India on two wheels – part 1

This fair lady will bless you for a dollar - a feeling which leaves you numb
This fair lady will bless you for a dollar – a feeling which leaves you numb


Slightly off balance we swerved between two vehicles as the loud beep grew nearer. Yellow and green tuktuks crept between the crevices left by larger cars like woodlouse on the road. Have you ever seen what eight lanes looks like squashed into four? Just hit any large city in India to enjoy the adventure of a lifetime.


Sweaty tourists grip the sidebars of their tuktuks for their lives and musical horns sound for constant communication. Each car has “Honk Please” hand painted in some cheesy hindi style way as that is the way of life here in Pune, honk to let us know you are here, and never bother using those things called indicators. Here I was thinking Maltese roads were bad.


Roads here do not consist of one or two types of vehicles. In a snap shot of a busy morning you had us two maniacs on our little motorbike, a countless number of stuffed tuktuks, all sized cars, that massive army truck which I am sure has never been tested for its MOT and last but not least a cow blocking off half the road without a care in the world acting like the perfect centre strip.


If that wasn’t enough people were happy to cross, or attempt crossing the road at any given moment, and I’ll tell you its no wonder some walk with a heavy limp.


Helmets on the road here were just an accessory and though without one I felt young and free with the wind blowing in my hair and all that making me feel like an 80’s film star, I soon was rudely awakened from my fantasy by a sneezing fit due to the amount of fine dark dust clouding the air. My sneezed caused another swerve, but my driver was a pro and our bike, old and small she might have been knew what she was doing.


Driving was half the fun here in Pune, one of the most charming cities in India. It was one of those inbetweener cities which still had one foot routed in tradition while the other roamed free. Kids played cricket wherever they could and away from the chaos of the road life was rather calm.


Pune's charm shines through in the busy markets
Pune’s charm shines through in the busy markets

Sundays here defined what a Sunday exists for as after a late wake up call our stallion, the 25 year old Honda, took us for a traditional breakfast where for a fiver one could enjoy a feast of Indian treats which certainly did not lack sugar.


The treat that followed was not your usual desert. We whizzed our way across town to a local barber shop and nothing defines gentleman tradition more than this. He nodded to my chair and I sat, sinking two inches into his old foamy chair. A jerk up to a comfy height and a long gaze from the barber the treatment was ready to begin and it did so with a heavy slap across the top of the head, and another, followed by another. I lost count of the slaps and stars that I saw but suddenly I found myself enjoying this odd experience which I am sure is banned in Europe for safety reasons.


Numbed from pain rough rubs rolled across my head and the most awkwardly nice head massage had begun and I began to drift away. Eyes now firmly shut I remember a pause for breath followed by a loud noise. One eye peeped open and I soon realised I was in some sort of trouble. The barber was now wearing a glove resembling that worn by villains of some horror movies and the noise grew louder as it landed on my head. His hand was now vibrating and causing my head to shake in all the right places. He rubbed and squeezed while smiling through his 1980’s moustache while I clung onto the frame of my seat.


Sheepishly I rose after my slow awakening and was ushered into the blazing heat of the street. That there was a spot of Indian heaven and I now felt immune to anything, ready for our next mad bike ride and any adventure that awaited.

Our lazy afternoon continued with a trip to the famous Bollywood cinema screens and this could not have been any better. The love for the cinema here is unrivalled as a packed theatre greeted us. The movie had no subtitles or English name but it had the right balance of cheese and action to make it enjoyable. We thought we were cool for clapping at the credits in Europe? Everyone here gets up and dances in the cinema throughout the movie’s sing-alongs and this is a real peoples’ experience. Whistles and cheers were heard as the film revealed its stars, and wow do they love a good kissing scene in these parts. I’ll level to you I did not understand a word of the movie however this did not stop me from having a superb time and I can truly say it was one of my favourite movies of all time, and this was not due to the acting but simply because of the whole experience of immersing myself in Indian cinema.


The dream in Pune had to end soon, but in the follow up to this article I will show you the next destinations our two wheeled stallion took us. Saying goodbye to Pune was never easy however a warm home cooked meal from the loving family I stayed with was just the trick and fuelled us for our next adventure. Kindness in India was simply a way of life and the family and friends I met there made me feel right at home.


Next stop... Hampi!
Next stop… Hampi!


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