Romance Drama Fiction

Taking a bike trip on the unforgiving mountain roads in winter was for the headstrong, or the heartbroken.

Capt. Sanjay Singh stepped out of his cozy company commander’s hut in Fukché. Sepoy Tshering, his buddy, tagged along with a duffle bag that had canned food, winter clothing, and a sleeping bag.

They met Subedar Asif Ali and two more sepoys, outside the compound wall on which the regimental emblem- an ibex with ‘SCOUTS’, and Julé were painted in deep maroon. The three gave a snappy salute as the captain approached them. Subedar Asif Ali had tried in vain to persuade Capt. Singh to go with the convoy that was scheduled for the week after.

A red Royal Enfield stood in front of them, its metal grill glimmering through the morning fog. Sep. Tshering fastened the luggage and stepped back. A jerrycan was already pegged to the bike. Subedar Asif handed an envelope.

“The movement order sir. The bike has been thoroughly checked in MT, sir. The toolkit and jerrycan are kept as per your orders, sir.”

“Good saab, spark plugs?”

“Yes sir! Extra ones have been kept, sir.”

“Good, I will get started then. Thank you saab,” Capt. Singh strapped his gloves, took the helmet from sepoy Tshering and kicked the bike to a roar.

The men in combat uniforms stepped back and saluted in unison, “Jai Hind Sir!”

The bike left a cloud of desert sand behind as it crossed the check barrier in the middle of the barbed fence area of the infantry outpost. Capt. Singh flicked the fog light on and revved his bike on the unmetalled road to the left of the airfield, flanked by the brown-black mountains. The sun was still struggling.

 If the weather followed the forecast, the fog should clear by the time I reach Nyoma.

Of course, the weather barely followed the forecast, much like life.


By the time he had crossed Hanle, the outer layer of his jacket had turned a deep olive green. The tributary by the side of the road that sparkled with cobalt blue waters in summer, on which black-necked ducks floated, was nearly frozen.

The ducks! Waddling in the park of Vasant Vihar, oblivious to the wreck who walked along after being dumped by his girlfriend.

The bike skidded over a random violet-hued rock but was quickly balanced by him. He decided to stop for a bit and take a sip of saffron tea from the flask Sep Tshering had prepared.

A wandering shepherd’s tent was pitched on an ochre patch of land next to the tributary. Tourists did visit such tents occasionally for a cup of butter tea or contrabands like pashmina and shahtoosh shawls. A dusty, forest-green SUV with a Delhi license plate was parked next to it.

As he closed his flask, a short form with a heavy DSLR stepped out of the tent, climbed into the vehicle, and started it. The vehicle neared the road within seconds. The woman at the wheel, wearing a purple ski cap and a mismatched jacket, slowed down, smiled, and waved at her hosts.

Capt. Singh climbed back on the bike and pressed the self-starter. He didn’t want to be stuck behind an SUV on the narrow road. The bike whimpered. Cursing under his breath, he tried kick-starting it. It sputtered.

Damn it!

The SUV stopped and reversed.

“Are you all right, mister?” a voice, a bit too strong for her form called out.

He looked up into a pair of fearless eyes and rubbed an old scar on his eyebrow.

“Yes, thank you.”


“Yes,” he nodded.

The SUV pulled away. He pulled out the toolkit. He was sure it was a minor thing.

He spent the night at the shepherd’s tent. And reached Delhi a day later than he was expected.


I might as well have not turned up at all!

“Whatever happens is for the best beta, there’s someone better waiting for you,” Mrs. Singh sighed as she brushed an imaginary speck off her son’s kurta. They were going to the wedding of their family friend’s daughter; the daughter who was his childhood friend, high school sweetheart, and now someone’s bride. At times he wondered how much of it was their own choice and how much of it was their families’. He hurt anyway when she had broken off with him.

“I can’t just throw away my career and tag along with you, Sanjay!” she had said with tears in her eyes when he had chosen to join the army. He didn’t blame her. After all, they were both army brats whose fathers had served in the same regiment. And they knew how tough life in olive green could be.

“Yes ma, I won’t be staying for much time though. I have to meet my coursemates later.” He said as they entered the venue.

A quick passing through the tunnel. This should give me closure. This should truly set me free.


