The Fool Loses His Tools, and What Happens After

As many of you know, I am back in Bangalore already. And, you know it right, I came back sans my bicycle, sans my mobile, SLR camera, three lenses, GPS receivers, bags, ah well. The list is painful indeed, and includes even KP's trusty pannier bags and my sunglasses. Needless to say, I had no choice but to abort the trip. This list is an effort to recount what happened, and how I reached back Bangalore. It's long, but I'm sure you are all curious to know all the details. And, I owe to you, the reader. So here goes.

I woke up on the morning of October 10th (Saturday). I had had a good sleep after the midnight break. But, where was my bicycle ? It was gone! And where was the friend-for-a-day ? He was gone too. His bedsheet and creaky bike were all that were left. I saw his chappals in a few moments, and I knew what had happened : friend-for-a-day (read more about this chap in the previous post. Sorry for the redirection) had flown off with all that I had. How many hours earlier, I couldn't say.

It took a few moments for the situation to sink in : I had lost even my mobile, and my purse. My trust had been royally betrayed. Trusting fool I had become. And here I was : 20 kms away from Dwaraka, not a penny in my pocket, and not a known contact around me either. No cellphone address book to contact people either. To be honest, I didn't feel bad. I didn't feel the pinch of the loss, and I feel it much now, either (at the time of writing). I'm happy I took the loss well.

And what did I have left actually ? The following

  1. Manohar's sleeping bag
  2. Shoes, and a pair of socks
  3. A towel, a dhoti
  4. Dirty yellow riding shirt, spanky clean saffron dhoti
  5. Red shirt with sweaty stains, dirty blue track pant
  6. Two water bottles, slippers

That's all I have of all my possessions. I push everything into the sleeping back. No chance of taking the slippers. They are too big, and who needs them anyway ?

I ask the Baba, who seemed to be just coming out of bed, if he had seen this chap anywhere. I also told him my version of what had happened. Got a two minute lecture from him about "thou shalt not believe the stranger". The nearest police station was in Dwaraka, and that's where I need to go at all, if I needed to have any hope of getting back anything at all. Taking a truck to Dwaraka itself would cost me 10 rupees. The baba graciously gave me 20 bucks. That was a start!

I waved to a truck and reached Dwaraka quickly. We enquire at a checkpost if the bicycle had been seen. Apparently not.

Around 7 AM, I enter the Dwaraka police station. I can't afford to buy even tea : no good losing 4 rupees out of the ten I have. The constable is sleeping. I wake him up and relate to him my tale. He shrugs off the story, saying, "yahan aisa kuch nahin hota. Woh kyon tera cycle le jaayega? Appke paas koi bill hai kya? Aap dus baje aiye. Tab sab karamchari ayenge, aur hum dekhenge." (nothing like this happens here. Why would he steal your bicycle? Do you have any bills for your equipment? Come at 10, when everybody comes here. We'll take a look at this then.). If we have any chance of catching the thief, it is early. I am sure he is probably off on a truck or something, speeding off somewhere with the equipment. If we delay, there is no hope. And delay is what the police seems to be helping at this point. Anyway, I realize the helplessness of my situation. Here I am, with no influence in the local place to force anything either. And it does not help to have the unsympathetic cop. He is saying it's all my fault. I well darn know it is, but hearing it from him aint music either. The only saving grace here is the two sweepers at the police station. These guys are good enough to keep my morale up, sympathize with me, and even offering me some much needed tea ! The sweepers also tell me to talk to the Sub-Inspector, the big boss of the place.

Ten O clock strikes. Many more constables show up. The game now seems to be to play football with me. One constable says the said temple does not exist. Another says that the temple falls in another jaamedaar's territory. A third one is giving me lessons on how not to trust strangers. But no attempts at trying to solve the problem. In all fairness, I acknowledge that finding this thief is not an easy job. I can't even describe him to any detail either. And ordeal this is. The biggest thought shaping up in my mind at this time is, "how do I get back to Bangalore". Just a reminder : I have not much in my pocket.

