A blessed Thaipusam ride to connect people

“You must make your dream a priority in order for it to become your life.” – Bob Proctor

Thaipusam is a time to seek the blessings of Lord Muruga. This has seen me and my family climbing up the steps at the temple in Batu Caves over the years.

The Covid-19 pandemic, however, put a temporary halt to our family tradition.

As for last Sunday, my missus felt it was only right to postpone the ascent until three of my daughters, who were away studying, returned for their break.

Since the ascent was postponed, I planned a ride down south to Iskandar Puteri, Johor, to meet my third daughter for breakfast, and then ride to the Desaru Fruit Farm to buy honey and organic fruits, before collecting the Vehicle Entry Permit card (VEP) for entry into Singapore.

It was going to be a busy ride.

My ‘rider in crime’ was Dr Harjeet Singh. We were supposed to meet at 4am and start our journey 15 minutes later.

I usually head to bed at 9pm, but last Saturday, my schedule was disrupted by my interest in watching a Korean series on Netflix called ‘Military Prosecutor Doberman’.

I ended up sleeping at midnight. I woke up an hour later than I was supposed to, and quickly messaged Dr Harjeet, requesting to meet up at 4.30am, instead.

Riding early in the morning – with the fresh air and minimal traffic – lifted my spirits out of my self-induced sense of guilt and depression for my indiscipline. It was a clear non-stop 278km run to Machap in Johor, for fuel.

I decided to change the genre of music, from techno to songs from the 60s. Not sure whether it was divine or coincidental, the evergreen song ‘House of the Rising Sun’ by The Animals was playing in my ears when I reached a crest on the highway, and witnessed the dawning of a new day (main image).

We made it to the breakfast meet with 10 minutes to spare.

My daughter brought along her friend for breakfast. It’s always nice to meet up with your children’s friends.

I found out that her dad rides a bike, too. Looks like I am going to be good friends with her dad. Who knows, we may ride together to meet the young ladies for breakfast.

During our conversation, both my daughter and her friend revealed that they were involved in a project, and some of their group mates were not pulling their weight in the effort. Looks like they have arrived at the chapter ‘Reality of Life 101’, where they will have to read, understand, and learn, as we all did.

Biding them farewell, it was an 85km ride to Desaru Fruit Farm, Bandar Penawar. The ride took us along the scenic Senai-Desaru Expressway to cross the beautiful Sungai Johor cable bridge, straddling the river with the same name.

The Desaru Fruit Farm is a 72.84ha tropical fruit wonderland. It is an educational, fun-filled, and fruitful outing for the family.

My family and I visited the fruit farm last July. We were joined by three other families. The fruit farm is well run by a group of friendly and fun-loving staff. The fruit harvest is bountiful and sweet. Their bee-keeping produces good, tasty, natural honey.

Both Dr Harjeet and I were the first visitors for the day, and we got to meet the sales manager, Linda Er. She even obliged us with a photo opportunity.

(L-R): The writer, Er and Dr Harjeet at the fruit farm.

With our panniers filled with the produce from the farm, our next destination was the Land Transport Authority office in city centre, 66km away, to pick up the VEP card.

This is the passport for your vehicle entry into Singapore. The office is open 24/7. Our miscalculation was in not realising that it was close to the famous Glass Temple in Johor Bahru.

As it was Thaipusam, the road was congested. What should have taken us 20 seconds, took us 15 minutes.

We had to park 50m away from the office. As Dr Harjeet collected the card, I watched devotees walking by; some having completed their religious obligations, and some on their way to do so.

It was a kaleidoscope of colours and sounds. In all this, I noticed an elderly, frail gentleman, walking alone slowly, with the aid of a walking stick, and looking lost.

I could not help myself and walked up to him and introduced myself with a smile. The last thing I wanted to do was to scare him.

It looked as though he got separated from his family in the crowd, and only thing he could do was walk back to where they had parked the car.

I got him a chair to sit down and helped called his son (Karthik) to inform him where his father was.

The elderly gentleman and I spoke. He introduced himself as Ramasamy, having retired 35 years ago from Lembaga Letrik Negara (now known as Tenaga Nasional Bhd), and now staying with his son.

After the short chat, Dr Harjeet and I left. Traffic was still heavy and we broke free 1km later – a clear run to the highway for our journey home.

We stopped for fuel along the way and met two Harley Davidson riders who introduced themselves as Bob D and Zul. They were both riding Street Glides.

The brotherhood of bikers breeds a sense of familiarity, even among strangers. Wishing them a safe ride, Dr Harjeet and I started our long journey home.

Over the years, I have realised that when the distance focus becomes mildly blurry, it is an early sign of fatigue, dehydration, or hypoglycaemia. Best is to stop at the nearest safe location to recuperate. Unfortunately, where we were, it was the Pedas Linggi rest and recuperation area.

I was surprised to see a new chocolate bar from the Sneakers line, which had wrappers with positive quotes. I chose mine; “Life Goes On”.

We were re-energised and rejuvenated. And that was a good thing, as it rained from Rembau, all the way to Seremban.

My investment in my all-weather riding gear was giving good returns as I was bone-dry. We went past many large biker groups and met others at the places we stopped. It was shocking to note that many were riding with only their ride T-shirts and jeans, and no protective gear.

I agree with the statement “The asphalt is the best tattoo remover”. We must keep this in mind and always be well-protected.

Dr Harjeet and I parted ways at the junction of the Elite and Kesas highways. He headed home, while I went straight to my workplace in Klang to attend to a patient.

The call of duty is never far away. Care was dispensed, and it was onward to home.

My ride partner checked in, and so did I, the final obligation to be completed for a successful ride.

It was a satisfying weekend ride. I got to spend time with my daughter, visited a fruit farm, helped a senior citizen, discharged my professional duties, and reached home safely at the end of the day.

I feel that my rides are more than just rides. They help in connecting with people, and also in connecting people.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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