Sunday, July 2, 2017

Leh Diaries - Making Philosophers Out Of Poets

I am not overtly attached to my motorcycle. People often name their motorcycle something before they embark on a motorcycle trip but I have never felt that kind of an attachment. I love this motorcycle for sure. There is a familiarity when I handle it. I know the exact amount of force required to kick start it, I know the exact amount of acceleration required while switching gears and a host of other such seemingly irrelevant stuff about this motorcycle which brings in that effortlessness in my rides. It has been a companion for 7 long years now and I sure prefer it over any other motorcycle for a trip like this. It looks good and grudgingly I would admit it seems to be way more photogenic than me. Motorcycle riders may consider their motorcycles as soul mates and on the other end of the spectrum they may consider it as mere objects. I don’t know where i would fall on that spectrum. It certainly is not a mere object for me but I can’t go as far as calling it a soulmate. I’d say we are just good friends. However there are times when I could say we are something more. Maybe like “friends with benefits”.

 Ladakh is one such time. Everyone has a friend who has done a motorcycle trip to Ladakh and all of them have only good things to say. You ride into Ladakh with an incredible amount of hype and one can’t help expectations building up. When expectations are high there is always a chance of disappointment. Anywhere in the world where nature is abundant and overshadows the human footprint tends to have a beautiful charm to it. Some places strike you with their beauty instantly while some take a little time for the beauty to sink in. The burden of expectations can sometimes mess up your experiences. One doesn’t need to worry about all that in Ladakh. The place is incredibly beautiful. I rode into Ladakh with very high expectations and it has exceeded every expectation I had by a wide margin.

I plan to take it easy today. Walk around, sit in cafe’s and reflect on the place and its people. The acclimatization won’t hurt too. I wake up early to a bright sunny morning and head for breakfast nearby. Buddhist chants from a nearby music shop reverberate all across the street. I like the vibe these Buddhist chants bring about in the quiet of the morning fresh mountain air. Breakfast over I set to walk around the place. A few shops have opened, a few are opening up and a few are yet to open. The morning cheer on people’s faces is yet to be diminished by the monotony of routine. A few tourists are out on the streets. Tourists flock this place, both Indian and foreign. There are adventure seekers, there are peace seekers and there are people in between – all mesmerized by the beauty of this place.

The serenity of the morning mountain air interspersed with feeble Buddhist chants playing somewhere in the distance is being disturbed by the loud thuds of a group of motorcycle riders. They are all prepped up to seek their adventures this land has to offer. The excitement they ooze out as they zoom past is infecting me. I got to change my plans. The cafe’s and the reflection on the people can wait. I am in Leh and I got to take the motorcycle out for a spin. The motorcycle as the cliche goes, needs to get Leh’d.

Hemis monastery is where I’ll head. There is a festival going on in the monastery and at 50 Kms away - the place isn’t all that far. I can be back by late afternoon to get my permits done from the DC office. I take out the motorcycle and head out for the monastery. I spot a service center open within the fag ends of the city limits. I stop. The motorcycle could do with a wash. It’s got dirty managing the tough mountain passes on my way here. I’d normally not bother much about washing the motorcycle clean but in Ladakh the motorcycle deserves to be pampered a bit. It needs to look pretty. I owe it to the motorcycle. Two men set on it to give it a clean look and I closely watch over them to ensure they don’t slack. They do a good job. The motorcycle, now spotlessly clean is ready to roar. The city gradually thins out and finally it is just me, the motorcycle and the road – all trying to blend into the landscape.

The road snakes in between vast stretches of empty land with mountains erupting at the ends to stop your gaze from travelling further. Jeep tyre tracks originating from the road and disappearing into that vast ocean of brown can be seen at many places. I get off the road. I want to add to these tracks and add my own in this vast ocean of brown. The mountains at the end maybe a Kilometre or two away allures me and the swirls the motorcycle is subjected riding in the slightly loose sand enthralls me. Today couldn’t have been more perfect. God bless those motorcycle riders I spotted in the morning for making me take out the motorcycle. Twenty odd minutes of negotiating speeds and twirls, I am finally at the base of the mountain. I climb a few steps to the mountain and lie down. The motorcycle all washed and clean hasn’t looked this pretty ever. The view I have feels like a canvas. The motorcycle in the foreground and beyond it the vast unending emptiness of brown with snow covered peaks in the horizon marking the borders of the canvas. This is an image that is going to be etched in my memory for a life time. I sleep for a while awed and amazed by the landscape.

The beauty of Ladakh lies in its nakedness. There are vast stretches of empty land everywhere with hardly anything growing on it. The mountains you spot whichever direction you look are naked in various shades of brown with the higher peaks covered in snow. Ladakh is that extremely beautiful woman with an impeccable body to die for. Riding a motorcycle in these picture perfect landscapes has an erotically sensual feeling to it. The landscape is the beautiful woman you are mesmerised with. Meandering on it in your motorcycle, feels like running your fingers slowly across her naked body.