The only way to get back to Bengaluru would need money. And my mind is at work on how to achieve this. Begging and borrowing are good options. Stealing is not ! One bad thing about the mobile is the convenience it offers. How many of you remember any phone numbers at all now-a-days? But now I have the need - and springing in my mind are three numbers: Harsha's number, my Sunticoppa Uncle's number, and my office desk phone number. No point calling my uncle, I tell myself. That would cause needless panic. No point calling my office desk phone either, it's a saturday. So Harsha's number it has to be.

I ask the constable permission to make a phone call. Apparently, STD won't work there. So, I have to go out. Also means need to spend money. Constable gives me twenty rupees. No luck at the PCO. The numbers I am getting to remember just aren't right. Two wrong numbers, eight rupees lost. That's enough for tries, so I give up.

Next option is going to the cyber cafe. There are some in the town. Meanwhile, the Sub Inspector hasn't come to the police station yet, so off I go to try my luck at the cyber cafe. Thirty rupees an hour, and I'm trying to negotiate for half an hour. One hour is out of budget, right ? I have some luck winning over the guy at the cyber cafe with my story. They are surprised to see a software engineer stuck here in Dwaraka in this state. No proof is needed; My skill at the computer is obviously not questionable. First, I try to find some phone numbers. Harsha's website, Vicky's website. No luck there. I turn next to gmail. Reason: the chat feature. Good luck straightway. Ramya (Harsha's wife) is online. Back comes the number quickly. And he is around too. The first line I send to him conveys the seriousness of the situation aptly. It is, "I have lost everything". The reply is, "OMG".

But good tidings happen fast. Harsha contacts Vicky, who turns out to be more resourceful than I had imagined. Vicky's friends father-in-law lives in Meethapur, 20km from Dwaraka. And they are able to arrange some money (1000 rupees) for me at a pan shop. To get more money, the options seem to be a money transfer to an SBI account. The cyber cafe owner offers all help here, including his account number for transfer. Another strategy is using this money to reach Ahmedabad, while Vicky reserves a flight ticket for me to fly from Ahmedabad to Bengaluru.

I have a relaxed lunch as a result of all this.

Post lunch, we have almost closed in on the specifics. Book a bus ticket to Ahmedabad. Then fly to Bengaluru. The only hitch : what to do for the photo identity. A clean way seems to be to get some sort of identity proof from the police to show at the airport. A dubious way seems to be the creation of a "photoshop" Driving License. Being the honest folk, we want to avoid the latter option of course.

The police station situation improved in the evening, but only after the Sub Inspector arrives on the scene. He takes his time to dispose off the others before attending to me. I tell tom him my plight. I am advised that the best thing would be to get a letter from them about the lost DL and phone. Processing the rest would have to be lower priority if I needed to leave by the night bus. The SI has a sense of urgency to his actions, which the situation demands. He also quickly dispatches the romeo-cap styled jamedaar to the scene. Meanwhile, I get a letter stating that I'm so-and-so and have lost my driving license, etc. Letter has a seal of the police station. I'm hoping that this is good enough as an identity. Next I go to book the bus ticket to Ahmedabad.

Hope flickers for a while: Meanwhile, there is some crackle over the wireless - a bicycle has been found. I am asked to stay back for a while to identify this. This unexpected developments brings a new found hope into me. I tell myself that I don't need the camera and other things to continue the tour. All I need is the debit card, and my bike. I could ask vicky to cancel the flight ticket, and go back to the road. Hoping against hope, I let myself believe for a while in a future for the tour. These hopes are dashed at 8 PM. The romeo-cap cop comes back with the theif's cycle. I had told him as much too - that it was present at the same spot.

Now, all doubts cleared, I hop onto the bus at 9 PM. 8 AM, Sunday sees me in Ahmedabad. I want to show up at the airport clean, so I wash my clothes at a Sulabh Shouchalaya. While my clothes are drying, I present a comic picture. Imagine this : me with a slight beard, dirty yellow shirt, very clean saffron lungi, and wearing yellow adidas running shoes with white socks. Not very far from someone on the other side of the divide of mental sanity. Some people in the ST bus stand have picked up these cues rather quickly. A marwadi trying to hardsell people to buy his eatables, asks me, rather cheekily, "RSS? BJP? Taliban?". Another guy close to a tea shop is blabbering something in Gujarati. I tell him to speak in hindi, to which he replies with gibeerish. I give him a mouthful of abuse in English as a reply. That fixes the other onlookers as well.