November was the cruelest month in Delhi. Not only was the air freezing, but it was smoky as hell.

Lt General Dharam Singh would not have his son take the road trip back to his outpost.

“You can take your bike back when you come in summer,” he had boomed.

Capt. Singh hadn't argued with his father. He had booked his flight to Leh.

As he walked through the departure gate of Indira Gandhi International Airport on a smog-filled morning he had a strange sense of déjà vu. His flight was going to be delayed.

The display board blinked red-lettered ‘DELAYED’ against Delhi- Srinagar-Leh flight. He swore under his breath.

He made his way through other stranded passengers to Costa Coffee. After looking for an empty table for a while, holding an overpriced espresso in his hands, he found a table that was squeezed into a corner. As he flipped through the morning edition of the newspaper that had more glossy advertisements than news, a fragrant mop of head passed from behind and took the chair next to him placing her DSLR kit on the table, dropping a voluminous backpack on the floor, and spilling a bit of mocha on the paper.

The woman from the mountains!

“I’m sorry!” she grinned apologetically.

“No problem, it’s just a newspaper,” he looked up. Something about her eyes spoke of familiarity beyond their encounter at the mountains. But she was quick to look away.

Who are you? Do we know each other?

She took out her mobile, browsed through it, and gulped down her coffee in a hurry.

He glimpsed “One World, One Life” imprinted on the kit.

As she stood up and struggled with her backpack, he rose to help her. It was heavy as lead.

“What is in it, mountain rocks?” he raised his eyebrows.

“No, it’s just my work gear, too precious to be checked in.” she smiled through gritted teeth.

“Going to remote places and clicking pictures, that's very brave of you,” he regretted his words the next moment as her eyes flashed.

“Not braver than riding a bike on mountain roads to make it to ex-girlfriend’s wedding.”

He stood stunned as she disappeared into the crowd leading to the security check.

Why did her gait look familiar?


Capt. Singh cruised on the highway through the dense foliage. He had left the Officers’ Mess of Mountain Division in Dinjan early that morning. The Mess staff had packed his lunch and the Commanding Officer had warned him to be careful. The sun set early in the winters of Assam. He still had about one hour ride to reach Kaziranga.

The heavy scent of the tea plantation interspersed with pepper vines on trees sneaked in through his helmet. A group of boys who looked like their limbs were made of springs played volleyball near a village home with a fish well outside it.

Volleyball was a big part of his life. It was what had made him a star in high school. Maybe it was what had drawn her to him, and held them together, till the day she had decided they had no future together.

Time heals. But it also leaves scars. He didn’t enjoy going to Delhi to his parents during the holidays anymore. Mother tried matchmaking, and father advised him over the golf course in a passive-aggressive way. Lt. Gen. Singh was still miffed with his son that he had opted for another field tenure after Ladakh. “Running away from facing reality, never did anyone any good,” he had scoffed.

Damn! I need a break!

He stopped at a resort that had traditional bamboo weavings hung on the walls in the foyer and cottages with french doors scattered around the property.

The owner was gracious but didn’t seem too eager to welcome an athletic man in a crew cut. Capt. Singh was used to this sort of treatment by some locals. But the man did give him a cottage for the night and gave details of the elephant safari in the morning and advised him to book a jeep ride.

Capt. Singh took his keys and stepped outside to the portico. The stars were bright and the sky was moonless. He walked to his cottage through the pergola.

There was a whirring of the wheels followed by the click of the car door. He turned from his barely lit spot on the lawn.

The woman got down from her SUV and politely brushed off the staff who tried to carry her equipment that seemed sleeker than before. The chandelier formed a silhouette around her form as she walked up the stairs to the foyer.

He stopped. And sat on the cold stone bench. There were a few things he wanted to ask her.

Is there a way to talk to her without looking like a stalker? Maybe not.

He got up after a few minutes and continued to walk through the flower-filled pergola to his cottage.

“Mr. Singh!” her voice stopped him on his track.

 His heart skipped a beat. He turned to her.

 How did she know his name?

She walked towards him, unmindful of the flutter she had caused.

“I need a favour from you.”

“Sure,” he put forth his order-giving voice that didn't betray his emotions.

“The resort people say… the last slot for tomorrow’s safari is taken up,” she threw her hands up in the air.