Ladakh not just attracts you with its beauty; it also intimidates you with its emptiness. Vast empty spaces make you realise your insignificance – how small and irrelevant you are in the grand scheme of things. Everyday life offers you many instances to realise your insignificance but there is something different about realizing your insignificance in such beautiful surroundings. The beautiful surroundings make you accept your insignificance. Everyone ought to have such an experience once in their lives. We are all poets seeking meaning in the things we do and holding on to the things we love. Maybe the things we hold on to are just our ideas of significance. Accepting insignificance helps you in letting go. It brings out the philosopher from the poet inside of you.

I spend time gazing into the emptiness philosophizing about life, death, the things in between and the insignificance of it all. Ladakh is a place different from all others. In most places you get impressed by the landscape.

In Ladakh you want the landscape to be impressed by you. 

About Me:

A 7 month motorcycle ride that took me to every state in India, parts of Nepal and Bhutan and one town in Burma. These blog entries are inspired by this trip. Stories about people I met, stories about places I saw. Things that intrigued me, things that amused me. They say traveling changes you, they say traveling inspires you and they say a lot of other stuff. I don't know. I think a gun on the head is a better way to change people. I just hope that my travel stories entertain you

Right now I am in the process of writing a book based on this trip and figuring out the difference between a writer's block and procrastination.

You can find more information on my Facebook page and Instagram account

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Preparing For A Solo Motorcycle Trip - Answers To Some Frequently Asked Questions

You may have often heard stories of people embarking on long motorcycle journeys and wondered - "Do oriental looking children wave out to them when they pass by them in the mountains ? " The answer is "Yes they sometimes do" and that my friend should be reason enough to quit your job, divorce your spouse, sell your house and embark on that motorcycle trip. Children anywhere smiling or waving at you have a way of making you feel on top of the world but there is something inherently a lot more pleasant when a oriental looking kid does that

Here are a list of questions that a lot of people have asked me over time on preparing for a  motorcycle trip. I have tried to collate all of them into this one blog entry and I hope this might be of some help to people looking to go on a solo long distance motorcycle trip.

Is it better to travel alone or is it better to travel in a group ?

There is no definitive answer to that. I guess if you have a tendency to murder people it is better to travel alone as killing a stranger involves lesser guilt than say killing someone you know and in case you have suicidal tendencies you better travel in a group. Research suggests that most people attempt suicide when they are alone. Although in recent times you do see some people fancy the idea of blowing themselves up in crowded places.

To travel is good. Traveling alone or traveling in a group serves different purposes. Both have its pros and cons. Traveling alone gives you a lot more time for self reflection whereas traveling in a group helps you bond better with the people you are traveling with. Traveling alone allows you to do things at the pace you are comfortable with while traveling in a group can give you more confidence to do bat shit crazy stuff.

In case there is someone you fancy, traveling with them can also increase your chance of getting in their good books but then there is also a possibility that you could ruin it forever. So take a call accordingly.

But isn't it safer when you are in a group ?

If by safety you are thinking armed men and robbers, I really don't think being in a group will help in any way. Firstly the possibility of encountering them is very remote as mostly you are riding in the daytime. However, if you happen to be at the wrong place at the right time and you are alone you are definitely screwed. If you are in a group, your whole group is definitely screwed. Unless of course one member of your group is Arnold Schwarzenegger. Then you can just fuck around with anyone and everyone.

I fuck around with anyone I like

No. I mean what happens if you have a flat tyre or your motorcycle breaks down in some remote location?

In that case I guess it helps to be in a group. The group traveling along with you will be deep down very irritated with you but since most people don't like to act like assholes they will figure out a way to get your bike fixed.

Even if you are alone, a flat tyre or your motorcycle breaking down shouldn't worry you that much. You are on the road and you should find someone or the other passing by at some point in time. Stop them and ask for help. A tourist on a motorcycle does intrigue a lot of people and someone or the other will eventually help you out.

My motorcycle broke down twice during the journey and people around always stepped up and helped me out. You can read about all that in this blog link given below

But do you think it would be better if I learn to fix a flat tyre before I start the trip ?

Of course it is better Einstein. Otherwise you can always pray that you don't encounter a flat tyre. There is a lot of power in prayer. I never encountered a flat tyre in my whole 7 months of travel.

By the way, tubeless tyres could be a good option. The puncture kit is easy to operate as it does not involve taking out the tyre. Just carry an air pump along. If you feel lazy to even use the puncture kit, you could just fill in air and ride for another 40 to 50 Kms in the hope of finding a puncture repair shop.

Ok. But is there a way to ensure that my motorcycle never breaks down during the journey ?

Yes there is and it involves performing an ancient meditation technique. Only 14 people in the whole world are privy to that knowledge and sadly, I am not one of them. Those people are assholes and they do not want the world to know about this wonderful technique that could help motorcycle riders across the world. I think it is because they were bullied in school.

However there are a few things you can do which may decrease the chances of a motorcycle break down. Before you start the trip make sure you get your motorcycle serviced by a trusted mechanic. Replace old parts and fit in new parts if possible. I have a Royal Enfield Thunderbird (2006 model) and my mechanic advised me to make sure that I serviced my bike at approximately every 3000 Km with an oil change. I more or less did that. Still my motorcycle broke down twice during the journey and I had to truck it to the next available workshop. Once was because my clutch plate got burnt.