I am 'rescued' from the distractions at the ST by AmitAnil Bhat, a cab driver known to Basavaraju(Basu), Vicky's friend. I accompany him to the his house, and spend the day till the afternoon there. Amit is a cycling fan too, and holds dearly in his house a book with the tale of the six parsis who travelled worldwide during the time of the second world war. This tale is revered in his home, and the name of the characters is at the tip of the tongue of even his daughter. I get a good welcome, good lunch, and a good nap. I also give some quick advice to Amit's daughter, who is a promising and ambitious 12th standard student.

Next off to the airport. The verification of identity is done at the ticket reservation counter itself. They ask me the phone number of the person who booked the ticket, easy enough. And I am through !!! Check in, and the flight to Bengaluru happens next. I have enough money at the airport to buy a copy of C K Prahalad's well known book, "The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid". I'm keen to tie my experiences over the past years in rural areas into something that makes sense, and I believe the first steps have been taken...

I arrive Bengaluru Airport, with joy on my face : I've made it back. With significant help from my friends, for which I am grateful. And they arrive a few minutes later : Vickly, Harsha, Ramya and Priya. Subway sandwitches, Coffee at coffee day, and the long ride back home. Yes, I'm back !

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Comments (67) Trackbacks (3)
  1. Welcome back bro.

  2. Aah! I bow down to thee. To your poise and to way you’ve chosen to present it.

  3. Aah! I bow down to thee. To your poise and to the way you’ve chosen to present it.

  4. Hi Shree,

    Welcome back!. This is quite an experience. I feel very sorry for the things you lost but I am sure this only made you stronger.
    Hats off to you!. Amidst all this you kept your cool. That’s something very rare to see.

    Another cyclist.

  5. Shreekumar,
    nindu tappilla kaNo. You’ve been very trusting. thale keDskobEDa (easier said than done). aadre khushi aagtide sahaaya sigtu – neeneega vapas anta.

  6. The fool lost everything and became gyani πŸ™‚

  7. Guru – The honesty and humility that you’ve shown is commendable. Glad you are safe and back.

  8. Boss, it’s quite an experience reading the updates. Damn, the ride’s cut short, how.
    Glad you are back, safe.

  9. Uff!!! Super stuff saar. One big bike salute to you!!

  10. Hi Shree,

    I’m Prashanth from Gandhinagar (remember, I called you up around 5 days back)

    Sorry to hear about your ‘loss of everything’… My good wishes are with you…

    Failures are stepping stones to success… I am damn sure you had a learning experience… careful next time ;

  11. Hello Shree,

    Very happy to see that you are back in one piec. Few observations below:

    1. Your post should be titled “My experiments with truth”. I feel that this would be an apt title for a post written from Mahatma Gandhi’s backyard.

    2. You have some great friends that you should be proud of. I am sure you have made friends all over India with your journeys.

    3. You have a great story to tell. For me, this is a story of courage, truth and humility.

    Did you by any chance take the picture of this guy? Did you upload it somewhere? I know this is a mundane question.

    I feel guilty that I asked you before your trip – “What makes you so sure that you won’t be mugged with all your expensive gadgets?”. I am sorry. I didn’t feel it would turn out this way:-(

    I hope I can join you for one of your bike trips. For that, I have to first improve my fitness. I promise to work on this inspired by your story:-)


  12. Shree,

    Sad to hear your experience. Glad you are back safely. Such a shame that these things happened.

    Will call you when you get a new number (let me know).


  13. An opportunity to buy a spanking new bike and ride during this shutdown eh ?
    Good wishes and a good ride soon.
    – Mahesh

  14. Thats what I have been telling Shree! Its an opportunity for new bike :D. Dont kill me for repeating it everywhere πŸ™‚
    I missed an opportunity to buy a new sleeping bag!

  15. Thanks, all for your comments. Thanks to you all also for following the story. If it weren’t for the audience, I perhaps wouldn’t be writing πŸ™‚

    @Prashanth: good to hear from you again.

    @Arvind: Sure will let you know. Looks like I don’t have to visit a police station. I will retain the same number.

    @Mahesh: A ride during shutdown is quite imminent. But it may perhaps be to a closer place. Not sure at this time.

