There it was. A runner who intends to cycle 150+km in a day. Did I succeed? Did I learn something from it?
My task: An inviting stretch from Bangalore to Mysore.
My gear: A Giant bike fitted with an 18-speed Shimano gear system.
My mistakes: No cyclist in their right sense would try the Kanakapura Road to go from Bangalore to Mysore. I didn’t know. I just thought any road would be fine. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. This road was all elevation, inclines, and headwinds.
My lessons: Ever since I started practicing meditation seriously, one of the things I have learned and tried hard to incorporate is that events simply are – we don’t have to be controlled by them. Nor do we have to be controlled by our reactions to those events. It takes time, but every now and then, I see glimpses of what it is to just observe and choose a different pattern of response and then watch the magic unfold. And what I learned is that the Universe will keep giving you the same people and same circumstances till we learn to respond differently. That’s precisely what happened this day.
Help is always around. You need to ask for it. You are not strong if you think you have to do it all alone. You are weak when you think so.
As I cycle out of the apartment, the rear wheel freezes. I get off the bike and sit down, wondering if I was so amateurish as to clang the gears so soon. “Come on, help me,” I say to the Universe. Along comes a security guard. “Kya hua Madam?” he asks, before inspecting the bike. He can’t figure it out either. And then, out of the blue, comes a cyclist. I shout to him, forgetting again my natural instinct to not ask for help. “It’s your mudguard,” he says. We adjust it a little, and he was right. I am off again.
I thank him and the guard. That was the beginning of my lesson on gratitude. This would be a day of gratitude.
Some people might mock you. Some people might annoy you. Be thankful to them anyway.
About seven kilometers into the ride, the rear tire catches the mudguard again. This time, it’s a gashing puncture, the tire slashed. I sigh. And then, I half drag, half lift the bike, and start walking on the road. A man is standing by the side in front of a closed shop. He beckons to me and as I walk over, helps me lift the mudguard again. “You should have done that instead of struggling like that,” he says, mockingly. “You don’t even know this much, you city people. You look educated enough.”
I shrug, puzzled at his vehemence. I am still thankful to him, though.
When things don’t go well, it’s not that things aren’t going well. It’s just things aren’t going the way we think. There is always space for things to just be the way they are. Accept these with love and gratitude, and as opportunities we are gifted.
After about two kilometers of walking, I spot a bike shop that says, “Puncture Repair.” The locals around say he won’t open the shop until 9 or 10 AM. I sigh. But for the first time, there is no self-pity. I don’t think: Why me? Why does this have to happen to me?
Instead, I think: What if I just enjoy this? What if I sit at the table by the bakery, have chai, and just watch life pass me by? That’s what I did. The repair guy promises to come in half an hour. My friend says he is coming to help me. I smile. There are beautiful helpers.
An hour later, the bike repair guy says he doesn’t repair cyles. So, my friend puts the bike in an autorickshaw, and the driver takes us to a cycle repair shop. By now, the sun is out. The tire and tube are changed, my friend bids me good luck, and three hours after I set off, I am again off.
The world is full of angels. It’s not as bad as you think. There are good people. Many.
This bike is clearly in no condition for a long ride. The brake fluid is low and it groans. I stop at yet another shop. The man there notices my palms, which are bruised and bleeding a little. “Here, apply this,” he says, coming with what looks like sawdust, but which he says is Ayurvedic medicine. I smile.
Another stop for some more brake fluid at another village. Here, the repairman refuses payment. “We are like this in the village,” he says.
A few more kilometers. A man stops right in front of me on his motorbike. “I have been seeing you from Harohalli. Go Ma’am. May God be with you.” I smile more. What an utterly gorgeous day of faith this is.
Everywhere people cheer me on. A highway patrol car stops and the policemen fill up my water bottle, handing me a mango as well while recounting their own cycling days. It starts to rain heavily, and a family invite me in to sit on their verandah. A group of men chatting idly at a bakery I stop by assure me that there are no “more uphills,” seeing my exhausted expression. Have you met your angel today? I met many that day.
Your body is gorgeous. Reward it with love.
Yes, I have a weak left knee. I couldn’t really shift to higher gears many times. Yes, I had a bad eating day that day – 3 bananas and 2 dates and a lot of soft drinks were all I had. Yet, with just that, my body drove me for 150km. How wonderfully gifted we are! Reward your body – sleep well, eat the right foods most of the time, move, workout, and cherish this shell we are given. It’s not hollow. It’s filled with love for you.
It is 8PM when I reach finally. I am caked with dust, and I don’t want to look at another cycle again. Yet, I take a deep breath – I chose the hardest route, struggled with a bad bike, rain, harsh sunshine for a while, and everything else the Universe wanted to test me with, and yet there I was. Still standing. And sometimes, that’s life too.
You will be there, standing at the end of it all, or lying flat on your bed, waiting to reach the dark unknown, but you will know you made it. The difference? Do we make it with anger? Or do we make it with gratitude?
Be grateful for the most difficult teachers and lessons.
I wanted to ride also to get rid of my anger. By the end, I had no anger, just incredible gratitude. I was angry because it stings when someone tells you they don’t want a deep, abiding friendship with you. When they tell you it’s “enough” for them to be social media commentators and that they are super “happy to be a distant witness” in your life. Why do I keep receiving this from the same person? I wondered. And then, the answer came in waves. What an incredible gift this person is – my old Blocking Friend, and now just Goodreads Follower.
Let me put this in context. Most people respect me in life. Many adore me. I am not saying this out of vanity, but it’s what I have received from the many people I have met in life. A few love me, and many, many like me. Even when people walk away from my life, they have usually done so with respect. But no one has treated me quite the way the Goodreads Follower has. NO ONE. How precious this lesson is! How beautiful!
No one has ever blocked me even once, forget three times. No one has walked away from me again and again without giving me a chance. How many times this person has rejected me! What a wonderful blow to my beautiful ego this person keeps giving me! “You, SM, are not that great as you think,” I tell myself. “Look! Not everyone wants you in their life. Not everyone thinks you are amazing enough to warrant any changes in their life.” You don’t acknowledge the efforts being made, I was told. There is not enough joy or forgiveness, I was told. Me? The so-called preacher of kindness and compassion? Yes. I nod. I agree. I am struggling with both.
How do I react to this? Do I shut down in anger or do I realize that this person is pointing out so many flaws in my soul? That this person is giving me lesson after lesson on patience? On opening up my heart? On love? On being open to hurt?
I will keep getting this kind of pattern unless I finally learn the lesson: Accept with love all that is given to you. The Goodreads Follower is capable of incredible love too – but is not able to expand that love from one narrow container that has seemingly drained her of all other love. I am grateful to have received snippets of that love every now and then. But every time, there is effort involved, I am not worth the effort, I realize. I bow my head in more gratitude. Let that sting. Let it. Every time I write a false word or I slip up, I am shoved off. It made me grateful even more for the ones in my life who bear my crappy self and stay. Let my ego and heart be punctured. Just like that tire.
And that’s the biggest lesson: We are all walking egos. I needed the Goodreads Follower to puncture my ego. Some others may come along and will patch it up for you. Or just as it happened to me on my cycling day, I will have to get a new tire. A new ego. One that will welcome you with love. One that is vulnerable. One that is open to rejection. One that is grateful to the difficult teachers. I am going to get a new tire. Say hi to my new ego. To the new me.