1. Felt like a Star – many would think that I was all alone on the highway and it would have been very boring to cycle for some 13 hours (one way!). But the fact is I was never alone! I had hundreds of my ‘fans’ following me throughout the stretch. Some were staring at me with amazement, some with reverence and some with utter clumsiness! Kids were waving at me and I didn’t disappoint them either. Some even slowed down to ask what I was up to and they invariably wished me ‘all the best’ with a thumbs-up gesture. Being a star is sometimes hectic!
2. Lost my Nationality – till 2nd October I had no doubt in my mind that I was an Indian but this trip changed it all. On the highway (NH 2) I was mistaken by many as a ‘firang’, courtesy, my trek and the helmet.
The same thing happened again at Tajmahal and Agra Fort, this time because of my company and so to please the ‘curious crows’, I had to come up with a fake nationality – Nigerian – which they readily believed! Salesmen, beggars and guides were chasing me believing that I was a foreigner. Even when I asked for directions from people in Hindi, they guided me in English! Incredible!
3. Met with some amazing people – travelling almost always gives you fantastic opportunities to meet people from different cultures and countries. The only condition is that you shouldn’t remain in your shell.
a. Seeing the Taj would have been a boring experience had I not got the company of Patrycja and Magda, (from Poland). For the rest of the day, they were my bodyguards (at 1.80 m, patrycja definitely was!) and I was their manager because all the eager Indian guys were approaching me to get a photo clicked with Pat & Mag. Well at times, I had to become the photographer as well! after a coffee at CCD, they left for varanasi and i ...well, u will come to know soon!
b. If I was able to get a hotel that day, it was all because of Fabio, guy from Italy. My first meeting with him was quite kick-ass. It brought back the quirkiness in me; much needed in those desperate circumstances. And guess what, I got the room in the same hotel in which he was staying. At around 11:00 PM we had a roof-top chat on topics ranging from Berlosconi (Italian PM) to Sonia Gandhi and Italian men’s Casanova image to Indian girls’ intense eyes!
c. I wouldn’t have visited Agra fort if it wasn’t for Aymeric and his girlfriend LN (from Paris). We had a roof-top breakfast while admiring the beauty of Taj which was in front of us. Being with foreigners worked against me once again– guides persuading me and people asking me, “which country”? Me – “India….sorry …Nigeria!!” I came to know later that Aymeric proposed to LN to marry him in front of Taj and she agreed! Can it get any more romantic?
4. Almost lost my trek – it would have been a horrible way to remember an otherwise incredible trip but at one point of time it was almost a reality. When at 8 PM I reached the parking-lot of Tajmahal (after the coffee at CCD!), it was as silent as a graveyard and my Trek wasn’t there. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. The only thing I had was the parking ticket which kept my hopes alive that I will find her soon. And the next morning at 8, exactly 12 long hours later, during which I hardly slept, I got my darling back! The parking guys had taken her away with them.
5. Lost my identity – the cloak room was also closed by then and with that, my backpack and my identity got locked up inside it. I didn’t have anything substantial to prove that I am Gaurav Jain. Three hotels rejected me to give a room. Feeling of dejection was overtaking me when I met Fabio, the guy from Italy, who was wearing a cool ‘Buda Bar’ t-shirt with a risqué image of a girl at the back. We had a small chat about ‘Buda bar’ and I guess that was enough to pull me out of gloom! I checked in ‘hotel Shahjahan’ afterwards and I got the room this time because now my business card was my ‘identity’ and a small polythene bag in which I was carrying a box of petha and 2 bananas was my ‘luggage’! Attitude matters!!
6. Felt Lucky – people say that you get overwhelmed when you see the Taj for the 1st time but that’s such an overstatement. I was overwhelmed when I got phone calls from my friends the next day of my Facebook update “lost trek…no luggage…cant get a room….” It’s very reassuring that people care about you; it gives you courage and makes you smile. Pedal Yatri’s, the group I am part of, not only cheered me up for my fete but came forward to great extent to help me out of the mess. I am lucky to get such great friends.
7. Somehow made it – the entire NH-2 from Agra till Delhi border (Badarpur) didn’t pose much difficulty to me but that last 30 KM stretch from Badarpur to Dwarka sapped almost all my energy. My legs were crying (see the pain in the line!), thorns had developed in my ass and despite all that I was half asleep! But somehow I kept going on and the rest as they say is history!