I lumbered off the bus with a bulging backpack and a laptop tucked in a case slung over my shoulder. I’d left Kali in Delhi because I’d too much stuff to carry and taken an overnight express to the Himalayan foothills where my writing life, for the next two months, awaited in a cabin in Landour.
I hadn’t slept on the bus because I’d been surrounded by five, fun-loving, 20-something-year-old young Indian men who laughed, whistled, sang, told stories and shouted at each other all night. On top of that, there was no legroom for a person of my stature, and I was squished against the window as the so-called luxury bus pushed across the plains. It’s a blessing that the darkness prevented me from witnessing the near-death mishaps the driver managed to elude, but I felt them as the dilapidated motor coach teetered on what felt like two wheels, at times, as it careened up the mountain.
Landour is a residential enclave, a cluster of rich-folks, mostly empty hide-a-ways carved into the terrain above the tourist town of Mussoorie. I’d stayed there, in Mr. Lal’s Alyndale cabin, when I’d studied Hindi at a language school–before setting out to ride Kali around India. Returning to Alyndale was like coming home; everybody who took care of the estate remembered me and welcomed me back. Bim Singh and Cook grinned and shouted “hello” from the kitchen of the main house, before rushing to carry my bags down the winding path from the road above.
There were no provisions in the cabin, so after settling in and drinking a nice cup of hot chai Bim Singh delivered via Cook’s compliments, I walked down to Anil’s general store to stock up on eggs, butter, milk, Nescafe, sugar, bread, potatoes, greens and other items necessary to keep me from starving. In a day or two, local peddlers would knock on my door to take my order for daily bread and dairy deliveries, but until then I was eating store-bought goods.
While at the store, I saw a road-weary Bullet and took a look at the speedometer: 13,000 km (8,000 miles) compared to the 10,809 km (6,717 miles) I’d racked up on my journey around India. I was looking at the speedometer when a blonde guy came out of the store so I asked him, “Did you put that on there?” I meant the number of kilometers, but he looked at me as if he’d encountered the dumbest person on Earth before slowly responding in a Swiss accent, “No. The speedometer came with the motorcycle.” I didn’t bother to try and explain what I meant. What good would it do? No one expected a woman to know anything about motorcycling, so I just walked away.
That night, I fell asleep around 11:30 pm with the lights on and woke the next day at noon with a headache. I think my body was having a hard time adjusting to the clean mountain air after New Delhi’s pollution. So I decided to take it easy for a couple of days before getting down to work on Monday.