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Travel

Goan Hell Ride Landmark Bookshop
Colin Todhunter takes a hair-raising ride
Goan Hell Ride Landmark Bookshop in Chennai's Spencer Plaza is said to be Asia's biggest. But there is a problem. In terms of overall floor space, it may be the largest, but much of it is taken up with music, furniture, and various other non-book products. Strictly speaking, it is not solely a bookshop.

But who cares? Not me. I have a master plan. My book Chasing Rainbows in Chennai was released there, and now sits proudly on the shelf next to Harry Potter. But that is just the beginning; the plan is to colonise the place with my products. Next on the list is the videogames section.

I recently came up with the idea for such a game. If someone will market it for me, I could get rich, quick. It is based on a moped ride along dirt roads from Calangute to Anjuna in Goa. It takes place in pitch darkness. Of course, the moped is poorly maintained and has a low quality headlight. The driver may drink copious amounts of cheap Goan beer beforehand, so his judgment is impaired just enough to make the ride "interesting." But, of course, drinking beer prior to embarkation is illegal and, strictly speaking, is absolutely unthinkable!

Ready? Then, off we go. The driver has to keep his eyes firmly fixed to the ground in order to anticipate the divots, excess gravel, sand and potholes. But it's not that simple. As you are thrown up and down and jolted from side to side, there are numerous distractions. Flying insects get into your hair, eyes, ears and mouth. Cobwebs criss-cross the lanes and also get into your hair, eyes, ears and mouth. As your eyes begin to water from the flying debris, trees appear out of nowhere in the middle of the road. Duck in time to avoid the branches or say goodbye to your head. As you duck, dive, water and slide, packs of angry dogs bark, chase and attack your ankles. And things just wouldn't seem right without the cows, goats and hens littering the road. The odd vehicle approaches from the opposite direction. You don't see any of this until it all comes into the beam of your marvellous headlight about half a metre before possible impact. And, of course, if you are male, as soon as you get on a bike you think you are the greatest driver on earth, resulting in over-confidence and excessive risk taking.

So there you have it. The bike is weaving and pitching to cope with the bad road surface, and the on-coming trees, cows, goats and hens. Half the time you only have one hand on the thing as with the other you attempt to brush away the spiders, cobwebs, flies, crickets or whatever eerie horror-insect that may be flying around in the dead of night. Bursts of full throttle occur to out-manoeuvre the packs of howling dogs (while you try to kick them away as they come too close to your ankle for comfort). So in fact, half the time you only have one leg fixed to the bike, eyes open, and mind on the actual road.
And the winner is...? Not the fastest time, not the one who gets back first, not anything so mundane - but merely the one who makes it back in one piece - cobweb-free, insect-free, rabies-free and with head intact. Maybe the whole concept is just unmarketable - it is just too hard. Where did my inspiration come from for such a hare-brained thing? A moped ride in Goa? Well, I can't possibly say! Inspiration is a very personal and unique thing that is sometimes best left unsaid. Any takers?

© Colin Todhunter July 2003


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