Carry spares like clutch cables, accelerator cables, spark plugs, fuses and other stuff after consulting your mechanic. From my experience I would say carry an extra clutch plate and a chain spocket and chain in case you are traveling more than 12000 Kms. It is better to replace your clutch plate and chains after riding for about 12000 to 15000 Kms.

Carry only those tools that you know how to use but carry spares for sure. If your motorcycle breaks down, you will somehow manage to reach a mechanic who would have an idea (or pretend to have an idea) as to how to fix your motorcycle but they might not always have the spares.

Ok. Anything else that you feel is a must before embarking on a motorcycle trip ?

Yes there is but I will only tell you if you like my

Facebook page -

Follow my blog -

Follow me on instagram -

I have done that. Now tell me.

I hope you have done that because God is watching you and he will punish you with bad sex life for 10 years if you haven't. 

So here is the list

1) Proper Riding Gear
However good a rider you think you are accidents can happen. We all know it is always someone else's fault and never ours but still our bodies can take the hit. Do not compromise on your riding gears. Be safe. I had a bad accident once in my trip (of course not at all my fault) and the riding gear was very instrumental in ensuring I escaped with minor bruises. Riding gear have a lot of padding which cushions your fall but more importantly the padding makes you look a lot more muscular than you actually are. So keep them on even when you stop for your food breaks. You may want to take off the riding gloves while eating food though. Its a lot easier to eat with your gloves off.

2) Proper Riding Gear

3) Proper Riding Gear

4) Water proofing your bags

5) Bungee cords
To tie your bags to the motorcycle. Keep a few cords extra in case a cord breaks on the way.

You must have noticed that I kept 'Proper Riding Gear' as points 1, 2 and 3 in the list. I am not trying to emphasize the importance of a riding gear here. I just wanted to make sure that my list has at least five points.

That's it. Nothing else ?

Of course there are other things too like clothes, shoes, sunglasses, sunscreen, camera, memory cards, motorcycle registration papers etc etc. Take care of your health and please do apply sunscreen. You are in direct contact with the sunlight for a prolonged period of time every day. A little bit of common sense takes care of a lot of things and as for the remaining things, learn it the hard way. It will be a wonderful story to talk about later on. If not for you then maybe for someone who absolutely loathes you.

How do I plan my routes ?

There is this very cool website called 'google'. Check it out sometime.

How much money would be required ?

Oh, that is very kind of you. I write this for free but you can always message me. I'll send you my my bank details and you can transfer money to my account.

No I meant how much money would be required for the trip ?

Oh, that. See, I don't know you and I don't know your spending habits. There are three major expenditures when you are on the motorcycle - your fuel expenses for the day, your food expenses for the day and your lodging expenses for the day. On my motorcycle if I traveled say 300 Kms in a day my fuel expenses would be approximately Rs 600. I am not a heavy eater and my food expenses for the day would be somewhere in the range Rs 700 to 800. A decent room costs around Rs 600 to Rs 800 a night. Although if you search you can get cheaper rooms. When you calculate keep in mind that on those days of the trip where you are not riding your fuel expenses are zero. Also on days you are staying with a friend your lodging expenses are zero.

The best way to find out is to go on a short 3 to 5 day motorcycle trip and note the amount spent on these things to get an approximate idea of these expenses. Then extrapolate these numbers to the number of days you plan the trip to get an idea of the expenses you may incur. Add some more money as a buffer amount to the amount you calculated. In case you are traveling for more than a month, then make sure to factor in motorcycle maintenance expenses also in your estimates.

A short 3 to 5 day trip may give you a lot more idea in other aspects too.

Still doesn't it get boring when you are alone ?

No. To be honest I was never alone. I have a multiple personality disorder and each one of us has a dirty mind. I quite like them all. Although I do feel Ben is a little harsh on Sid. Also Joey could wear less flashy clothes. It sometimes gets very embarrassing especially when Tina is around.

Any final tips ?

A motorcycle trip is not that intimidating as it may seem. Take it one day at a time. It is just about riding 250 to 350 Kms in a day and then doing it again and again. Take rest whenever you feel like it. There is no hurry.

Do not worry to much about the preparation. Just start somehow. Even if you forget something essential, you can buy stuff on the way.

Also try this out if you can

About Me:

A 7 month motorcycle ride that took me to every state in India, parts of Nepal and Bhutan and one town in Burma. These blog entries are inspired by this trip. Stories about people I met, stories about places I saw. Things that intrigued me, things that amused me. They say traveling changes you, they say traveling inspires you and they say a lot of other stuff. I don't know. I think a gun on the head is a better way to change people. I just hope that my travel stories entertain you

Right now I am in the process of writing a book based on this trip and figuring out the difference between a writer's block and procrastination.

