Bhiwani, India

To those asking “storytime wen?” (ha! gm ser) after my previous post, well, the time is now. This post is somewhat of an extension to an earlier blog from a period when my brain cells were still developing.

A quick note on memories
If I had a dollar for each never-to-be-seen-again photo in my supposedly free-forever Bucknell Google Drive, I’d have enough to afford taking only polaroids for the rest of my life. And who doesn’t like polaroids, amirite? In any case, I don’t like taking photos just for the sake of it. I often go back to Johnny Harris’ How to Remember Your Life video to remind myself that being intentional about deleting photos is key to effective recall decades down the line. Storytelling is important to me, and I am well aware that, however unforgettable some events may seem today, I am going to forget them if I don’t document them properly.

Ok then, back to this story about utter stupidity and spontaneity. It’s late March of 2018, and I’m graduating from my teens in less than a month. I’m visiting my friend Aman in the calm city of Eindhoven, Netherlands. Away from the confusing canals of Amsterdam and the tulip gardens. We’re buzzing after some shenanigans in the past few days. Young blood trying things for the first time, you get what I mean.

It’s the eve before my flight back to Edinburgh. Earlier in the day, Aman and I had failed to hitch out of Sloterdijk, a village near the capital, so we had taken a train back to Eindhoven. Despite the failure, even at 6:30pm, our energies were quite high and the sun was still a good bit above the horizon (after looking at the photos from the trip, I am confident that it was the first day of Daylight Savings in 🇳🇱). On that fine evening, when the sun was due to set after 8, we thought it would be a good idea to bike to the Belgium-Netherlands border, 45 kms from us, to a certain tourist town called Baarle-Nassau.

Were we sober? Very. Was it necessary? Hell no. So why? Why not. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.

The Preparation

Now 45 kilometers (28 miles for the uncultured) is not a crazy length. The Netherlands is famously bike-friendly; you can find well-maintained, paved bike paths in the remotest of areas. It’s just that we (oh, also, Aman’s friend Partho was going to join us too) had never gone such a distance in one go. Yet, we just had to do it today. The plan was set.

Leave Eindhoven at 7. Somehow reach the border before midnight. Take a few pics standing over the border (I bet you’ve never met cooler kids). Sleep?? Come back and experience eternal bliss or something.

We conceded and told ourselves we could take the first train back from Baarle-Nassau if we felt too tired to cycle home. Never once did we think about food. We didn’t even deem it necessary to bring a puncture repair kit along because we were convinced that we were invincible. Boy were we in for a surprise! And so, at 7pm sharp, off we paddled with undying spirits, a bike pump, three cans of cheap beer, almost too much water, and possibly a few bananas.

The Journey

For the first hour, we were cruising. Good hydration, brisk pace, waves to unknowing passersby. We did 10 kms in one hour, and we thought we had the ride in the bag. Here’s me in exactly 16 pixels on our first break.

Sadly, couldn't find any well-exposed group photos from this trip

We didn’t know at the time, but in less than 10 mins, Partho’s bike was going to get punctured by a tiny piece of glass on the side of the road. We figured this out only around the 14-15 km mark, as Partho was having to work harder than he’d ever worked on anything before. I’ll spare you the elaborate descriptions here, but what we executed next can only be categorized as some of the dumbest, most embarrassing, and dare I say, the funniest ideas of our lives.

Idea I

Remember, no bike repair kits. We’re three “engineering” (what does that even mean 🤮) students, each an adult in our own respect. We had fixed bikes before, and we were able to quickly spot the puncture. One of us thought it was a sound idea to try to clog the gap between the inner tube and the tire with a lot of … grass … so that air wouldn’t escape out of the tube. 🤦 Regardless of whose idea it was, we were all mightily convinced that it was going to work. Guess what, it did work. It worked for a solid 200 meters after which Partho was back to riding on a flat.

Idea II

We had somehow trudged our bikes to a place in the middle of nowhere, about 18 kms away from home, with barely any lighting or roadside traffic. It was around 10pm.

With no end in sight to this misery, my friend Aman had the ingenious idea of creating a tandem bike with three wheels. To those unfamiliar, a usual tandem bike seats more than one person (often a two-seater) but it only has two wheels. Here’s an illustration of what we were trying to achieve.

Credits to my friend Anh for this super creative doodle

We had never had more conviction in anything else in life. The quick-release levers on the wheels helped us a lot; we didn’t need any special tools to dismantle the bikes.

Left: Aman hard at work while Partho and I cheerled. Right: A normal tandem bike.

When Aman was done, we thought we had struck gold for a second. Well, to put it politely, let’s just say that the physics of our makeshift tandem was slightly off. At that moment, there was nothing better for us to do than to marvel at our feat of engineering and crack open our cold ones. A lot of uncontrollable laughter later, we begrudgingly agreed that Baarle-Nassau would need to wait another day and that it was best for us to cycle back to Eindhoven.

We’d pump the deflated tire, bike for a couple of kilometers, and alternate the person suffering until we made it back. We then had McDonald’s to end the night.

Take Two

This will be short and breezy. It’s now April. I’m 20 and obviously a completely changed person from a month back. Teenagers are so weird.

I was in mainland Europe again, trying to make the most of my two-month-long Schengen visa. After a week’s worth of adventure, as detailed in this blog, I made it to Eindhoven with the sole goal of biking and playing badminton over the NL-BE border.

It was only Aman and me this time around, a little more prepared and ready to crush it. This trip is significantly less vivid in my memory, however. I remember coming across a funny icecream seller somewhere along our ride to the border. We talked for a bit, took a few selfies, and then continued on our way.

We had left Eindhoven before noon, so we made it to Baarle-Nassau at a reasonable time. I had the worst pasta of my life at a bougie restaurant on the border. We played some badminton, made smalltalk with onlookers, and fooled around for an hour or so.

When it was time for us to head back, Aman and I had a quick argument over the silliest of things. He’s one of the kindest, most selfless people I know, so he let me have the glory even though I was clearly in the wrong. Once we were finished, we started paddling back. In a couple of hours, we stopped for some chole chawal at the very location of our tandem bike experiment from a month earlier.