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The motor-scooter diaries

india Updated: May 12, 2007 01:30 IST
Neha Dara
Neha Dara
None
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Bus journeys can be torturous. Windowpanes rattle, brakes squeal, and seats shake. But if you draw the curtains, you can block the light as well as the sounds co-travellers make and create your own private three-by-six feet space.

From the long window, I watched the timid lights of towns cross one by one. Very soon the town lights were replaced by the light of stars glimmering in the night sky. And as I awoke to the sight of the blue sea, shimmering around a bend, the destination drew closer and closer.

Tantalised by the view of the sea for the last one hour of our journey, a friend and I landed up in Diu early one morning with no preparations and even less planning, knowing only one thing — we wanted to live two minutes away from the beach, no further. That’s how we ended up at Nagoa, 8 km from Diu, a most beautiful stretch of yellow-white sand.

And we had an easy solution to the 8 km-from-Diu travel problem. Autos were expensive, so we rented a scooty that my friend Urmi assured she knew she could ride. There was no stopping us now.

But as it is with most ‘friend’s assurances’, I should have known better. Urmi could barely balance herself on the two-wheeler, let alone the pillion rider (me) whose life she was planning to endanger. Our escapade would have ended there and then but, fortunately for us, it turned out I had an inborn skill with the two-wheeler.

So again we felt, there was no stopping us now: We had a shiny, almost-new, purple scooty, with gleaming sideview mirrors and a full tank.

Lost in Diu

The main road which links Nagoa to Diu is beautiful, wide and clean, and runs along the sea. At places where it veers away from the shore, there are narrow lanes leading in, each holding the promise of an opening to a stretch of an untouched beach. I wanted to pursue them, but first, we had to find lunch.

Once you get off the main road, Diu is a town of winding streets that lead you through rows of picturesque houses and little shops. In fact, there is perhaps no better way to explore it than to get lost in those streets, as we did, while searching for a place that would serve us genuine Portuguese fare. We met smiling old men, who gave us directions, and school children who gave us history lessons. We didn’t find the food, but we did manage to wreck the scooty’s silencer, disturbing everyone’s siesta with our rugged travelling machine’s protesting shriek, got shushed at by old ladies, flirted with by boys ostensibly trying to help us, and got screamed at by the scooty rental owner.

Finally, when the scooty was fixed and our grumbling stomachs were fed, we returned to base camp. But the morning misadventure did little to dampen our spirit.

So, in our next attempt, we headed off in the opposite direction, exploring the road that led away from Diu and Nagoa. And as dusk settled, we spotted a lighthouse scouring the coastline, to discover it further became our quest. After we tumbled upon the lighthouse, a few wrong turns later, at Vanakbara, we found a boat-building yard which caught our fancy. The building yard reeked of a soul-rousing smell of wood and paint, music of hundred knocking hammers could be heard, and the site seemed a graveyard of large wooden skeletons in various stages of acquiring a body, and soul.

For our dinner, we were back in Diu, still in search for that genuine Portuguese meal. This time, we had better luck. And at half past ten we were headed back to Nagoa, letting the sea breeze fan the afterglow of a perfect meal. Which is probably why we were almost 3 kilometres out of Diu town before we realised that we were being pursued by two boys on a motorcycle. When they realised they’d been spotted, they zipped past us, only to wait for us around the next bend to start following us again. This little game continued and the so-friendly and beautiful morning road left us isolated and unsafe. Outrunning them on our little scooty wasn’t an option, and there was no shop or hotel where we could stop for help, so there was little we could do but stick it out. Fortunately they did nothing more, and we made it back to the hotel in one piece, none the worse for wear (except my right shoulder, where Urmi had dug her nails).

Been there, done more

In the brightness of the next morning sun, the fright of the previous night seemed unreal. And it wasn’t long before we were off on our scooty again, making up stories about two adventurers exploring a virgin tropical land. We were brave, we were daring, and we were heroes. We were also gypsies, with the wide open road before us, and there was no stopping us but the limits of our very own thought. With such lofty ideas again in our heads, we turned left onto a leafy shaded lane that seemed like our passage to the wide unknown.

Not surprisingly, it ended in a little dell of brick houses. But no fear, we tried again. Our road to adventure was waiting for us, somewhere. So we tried taking a U-turn, skidded on the sand, and fittingly, landed in a ditch. Dignity betrayed, as kids stood laughing at us, but luckily our sense of humour stayed. So we lingered in the ditch laughing, taking stock of our injuries. Both of us had torn our pants, and bruised hands and knees. The scooty was missing a sideview mirror and leaking oil. But we managed to start it with the help of a local.

Behinds were dusted, bruises were washed at the hand pump, we were good to go again… just a full tank away from another adventure.

Email Author: neha.dara@hindustantimes.com