The Pride Ride

There are times when we have to sit back and let the shit blow over, there are times when you have to face the shit with open helmets and get the grime all over your face to make a statement. Make a change. Stand for something we believe in.

The society is defined by how the weakest of its members are treated by the so called stronger members of the society. Someone told me that fighting for gay rights is a trivial matter. That it is something that is cropping up as part of “a misguided action from the western culture”. I beg to differ, a LOT. If anyone of us wants to call ourselves unique, that just proves that there is atleast one thing that a group of people can use against me. May be my exact skintone, my height to the millimeters, everything puts me into a minority. If we do not fight for the minority, it means anyone can be marginalised in the blink of an eye.

We made big plans, but we were all busy. Realizing yet again that small actions, carefully planned with passion can materialize way faster and easier than big mountain moving events. The whole Pride Ride event, came together over 2 physical meetings at Chai Coffee.
The first had Ajay exclaiming that “We are riding to Thrissur for VIBGYOR” and me seconding it then and there. ( There were only two people in the “meeting”. ) The initial plan was 3 bikes and 1 car. The bikers being me, Ajay and Donna. And a support car with  Salini, Preethi, Olivia and Adah.  A small event, supporting human rights from our hearts.
We have a small group of people who debates, think logically, think progressive and genuinely care about making the world a better place, we call it Ampersand. & is a connection tool, it creates connection between people and people, people and ideas, people and things, things and things, ideas and ideas.
We called in a small meeting to fix the timing, the route and what to do at the event. Put it up in “&”. The second meeting had me, Ajay, Donna, Binny, George and Sudeep. We decided to hold the event on Tuesday, 11th of February. We started on the routes. The route was fixed as Edappally-Cherai-Munambam-Kodungallur-Mala-Kombodi-Kodakara-Ollur-Thrissur.
Though we had briefly spoken with the people at VIBGYOR about biking there, it was then at that meeting held on Feb 6 that we called them to ask what is happening there on the dates that the event is being held. Subsequently we had to move the date to Feb 12.
Six Days and a Million Things to Do. 
 
As usual, the event was decided on the fly, then we made a Facebook event for the same.
This response was an eye opener for us. People were ready to do this, people were supporting this, in the whole 6 days we had this event up, we received so much positive comments, encouragement, news coverage and love that we were left with no words to express our feelings. People started sending in pictures of them holding messages in support for the event. From India, US, France the messages kept coming.

 

An event planned for 3 riders and 4 people on a support car had gone orbital. We were ecstatic, we were screwed.

 

We decided we will get event tee shirts. Well outwardly a very easy thing to do. But the catch was Ajay was off for running in Auroville for a full Marathon that weekend and I was stuck at home due to an autorickshaw strike. Days were lost.
Finally me and AJ got around to getting the Tee Shirts done. No one would do a 40 tee print on a two day notice. But voila! All the walking around trying to get a place to get the tee’s printed led us to this mega awesome place, Aura ( It is at North, I will update the location later, I would recommend this! )

 