You can find more information on my Facebook page and Instagram account

Monday, May 25, 2015

Traveling And Sex - Probably Not What You Are Thinking About

For all you people who clicked on this link thinking this blog is going to be about tips on how to get laid while traveling, I am sorry to disappoint you. Getting laid whether traveling or not traveling depends on a host of factors like your looks, your intellect, your charm, your confidence levels and your luck in appropriate proportions. I rarely get these proportions right. I mean I do look good under the right kind of lighting and I do sound intelligent when there is very loud music playing in the background. I am still working on charming my way to get things done but I am very confident in the company of old bed ridden men on the verge of death. If only all these conditions were met at a single instant of time, I would have had a different story to tell and a lot of tips to offer. This blog sadly, is about something else.

Often when I meet people, particularly new people and they come to know about my motorcycle trip (wearing a T shirt 24/7 that says I went on a 7 month motorcycle trip helps), most of them have kind words for me. It makes me really happy. However altruistic I like to fantasize myself as, the bits of attention thrown at me every now and then gets me really excited. A lot of times in these conversations, inevitably this question comes up - "So how was it ? ". I am always short of  eloquent answers when this question comes up. I generally retort with three words - "It was good". Sometimes I stretch it to four words - "It was really good". Most people seem satisfied with this answer but some of them still look like they expect more. I fumble for answers. I repeat the same answers, only this time I replace the word 'good' with a synonym. I don't think I manage to fool them with my clever wordplay. It bothers me a bit. Not only the fact that I couldn't fool them with my clever wordplay but also the fact that I can't seem to describe my travel experiences with a more eloquent speech rather than just these 3 or 4 word sentences. I seem to be lost when I try to describe the experience. I mean I plan to write a book about it and all I could mutter was three or four words. I start doubting my capabilities, go into a major depression and start getting suicidal thoughts.

Alright, the last sentence was exaggerated for effect but then the question has always perplexed me. I had pretty much thought the answer would elude me all my life until I had my Eureka moment when this guy I had met recently asked me the same question. (In case you were wondering, NO, I wasn't sitting in my bathtub naked whilst talking to this guy) After I fumbled with my three word answers he said "I also like traveling". In my mind I was like "Of course you do. Who in their right mind doesn't love traveling". I was smiling at the conversation I was having with myself in my head and suddenly it all became clear to me and I was enlightened. It was such a simple thing and I was unnecessarily being bothered about it. The reason I could never talk much about my travel experiences is because traveling is like sex.

Yes traveling is like sex. Most people enjoy it. Everyone has their own preferences on how to go about it. People who haven't done it fantasize about it all the time and the people who have done it want to do it again and again. You think about doing it a lot more often but most times you just end up looking at pictures and videos on the internet and fantasize about it. Sometimes you like it short and sweet, sometimes you want it to last really long. You might be doing alright without it but when you see other people doing it, it stokes an urge in you also to do the same. Sometimes it gets over faster than what you would have liked and sometimes it just drags on a little more than you wanted. Sometimes it is calm and relaxing, sometimes it is wild and energetic. There are some people who never get a chance to do it and you kinda feel bad for them. Then there are people who just abstain from it and you can't help but wonder why. Sometimes you need to prepare a lot before the act and sometimes it just happens spontaneously. Sometimes it is for business but mostly it is for pleasure. Every time you do it, it feels different than the previous time. And lastly it gets more and more difficult as you get older. Although just keeping a stash of pills may come in handy but its better to keep yourself fit to enjoy it at an older age. :)

Yes traveling is like sex. It is difficult to describe it in words but you can always recount and share stories about it. And just like sex, some stories are way too personal to share.

About Me:

A 7 month motorcycle ride that took me to every state in India, parts of Nepal and Bhutan and one town in Burma. These blog entries are inspired by this trip. Stories about people I met, stories about places I saw. Things that intrigued me, things that amused me. They say traveling changes you, they say traveling inspires you and they say a lot of other stuff. I don't know. I think a gun on the head is a better way to change people. I just hope that my travel stories entertain you

Right now I am in the process of writing a book based on this trip and figuring out the difference between a writer's block and procrastination.

You can find more information on my Facebook page and Instagram account

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Love Dancing In The Shadows Masked By Laughter

Truck Driver: Tumhara Shaadi ho gaya (Are you married)
Me: Of course not. Do you think if I was married, I would be able to roam around like this

There is laughter all around. The unmarried ones, who are a majority laugh a little louder. It is probably one of the most cliched retorts I can come up with for a question like this but it does manage to get a laugh every single time. A lot of times I have wondered whether these unmarried men really value the freedom that being single entails or is freedom the silver lining in the dark cloud that the loneliness (and the infrequent sex) of being single entails.

I met these truck drivers in the morning when my bike had broke down and I needed help to truck it to the next town and get it fixed. The previous night, I was stuck in a small village called Barak in Manipur and a very kind lady - Veronica had given me a place to sleep in her shop. With tears in my eyes I left Veronica's shop in the morning but the tears dried up soon as soon as I hit the road. You see slushy roads have a way of making you forget everything and your mind is only concentrating on how much to accelerate on the first gear (second gear if you are lucky) and making sure you have a firm grip on your bike. The wheels move haywire sometimes and you are constantly concentrating on the road. There is a convoy of trucks that are stuck in that slush in front of me. I stop behind them and contemplate.

