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Old 10th December 2019, 22:25   #1
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Default A Kiss of Death in Magical Himachal

We all want our 'firsts' to be special, be more interesting. Now this is my 'first' travelogue here about my recent bike trip to Himachal Pradesh in the last week of October 2019. And it is special. But it is not special or interesting in the way I wanted it. In fact, it is exact opposite of what one would wish to encounter during a trip.

Himachal Pradesh - The 'Dev Bhoomi'
The place, as many here already know, is simply magical. While the name of the state literally means 'Snow-laden province' I didn't get a chance to experience the snowfall here as I was visiting in the week of Diwali - October 26, 2019 - November 02, 2019. The locals call it 'Dev Bhoomi' due to the multitude of temples found across the length and breadth of the state. Every hill or mountain peak is dotted with a home for a deity. The plan was to utilize the leftover leaves before the final months of the year come up and people at work start fighting for their leaves.

The plan was prepared in a jiffy in the second week of October, train tickets booked on 'Whatever is available' basis and the accommodation was left to 'last minute on each day'. This was simply because we had planned a bike ride starting from Chandigarh.

First Destination: Chitkul - supposedly the last village on our border with Tibet / China. Supposedly because the said title has been claimed by many villages in different states bordering China. The village lies on the east side of the state in Kinnaur district and nearest town with decent accommodation facilities is Sangla. The route that we took was the following:

Day 1-2: Depart on Friday Oct 25 from Mumbai. Reach New Delhi on Saturday and take another train to Chandigarh. Reach Chandigarh on Saturday night. We took the rental bikes immediately after reaching Chandigarh. I opted for the TB 500 while my friend opted for the Himalayan.

Day 3: Leave Chandigarh early on Sunday morning and move towards Shimla, via Solan. We skipped Shimla by taking a detour and directly reached Narkanda by evening. We decided to stay here as the place was nice (the small town is actually on top of a mountain) and the next town Rampur Bushahr was about two hours away. We were not interested in riding in the dark.

Day 4: Early morning departure towards Chitkul. On the way we had multiple stops but finally reached the destination on time.

Day 5: Stay at Chitkul, experience the tiny village, did a 5-hour trek as well and then decided to stay here another night.

Day 6: Left Chitkul and reached Sangla quickly. Sangla is a small buy important town in Kinnaur district. It has a nice stadium and we decided to stay here for a night as we simply liked the place. Did a quick ride to Basteri village as well after dropping our bags at Sangla.

Day 7: Decided to visit Manali now as I wanted to tick the check-box for 'Himachal aya par Manali nahi dekha? Aise kaise?' Took a fabulous route that took us to Jallori pass - the Old Britisher's Highway. What an awesome road and experience that was . Decided to stay at Jibhi as I liked the place and the available stay option there. Was a good decision in hindsight.

Day 8: Left Jibhi to return back. Reached Mandi and booked a room there.

Day 9: November 02, 2019 - Left Mandi to finally reach Chandigargh and return the bikes but luck had other plans. Within a few kilometres after leaving the hotel, I met with the 'Angel of Death' for no fault of mine. I never knew life had set a date with the angel for no fault of mine. I had the worst experience of my life here which has made me sit at home now ever since just to recover and be able to type this travelogue. But life has been fortunate on me in more than one way. The 'Angel of Death' kissed me and then pushed me away. It just refused to hug and take me along.

While at Mandi, I had various experiences with people there. Some were good citizens and kind hearted, some professionals but the last bunch were downright ugly, unethical and immoral in nature. That my friends, was what ruined my experiences during the trip. Details will allow follow in the images that follow below.


The Route taken

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First glimpse of the start of the 'Burning Season'. This was at 4pm and the Sun was no where to be seen.

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The first selfie at the start of the journey on Day 2. Just outside CH.

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The bikes and the bags. These ~60 ltr capacity tail bags are enough to pack your stuff for 10-12 days. Apart from clothes, I also had a few extra bike accessories/parts but still had some space left. If needed, you can also extend the capacity by another 20 ltr or so with a cylinder bag tucked at the top of the tail bag with belts. No need to put those saddle stay frames.

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Beautiful woody roads in Narkanda.

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Our stay for the night and beautiful roads leading to the place.