    @Manohar: If you feel the shopping itch much, buy me back some stuff πŸ˜‰

    @Subu: And worry not about the gadgets. Atheist I am, and luck is not what I believe in. No pictures of the suspect. I actually wanted to get one taken with him. But, everything else unchanged, that would only have left the photo in his possession ! Sure you can join us on the shorter trips πŸ™‚ Happy riding ! And yes, I have very good friends. I made some too, but see I’ve lost the contacts in my wallet. Now, imagine what they would be thinking !

    @Mallik: I agree with you. In same spirit, I’d say, “I haven’t lost much yet” !

    @Manikandan: Keeping one’s cool comes with experience, that’s all I can say. One quote that readily comes to my mind is, “Fools learn from their experience, the wise from the experiences of others”. I hope we’d all be wise, but I also hope we’d all be a little more trusting. That’s a paradox, as you can see. Imagine what would happen to “Atithi Devo Bhava” if trust were to vanish…

  16. ???? ???????

    ???? ??????????? ????? ??????????? ?????? ???? ????? ????????.

    ??????? ?????? ??? ????? ?

  17. Oops.. the Kannada fonts do not appear on the blog.

    Anyways wanted to say that you had a cool mind and that you also learnt some things.

    Now the question is when is the next journey?

  18. sad to hear that, welcome back

  19. Quite an experience! Will plan contingency for future outings based on your experience. Thanks for posting this.

  20. It was still an adventure which you can regale others with at any time in your life. Glad you are safe. I know of one tale where the person, on purpose, fed the would-be thief. The thief, realized that he had been tricked – because, “unka namak khaya hai” tradition. The two travellers laughed and went their ways.

  21. That was quite some experience, Shree. I’m glad you’re safe; that the thief didn’t find it necessary to inflict bodily harm on you.

    Is there something we can do to help you recover your losses?

  22. That was certainly not a story I wished to read in your tour blog.
    Well, happy that you are back in piece. Time to built another “Deshpremi” bicycle.

  23. Hi Shree,
    I am glad that you are safe and well. You’ve handled the situation very well. On the bright side its an opportunity to upgrade all your travel kit (including bike , camera) and plan for the next adventure πŸ™‚

  24. hi Shree…good to know you reached home safe.
    I’m pretty OK with the idea of sharing things with fellow citizens…still, this is too much to share…I guess you are done with your life time “sharing” on this tour. Now, I guess , you can demand a license to carry anything anywhere…:)

  25. sad to hear it…. So when is ur next trip. I hope ther are enough learnings from this one

  26. Shree, I am very sorry to hear about this but hats off to you for keeping cool in the need of the hour.

  27. Sorry to hear your story kano…But good that you were able to return back!!
    Hope to c you soon

  28. Hey Shree,

    Trust me this was one of the more thrilling articles i have read off-late.
    Sorry for being in-sensitive.

    I am already thinking about how it would be for you to meet these ppl again (not the thief) in your effort to complete this trip (hoping you will)

    n Welcome Back!

  29. Hi Shree,

    Sorry about hear about the loss. And good to know that you made it home safely. and Hope this situation has made you even stronger, but do not lose hope in people because of this incident.
    I am sure you’ll be off for another tour soon πŸ™‚ Welcome back

    ~Fellow Cyclist

  30. Thanks again, folks. The number of comments on this post is getting quite large. Yeah, hopefully folks will find this useful. There’s this guy on a world trip on a bicycle, and would you know that he lost almost everything too (perhaps not his wallet and mobile phone !) in Mexico somewhere ?

    @Sharath: Naah, that’s surely a compliment !

    @Ashok: Unfortunately, some of the current day thugs don’t believe in this πŸ™‚ I gave him a full meal, tea, one apple and half a packet of Parle G. Exactly the same as what I ate too.

    @Kiran: You’ve made a very valid point. One way of thinking is that the thief didn’t find it necessary to harm me, since all valuables were in the bicycle. Else, who knows? Anyways, I’m not sure what can be done to help recover the loses. Harsha was joking that I should charge a hundred bucks from people before telling my story πŸ™‚

    @Pradeep, others: Sure I will continue my journey, and perhaps from Bhuj. I still have Rajasthan, Punjab, J&K, Leh, Ladakh, Himachal, Haryana & Uttaranchal to cover. Maybe distant Mizoram some other day. I’m not done with my beloved country yet, for sure ! But who knows, when ?

