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Author Topic: Excerpt from my new book:  (Read 768 times)


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Excerpt from my new book:
« on: September 06, 2012, 11:48:19 pm »
Call of the Thunder Dragon- A Motorcycle Journey to Bhutan
Chapter 1
A Fool Wanders
A Wise Man Travels

It’s been 3 years since I physically came back from the Ladakh ride. Mentally, I’m often still there. You wouldn’t know it if you saw me sitting in my chair, eyes closed, apparently playing footsie with myself, but chances are you’re only seeing the shell. I’m not inside. Either I’m away re-trudging the 10000 feet high undulating desert road of the Morey plains or then, I could be on Khardung La, being re-chilled to the bone by my glacier-soaked shoes and socks. It might be hot summer’s day in Pune, 38 degrees C outside, but not for me. I am sitting on that large black rock overlooking Suraj Tal, cleaning snow from the sole. One way to beat the heat! Or another to fool oneself.

Nostalgia is enjoyable but I’m satiated with three years of wading through it. An urge to get back on the road is beginning to grip me again. Probably what migratory birds feel in their insides a few days before they finally embark on those long, long flights? Birds have an advantage in that they seem to know exactly where to go and when. I don’t. Various destinations are vying for first place in my mind. Jaisalmer almost wins, but the image of a lone rider on an arrow-straight road, cutting through a stark brown desert gets pushed into second place by His Majesty King Wangchuk of Bhutan.
This is how it happens. Channel-surfing, I pause on a popular news network to admire a charming, sari-clad woman with a diamond-studded nose and Madhubala-lips. The camera then moves to focus on the person she is conversing with. A handsome, regal middle aged man, dressed in an unusual, maroon coloured, knee length, checked-tweed garment is talking in the calm and unhurried manner of someone used to being listened to. Interested, I put the remote down and watch. The lady is addressing him as Your Majesty. Then a bottom caption confirms that it is indeed royalty I am listening to. His Royal Highness Jigme Singye Wangchuk, King of Bhutan.
He is saying that not GNP (Gross National Product) but Gross National Happiness (GNH) should be the true measure of a society’s progress. While economic prosperity was important, richer countries are not necessarily happier ones. He suggests it was GNH that was the real indicator of a country’s growth.
When the king’s speech is over, I get thinking on how it would be to ride to Bhutan. Postpone Jaisalmer to next year…. That’s not really a long ride …. Just 1500 kilometres….   Want to go at least double that distance… must allow time for the road to seep into the bones… Bhutan must be fascinating……3000 kms. Perfect.

I’ve decided on a mid-October departure. The schools will not have not yet closed and my case load will not be heavy. It is during the holidays that the clinic turns busy. Octobers are a good month to be riding a motorcycle across India for reasons of weather too. The blistering heat of the summer has been subdued by three months of rain. It’s still hot but not uncomfortably so. Trees have fresh foliage so roads have grottos of shade ideal for those short halts. The rivers and lakes are full. Harvests have been reaped and festivity and abundance is in the air. The major festivals of Durga Puja and Dussera are just around the corner and Diwali is coming up, October signals the beginning of the happy season in India.
“But Baba…. Why on a motorcycle? So unsafe. What are you trying to prove? Why can’t you just take the train?” asks Juhi who has just stepped into her teens and is convinced I am a bit crazy. She knows that to get to Bhutan, I’ll have to ride through some ‘rough’ areas. She warns me that I could get robbed, kidnapped or even killed. She’s reads out reports of such news item hoping to scare me into abandoning what she thinks is a suicidal venture. She doesn’t say it but I know she also thinks I’m too old for such a physically demanding task.
“At least go with a group”, she says in a gesture of semi-compromise. I tell her that no one is really alone on the roads of India – at least on the ones I’ll be riding on. There will be people galore. And help will be always available, sometimes even when you don’t want it! Besides, a group-ride can easily turn into a picnic.
In retrospect, I realize that I never did ask myself whether or not I'd actually be able to do it. I don't know what my answer would have been. Ask no questions and be told no lies! Just Do It! (thanks Nike).
I’ve allowed myself a month off from needing to don my speech therapists’ garb. 20 days on the road with an extra 10 for any contingencies encountered. Anything can happen on an Indian road and it’d be pity if nothing does. That’s the reason I’m on this ride in the first place. For the insecurity of it. If I wanted only to be ‘safe’, I’d have taken Juhi’s advice and gone on a streamlined group tour organised by a travel company that prides itself for its reliability and predictability. Some agencies even take cooks along to provide the same food one would eat at home. For such, a solo motorcycle ride through India is strongly de- recommended.

Down in the garage the motorcycle stands primed for departure. I go down to take yet another look at the steed of steel and get stared back by its large central eye which seems to be asking me ‘When .when…when will you take me out?’ It’s been caged too long in the narrow confining streets of the city and seems almost desperate to take off on the promised run.
The bike has received some serious attention at the workshop. The piston now has new rings that achieve tighter closure with the cylinder. Everything that needs to be has been replaced, lubricated, tightened or adjusted. It’s performed nicely in the last week that I’ve been test-riding it. My mechanic says it is now ‘better than new’.
Which is more than what I can say for myself.
Last time, before embarking on the Ladakh ride, I had cycled and exercised and got myself into a degree of physical fitness. This time I’m going on an as-is-where-is basis. These last 3 years, I’ve not being paying much attention to my body, not that it has demanded much. It’s been a fairly well behaved bag of organs and after all, what use are organs if not organized? On my part, I’ve been pampering them with all sorts of tasty solid, liquid, gaseous and aromatic rewards.
I suspect the Ladakh ride has turned me cocky. For one, I expect this ride to Bhutan to be a much easier journey than the one into the high Himalayas. Repeated visits to Google Earth have assured me that this time there will be no rugged, remote, ice-laden terrain to cross. No need to carry high-altitude gear. The highest point I’ll touch will be Thimpu - no more than 2000 metres above sea level. Also, the roads I’ll take are mainly national highways. Hotels, dhabas, service stations aplenty! I’m leaving the heavy foot-pump.The few spares I’m carrying don’t take up much space. Just cables, a plug and an extra set of electronic points, a pair of fuses. To make it even easier on myself, I’ve broken up the 3000 kilometre route into shorter daily rides and resolved go slower – take the element of ‘hurry’ out of my calculations. I’ve no records to break. In any case, riding solo, one is assured of coming first.
Ajit Harisinghani
Author of One Life to Ride - A Motorcycle Journey to the High Himalayas, (See excerpts on Amazon)


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Re: Excerpt from my new book:
« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2012, 01:20:03 am »

The Garbone

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Re: Excerpt from my new book:
« Reply #2 on: September 07, 2012, 12:49:47 pm »

I see what you did there..  lol...   

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* all actions described in this post are fictional *


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Re: Excerpt from my new book:
« Reply #3 on: September 07, 2012, 01:31:27 pm »
The last book was an interesting read. May have to give this one a shot.
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Re: Excerpt from my new book:
« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2013, 08:12:37 pm »
The last book was an interesting read. May have to give this one a shot.

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Re: Excerpt from my new book:
« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2013, 06:19:05 am »
I liked the first book as well.

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