They agreed to give us the tee shirts in a day’s time! It was so awesome.
So we got the tee shirts en masse from Decathlon Cochi and then gave it for printing the very next day. And we got it on the same day!
The colors we got 🙂
Trying the Teeshirts for the First Time 🙂
We had some fun with the NERF gunner trying to “hate” the person in “Love is a Terrible thing to hate ” tee.
The next day, we had the ride. We had a freaking 160k biking trip to do. We were so pumped. I was so pumped up that I could not sleep. An extremely bad thing, but I cant help it.
We set out in the morning after loading 40 liters of water onto Salini’s car and she along with Preethi going to pick Donna’s kids Adah and Olivia. We were running late, getting the things loaded into the car, with a haunted elevator whose only intention was close on us and refuse to open unless the button is kept pressed was hard work. But finally me and AJ were off on out Bergamont Helix 2.3 and Rockrider Big RR bikes.
We were a bit late, but the surprise we had at the starting people, the number of people who had come to see us off and the people who were riding with us was awesome!
The Soles were there en masse. 🙂
We started 30 minutes late. But boy! Wasn’t the rest of the trip magnificent!
The ride up started slow, warming up the muscles and getting into the rhythm. We reached Cherai beach at sunrise. The first pit stop. Oranges, Bananas and plain good water. It was fun to see Ijaz run to the sea 🙂 After photos and hugs three bikers left to get back to Cochin. Ijaz, Sageer and Issac. The journey onward towards Kodakara.
There was a problem, though we were told that the road was awesome with very little traffic, it was like  sine wave. Up , Down, Up , Down. And exhausting.
Ajay was riding ahead like the devil was on his shoulders. We were racing down the slopes, gears down, hunched up. He got ahead. I wont whine.
In between the lead riders, Donna, Max and AJ left me behind as I waited for taking some pictures of the riders, helping George with Gear Shift tips and visiting my friend who was getting engaged at his house. Boy, did that put me behind the leaders.
It was a great support team that we had. Providing us with moral support, quick food and the much needed directions at important turns. It was awesome to see Salini and Preethi waiting at one turn when I was about to take out my phone and right at the next spot when I was about to grab by phone there was Binny and Sudeep standing and pointing towards where to go. It was awesome, but they also told me that the others were way ahead of me. I was biking with George at that time, I think then George switched biking with Sudeep. Sudeep was the go to biker for most of the riders, Sudeep rode Zac’s bike till Cherai when Zac was injured. George took  back the bike after sometime I think.
A special person to be noted here is Varkey, he had a bike that had the front disc brakes always engaged. He rode with that! Kudos.
Then I saw a huge mother of a bike parked on the sides and I knew Nelvin had arrived. After a small conversation, he told me that Donna was ahead of me by a few minutes. I knew I had to catch up with her. I rode off and Nelvin roared off.
I met Donna on the side of the road. Her first question was  ” Whose idea was this! The Slopes are effin killing me”.  It was true, the ride was a see-saw without any flat roads. Then I rode off to find the other two who were ahead. Finally they were only a few minutes ahead of me!
Met Max and AJ on the road, they had taken a breather. That became our official stop after everyone hunkered down there. Boy! Weren’t we all hungry.

Then Salini got around to trying the Harley. Salini rode the bike and Nelvin had his exercise by chasing her down to help her turn the 450kg monster.

She had so much fun 😀
The the racing started. AJ vs me. Damn he was fast. On a technically slow bike, he rode like,” the whips of his masters were behind him”, as Legolas puts it. I believe I overtook him sometime and so thinks Max.
Then the most awesome part for me in the biking started. Constant speed, constant line on the National Highway. When I switched my gears I was surprised to hear a similar Tak-Tak right behind me. Max was  drafting me. With the distance between the bikes so close, going at the same speeds, I believe we gave a spectacle to anyone who saw us. That was reflected in the gazes, waves, thumbs up and honks we got. It was awesome. And then to the surprise of both of us, we saw another bike up ahead. Ajay was ahead. We never knew he overtook us, or did we really ever over took him.
We caught up with him and the three of us stopped for a breather. With Thrissur just about 18k away, our support vehicles were already there. We were left with the minimal resources we had. Donna came biking up then, we welcomed her with the waves, claps and hugs. The next to arrive was a man in yellow and one of the most amazing things happened. While we were clapping and waving and encouraging Sudeep, there was an eruption of claps and shouts. There was a school bus stopped on the other side of the road and the kids were cheering. It was awesome!
On a side note, Surjith thought breakfast was too mainstream, he rode straight to the event. We could never catch up with him. After all, he was the only one in the team who was powered by crow shit. 🙂
Yes, its shitty. But I am happy 😀
George joined us and we were off for our last stretch. Then a light rain started, it was awesome to ride with the mist on the road, though the absence of the read mud guard was felt by my teeshirt.
After conversations about how we came, where we are coming from, why are we there, the locals pointed as to the event. After half a circle of the Thrissur round we were there. We were at VIBGYOR!
Biked more than 90 kilometers, dirty, tired but boy we made it. It was awesome to see faces light up. A group of people braving a lot of things to come from cochin to say one simple line. “Love is a terrible thing to hate”. We were felicitated and given some beautiful roses. Met with many people who were actually in the thick of things for LGBT rights.
The riders and the organizers:)