The ground on the left of these trucks is more firm but there is very little space to go ahead. On the right side of the trucks, the road is a lot more slushy and the bike tyre is very likely to get stuck somewhere in between but then there is enough space. I also have an option of waiting till the trucks start moving but the truck drivers are all out and it may take some time before they start moving. Also the left side is a deep valley and one slip here or there and I would end up down that valley. If that happens I presume I'll be dead. I do think about death once in a while but I always imagine it peacefully in my sleep or sometimes a bomb blast in a crowded bus. A motorcycle accident in the mountains is my least preferred option in ways to die. I think of waiting for a while but I can see one of those truck drivers is very excited to see me and if I wait it is inevitable that he will strike up a conversation with me. A tourist on a motorcycle in a God forsaken place does intrigue a lot of people and I am pretty used to it now. The truck driver who looks at me with a lot of excitement is one of the most sweetest people you will ever come across in life. I can say that just by his looks and demeanour but still I want to avoid that conversation. It is not that I hate people or conversations with people. In fact I love them. It is just that the kindness kind of unsettles me. I am always worried that I will never be able to reciprocate the same amount of love, compassion and kindness that I receive.

I take the road on the right side of the roads and as I had guessed the back tyre did get stuck just 20 metres ahead. The truck driver came rushing towards me with the cutest of smiles and pushed my bike out and said some kind encouraging words. I smiled, thanked him, waved him goodbye and carried on. Hardly have I traversed another Kilometer my bike breaks down. The engine is on but no amount of acceleration gets the bike to move forward. As I came to know later on, the clutch plates had got burnt. A local guy on the road helps me push the bike to the side of the road where the ground is firm and he tells me to wait for trucks and ask them for help in carrying it to the next town.

I wait for some half an hour before I see a convoy of trucks approaching. One good thing about the roads being slushy is that the trucks would be slow and they won't be able to speed past without noticing me. There are 6 trucks in that convoy and I and that local guy call out to the truck driver to help me out. People in Manipur have been very kind to me and I am pretty confident that they will help me out. In the last 3 days I have been on the receiving end of two acts of extreme kindness (You can read about those stories here and here) that suddenly the skepticism you have about people fades away and you start trusting in the goodness of people. Add to it the fact that one of guys coming out from one of these trucks is the same truck driver who came to help push my bike when it was stuck in the mud a while back. I just knew I was in luck.

Let me just pause for a moment here and give names and some information about a few characters. The excited truck driver who rushed to help me - let me call him Mr X. He is married and his wife is pregnant and they are expecting a baby soon. There is one very benevolent truck driver - let me call him Mr Y. He is married and has two kids. He is the married guy who I mentioned at the starting of this story. Then there is this angry young man. Let me call him Mr Z. He is unmarried. I spent the whole day with them and I know I am a very pathetic person because I don't remember their names. In my defense, I can only say that Manipuri names are very hard to remember. I should have written it down. 

So let me proceed again  

There are about 10 people in these 6 trucks. As I learnt over the course of time, a convoy of trucks has two sets of people. One are the drivers and the others are the cleaners. The drivers are the bosses and the cleaners are the ones who do most of the ancillary stuff as guided by the drivers. They also take care of the cooking and washing utensils and all that stuff. All the decisions are to be taken by the truck drivers. The cleaners just follow orders. Gradually they pick up the requisite skills and ideally they would progress to be truck drivers. In fancy corporate lingo you could call them interns. The truck drivers amongst them are in an animated discussion. They are speaking in some Manipuri language but I can get the jist of the conversations with their body language. 

Mr Z is angry and saying something on the lines that we can't waste time with this and we need to reach somewhere and we will get late. Mr Y doesn't say anything but then just by the way he is looking at me I know that he wants to help me out and he is feeling bad about it. Then Mr X does the most amazing thing that one human being can do for another. He stood up for me. He just told them "You all go if you want to. I am staying back and helping him". I never understood the words he spoke but these are things you can feel. I will never forget this in my life. Mr X was my guardian angel. Just this small act of standing up for me turned the tide in my favour. Mr Y also started to convince the other people and in under 5 minutes, he managed to convince Mr Z too. 

The bike and the luggage is loaded in Mr Y's truck and I sit in front with Mr Y. We carry on. The whole day till now had been so eventful that I had forgotten the events of the previous day. I had left the morning from Veronica's shop with tears in my eyes that had quickly dried up with the road conditions and the break down of the bike. My thoughts again go back to Veronica and a tear trickled down my face. Mr Y notices my tears and with all his benevolence tells me not to worry and that my bike would get fixed in the next town. I smile in my mind. Sometimes life just gives you such comical scenarios. I want to tell him that I am a courageous man. I am not a man who would cry for such things. I want to tell him the story about the previous day. But I keep quiet. The kind of love that I could feel was just magical and I did not want to ruin something that beautiful. 