“I was wondering if … you would like to trade your slot. I have to get an article up within two days.” She smiled.

Huh! So, it’s just about work, for her.

He weighed his options. His curiosity got the better of him.

“Okay, I understand how important it must be for you. You may... If you agree to have dinner with me,” he braced himself.

An inscrutable expression crossed her face. Then, she smiled and nodded her head.


The layers of awkwardness slipped off their shoulders after a round of complimentary mocktails. A big noisy family at the next table made them feel less self-conscious.

“So, let me cut to the chase, how do you know about me?”

She stopped picking at her bamboo rice and looked into his eyes.

“Class of 2017, St. Stephen’s College, sports editor of the college magazine. I clicked photos and took interviews,” she rattled off.

He held the gaze.

“Okay! there were many people whom you would have met, how do you remember me?”

She paused, rubbed her forehead, and looked away.

“There were many, but none who would have given up playing nationals to be at their girlfriend’s side at the hospital.”

An old wound burst open.

“Were you always this straightforward?” he asked in a pained voice.

“Mmm… I wish I were. Do you remember the interview afterward?” She looked back at him.

He closed his eyes. A blurred vision of a bright-eyed girl in oversized clothes, strapped with a second-hand camera and a recorder, standing at the bleachers and nervously asking questions came up. After the interview he had enquired how was she going to edit out the bandage on his eyebrow.

“And you remembered and kept tabs on me?”

She laughed out loud.

“No! don’t think too highly of yourself. I just went about doing the thing I loved. At times I moonlight as a wedding photographer too, especially if it is for a friend.”

“So…you were at the wedding? And it was purely coincidental?”

She wiped her mouth with the napkin, looked at her watch, and said softly.

“Yes and No. Meeting you for the first time was a coincidence. The rest was …destiny.”

She stood up abruptly. “I’ll ask the resort to put the dinner on my tab.” And started to walk away.


She turned back, shocked. He shrugged and smiled.

“What! I looked up your blog site, of course.” He bridged the gap between them with firm steps. And appealed,

“Would you like to go to Kaziranga, on a bike?”

Taking a bike trip on the unfamiliar forest roads in winter was for the headstrong, or the hopeful.

November 10, 2022 14:09

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Graham Kinross
05:45 Feb 16, 2023

“I was wondering if … you would like to trade your slot. I have to get an article up within two days.” She smiled. - that’s a big gamble on his part, if she hadn’t been attracted to him that could have come off as creepy.


Suma Jayachandar
05:58 Feb 16, 2023

Yeah, there is always a fine line between breezy and creepy when writing a romance. And it really scares me, every single time!


Graham Kinross
06:01 Feb 16, 2023

Bold can be attractive, but also pushy. I’ve seen different guys trying the same things to get a woman’s attention with completely different results because sometimes the man hasn’t read the body language of his suitor or just isn’t her type. It’s all a gamble.


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14:59 Nov 15, 2022

A fine romance story with a happy ending. I liked the realism of the description of the military families, and the scenery and sights and sounds. This could be a future novel;) My only suggestion would be It took a little while in the beginning to pick up that capt singh was the pov, maybe his name could be in the first sentence or his thoughts/emotions could be focused on in the first few paragraphs.


Suma Jayachandar
15:23 Nov 15, 2022

Thanks a lot for reading and commenting. Yes, now I look back at it, I realise I could have infact chopped off a couple of paragraphs in the first section. Should get more merciless in future. Thanks for the suggestion. I appreciate it!


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Michał Przywara
18:26 Nov 11, 2022

Excellent use of the prompt. This one seemed the most difficult to me, because, how do you make it work without everything being a coincidence? I think the key in your story is that not only did they keep meeting, but she also knew him, even if he didn't know her. This added some great mystery to the story. (Even though we learn in the end that he did know her, he had just forgotten.) So the story kind of plays with the "it's a small world" idea. Coincidences like this are rare, but not impossible, and they do happen - especially with a sh...


Suma Jayachandar
02:53 Nov 12, 2022

This prompt was the most difficult one, I agree with you there. What made me take it up was my love for those places. My greatest fear in attempting romance is ending up with cheesy plot/characters/dialogues. So I thought why not let those characters have a foggy history 😂. Thanks for reading and commenting, Michal. I appreciate it a lot😊


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