(noun) Origin: Japanese
Sudden enlightenment and a state of consciousness attained by intuitive illumination representing the spiritual goal of Zen Buddhism
We were 23 in number, nine of us and 14 of them. We were sturdy and they were fit. Silence defined us, while boisterousness did them. It is a curious fact but under the influence of our liberating togetherness, many a man and woman have gone off-track, and these 14 were about to be no exceptions! We are what desire is made of for spirited people, for they may have a bunch of very dear ones surrounding them but their desire for us would neither lessen in degree nor subside. Their list of hobbies will grow long but they will want to pursue us still. Luxury cars may steal their gaze but they will rest their eyes with fondness on us.
Life may bring them several experiences but they will find us beside them till. . .till as long as memories are made and health smiles in adventure files.
Perish all thoughts of long-legged beauties, or six-pack studs, or anything else that has inebriated you in life, for we are far superior to them. We are the bicycle companions who befriend you once and then last forever. More loyal than your own body, mind or youth. More respectful than your boss, companion or relatives. More attractive than your car, motorbike or neighbour’s spouse! You might forget how we strode our way through maddening traffic but what you will remember longer, are the rides we took amid serene environs, going up and down winding roads that led to places we explored together, those rides amid sturdy mountains and beautiful lakes.
So, I am a bicycle, but not just any bicycle; I am the chronicler of what you are holding in your hands. My narration might change the way you think about bicycles. If you never have thought about us before, I am about to prod you into changing that. We cycles (that’s how I am fondly addressed by my loved ones) may have expressionless exteriors, but that does not mean we are deficient on the (e)motional scale. Our emotions are quite a reflection of the emotions of the cyclist riding us.
I am incomplete without you, my rider; your riding makes me complete. When a cyclist and I travel, we are together and alone; it is then that we experience a range of sensations. So, while on this unique tour undertaken by cyclists, I decided to share their journey with the world. So that they know how man and machine come together, where for a change man adventures, and I, the bicycle, chronicles it all. There are no words between us and yet we are in sync; there is a connect that binds, thoughts that link. My cyclist and I journey along, creating little stories and experiences that introduce themselves to us.
You see me as metal and steel, tyre and tube, a beautiful creation of man, but I am not vain; this story is not about me. It is about those who move me, give me strength, with whom I come alive; it is about cyclists, who ride me, with or without a destination in mind. It is also about those who give strength and encouragement to those who give me strength; we call them the Support Group in this story. Furthermore, this story is about a mountain, a lake, a place, the wind, the clouds, the sky, the land, the colours and hues of nature... it is about everything that empowers us, the characters in this story and me.
The story I am about to embark on, unveiled right before my headlight. This story largely speaks of all that cycling in the mountains brings out in humans and is based on the sentiments of a cycle. Do you see as I do? Do you believe as I do? As members of this universe, we give each other strength, energy, life... which is how everything is interconnected. You, who is reading this, is connected to me, a cycle. Through me you are connected to the protagonists, and through them to the land and its people that figure in this story. Close your eyes, breathe in deeply, smile, imagine, be in the moment and feel the connections within this story and beyond. If it grips you, the sense of joy you shall feel permeating at your cellular level would be unparalleled. The emotion would connect you with the universe. Ephemeral, yet deep.
Even if you do not revel in romantic solitude and all that, cycling can be very liberating, especially when you pick a mountainous destination that is steeped in exquisiteness, sodden by the mercy of the weather gods and permeated with godliness.
It is believed that extreme physical effort affords access to an altered state of consciousness. Athletic satoris are caused by the sheer exhaustion, thirst, hunger, risks, even loneliness that an athlete faces while indulging in extreme sports. The cyclists in this story picked Tibet and perhaps touched that state as they climbed Nyalam Pass, who knows. Though what
I know is that an altered consciousness is not just the product of extreme sport, but also that of simply breathing in pristine and exquisite nature, slowly and steadily over a few days. And I cannot quite explain the reason why. I do not wish to apply intellect to this; its very application would ruin that moment and experience forever.
