I took my scooty out yesterday for the first time since the year began, after letting her slowly gather dust for a month.

The last time I drove was just before we headed to Mussoorie at the end of December. When we left for the bus terminal, I could feel the heavy fog settling in, appearing thicker than usual. In the darkness and fog, it was difficult to see the murky brownness of the pollution that was a defining characteristic of the Delhi sky. The fog wrapped around everything, floating very dramatically against the yellow glow from the windows of the moving metro trains. It felt like we were already in a hill station.

By the time our short vacation ended and it was time to head back to work, the fog had found permanent residence here. The cold was a little too chilly for me to feel comfortable driving, so I started taking autos to work and back.

While I blamed the cold at the time, I think my reluctance in taking out my scooty every day also had a lot to do with the lack of comfort I felt in driving in the roads of Gurgaon - and my lack of confidence was now couched in a convenient excuse, even if the only person judging myself harshly for it was me.

On the steps of Rameswaram Cafe, with Athira to split both in half.

On the steps of Rameswaram Cafe, with Athira to split both in half.

I like telling people the story of how I got my scooty.

It starts like this: At the start of second semester of my MTech was when we were called back on campus. Everyone bought new bicycles at the start of the term, while I found reasons not to. Some classes were still offline, and after being stuck at home due to Covid for so long, I wanted to walk to the remaining ones. No better way to enjoy the campus than taking in the old stone buildings and the tall canopies bit by bit everyday. It was also fun to see myself hit 10k steps at the end of most days without having to directly put in any effort towards it.

I went to Gurgaon over the summer break that year for my internship, and spent every possible weekend roaming around Delhi. In the process, I slowly and steadily fell in love with the Delhi Metro - the freedom and the excitement of being in a city I’ve wanted to visit for so long would have been nothing if not for the easy, cheap, and extensive mobility offered by the ten different lines of the metro, snaking all over the national capital region.

When I came back to Bangalore, it was to fully fledged offline classes in different departments at the opposite ends of the campus. It was too late to invest in a cycle as I would be abandoning it soon enough, and I couldn’t find any cycles to buy second-hand.

And here was the thing: I was beginning to realize that my Bangalore DaysTM were going to come to an end sooner than for most others in my batch, and that the brief Delhi escapade might have been the start of something more. I hadn’t seen half as much of Banglore as I did of Delhi over my 7 weeks there (granted, some of that was due to the back-breaking academics of the early semesters). Because you never really appreciate something until you know it’s about to slip away, now I was struck with the yearning to properly experience at least my little corner of Bangalore.

I wanted to go to Yeshvantpur market and come back without having walked 4kms, or waited on 3 different apps for a reasonably priced auto, or getting stuck in traffic for an inordinate amount of time. I wanted to discover the street food of Malleswaram. I wanted to eat dosas from every competing outlet of Bangalore and see for myself what it was all about (for the record: IDC’s cannot be topped. CTR and MTR are good, and so is Rameshwaram Cafe - the copious amounts of ghee and gunpowder are not a bug, but a feature. Vidhyarthi Bhavan is worth it at least once, to soak in the history of the space; was not a fan of Veena Stores. And not to mention all the little local outlets that know what they’re doing!)

But most of all, I really wanted to learn how to drive.

CTR in Malleswaram. Somewhere around the start of fourth semester.

CTR in Malleswaram. Somewhere around the start of fourth semester.

Perhaps that’s where this story should start: I had a bucket list of things I wanted to get done during my gap year between finishing BTech and starting MTech. Then Covid happened, and confined to each of our homes, the list became more of a joke. However, in the years since, I’ve slowly gotten around to ticking each of them off. The second last item on the list was visiting Delhi (my motives were different while writing it down at the time - I had been wanting to visit a very dear friend who I hadn’t seen in a long while). The last item unticked? Getting a driving license. Perhaps it was finally time to get to that.

I was talking about all of this - the desires, the dilemmas - in my lab on a daily basis by this point. And so, my labmates conspired together (Manogna and Goirik had wanted to learn as well), and rented a scooty for a day. With experience in riding cycles, managing a scooty came easily enough, and all three of us learnt the basics of handling a two-wheeler under the tutelage of a very patient Teja in a day.

I knew that was not enough to start taking a two wheeler out into traffic, so the second step was obvious: get a scooty for myself so I could keep practicing inside the relatively traffic-less roads of IISc, while slowly extending the perimeter with more experience gained. I kept an eye out for a month asking for reliable second-hand sale offers and met with a lot of dead ends. And so, roughly a month and a few days later - coincidentally right in time to mark another rotation around the sun for me - I put down the savings from my internship and became the owner of an Activa 125.

Step three was enrolling in a driving school to learn how to drive a car, to apply for licenses for both together. With a few days to go between presenting my thesis and boarding my flight to Delhi, I sat for my driving tests, and the final item on that long-lost bucket list got ticked off as well.

My scooty and I have been through a lot together in the last year. There were a few falls and a few scrapes, but the world felt like it was in my palms. There was nothing that didn’t have a solution, and there were so many shoulders to lean on when anything went wrong. By the time I packed her up in preparation for the journey from Yeshvantpur to Nizamuddin station, 4960 kilometers had been covered.

Yeshvantpur Market on a Sunday evening.

Yeshvantpur Market on a Sunday evening.

The journey from Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway station to Gurgaon was a long one.

Unlike my internship stint where I got used to the city by myself, Pappa was there with me this time to help make this longer-term transition smoother. So he drove my little one for the first time, with me sitting behind him like I have for the last 20 years of my life. Even with that in-built sense of safety you get only with parents, the roads felt treacherous, slippery. I felt a sense of lawlessness in the traffic, a steady feeling that anything could happen: a building unease with a sharp horn here or a sudden vehicle overtaking there.

Or maybe it was just the tiredness of the last week getting to me, of moving cities and starting a new life and a new job elsewhere, all in quick succession, so far away from anyone I knew. I was excited to start this new chapter, to pick up from where I left off last time - but at the moment, I couldn’t find it in me. For a long time after, as I stayed in my PG, awaiting to move out any moment now into a place of my own - I didn’t take my scooty out much beyond the sector I stayed in.

A mental fog had settled in and found a temporary residence in my head.

As all fogs do, this one too moved out of my head eventually, taking its due time.

In October, I found myself settling into a lovely little home, marking three months since my arrival in Delhi — two months later than anticipated. I’ve been slowly building new routines, dusting off the Activa to get back into the role of daily companion. She and I have been attempting to map the contours of Gurgaon together since then, both having each other’s backs. Building a life takes time, and in the seven months I’ve spent here, I can already see myself making homes out of people and places in a way that would be hard to let go. Isn’t that both the beauty and tragedy of getting to live a full life?

Seasons change, and life goes on, inevitably. I’ve been feeling the fog (literal and otherwise) from late December getting lighter. The days are slightly warmer, the chill feels less harsh.

So I wiped layers of accumulated dust from the Activa yesterday, a small part of my brain anxious that the engine might not start as I turned the key. I had left her for too long in the cold over the past month, the oil being allowed enough time to thicken and be stubborn about being left alone.

But the headlights came on, and as I tentatively twisted the accelerator, my scooty came to life with a low, living, rumble. The roads still feel treacherous, but there are new emergency numbers keyed in. It was time to get moving again.

to more journeys, big and small.

to more journeys, big and small.

If you’ve come this far and you’d like to leave some quick thoughts, do feel free to reach out to me directly, via instagram, or anonymously. They mean so much to me, and gives fuel to further writing!

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