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First glimpse of the snowy peaks and also my first disappointment. The Hills in Himachal are dotted with villages and houses across the state now. While we all are humans and need a good accommodation I am of the opinion that the growth across the districts that I visited has been haphazard. I saw many hills now devoid of trees and fauna as we humans have cut down the forest cover for shelter and farming. I saw too many green houses too.

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After leaving Narkanda, again had a chance to ride on woody and twisty roads. The roads in general are good and at times, just excellent. We are fortunate to have such good roads in hilly areas. Of-course there are bad patches and at times there were no roads at all. But over all, my experience with roads on this route was good.

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Beautiful Morning on day 3.

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First glimpse of the mighty Setluj.

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Post Rampur Bushahr we stopped at a small eatery and saw how the river is cutting the mountains slowly and slowly.

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Bang opposite the eatery, these animals were having their usual day out. What we will need special skills and equipment to do, they were doing as if it was just a walk in the park.

See how many you can identify in the pictures. I can spot only three in the pictures but there were more on that day

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Pit-stop at Sangla.

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Just outside of the destination. A few KMs before Chitkul.

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Orange peaks and our home-stay at Chitkul.

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Day 4, mighty peaks on our side of the river Baspa river.

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Baspa flowing through the valley below the Chitkul village. This is about 2K ft below the village. We decided to cross the river and cover a small trek on the other side.

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At the bottom part of the trek, on the river.

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After covering 1/3rd part of the climb, the village and our home stay on the other side.

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Half way through the climb, the scene gets more beautiful. The wind feels colder while the Sun is still shining bright.

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The other half of the trek climb that we had to cover.

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View after covering 2/3rd of the trek.

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Finally, this is where we stopped as we were exhausted. View from the highest point of our trek.

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Last edited by sunilch : 20th December 2019 at 15:01.
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Old 20th December 2019, 15:06   #2
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Day 6, left Chitkul early morning and reached Sangla. We play lazy and decided to stay at Sangla itself. The town is beautiful and has a nice Stadium of its own. Our place of stay was sharing a boundary with the Stadium. We also visited a small village named Batseri just before Sangla. It is a nice place to say on the banks of a flowing river. Kind of similar to Chitkul except that it has better stay options.

After seeing Batseri and Sangla I feel Chitkul is over sold as a destination. There are hardly any good options to stay or eat, compared to Batseri or Sangla. Yes there are wooden houses and 1-2 eateries serve you delicious food, but beyond that there is hardly anything. We stayed there because we liked to sub-zero temperatures at night and we had a nice trek experience. But the same can be experienced while staying at Sangla I believe, while getting a better value for your money for accommodation.

The Fallacy called 'Aakhri Dhaba'
The 'Hindustan ka Aakhri Dhaba' isn't Aakhri any more. May be 15 years back it was the case but today it is the First Dhaba in the supposedly Aakhri village. There are multiple eateries after this one and new ones were being constructed while we were there.

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The 'obvious' pic that anyone visiting Kinnaur has to take )

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After reaching back to Rampur Bushahr we decided to move towards Jibhi and, if possible, Manali. We were never in a mood to cover distance during the trip and hence the place of stay was always left to the best of our ability to ride. Whenever we will feel tired or like the place we were at, we will decide to stay there. This took us towards the Jalori Pass via a small town called Anni. The town and the road to it felt like Lonavala. Full of heat and dust, too many hotels/home-stays around. But one we crossed Anni, the ride was just beautiful. In-fact this was the best road of this trip.

Beautiful woody roads post Anni

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At the top of the Jalori pass a.k.a 'The Old Britishers Highway'. This is the topmost point on the road at 10800 ft.

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Immediately next is a small village called Shoja. Beautiful location with home-stays that look down on the valley. This is where we had our next surprise - The Himalayan Griffon Vulture. Supposedly there was some deal animal along the highway (that we were not able to spot) that was a feast for a bunch of 8-10 of these massive vultures. You have to see these creatures to believe me when I say they were massive in size.

Managed to click only a limited number of pictures with my phone. Here again, like the mountain goats earlier, the vultures were in 'perfect camouflage' with the natural surroundings. See if you can spot the raptors in the pics below.