  31. Good you kept your undies, buddy. Next time you get them!

  32. Lost my phone cos i trusted a stranger in country of angels. Had spent 30 minutes with me trying to help me out of my plight before he ran of with my phone, which had all my contacts and i was in a foreign country. Your account is much higher proportions to this. I understand the feeling of betrayal.

    I still agree when say we have to more trusting, cos i have had experiences where i was sitting duck and the so called have nots relieved me of my misery.

    More than the equipments, its the trip that he has stolen from you. Its unfortunate that you ran into that person. Glad that you kept your cool and made it to Bangalore safe and sound.

    Its encouraging to your readers that you have taken the things in right spirit and thinking about your next travel.

    PS: On second thought, no more sleeping in Dhothi in public places πŸ˜›

  33. This was much horrific considering you just lost your shades in Bihar last time. But that mustn’t deter your hopes. Apart from the financial loss I wish you must redo this trip some time later again man.

    Nonetheless it was eventful indeed !

    Best Wishes !

  34. Your account will save a ton of bikers who’ll head out similarly….. Being paranoid abt security is good on a long trip….

    Hope you get a new bike and start biking again soon… Looking forward to ur next trip

  35. Congrats dudes… the first “real” experience, I presume. Welcome back.

  36. Shreekumar, I’m not sure if I feel sorry for you – strange as it may sound, I feel good about the fact that you’ve inadvertently had a chance to feel like “Tom Hanks” in “Cast Away” – you’ve suddenly had a wonderful opportunity to appreciate simple things in life and value them. Don’t you feel like that? Honestly, after reading your experience, that’s exactly what came to my mind.
    On another note, your articulation of your experience is definitely worth a 100 bucks!

  37. Lost and found again….

    I hope you remember me.
    That is quite good that you have come back again without any scar physically(mentally…may be)…
    I should say you should really be appreciated for explaining everything in very detail that it was quite easy to imaginge (poor)you in that situation.
    It is rightly said … The winners always win whatever situation they are bound to face… And you have come out as a winner…
    Hats off to you for keeping your nerves in this unwanted situation. May be this situation has taught you many things … That is why whatever happens .. happens for something…
    Certainly many question is popping in my mind but I am confused from where to start..
    Questions about the technology you bundled yourself with during these adventurous trips and many more…
    Anyways those questions I will ask via an email…

    In the end I can just say..
    This is what you had written in you contact page
    “Most of the content on this website is devoted to my most visible hobby, riding cycles. I expect that to change someday.”
    I am just worried and afraid will this experience dampen your spirit of adventurous biking…
    All the best and dont stop the passion which you have chosen for you…
    God Bless…

  38. @Enti: Thanks. You make an excellent point here. I didn’t mention explicitly in the story how things looked like when there was no money in my pocket. It’s difficult ! I mean, we are so centered around money as the means of “exchanging effort”. This was not the first time I had close to no money in my pocket, and I’ll write about that in the next post. I hope to shed some light on what many have noticed : I’m not affected as much by the loss as many of you expect. Anyway, I got a new ATM card and feel “in control” again.

    @Santosh: On bicycles, and this kind of experience ? Yes πŸ™‚

    @Sudhir: Must say, I now understand the paranoia that I notice in others much better.

    @Balu: I’ll continue from Bhuj some other day for sure – perhaps in more pleasant climes πŸ™‚

    @Rushi: As funny as always πŸ™‚

    @Praveen: Yeah, no more sleeping in Dhoti in open places πŸ™‚ I still feel the dent he caused in my trust was larger than the aborted trip. My trip can happen again, at another time. But the damage this person might have caused to my idea of trust – now that’s something that will affect more people for sure. And therein, I think lies the real tragedy. It’s easy to think I may trust people less or put up a false face of trust. As another example, take the case of the baba at the mandir. Now, given that the police came to his doorstep, he would definitely be reluctant to let others stay. And others would quote the story too…

  39. @Ketan: Thanks. Honestly, trying to remember who you could be; anything to shine a light would be most useful πŸ™‚ I need to explain the tech stuff all in one piece in another post, and will do so surely. This incident won’t dampen my spirit I hope too. Regarding what’s on my contact page: computers are my first love, not bicycles. But that’s not apparent on my website anywhere. That’s what I think may change some day.

