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Old 19th November 2009, 17:01   #1
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Default We all have only 'One Life to Ride'.

Hi Friends,

The 2nd. edition of my book 'One Life to Ride - A Motorcycle Journey to the High Himalayas' was released on November 1, 2009. It is a 232 page paperback plus 8 pages of colour photos. The book is about a 4300 kms solo ride I took from Pune to Ladakh/Kargil/Srinagar in 2004 at age 54.

I plan to publish a few excerpts of the book in this forum. I will also include pictures of the trip in my next posting. For now, I'm putting up the part where the trip begins. A picture of the book cover is also included.

Come to the edge.
We can’t.
We’re afraid.
Come to the edge.
We can’t.
We will fall!
Come to the edge.
And they came.
And he pushed them.
And they flew.

Guillaume Apollinaire,


French poet, philosopher

Martial Law for a Motorcyclist
It has rained the night before and the morning air retains a degree of chill. Sunrise in Pune is still an hour away. A faint wisp of mist all around limits visibility but that’s really no bother since traffic is sparse this early in the morning, with only the occasional car hurrying away towards Mumbai, lost to sight in less than half a minute.
I open the visor of my helmet to welcome the feel of cold breeze on my face but in the bargain also have to contend with the loud gushing sound that accompanies it. That doesn’t feel good, so I pull down my curtain of Plexiglas to enclose myself again in my capsule-like helmet cutting off noise and letting exhaled air, circulating in an enclosed space, warm my face. The dark sunscreen of the visor tints everything around me in a cloak of grey-blue. New buildings looking like boxes of blue glass sprouting on a lawn of grey concrete dominate the landscape on either side of the highway. I am just out of Pune, headed northwest on National Highway 4 (NH-4) passing through a suburb in the making.
Roads are being laid. Yellow and red excavators and bulldozers appear crouched and waiting, as if anxious for another day of hectic activity. One of the big machines, its hood open, is being revved up by a grease-smudged young man. Where not too long ago, the ears heard the tinkling of bells as oxen helped plough the farmland; it is now the reign of the internal combustion engine.
The past is literally being bulldozed away. And the trucks cart away more than just old bricks, broken chunks of cement and warped rods of rusted steel. If you looked closely you would also see bits of songs and pieces of folkdances crumpled within this rubble; torn pages of history which no one wants to read today.
Going… going… gone.
A fast moving bright blue Volvo bus is overtaking me on my right and abruptly my focus shifts to the NOW.

These early minutes of the ride are a period of adjustments. Taking a firmer grip of the handle, slowing down a bit, I stand on the footrests and let the trousers settle to their natural fall. The thin chamois leather gloves take their time fitting comfortably over my fingers. These gloves are old and shaded dark with patches of dried grease and sweat accumulated over previous rides. I have a brand new pair tucked somewhere in one of the saddle-bags, but they are thickly lined with down and I will need them only when I approach the cold Himalayan ranges.

A checklist unfolds in the brain – a motorcyclist’s version of a pre-flight check.
One cluster of thoughts monitors the overall health of the motorcycle and remains alert to any sign of deviation from its current peak mechanical condition. I am glad I opted for the streamlined saddle-bags which have been loaded and checked for balance on a sample ride the previous evening. The heavier spares and tools have been divided and packed for easier accessibility. On the highway, you don’t want to open up the entire bag because the small spanner you need to tighten the brakes is inconveniently packed. The mechanic in me is processing a variety of other inputs. Do the tyres maintain the correct amount of spring in their step? Are the clutch and accelerator cables gliding smoothly in their casings? Do the brakes feel right? Are the tappets still on friendly terms with the actions of the piston? It is too early in the ride for things to start going wrong with the motorcycle and such monitoring will gain importance only as the miles add on. All questions answered for now, these motorcycle-connected thoughts fade from centre stage to be replaced by another cluster, which is focused on rider-status.
Is the body sitting in natural bilateral alignment? Are the muscles of the forearms holding the handle with more than necessary effort? Are the ankles and feet too tensed? Are the eyes squinting without reason? Is the forehead unnecessarily creased? It’s going to be a long ride and tiny muscular stresses can build up over a period of time to become major points of contention. The heart, at its own 72 beats a minute cannot, at first, keep pace with the much faster beat of the engine, but I try out a variety of mental calibrations and soon the equation is adjusted to read: One heart beat = four engine beats. There… the ‘dugh… dugh… dugh… dugh’ of the four-stroke engine is now also the beat my body is synchronized to.
Now that that’s all set, I can forget about my body. Just water it, feed it and rest it and it should be fine. I don’t have to get too involved in ‘body-gossip’. To this end, I have delegated all body duties; so each organ can take care of itself as well as cooperate with its colleagues. No complaints or pleas for help will be entertained, be they from exhausted muscle groups, finicky taste buds or sore eyes. Sometimes such martial law announcements are required to keep all the millions of cells that constitute this miracle of a body functioning in some sort of physiological harmony. I cannot have mutiny on board!
But neither will I push my subjects to the limits of their endurance. I am a benevolent, loving dictator. (Doesn’t every dictator think that?) I will rest frequently. Every 50 minutes or so, I will stop to rehydrate the body machine. Water is an elixir that I carry in adequate supply.
Other fundamental commandments have been agreed upon. I will ride only in daylight and will let the progress of the day’s ride decide where I will sleep for the night. Also, I have promised Meena I will not litter.

I’m approaching a junction where this new bypass that I’ve been riding on joins with the old highway.
An octroi check post on my left wears its usual garland of loaded trucks with their spillage of drivers waiting their turn. One of the drivers has his face covered in white foam and is using the large rear view mirror of his truck to shave. Young boys dart between the trucks, some ferrying glasses of hot chai, others selling newspapers or cigarettes. This place is organized to wait. I ride through the melee at snail’s pace. I can hear a radio asking everyone an easy question: ‘Choli ke peeche kya hai?’ But it’s too early in the morning for that sort of thing. Or is it?

to be contd.

Last edited by GTO : 20th November 2009 at 10:26. Reason: Note Inline
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Old 26th November 2009, 12:36   #2
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any updates on this. This was very well written. I will be ordering your book soon.
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Old 26th November 2009, 15:54   #3
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thanks manolin. will post some more excerpts with photos soon.
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Old 27th November 2009, 15:26   #4
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good read. More updates and Pics please
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Old 27th November 2009, 18:37   #5
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Mr. Yogi - Nice of you to do this trip.

By the way where can we buy this book of yours and for how much ?

A week later and we see no progress in your post. Please continue it
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Old 27th November 2009, 18:51   #6
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Hi Singingyogi,

Instead of excerpts it would be nice to post a synopsis of your travels. That is just my humble opinion as I believe it will help us all get a gist of your journey. Who knows it may give some of us a good break some day
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