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The steep slopes of Shoja
The downward ride from Shoja to Jibhi is extremely steep. In-fact it is famous for burning your discs if you do not use engine breaking. There are regular cases of break burnouts here. So be careful if you are taking this route the first time on your next road trip. This route can also be a good trek if you wish to do so on a well paved road.

The views on the slope:

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Our stay at Jibhi was at a wonderful location and had great food. It is partly-owned and managed by a young couple from HR and is quite new.

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.
The Jibhi Waterfall: This is a small waterfall at Jibhi which is nothing short of a picturesque location.The place was looking like a movie shoot location. The walk towards it and the actual fall:

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Post visiting the waterfall we headed back to the top of another mountain nearby, into a settlement called Bahu. Again, beautiful woody roads all around.

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The village is actually famous for multiple temples that it surrounds. There is a famous Balo temple which is kind of a must visit if you are in this area. The location of the temple, the surroundings - everything about it is just breathtaking. I wonder how it will look with snow around

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We left for Mandi now and on the way saw massive tunnels being built. This will be the new route to Mandi and is expected to cut short the travel time and also make it safer. There is a dam built on the Setluj here and the view are again great. The road is full of construction filth and dust around, with heavy trucks constantly moving materials.

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Last edited by sunilch : 21st December 2019 at 21:03.
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Old 12th January 2020, 01:29   #3
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So on the second last day we came across a group of five folks who came all the way from Surat and were headed back home. We connected over our journey and negotiated rooms at same hotel in Mandi. Discussed life, bikes, and many other things. Next morning, all set to return to CH. After about 30 mins from leaving the hotel, the unexpected happened.

While cursing on the TB500 at legal speeds, a Baleno with temp numbers came suddenly on the highway from the left and the driver, without any thought or indication decided to do a sharp U-turn. I was on the second lane having my 'Always On' headlight on. But this idiot just decided to change direction without checking for anything. I pressed both breaks and honked. The idiot panicked and instead of changing direction to make the car strait or stopping all-together, he did some stupid steering movement and the car started going in diagonal direction. I tried to steer to right as I had noticed that there was no on coming vehicle in the opposite direction but could not do so to the expected extent and ended up hitting the car and the the bike fell.

Now, because I had full gear including Helmet, Jacket, Gloves, Double pants and special shoes for riding I had zero external injury. Not even a single scratch.

But the impact was sudden and I had banged my head on the road in the fall. As a result my neck received a major shock. I passed out for about 5 mins and when I woke up, I realized I was lying on the road side.

My helmet, glasses, gloves and backpack - everything was taken off my body by passersby who picked me and kept me lying on the side of the road. I was not able to move, lift up my body or head. My arms were paralyzed and so was one of my leg (partially). I immediately realized something major has happened and started shouting. I had to shout as people were trying to life me. I know that doing so could have further damaged my spine or neck and hence I asked them no not to touch me until an ambulance arrives.

I am actually not sure if my damage could have be reduced or lesser if no one would have lifted me initially or tried to remove my helmet. But I know they all were trying to help me and trying to wake me up to see if I was still alive.

The driver was held by the crowd and he was helping too to get me to a hospital. My friend came back after noticing that I wasn't in his rear view after some time (he was ahead of me when the accident happened).

Fortunately the accident happened within 200-300 meters of a good private hospital at Mandi and immediately people got a stretcher for me. I told them to lift me carefully and also hold my neck as by now I understood that it is my neck that is broken.

The hospital had a resident Orthopedic Surgeon and so I was in luck despite not being in luck. He quickly diagnosed the condition properly and advised MRI. We left for MRI center, about 6 kms away in ambulance with my friend, and one person who was helping us.

Turns out the car was a Nexa showroom Demo car and the driver had missed buying sweets for some ceremonial that they were having at the showroom. So in a hurry he was trying to change direction to go to a sweets shop on the other side. The guy helping us in the ambulance was a showroom employee. I was waiting for my turn at the MRI machine and suddenly another guy comes up and starts sweet talking to me. He was a sales rep or some manager at the showroom and was trying to know my background, my residency status, etc. Starts telling me that I will be ok within a day as it is only pain and nothing else and I should actually leave tomorrow morning itself to take rest of the treatment at home. His exact words: 'Ghar pe jo treatment hoti hai na, woh best hoti hai. Mera ek dost tha usko bhi yehi hua tha aur woh 2-3 din mein theek ho gaya.' (You will get best treatment at home only. A fried of mine had same injury as you and he got back to normal in 2-3 days).

