‘Life is in the travel’ is my standard reply to people for their standard question “Bhai, Pagal ho kya?” from past 4 years. They call me mad, they call me insane, they call me nuts, yet somewhere deep inside they envy me, they desire a life like mine, they somewhere or the other want to be like me. Those who know me call me a wild spirit, a Khanabadosh, a wanderer.
In the past four years I have travelled around 60000KM(Sixty Thousand) on my bike, to all the states of India. I have hitchhiked(lifts and rides —Beg, borrow, steal type) without money for months, lived on roadsides, crashed unknown wedding, slept in jungles, on mountains, made friends with a hell lot of strangers, survived without food, gone to the paths less trailed, camped in non-camp-able areas and a lot more.
A sleeping bag, a tent, a camera and my bike, that’s the world to me. Money, is out of the scene most of the time.
But there is always a trigger and it started in the winters of 2012.
16th-Dec-2012 to be precise, the day Nirbhaya was Raped.
A little background check on me and a quick Flashback it is. I live in Srinagar, the Paradise city now-a-days infested by terrorists and their likes. My companion, Hero Honda Hunk, a 150 cc bike is with me from 2011 November.
In the December of 2012 I drove all the way to Chandigarh from Srinagar, a 700km, passing the NH1A, the most dreadful yet scenic Highway of India. And when Nirbahaya was Raped, I along with my cousin decided to travel the length and breadth of the country on my Bike for the cause of Women Empowerment and Awareness about Rapes and Gender Discrimination.
And that’s how I ended up in a 16000KM(Sixteen Thousand) bike ride in just 50 days and that too on a 150cc bike. It was one hell of a journey for me personally. At the end of it I had spoken at about 15 state universities, 10 private colleges and several other places, motivating and empowering youth, spreading awareness and gathering their views.
Buts that’s one half.
I also had bruises and wounds, escapades and police encounters, accidents and freakshaws, back-aching wrecked up highway rides. We gate crashed at marriages, stayed with complete strangers, with the Nanga Babas of Maha-Khumb, at repair shops, and in Grudawaras. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari via Gujarat and back to Kashmir via West Bengal a tireless journey ended with bruised skin, chapped knees but a very bright smile on the face and a new insight into my life.
The spirit of the road and the zeal of adventure combined with a mission and a heart to take everything as it comes changed me into a person which I never was. And that’s how it all started.
That ride had a permanent impact, one which my parents and friends say made me a better person with a lot of bad priorities. Better because I had the combined views of youth and people of almost all the states of my country to share when it comes to speaking at public places, Bad because since then my mode of transport is my Bike be it a 10 Km office ride, or be it a 1000 KM visit to a Friend. Since then I have travelled Solo to about 40000KM(forty thousand) on my bike, which includes a lot of trips to Delhi, Jaipur, Shimla, Manali, Jammu, and the most desired of bikers, Ladakh.
“It snows, it rains, it slips, it slides, it burns, don’t you fear. What has happened to you” my mom asks me every time go one a long ride(count more than 2000km). I can’t tell her, the fresh air on my face, the bumps of the road, the passion to drive and meet new people, the adrenaline rush when driving through the mountains, the calmness of when crossing the long fields, the shivers when it snows, the fear of slipping into Chenab, the feeling of living in the wild, all of these make me drive every time and will keep me on my bike always. But I can’t tell her this.
Now, when somebody with a Royal Enfield tells me he wants to go to Ladakh and has gone to some 150Km in a single day, and calls himself a biker and a traveller, it just makes me smile.
I can’t single out anyone experience for this story. It would be a discrimination. Every one of my adventures was equally satisfying and high on adrenaline. But the most recent one goes like this.
On 10th Feb 2016 I received a phone call from Himachal Pradesh State University calling me for a counselling session to be held on 13th-Feb at 10:30 Sharp. Like always I though the best mode will be my bike. I was in Srinagar, freezing temperature already, so I couldn’t tell anybody that I was going to go on my bike all the way to Shimla, almost 1200 KM one side and then sit for the interview and counselling. But like always, it was what it did. The Jammu Kashmir National highway, most of the bikers would know, mostly remains closed due to landslides or snow during the winters, and biking through the mountains in that weather is the best thing you can do. The deep gorges make you concentrate on every bend and curve you pass, the snow-capped mountains and the blue Chenab echo fear. But being accustomed to this highway, I reached Jammu in about 8 hours. I stayed for the night and the next day it was raining cats and dogs in the morning. Friends and Parents all recommended train or bus. But then they knew, “Pagalon Ke sir Pe Seengh thodi na Hotey hain”(translates to “Mad people are not recognised by horns on their head”). I wrapped myself in a raincoat and started my next 800 km for Shimla. The next day was my interview so I had to drive all of the 800km in a single day. I started at 6:30 in morning and reached Shimla 11:30 in the night. I gave my Interview and the rain again tested my madness. I won though and reached Jammu the same night. But the best thing was fresh snow on the way back to Srinagar. The 2000 km in 4 days, through rain and snow, for an interview call was my recent adventure.
Why I do this? its all about the feeling, the fight, the adrenaline rush, the wanderer in me that keeps me finding new places to drive to, new people to meet with, new things to learn from. In the end it makes me a better person.(that’s what I say to myself 😉 )