  40. Lost & Found again

    Glad that you are safe en back to Bengaluru !!

    Sad to know about this. But it’s a good learning experience for you for the next trip. Wishing You All the Very Best for the Next Ride πŸ™‚

  41. @Shree – October 19th, 2009 – 16:36

    Hey I am Ketan working with Gumbi Software Pvt Limited.. Harsha Mahabala Company…More reference..We had dinner together on 18 October 2009 together in Mr.KK Bhat home in PrashanthNagar in Bharti sister birthday party…Now at least you remember ..still no clue..visit my website http://www.ketansnadar.com

  42. Glad ur safe… & an experience that will never be forgotten…
    time to write a book like “The monk who sold his ferrari”

  43. @Ulti, Sathish: Thanks, guys! And Satish, now I have more material for talks πŸ˜‰

    @Ketan: Of course I remember clearly now. Must admit your complete name fooled me completely ! Plus, I forgot to check your website; doing that would have saved me some embarrassment πŸ™‚

  44. Hi Shree,

    This is Praneeth, an amateur cyclist. I have been following your website for quite sometime (past 1.5 yrs) and have been leaving comments in your old postings….

    1) I must say that the way you articulate things are amazing and it makes us feel that we have cycled thru the places that you have toured so far.

    2) Its really unfortunate to know that you had to call a halt to your trip due to unfortunate incident. I really commend the presence of mind & courage shown by you despite the traumatic experience with the stranger a.k.a friend-for-a-day and also with the local police.

    Will catch up with you and would like to do a trip along with you once…..

    Good luck and looking forward to your next postings with your cycle.

  45. Hi Shree,

    Last I saw your web page when you’d announced ur plans and now some few days later I just check in and see this. Gosh!
    Anyway you have been a brave fellow.
    Meanwhile ‘am just getting out in 2 weeks time on a 2 month ride across south. Hopefully…
    All the best best and ‘am sure you’ll be out there planning for the next trip.

  46. @Praneeth: Thanks. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the future posts and we’ll get to ride together sometime!

    @Jojo: All the best for your trip too! And hoping we’ll see stories from you too (not of this type, though πŸ™‚ )

  47. Amazing, just amazing. I’d have probably flipped. Hats off to you!

  48. Hi there, I’ve just read your story. Sorry to hear that you lost all your gear. I’ve a question about your efforts to find the stolen bike. I am a little surprised that not much effort seems to have been made. I would have thought that it wouldn’t be too hard to find the bike. I am not from India but a bike such as yours must stand out in Gujarat, no? There can’t be too many like it. But more to the point, didn’t you say the guy who stole your gear was the son of the man at the ashram. Couldn’t the police have gotten to the theif that way. I don’t understand this part. Maybe I misunderstood something in your story.

    A suggestion or next time. Take a bike lock and lock up your gear. If you can’t lock it to a post, just lock the wheels to the frame. That should slow a thief down at least a little bit. I was actually starting to think of not taking a lock on my upcoming trip but now you’ve made me reconsider the wisdom of that.

    Hopefully your future trips will end as you had planned.

    Good luck.

  49. Friends!!!… what would this world be without them?

    Thanks would be a small word but I mean it, from bottom of my heart…
    Thanks to all those who helped Shree

    Glad you are back safe and sound Shree. You managed the situation quite well. Not everyone will have such patience and skills.


  50. @Aussie: As you’ve noted in another comment, the guy wasn’t the son of the man at the ashram. I am not making much efforts since I don’t believe we can catch this chap! The best chance we had was in the early hours, but that was lost since the police was least interested. I believe, that this is of least importance to them; it gets them nothing. In many parts of the world, people typically insure many things. But not here; perhaps I’ll try insurance as a backup the next time! And being extra careful of course.

    Regarding your suggestion: I used to lock most other times. The critical error I made here was trusting this chap. Sometime I think what would have happened if I had locked the bike and kept the key in my pocket. Then things may have gone ill with me for a sleeping chap is an easy target, right. That’s one reason I’m happy to return safe πŸ™‚

    @Nautanki: Well said, true friends are ones you find around during adversity!

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