Finally we have hit proper roads and we stop somewhere on the side of the road near a waterfall for lunch. The cleaners are busy cooking lunch for everyone. The drivers are all out there in the waterfall for a bath. I join them. I can't help but wonder that every time in this trip when I am with truck drivers, I end up taking a bath with them. This happened before in Manali (you can read that story here) and again out here. Just my luck I guess. In an ideal world, I would have been bathing with Victoria's secret models under waterfalls when I go on a motorcycle trip but I guess the world is not that ideal a place. Anyway it helps in bonding and Mr Z doesn't seem upset because of me anymore. After a simple meal of rice, dal and a very hot Raja Mirchi chutney, we carry on.

We pass Jiribam and cross into Assam. We reach Lakhipur a small town in Assam, at about 3 pm. We stop just on the outskirts near a bike mechanic shop. I ask the mechanic if he could fix my bike. The mechanic tells me he cannot say. He says he will have to check and if its not a major fault he can fix it but if its something major which would require some spare parts it could be difficult to source Enfield spare parts and I would have to take it to Silchar some 35 Km away to get it fixed. I liked his confidence.We take down the bike from the truck and I take it to the mechanics place. I tell the situation to those truck drivers and I tell them that I would manage from here. I'll find a lodge nearby and dump my luggage there and get the bike fixed and carry on the next day. They have other plans. The 5 trucks carry forward to the place where they had decided to camp for the night. Mr Y's truck which has all my luggage stays back. Then Mr X & Mr Y accompany me to the bike mechanics shop and Mr Z sleeps inside the truck because all my luggage is inside the truck.

The clutch plate is burnt and I need to replace it. Luckily the mechanic has a spare Enfield clutch plate in his warehouse. It takes him about 2 hours to fix the bike. Mr X & Mr Y wait with me the whole time till the bike gets fixed. The mechanic charges me Rs 800 for the clutch plates. Mr Y tries to reason with him that the printed price on the back of the cover is Rs 280 and he should maybe be more reasonable. The mechanic knows that I lack options and doesn't budge. Not that an extra 500 bucks bothered me. I was just amazed at the two different sets of people I met on the same day. I am just grateful that the mechanic wasn't one of the truck drivers. These truck drivers never even hinted about money for helping me out. Even the thought that they could make some money out of my situation never crossed their mind once. These were people who had hearts full of love. People who go the extra mile to help a person in need.

I pay the mechanic and Mr X sits behind me on my bike. Mr Y and Mr Z go in the truck to join the other trucks who are camping some 15 - 20 Kms ahead just on the outskirts of Silchar. I have a feeling that their original plan was to reach the Silchar godown by evening, load the goods in the truck and start off back the next morning and because of me they are camping in the road for the night and they will head to the godown, early the next morning. Mr X asks me what my plans were. I told him I'll take my luggage and head off to Silchar to find a room for the night. I want to tell him that I do not want to head to Silchar. I want to tell him that I want to spend more time with them. It wasn't just to express gratitude. It was more because I felt so loved in the company of these strangers. But somewhere I am never able to express these things in person. Mr X again comes to my rescue. He tells me its already getting dark and suggests that I spend the night with them. I lap up the offer, ask Mr X if there is an alcohol shop on the way. I buy some whisky and we head to the place where the trucks are camped.

Alcohol has a way of getting out the most intellectual of conversations in people. We talk about the prostitutes in Silchar. They tell me Silchar has prostitutes from Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Assam and Burma too. I tell them some stories about my bike trip when I was in Bhutan and tell them that Bhutanese women are indeed very pretty. These guys seem to be more into Burmese women. I make a mental note to definitely visit Burma one day. Mr Y is a little embarrassed about this conversation. He tells me he is married and doesn't indulge in such stuff. Mr X on the side looks at me and smiles shyly and in the cutest voice says "Mera Shaadi ho gaya par mein kabhi kabhi jata hai" (I am married but I go sometime). Mr Y admonishes him gently and says now that his wife is pregnant and a kid is on the way, he should stop it. Mr X agrees and says he would stop it. Somewhere I have a feeling Mr X will succumb to temptation once or twice more before he finally stops doing it. I don't judge him. I love his honesty. There are so many of us who cheat on their spouses but use clever word play to blame it on something else other than their own weaknesses in resisting temptations. The way Mr X stood up for me, I am confident he will stand up for his family when the need arises.

Mr Z turns to me and says that you must be coming from a rich family. I don't know what to tell him. We all like to believe we are middle class and there is lot more money to be made before we can call ourselves rich. I mutter a Yes. He says even if he had a lot of money, he wouldn't have the courage to be alone on a motorcycle like this. I felt really good. Coming from a truck driver, it meant a lot to me. Truck drivers are tough guys. Changing a tyre of a truck can get you killed and driving a truck through bad roads is one of the toughest things in the world to do. A motorcycle trip is not that difficult if you think about it. I wonder why a truck driver who has gone to so many states in his truck feel that way.

I kind of get it why he feels that way. I am lucky to be born in the right social and economic class. Truck drivers are generally unlucky in that front. My view of the world differs from theirs. I am treated nicely by most people. It is only my words or actions that can make a person hate me. I am smart enough to know what kind of words could make the other person hate me and wise enough most of the times not to say it. I have had conversations with truck drivers -  here and once in Ladakh. They are the easiest pickings for most policemen, Octroi officials and local goons. Their worldview is defined by their experiences and the experiences I have, are not something they tend to have. 

