Sun Burned Wrists: 175 kms of Freedom

Months ago, I took a leap of faith, and purchasing a moped, I tested my luck on the mean streets of Delhi. The independence I gained far outweighed the danger I felt merging into traffic on the outer ring road. I lived to tell that story, and when I had my placement shifted to southern India, I decided I would have my bike shipped to Bangalore, and ride it out to my new home. I was keen on retaining my newfound independence of mobility at my new assignment location 175 kilometers from Bangalore in the South Western corner of the Rayalaseema region of Andhra Pradesh. This is the story:

Me and my moped in Delhi the first day home from the dealership

I set an alarm for 6:00 am thinking to myself… let’s hope I can force myself out of bed. Then around 5:30 am the power went out, shutting down my ceiling fan, and as I rolled over in a pool of my own fresh sweat – a common occurrence in the summer in Bangalore, I decided I really wouldn’t need the alarm after all. I got out of bed, and made haste onto the bike. I was lucky that a recent rain had come and the streets of Bangalore felt fresh and inviting in the morning light. I headed for the freeway, and found it easily. I set out past the normally packed, now empty roads of the budding megalopolis, through the freshly popped up suburbs complete with SUVs and shopping malls, through the toll way gates, and out onto the open road.

Moped still in wrapping after being shipped to Bangalore

An hour into my ride I unknowingly missed my turnoff for Old Bangalore Road, my route to Madanapalle the largest town near Rishi Valley. Then a half hour later, I stopped for breakfast of Idli and peanut chutney, and realized the mistake. I was now an hour off course, but if I corrected it would cost the same hour as taking the long way around. So I stayed true to my course opting for the long road instead of retracing my tire tracks. In another hour and a half, I made my first turn onto a dirt track that went through a few villages before finally turning back into asphalt. It was a Saturday, and luckily for me I got a full view of the Saturday Goat Swap. This proved to be a challenge and a fun one at that as the road was completely taken over by the friendly beasts and I was compelled to swerve and dodge as I made my way.

A good way past the goat towns, I was truly out in the countryside. The goat herders were replaced by lone cows standing in ponds being scrubbed by their owners. Birds flew over head chirping their various calls, and an occasional lorry or bus would drive by loudly blasting its horns. The roads had no apparent speed limits, so traffic moved at the fastest speed it was capable of moving at. The general rule, contrary to safety norms, is that the bigger you are the faster you can travel. The Volvo buses in this case travelled about twice as fast as I did.

Riding my moped in Rishi Valley - photograph by Prashant Panjiar
Riding my moped in Rishi Valley – photograph by Prashant Panjiar

About five hours after I had started out from Bangalore, I finally reached Rishi Valley, Andhra Pradesh. It was certainly a welcome sight. I parked the bike and walked to the dining hall since it was already time for lunch. As I sat down with my plate of food, I realized that I had just had one of the most fun experiences of this entire fellowship riding my moped from Bangalore to Rishi Valley, and also that I had seriously sunburned my wrists.

Owen Sanders Jollie began studying Hindi during his freshman year of college at Emory University. Since then, his interest in India has expanded to include Urdu poetry, Indian politics, and U.S.-India relations. Owen comes to the fellowship from the Center for Strategic and International Studies where he was a researcher with the Wadhwani Chair for U.S.-India Policy Studies. Owen's most recent trip to India was this past summer, when he spent two months in Lucknow studying Urdu at the American Institute of Indian Studies. He plans to continue learning both Hindi and Urdu and to expand his understanding of Indian politics with a focus on the development of corporate social responsibility. Owen grew up in Seattle, Washington and is an avid baseball fan.

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One thought on “Sun Burned Wrists: 175 kms of Freedom

  1. Congratulations, Owen, for getting into the spirit of the Fellowship in a new way by embracing the adventure of travelling the Indian subcontinent. But look after those wrists !

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