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 these days you travel and don't come back with any life lessons, people just don't respect you anymore.
So here are 15 life lessons I came back with. 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 I realized that sometimes a little help gets you there 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.
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 act.
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. This gesture 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 :)
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.
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 a truck.
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. Aur Tatti 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.
15. But..... CHILDREN LOVE YOU
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.
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 just hope that my travel stories entertain youRight 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
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