Blood & Brown Sugar – The Ride of his Life
Before 2010, NH8 was the designation for the major highway from Delhi to Mumbai, then in the south, the name changed to NH4 from Mumbai to Chennai. Old-timers still refer to it in these increments.
But now the entire route, re-designated as NH48, is the principal conduit for thousands of motorists to travel through India, north to south. The highway winds its way through six states and provides access to many of India’s largest cities. It is not the preferred route for drug smugglers, but the Horses were at a full gallop and needed to reach Goa as quickly as possible.
Alex squirmed in his seat, his eyelids drooping. They had set out from Udaipur at 4:30 that morning, and ten hours later, they continued to push forward. Still, he thought, travelling through the landscapes of Rajasthan, Gujarat and now Maharashtra, has been exhilarating.
The rugged desert had stirred a deep-seated wanderlust in his soul. It had struck fast and without warning, like a wave of intoxication. The twisted rock formations had brought a numbing sense of serenity. With each bend in the road, a new dreamscape would appear in front of them. It took Alex a few hours to name the emotion. It was something he had never felt. With Ipsita close to him, wrapping her arms around him and holding him tight, he could almost forget the malevolent cloud hanging overhead. The true and sinister nature of this ride.
He reached down with his left hand and grasped Ippy’s thigh just above her knee and squeezed. She responded by putting her hands on his hips and returning the gesture.
As Alex seriously weighed the pros and cons between his previous life and the one he has just been thrust into, he realised it was one hell of a tradeoff to consider switching. To live his life by his own rules and fuel this emerging sense of freedom and respect, he would need to cross some considerable moral boundaries. Could I do that? Be an outlaw, be a biker?
Alex focussed on Ramdev in front of him. Daya was riding pillion, her long brown hair flowing out from her helmet. She sat motionless, like a sack of rice. There were no loving or playful interactions between the two of them.
Ramdev held fast on the right-hand side of the lane and Alex, as they had told him to do, staggered to the left. He caught the glint of Shiv’s headlight in his mirror and he knew Hiran was twenty metres behind them, riding tail. The four bikes wound like a snake down this ribbon of black tarmac, a rhythmic mechanical dance through the wild and unpolished landscape surrounding them.
Despite the desperate situation, or perhaps because of it, Alex tasted a freedom he had never experienced. The simple sight of the sun faded asphalt slipping under his front tire gave him wings.
It seemed the more kilometres of open highway the group ate up, the more untouchable he felt, impervious to the pressures of his everyday life and cleansed from the expectations of an unforgiving society.
It just doesn’t matter here. On the road, nothing does. The genuine nature of being a biker flowed within him, carrying with it an inescapable sense of exemption. This must be the drug that they crave, the reason they shun cultured civilisation and live by their own rules. Alex had tapped into the deep-rooted psyche of every biker. This is the soul of it. This is why my father had left my mother. This is the justification they used to transport drugs, to kill, to do whatever needed to be done to preserve their brotherhood. And nothing could touch them, not as long as they had each other.
Ipsita’s hand slipped forward and caressed his crotch. He felt her chest heave against his back as she laughed. Alex released her leg and slapped at her. He could picture her girl-like pout and a smile broke over his lips. The bike leapt as he rolled the throttle, anxious and willing. He wove within the lane for a while, letting the wind caress his face and the late afternoon sun warm him.
Ramdev raised his right hand and made a fist, then slowed and pulled off to the side of the road. Alex followed, and when they came to a stop in single file, he hit the kill switch. Dust swirled around them as the bikes unsettled the gravel on the soft shoulder. Alex wiped his visor clean. He shook his head to clear the dull ringing in his ears, lingering after the continuous thump from his bike engine.
Ippy groaned and slipped off the seat. Alex kicked down the side stand and followed her, peeling off his helmet. He lit a smoke as Hiran joined them and Shiv scampered down the slight incline to relieve himself behind a tree. Ramdev walked over and shot a disdainful glance at Ipsita. Taking the hint, she went to stand with Daya.
“We are making excellent time, brother,” Hiran said. Ramdev nodded while lighting a joint. He took two long hits on it and passed it to Hiran.
“You’re doing all right, Alex?” Ramdev said. Alex looked at him through his windswept bangs.
“Yeah, I’m okay. Surprised you give a shit,” he answered. Ramdev shrugged.
“I do, in a way. But it’s your cargo I’m worried about and I don’t mean her,” he said, glancing at Ippy. He took the joint back from Hiran. “We’ll stop in Thane. I haven’t been able to get a hold of Marceau all day, and it’s making me a little uneasy. We’ll tell Mumbai to collect from us there instead of going all the way into the city.”
“I’ll call them,” Hiran said and walked away, fishing out his phone.
“You did well, Alex. Back in Delhi.” Ramdev took another long pull on the joint and then offered it to Alex. Alex shook his head, but inexplicably, his pride swelled with Ramdev’s praise.
“I meant what I said to you before we left. Despite the… unusual circumstances, you have proven yourself to me, Alex. Your character, at least. I will stress it to Marceau. There may be a place for you with the Chevaux de Fer. You would need to want it though.”
“How do you live with it?” Alex asked.
“Live with what?”
“Living outside the law. Running drugs, shooting at police, killing people.” Ramdev raised his eyebrows and chuckled.
“You think we run around killing people daily? No one enjoys taking a life, Alex. Well, there are some true psychotics, I suppose. But I don’t. Hiran doesn’t. To say I chose this life would be to mislead you. This life chose me, and once I tasted it, I couldn’t live any other way. I am talking about the purity of it, Alex, real biker freedom. Not the bullshit that gets tangled up with it. Once you feel it, it sets you free and you find others who feel this way as well. Brothers. As in all things, Alex, there comes a time when you must choose, and once you do, protect that choice. Being in a motorcycle club isn’t about drugs or killing. At least it shouldn’t be. It’s a lifestyle. One that you don’t consider without giving it much thought.”
“No shit?” Alex laughed. Ramdev smiled and flicked the roach into the dirt.
“No shit. That thing inside you are trying to keep alive, it will kill you, Alex,” he said. Ramdev’s phone chirped and he pulled it from his cut.
“Hello?” he asked. Alex walked towards his bike.
“Sumit? Calm the fuck down!” Ramdev barked. Alex stopped. He watched as Ramdev twitched, listening to whoever was yelling on the other end of the line.
“Yes, I told him to call. It’s not an issue, just come to Thane and pick up…” The yelling was audible from the receiver. “You question my leadership? I’ve got years on you!” Ramdev’s shoulders slumped. “Yes, but…” The line obviously went dead.
“Everything okay?” Alex asked him.
“Saddle up!” Ramdev called, ignoring Alex’s question, and they returned to their bikes. The group pulled back out onto the highway and sped towards Thane.
Was it the violence? Was it the courtesan riding pillion, or simply the mechanical beast between his legs? Something had ripped a hole in the fibre of Alex Crossman’s moral fabric. A tear that is now allowing him to examine the things he had never before dared – The dark and primal corners of his nature. Faced now with a nagging truth, Alex must decide if he will stitch the cut closed, or shred the veil completely and release the man he is scared to become. Read Blood & Brown Sugar to find out his decision.