the city looks very picturesque.
Mehrangarh Fort has been well maintained, and there are museums and souvenir shops and even a flying fox at the fort. There is even a lift if you do not wish to climb up! The palace does not look as dated as the other famous forts around India, and in the museums we saw revolvers and mirrors and tainted glass windows. Like Pushkar, there were a lot of foreigners at the fort.
While coming back, at the gate of the fort, a band was playing traditional Rajasthani music while a woman from amongst the tourists was dancing along with the traditional dancers. So graceful were her movements and so joyous was her expression that we had to pause and look at her.
Later Bhan emphasized the divine feeling that the woman’s dance made the onlookers feel, and said that if, in instead of this woman, there had been one of us dancing with those traditional dancers, the mood of the public would have been starkly different. Instead of the joy they felt at watching the woman dance, they would have got an eyesore. While the woman was a pleasure to watch, we would have appeared as drunken rowdies dancing their way to a wedding.
After Mehrangarh fort we went to Jaswant Thada, and as we were getting late, we quickly left the place and started back for the hotel. It was almost 2 by the time we left Jodhpur for Jaisalmer, our next intended spot.
At Jaisalmer, we had booked a night in the desert through one Isaak Bhai. We would go to the desert on a camel, and after a sunset in the dunes, would spend the night in the desert with a bonfire. This was to be the planned high-point of our trip and we had reserved two days for Jaisalmer.
The road, as it starts from Jodhpur towards Jaisalmer, is relatively small and broken up. In places it even had potholes deep as a foot for as long as a 20 KM stretch. For the first 90 or so minutes, it was the worst portion of the ride so far.
Apart from the roads, jaywalkers and stray cattle posed a real threat. People who live beside the highway become so accustomed to the traffic that they forget to look right and left before crossing. The condition is especially bad if you are behind the Bullets. People just seem to forget everything and stare at Bullets as they pass by. I barely missed a juvenile who, when Bhan crossed him, got so mesmerized by the bike that he forgot he was crossing the road and walked straight in front of me, all the while staring at Bhan’s hindquarters. Between braking and swerving, I missed him by a few inches.
The holy cow was the next danger. Out of nowhere, going nowhere, they stroll right in front of you like traffic policemen in Bangalore. Why we treat our animals, which we consider holy, like this is not clear to me.
When I was learning to drive my father had told me to cross animals from their hind side. That way, even if the animal panicked, it would most probably run ahead and away from you, as it is hard for most animals, except dogs and cats maybe, to change direction and run backwards. That knowledge came to be of help that day. I have since improvised on that theory to include jaywalkers as well – aim straight for them.
Somewhere along the way, Bhan spotted a cloud in the shape of a broken heart and the beauty of it, as it sparkled against the backdrop of the azure sky, was so great that it brought a smile our face.
There is a place where NH114 and SH 66 separate, and after that, the road became awesome again. The traffic disappeared, the road surface was good, the air was a bit cooler, and we were back on the lovely roads of Rajasthan that we had seen on the rest of the trip.
We raced on full throttle, but my Unicorn could not keep up with the Bullets so I was left behind. For almost an hour or more, we rode on at full throttle, on straight lonely roads under a bright blue sky.
We came across villages with strange names – Dhainchu, Chacha, Lathi – names which were going to become etched in our memories forever.
Evening was approaching and it was time for my prayer. I crossed Masab at a village and he was talking to a local. Araib and Bhan on the second bike went and stopped beside him. I gave the signal that I would carry on, because one, my bike was slower than theirs, and two, because I had to stop for Namaz.
At 6 o’clock, when I checked my watch, I was 15 KMs from Pokhran. As there would be a masjid there, I headed on ahead of the others to offer my prayers there. I reached Pokhran at 6.15 and found that there wasn’t just a masjid there, there was a madarsa. The children at the madarsa were quite amused to see me, and they came and sat around me giggling while I was performing wudu. They asked where I had come from. I said Delhi. They got quite excited at this and started passing on the word to the others. One kid rushed to get me a prayer cap.
At 6.30, I came out from the mosque and dialed Masab’s number. It said, “the number you’re trying to reach is either switched off or unavailable. Please try again later.” Perhaps he was in an area where there was no cellular network.
