Tuesday, July 15, 2014


I had these symptoms many years ago.  That too was a time of turmoil and I wasn't getting enough sleep and was suffering from a lot of fatigue in my legs. Even after I started to get reasonable amount of sleep, the fatigue persisted. Then it all disappeared and became hale and hearty again. Now it has returned. In June I fell sick. It was diarrhea, followed by a severe back pain that left me bedridden for over two weeks. I tried almost everything, for massages done from three different places, got physiotherapy from two places but in vain. Finally I got sick of it and just decided to move my butt back to work. I exercised away the back pain but then my thighs and calves developed intense fatigue that wouldn't go away no matter how much I massaged them or rested them. I can't stand or walk for very long anymore. Have developed knots in my calf muscles and by calf tendons have very tight and inflamed. My sister said that it could be fibromyalgia. I read about it and found out that I sure had some symptoms. The particularly striking one being one talked about being extremely fatigued even after sleeping for more than 8 hours or so. This sure is me! I checked the reasons and found that they were rather unknown but suggested that it could be a result of a physical stress/ trauma or mental trauma/depression. 

Depression was stated as a possible reason. While I sure am mentally disturbed to a small degree for the past few months but I don't consider myself depressed. I’m surely terribly stressed out because of my career but I'm definitely not depressed. Then there was the bike ride that started it all. My wife and I rode to Mcleodganj in very hot weather and I made the terrible mistake of balancing a big, heavy, wobbly bag on the fuel tank. We'd expected the hill to be cool but only Mcleodganj offered a bit of respite, which lasted only <20 kms="" nbsp="" of="" out="" the="" total=""> 250 kms. Through the ride, I had to hold the bag squeezed between my thighs and even with my arms, on turns. Some stretches had terribly eroded roads…roads? I wouldn't call them roads, they were solid potholes. Mcleodganj itself is stressful on legs. The long flight of stairs to the hotel was a massive trek in itself, especially while hauling a heavy bag. Worse still was that we had to climb back out every time we wanted to get out of the hotel, which was twice in a day. In 3-4 days, my legs had almost given way; the calves were especially in a bad state. To make matters worse…we had to ride back the same way, in the same terrible heat and the same stretches of horrible tarmac. We made a good speedy start but then, in the terrible heat, my bike stopped dead on the hills. No warning, nothing, just RIP. The heat was killing us and we were heavily loaded with stuff, not to mention, my bike is heavy. I had to push it uphill for some distance that almost snuffed the life out of me. I was also cursing myself for torturing my wife like this; she was following me, sweating in the heat and stress. We were very lucky to have found a mechanic in that place but we were set back by almost two hours.

The return ride took 9 hours of motorcycling through mostly good roads but the bad stretches took a heavy toll. By the time we reached Bhakra Nangal, the sun had set and our plans had already gone awry. I never ride in the dark due to obvious safety concerns but now we didn't have a choice. Because I wasn't prepared to ride in the dark, I hadn't bother about my scratched helmet visor. As it grew dark I could no longer keep the visor down due to poor visibility and no sooner did I lift it, my eyes were bombarded with hundred of insects. I had no choice but to go on blinking frequently and take the beating on my eyes. Then one of the thing got into my eye and did something in there that that eye started to burn severely. I was flickering my eyelash to rid whatever it had secreted in there, and then....I dunno what it was but something real big bombed my other eye...it was really big, hit my eye and went out from the opening in the helmet underneath. I screamed in pain as I gradually slowed the the motorcycle to come to a halt. I pressed my eye with my palm as hard as I could as the pain was unbearable. All this was freaked my wife out and she broke into tears. I realized I had to control my reaction or she'd lose it completely seeing me like that. I asked her to calm down, telling her that I was ok and it'd be fine soon. My eye was throbbing and pulsating with pain. I realized to not adequate clear, eye-protection for night riding could have cost us more dearly had I lost control of the bike going at 90 kmph when I was I got hit by whatever it was. I washed my eye with copious amount of water and waited till the throbbing and burning subsided to a bearable degree. We had not even reached half way and home was still very far away. We were tired and covered in dirt and nearly hallucinating from breathing truck exhaust fumes most of the way. We were negotiating overtaking high speed trucks and buses on the highway, not to mention the occasional car driver that thought he was on F1 track, had a few close calls but we couldn't slow down and prolong the torture. All my senses were alert at full intensity, lest we get into a compromising situation, which would’ve spelt disaster on the highway at night with a lot of high-speed traffic. All this while, the godforsaken bag had to be balanced on the tank. Wife too was carrying my camera bag on her back, which was by no means light. We made it home after 9 hours of starting from Mcleodganj. Then started the fatigue syndrome that led to one ailment after another.

Lessons from the bike ride:
  • Although my bike was all set to go and I had all the spares like foot-pump, tyre-tubes, chain-link, most of the tools to remove tyres, chain, tubes, spare fuses etc. Everything was in perfect working condition but the battery was old. It just went kaput without warning, so you really need to be careful about the condition of your battery. Once the battery has crossed its warranty life, it's a no brainer to replace it before a long ride, even it seems to be working perfectly fine before the ride.
  • You just gotta have a clear eye protection for the post-sunset milieu. I wouldn't ever want my eyes to go through the torture that they went through in the last leg of the ride. I can be fatal if you get hit in eye with such force and lose control of the bike at high speed. 
  • Riding gloves are a must. I had them and I can vouch for their importance.
  • Don't have a heavy bag on the tank...or if you must, have it restrained such that it doesn't sway around. I got too caught up centering heavy weight, which was a great thing as far as ride handling is concerned but it brought its own problem of a wobbly bag on the tank. For a nine hour bike ride, that's a big no-no. 

So the fatigue, that has become chronic, does seem to be about mental and physical stress. Problem is that once it sets in, it doesn't go away that easy. I'm at it, resting, eating, exercising and working, trying to balance it all and curing myself from this irritating problem. Once I'm ok, we'll do this again taking the experience with us.

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