 

Getting Roses 🙂

 

With Jijo!
After having the longest and slowest lunch ever we were ready to head back. The whole ride back was to be through the National Highway. It was not as fun as we thought initially. Constant pedalling with no respite. After a whole day of zero rest and for me, more than 34 hours of no sleep was taking the toll. Me and Ajay rode down at first waited for Surjith on the road and others went ahead, we met with Binny and George on the way, George had had his fill of the day and was in the car. A decision he would come to regret next day. Rode ahead met the other bikers. Waves and short hi’s later, we rode ahead. As usual Ajay was still pushing ahead. After sometime I could not even see him ahead of me. I was nearing the end of my resources. Tired. No one ahead that I can catch up to and everyone behind were too far behind.
After about 20-30 minutes of riding slow, taking flyovers like a deadman pedalling, my energy came back. Then it was again riding up at speeds that topped 25-30kmph. Then came the next rest-stop, to my dismay. Ajay was already there, Olivia and Adah were sleeping and Salini was nearing the end of her resources. She was feverish, tired and trying her best to hold her head straight. Me and Ajay were waiting for the others to join with Preethi. When Salini went for a short nap in the car. Even Ajay went in to the car to “rest his ass”.

The next person to ride in was Binny, who was standing in for Surjith who had severe cramps. Donna came in and she said it again ” Whose effin idea was this!”. It was a long break for me and AJ. Salini was too tired to give us support and she and Preethi left for home. Olivia and Adah joined Binny in his car. Instead of being the first people to leave, me and Ajay decided to be the last ones. Varkey and Surjith left ahead of us, followed by Sudeep and then Donna.

“We have given them too much headstart” Ajay said after we started, as usual after a stop, I was biking slow. But I knew I was fine to bike faster, my knees were alright and me and AJ were soon racing down towards the rest of the bikers. Fast. Invincible.
Passed Sudeep on the way and we screamed “One Down”. The next on the road was Varkey and we rode ahead screaming “Two Down”. We spotted Donna’s blinker ahead but by the time we reached them Surjith and Donna had stopped. We were without any inspiration to scream “Three and Four Down”. Spoke with them and then started riding with them. I was riding with Surjith and AJ with Donna. We all went some distances talking, and agiain I found AJ coming up and over taking us. We started racing each other. We reached out destination. Mezban restaurant, for food. Binny, George, Adah and Olivia were already there. Me, Ajay and George shared awesome Butter Chicken and Butter Naan, while me and George share the opinion that the food was awesome, Ajay says it sucked.
We had another 12 km to ride home and thus concluded out 173km journey to be part of the VIBGYOR International Film Festival.
The Bikers 
 
Ajay Appaden
Donna Mitchell
Maxime Papouth
Christin Emmanuel George
George Thomas
Surjith S Pi
Varkey Parakal
Sageer Varaparambil
Ijaz Afsal
Sudeep Kini
Issac Raymonne Paul
The Car People
 
Salini Balakrishan ( She was with us even though she had a high fever, thank you dear. Salini is diagnosed with Dengue, she has bed rest for 2 weeks. Get well soon. Our love is with you.)
Preethi Susan George
Adah Knox
Olivia Mitchell
Binny VA ( He rode 16km in a bike as well 🙂 )
On Motor Bikes
 
Nelvin Joseph
Mari Subrahmaniam
Anisha Aliar