I then called Araib and came to know that they had crossed Pokhran and were some 15 KMs from it. There was some 45 minutes of sunlight left, and Jaisalmer was still some 100 KMs away, so we decided to ride till sunset and then stop at a dhaba for a break.
The road to Jaisalmer on NH15 was one of the best places where I have been on a bike. Perhaps it was the time of the day and the way the setting sun colored the surrounding shrubland. There was hardly any traffic and the rear view mirror reflected a long lonely road behind you. Sometime I would come across a herd of camel grazing beside the road. Then a herd of goats. A sign that read for sale. I was riding towards the setting sun and the peace and serenity of the place was unbearable.
The weather in the desert changes flips quickly in the evening and the air turns cool, and in certain areas, even chilly. The wind was very strong that day. The Unicorn was screaming just to reach 80, whereas on other days it would have crossed 100 with ease. The wake from any passing vehicle was so strong that it would stir the bike up. Nonetheless, the ride had a peacefulness to it that was almost comparable to trekking high atop the Himalayas.
At Lathi, I saw Araib’s bike parked on the road side and stepped off from the bike with a heart that was a littler redder. But I was surprised to find Masab missing. I had been under the impression that both Masab and Araib had crossed Pushkar. Araib and Bhan were under the impression that Masab was between them and me. His number was still out of reach.
Masab had always been the individualistic team-player. He came with you and, partly by his poor jokes of high quality and partly by his enthusiasm, brought excitement to the group, but it was only till he was not on a bike. Once he was on the bike, it was as if he wasn’t there.
He never rode with you. He either rode ahead, or like he frequently did, took a wrong turn and rode on a different route altogether. He had come on the trip to also spend time with himself, and you could not obstruct his mission.
So we thought, as always, Masab will catch up in a while. We sat down for a cup of tea. Then 15 minutes went by and I started to get worried. I tried to quell my anxiety and keep it to myself. But I could sense the anxiety in Araib too.
Sure, he might have stopped for something somewhere, but why was the phone off? Maybe the battery had run dry. Just after 7.30 in the evening, the call finally got connected. There was the Police SHO on the line and he was at a hospital. He wanted to know who this individual was.
Shortly after I had passed them, Masab had come to Bhan and smiled. Masab was high on life. He was thrilled by the beauty of the surroundings. He had then asked Araib to carry on ahead.
Somewhere between 5.45 and 6 in the evening, at a village called Mandla, there is a by-road that joins onto the main highway. It is sort of a T-section. It seems likely that a vehicle suddenly steered onto the road from this by-road just as Masab was crossing it. Whatever the scene may have been, Masab, who could metaphorically ride a bike with no handlebars, who was the best rider amongst us all, on that straight, congestion free and good road, made the simple mistake of braking as he swerved to the left to avoid the on comer from the by-road. There was a small pile of sand on the side of the road and a little of the sand had spilled on to the road. Sand so little that the tread on the Pirelli tires was deeper. On this patch of sand, Masab’s rear wheel got locked and the bike lost balance. Masab tried to control it but it was beyond him. The bike skid on its left side towards the other end of the road. The bike was dragged a long distance on its leg-guard before Masab was thrown off the bike. The latch on the Steelbird helmet broke from impact as Masab’s head hit the ground and the cruiser helmet slipped off his head.
In a parallel universe, Masab had braked and just as the bike had started to slip, let go of the brake and swerved and got back into position. He down shifted one gear, raised the throttle, and then shifted to top gear again as he rode on full throttle, through the desert shrub and the grazing camel and the cool breeze, into the setting sun.
Whether there was nothingness or whether there was Malak-ul-Maut* waiting to carry his soul away, and whether there isn’t or whether there is a God, while we sit here unaware, Masab knows.
*Angel of Death
Verily the knowledge of the Hour is with Allah (alone). It is He Who sends down rain and He Who knows what is in the wombs. Nor does anyone know what it is that he will earn on the morrow: nor does anyone know in what land he is to die. Verily with Allah is full knowledge and He is acquainted (with all things). - Surah Luqman Verse 34