High up in the mountainous regions, not much human and other life can be supported. Hence, several aspects of human relationships that are the hallmarks of an urban or rural setting, for example, conflict, envy, greed, desire, materialism, fear, violence, inequality, etc. don’t quite touch these ‘high’ places.
That is the reason why monks and sages have preferred the height and the seclusion of mountains to deliberate on the finer aspects of human nature, the Self, love, generosity, spirituality, et al. Therefore, if not athletic satori, I knew we were all heading towards a nature and height-induced satori.
I speak and write from experience. You might label it wisdom, but if you tend to gather memories laced with information when you travel, I call it being sensible. I have noticed that most humans are predisposed to making elaborate arrangements for their travels and tours, including just the right apparel, accommodation, transport, intoxicants, even books to read, but when they reach the destination, they forget to absorb the place leisurely. The result is holiday completed, connection denied. Cycles, on the other hand, remain meditative and stationery when indoors, but when we hit the trails, nothing can stop us from remaining totally and absolutely in sync with the environs. We devour the beauty, imbibe the elements, soak up the history, sponge in the geography; we become osmotic! I hope I have made out a strong case for being the near-omniscient storyteller that I might appear to be as you turn the pages of this book.
So where do I begin? I could begin this story by describing in graphic detail to you the land that is Tibet. I could tell you in flowing prose about its mountains, rivers and forests; or perhaps wax eloquent about its people and habitations, its cultural vibrancy, its preference for the use of yaks to the dismay of us cycles. I could write at great length about the geological formations too. But I harbour this queer suspicion that your interest lies in human stories, and therefore, the possibility of you skipping such descriptions is high, if not certain. If I do touch these topics, I shall endeavour to be brief and factual.
Allow me instead to simply take you into the world of experiencing the uncertainties of a new place from atop a cycle, from inside Land Cruisers, from inside a tent, from the cold waters of a beautiful lake and from the exhausting climb around a mountain, all expressed in words that stem from deep recesses within. I begin with a Koan about cyclists. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, a Koan is ‘a paradox to be meditated upon that is used to train Zen Buddhist monks to abandon ultimate dependence on reason and to force them into gaining sudden intuitive enlightenment’. As the story shall unfold, you will be able to draw similarities between the cyclists in the Koan and the cyclists in this story, and perhaps be able to see the reasons why dependence on reason is not always a reasonable idea! Regarding gaining sudden and intuitive enlightenment, my search is on, and I promise to educate you about it as soon as I reach that level. Meanwhile, I present the Koan to you (source: internet), followed gradually by the entire story of a cycling expedition to Lake Manasarovar and a trek around Mount Kailash.
A Zen teacher saw five of his students return from the market, riding their bicycles. When they had dismounted, the teacher asked the students, ‘Why are you riding your bicycles?’
The first student replied, ‘The bicycle is carrying this sack of potatoes. I am glad that I do not have to carry them on my back!’ The teacher praised the student, saying, ‘You are a smart boy. When you grow old, you will not walk hunched over, as I do.’
The second student replied, ‘I love to watch the trees and fields pass by as I roll down the path.’ The teacher commended the student, ‘Your eyes are open and you see the world.’
The third student replied, ‘When I ride my bicycle, I am content to chant, nam myoho renge kyo.’ The teacher gave praise to the third student, ‘Your mind will roll with the ease of a newly trued wheel.’
The fourth student answered, ‘Riding my bicycle, I live in harmony with all beings.’ The teacher was pleased and said, ‘You are riding on the golden path of nonharming.’
The fifth student replied, ‘I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle.’ The teacher went and sat at the feet of the fifth student, and said, ‘I am your disciple.’
Authors: Anita Karwal & Anurita Rathore
Paperback: 264 pages
Launched: 24 February 2018, Ahmedabad
Read more about the launch here.