As in riding, balance in family life, is key

No man is an island. This 400-year-old poem by John Donne is more relevant today than when it was written.

Being withdrawn and isolated is common with the advent of digital and social media. Individuals are living in their own virtual world.

We see this phenomenon too often, at dinner tables and public spaces. The mental health situation of certain individuals, across all age groups, worsened over the past two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Even the young were affected.

Many factors contributed to this – work, the situation at home, school, finances, marriage, relationships, and health, are but a few. The resulting mental isolation, fatigue, and loneliness, often lead to drastic and tragic decisions.

Many families have been devastated by the loss of their loved ones. We need to break free of this self-imposed mental prison, try to seek help, to sail the sea of life, and reach out to meet, and greet people.

It’s not an easy feat, I can assure you. Sail, I cannot, but ride, I can.

My ride with Dr Harjeet Singh, aka ‘Tourin’ Singh’ three weekends ago was really good, but last weekend, he was off with his family. My rather early departure (4.45am) does not win me company, and I too, do not like to disturb my friends’ family time.

But I tried my luck with a good friend whom I last rode with, 67,000km ago. It had been some time. He was supposed to have joined Dr Harjeet and I for our udang galah (lobster) trip but was unable to.

So, my ride buddy last weekend was Twentytwo13 editor, Haresh Deol. He was accompanied by the news website’s managing editor, Pearl Lee.

Haresh rides a Triumph Trophy 1200SE, a sleek, aerodynamic, ‘Deep Blue’ machine. She is from a long line of great bikes by the British manufacturer. With all the bells, whistles, electronic suspension, and a strong heart, she does cruise very gracefully.

We took a real circumferential route to Bahau, Negeri Sembilan, to meet up with my former classmate, Dr Goh Kay Yow (main image, left).

Our tyres rolled at 5am sharp, and our machines took us along the ever exciting, twisting, flowing, “free your spirit” Kuala Lumpur-Karak highway.

I told ‘Christine’ (yup, I’ve named my beast after the “Spirited Plymouth Fury” from the book of the same name by Stephen King) that our run today will be a canter, rather than the usual gallop she is used to, as we have a lady for company.

We passed through Karak town, which was still in sleep mode, and cut into Route 9 – 98km of long, undulating, wavy road, through Telemong and Manchis, in Pahang. We passed several small towns that seemed to have been frozen in time. Quaint coffee shops with only one or two patrons enjoying their early morning cuppa in silence.

The morning mist was quite thick. I was leading the way with my full array of lights, regularly checking my rear view mirrors for Deep Blue. I realised her lights were dull and lacklustre.

I advised Haresh that Deep Blue required “cataract surgery” and implants – replace the old halogens with newer ones. She needed an appointment with ‘Dr’ Oh Jin Seng of Sunny Cycles.

After Manchis, the road signs warned of a twisty road ahead. This, of course, was an irresistible invitation for Christine as she galloped for the next 40km. What a rush it was.

We waited at the turn junction for Deep Blue to catch up, and continued our journey to Bahau.

There, we met Dr Goh for breakfast at a Ming Phatt Kopitiam, with food to thrill the taste buds.

Dr Goh runs a successful general practice and is quite a popular doctor. This does not come as a surprise, for he is a gentle and empathetic soul.

Quite a number of patrons acknowledged his presence. One group obliged for a photo with him. That’s the beauty of a small town – everybody becomes family.

Dr Goh (left) with some of the patrons at the kopitiam. Image: Twentytwo13

We had a few others who could not join us last weekend – Dr Alvin Tan, Dr Justin Moses, and Dr M. Ramanesh.

Dr Goh gifted us with the local popular biscuits. I felt good and happy meeting him.

The ride back was via Kuala Pilah and onto the Kajang-Seremban Highway (Lekas). Here, we split up to go our separate ways home. Thank you, Haresh and Pearl, for the great company. It is always a pleasure riding with you guys.

Last weekend was my better half, K. Malinidevi’s birthday. So, I took a detour to pick up the pre-ordered cupcakes from my friend in Puchong. She bakes some really beautiful, and tasty cakes.

Post-cake collection, the ride home was the slowest in the last seven years, as I did not want to mash up the cakes.

I also got the help of my great, and fun-loving neighbours Sithra and her husband Deva, both armed with PhDs, to help pick up the flowers I had arranged for. Je suis romantique.

The idea was that they would visit my wife for a Sunday chat, and maybe, an ad hoc lunch outing. My plan was to reach home, park my bike, and go to Deva’s car parked in front, which would be conveniently left unlocked, pick up the flowers and walk in the house, fully suited, complete with the helmet, and give her the gifts. The epitome of a loving biker husband.

Dr Narendran surprising Malinidevi with cupcakes and flowers.

Having clocked 346km, I reached home at 10.36am. The look on her face said it all.

My better half has always been a steady rock wall for the family all these years, even putting up with my idiosyncrasies. She deserved this surprise, love and more. I thank God for giving this wonderful woman as my life partner.

There are several reasons why I go out early for my rides – the clean fresh air, clear roads, and the chance to catch up with friends, and make new ones. Oh, and to also let Christine stretch her legs.

I make it a point to get back early in order to spend quality time with the family. This balance is very important – getting to do what you enjoy, interacting with people, making new friends and keeping old ones, lighting the spark of romance in the marriage, revitalising oneself, and exploring the world. This will ensure no man is an island.

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

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