In hindsight, I love the fact that my bike broke down twice in the trip and I got to spend some time with truck drivers. The world has been segregated on economic lines and very hardly do people get to interact with people from a different economic class as equals. Till the time we don't get to have these interactions how are we supposed to trust people from a different economic class. When we become adults it is inevitable that our interactions become more frequent with people who are professionally in equivalent positions.The sad part is even as children we will fail to have these interactions. My children and his children are never going to be in the same school even if we both end up living in the same city. I start thinking if he was stuck in his truck in the middle of the road and me and a group of friends were in our cars, would we have stopped to help him out. I don't quite know the answer to it. I guess I do know the answer and it is something that doesn't make me proud.

Mr Y: Tumhara Shaadi ho gaya (Are you married)
Me: Of course not. Do you think if I was married, I would be able to roam around like this

Mr Y: (After all the laughter subsides) Its alright. Travel, roam around and enjoy yourself. But one day you should find a woman and get married. It will make you a better person.

There was something about his words and the way he said it that somewhere deep down, I believed him. If a man with so much love and kindness feels marriage has made his life better, then I think it is safe to believe him.

I slept underneath a truck that night. The next morning we woke up early and I bid my goodbyes to these men. Every time I think of this day my heart is filled with warmth. The lunch stop at the waterfall, the waiting at the mechanic shop and the drinking session on the side of the road - there was love and there was laughter. If you were there you would have seen our laughter and if you looked more closely you would have seen the love dancing in the shadows.

About Me:

A 7 month motorcycle ride that took me to every state in India, parts of Nepal and Bhutan and one town in Burma. These blog entries are inspired by this trip. Stories about people I met, stories about places I saw. Things that intrigued me, things that amused me. They say traveling changes you, they say traveling inspires you and they say a lot of other stuff. I don't know. I think a gun on the head is a better way to change people. I just hope that my travel stories entertain you

Right now I am in the process of writing a book based on this trip and figuring out the difference between a writer's block and procrastination.

You can find more information on my Facebook page and Instagram account

Thursday, February 19, 2015

15 Life Lessons I Learnt On My 7 Month India Motorcycle Trip

I have often been asked as to what I have learnt from my 7 month solo motorcycle ride across India. To be honest, I have always fiercely resisted the urge to learn anything in life. However the only life lesson I have learnt is that no matter how dumb you are, one should always strive to look wise. 

So here I present to you 15 pearls of wisdom I gained riding my motorcycle all across the country. Now, some of them might not feel all that wise. After all, these are my thoughts and my thoughts tend to go wrong a lot of times. Like the time, I thought that pretty woman living next door was totally into me. Oh, I digress. You guys just read on.

But trust me on the points 11 to 15. I can absolutely vouch for them

1. A Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

7 months and 30,000 Kms on a motorcycle. The most difficult part is the start. Once you start something, you are smart enough to figure things out on the go. It is not that intimidating as it looks.

However, I don't mind if that impression persists :)

2. Ask for help. Not all battles have to be fought alone

Unexpected rains, huge traffic block welcomed me as I was about to cross a mountain pass for the first time in my life in a motorcycle. Slight fear creeps in but I fight it off like a hero. Start the engine and said to myself “There is no fucking way in hell I am doing it today” and start heading back. But thanks to these two riders (Tejasva & Pankaj) I happened to meet and tag along, I was able to cross the Zojila pass on that day itself and I got over my fear of mountain passes quicker.

I had set out alone on this trip hoping it will make me more independent and stronger but on the way I realized that with a little help you get there (being more independent and stronger) faster.

3. You are never alone. Someone somewhere is always looking out for you

These four tourists on their way to Leh - Justin, Suraj, Arjun and Nishant (left to right) from Allahabad happened to be at the spot in Sarchu, Ladakh where I had a pretty bad accident. They did everything from making sure I was alright, stopping a truck for me to carry my motorcycle to the next town (Manali) to fix it, negotiated on the price with the truck driver and loading my motorcycle and luggage on the truck.

The accident did dampen my spirits and the thought of abandoning the trip did cross my mind. But thanks to them, I somewhere became confident that in case something goes wrong – someone or the other will be there to help me out.

4. Trust people. Not everyone out there wants to cheat you

Raju – the truck driver. We had agreed on Rs 2000 to truck the motorcycle from Sarchu to Manali. On the way he suggested that I take my motorcycle till Mandi – further 100 Kms away as he was anyway going till there – for the same agreed price. He paid for my dinner, we slept the night in the truck and the next morning paid for the morning snack before making sure that he unloaded my luggage and the motorcycle in the service centre in Mandi.

When I paid him the Rs 2000 as we had agreed upon, he gave back Rs 400 saying that the accident had damaged my motorbike pretty bad and I would incur some expenses fixing it. You can read that story in detail here : Truck drivers - Guardians on the road

5. It is great to help people in need. Sometimes just do it to make their day pleasant

Crossing into Assam from Bhutan on the Samprud Jonkar border I had 7000 in Bhutanese currency which I needed to convert to Indian Rupees. The 4 Bhutanese policemen on the border stopped every Indian vehicle getting into Bhutan to fill petrol from the petrol pump in the Bhutanese side (petrol is cheaper in Bhutan) and in 2 hours converted the entire 7000 Ngultrum into Indian Rupees. They never asked me any chai pani ka kharcha (commission for the help) for this deed.

These guys helped me just like that. Otherwise I would have had to shell out 10% commission in the Indian side of the border which I frankly didn’t mind. But this thing they did - it just made my day.

6. Believe in the goodness of people. You just might be pleasantly surprised

I reached Moreh on the Manipur – Burma border with Rs 120 in my pocket and came to know that there were no ATM’s in Moreh. It was already evening. It was a little awkward for me initially but since I had no other option, I went to the Tamil Sangam and asked them for a place to be put up for the night for free. These guys from the Tamil Sangam gave me a place to sleep, bought me dinner and breakfast the next day.

Oh by the way one of the guys also gave me Rs 1000 as a gift to keep just in case of an emergency :)
You can read this story in more detail here : A Kind World

7. Be grateful. Never belittle somebody's kindness by offering them money - no matter how poor or rich they are

Stuck in a small village in Manipur where the security situation ensured that security forces don’t allow me to travel at night. I asked this woman – Veronica to allow me to sleep for a night in her shop. She says “You are most welcome” and got me a mat and a pillow. The next morning I tried to insist on paying her for the place which she sternly refused.

She was poor. I could see that. I thought I was helping her. But inadvertently I was belittling her kindness. Every time I think of it, I am ashamed of myself.
You can read the story in more detail here: Veronica

8. The best way to show your gratitude to people is by taking out time to spend with them. With some alcohol preferably

My bike broke down and I stopped these truck drivers going in a convoy to help me truck the bike to the next town where I could get it fixed. Had one of the most memorable times of my trip with them. Bathing under a waterfall before having lunch prepared by them and then 3 of them waited with me till the motorcycle got fixed. They never asked any money and now I knew better and did not try to belittle their kindness by offering money.

I just bought some whisky and we drank on the side of the road where they had parked their trucks for the night and that night I slept under the truck before bidding them my goodbyes the next morning :)
You can read that story in detail here : Manipur Truck Drivers

9. You don't always have to keep your guard up. Go with the flow sometimes. Specially if there is alcohol involved

The roads are bad and it is dark and there are no signs of the highway. Two men on a motorcycle (Cmon & Rilla) – I ask them for directions to the highway. They are going in that direction and I follow them for some 10 to 15 odd Kms or maybe more. And the next thing I know is that after helping me find a lodge in Panisagar on the highway for the night – the three of us are having dinner together. Somewhere in between a round of beer and two rounds of whisky were also consumed. 

Oh all paid by them just in case you were wondering

10. Believe in serendipity. It happens in real life too

Cruising along on a deserted highway in a God forsaken place, listening to songs on your ipod and someone in a SUV overtakes you and waves you to stop. Lot of things going through your head at that time and none of them are pretty. Then you take a look at the man waving at you. He kind of looks familiar and suddenly the irritation turns into unparalleled joy because this guy is one of your closest friends. And you thought this only happens in movies :)

Inaka Chishi – a very close friend whom I hadn’t met for 18 months and I just bump into him unexpectedly, somewhere 60 odd Kms before Cuttack, in the middle of nowhere.

Now to the part I can absolutely vouch for

11. A man's crotch always needs some attention

Well, India is a hot country and it gets sweaty all over. Especially with the riding gear and all. Keep it handy. Gives a lot of relief :)

12. Maut Aur Tatti Kabhi Bhi Aa Sakti Hai (Death and Dysentery can strike anytime)

Not everything about a motorcycle trip is romantic. Shit happens. The only thing you can do is to be prepared. I had to take a dump on the side of the road here. I am surely not mentioning which place this is

13. AurTatti Bar Bar Aa Sakti Hai (And Dysentery can strike more than once)

Yes here also. Like I said not everything about a motorcycle ride is romantic. Just in case you are wondering, I had to take a dump on the side of the road 3 times. Always keep tissues and a bottle of water handy :)

14. Women will not go crazy over you just because you are riding a motorcycle

Well, if you look like Tom Cruise then maybe


Children waving or smiling at you makes you forget any awkwardness you may feel while riding in unknown territories

They just have a way of making you feel welcome and you no longer feel out of place.

About Me:

A 7 month motorcycle ride that took me to every state in India, parts of Nepal and Bhutan and one town in Burma. These blog entries are inspired by this trip. Stories about people I met, stories about places I saw. Things that intrigued me, things that amused me. They say traveling changes you, they say traveling inspires you and they say a lot of other stuff. I don't know. I think a gun on the head is a better way to change people. I just hope that my travel stories entertain you

Right now I am in the process of writing a book based on this trip and figuring out the difference between a writer's block and procrastination.

You can find more information by clicking on my
Facebook Page: The Clueless Rider 
Instagram Account: thecluelessrider