Imagine, I was lying in severe pain on the stretcher, unable to move my arms or neck and he starts doing his job there itself. I understood something is fishy and asked him to talk to me the next day. Meanwhile, another team of folks from the showroom visited the hospital owner while we were at the MRI center and told them that they will take care of everything.

Post MRI and other scans, I am back at hospital and the report tells us that I have:
  • Fracture in one vertebra of my C-Spine.
  • Edema in multiple vertebrae of C-Spine
  • Disk bulge in couple of vertebra of C-Spine

The Orthopedic surgeon knew what to do and he started the treatment. Come day three of the accident and the real face of those Nexa guys is revealed. My friend/family was asked for money for all pending bills, tests and reports. Now in normal case it is not a surprise but here it was because the Nexa guys went back on their word to the hospital. They refused to help us in any way because an FIR was filled against them and it can't be cancelled.

You see while I was being diagnosed and treated on the first day, local police came in and took both vehicles in custody. They had taken statements from multiple eyewitnesses, me and the driver. And all eyewitnesses clearly told the cops that it was the car driver who was at fault. Some of them in-fact are formal witnesses in the FIR. So what the Nexa guys were trying to get away with, was already done.

So by now, during this unfortunate event, I met:
  • Some kind hearted people who helped me despite being strangers
  • Some good citizens who went out of their way to do the right thing and stand witness in the FIR
  • Some professionals who were good at their craft and gave me the right treatment at the right time
  • Some ugly/immoral folks who were just doing their job (but wait their even more uglier face is still only half reveled)

My family members came in next day and after knowing all this, they were of the opinion to not to pursue the matter legally and immediately move to Mumbai for further treatment ASAP. So my family members, who were being nagged by the showroom guys with their sweet talk, agreed to have the the FIR withdrawn. My family understood that they are showing fake sympathy due to the FIR but still, my treatment was a higher priority for everyone at that point. To get this done, they traveled all the way to Sundarnagar on day three to meet the higher ups, along with the showroom employees. But even the higher ups were clear that this can be done only by the courts.

On day three, my family arranged all discharge documents and we decided to move on day four early morning at 4:00 am. This is how the conversation went between Nexa (N) guys, Hospital owner (Dr) and my family (F):

Dr to N: Here is the total bill, please send across the money. These guys are leaving tomorrow.
N: But Sir, our Maalik (Employer) has now refused to pay.
Dr to N: You said you will pay and hence I have not asked for any money from F. Why has the Employer changed his mind?
F to N: When were you planning to inform me of this? Were you planning to pay from your pocket earlier and now suddenly your boss has come into picture? Why are you revealing this now?
N: Sir, FIR is already filled and it didn't get cancelled so we can't do anything.
F to N: We didn't ask you for any money to begin with, so you can leave. We will leave tomorrow so you don't have to worry about us for now.
F to Dr: Never mind them, we will pay and leave tomorrow at 4 am. But will need help in doing so.
Dr to F: Thank-you. It is good that it got settled today as I didn't know that Nexa will go back on their word. I will arrange for boys to help you tomorrow morning.


Later in evening, my friend leaves for CH to return his bike and papers for mine. Bike rental guy was ok to get the bike released by himself later from Mandi. But now another turn was yet to happen. The ambulance was a third party service provider who showed up his ugly face. He agreed at XXX Rs when we booked the ambulance during the day. But later at night, he turned up at the hospital saying that he doesn't have the ambulance that we had booked but now has another one - not a bigger one, just another vehicle of same type/size, but will cost XXX + 2000 Rs more. Why? Because the driver is asking for more. Despite telling him that he is being unprofessional and unethical, we agreed to the revised cost and he assured us that he will provide stretcher, blankets and pillow for me, helpers at CH to unload me and that the ambulance will not leave us until we board into the train.

We were coming by train as I was not in a position to travel to Delhi from Mandi by road, the journey was too long. There were no direct flights from CH to BOM available with a stretcher on immediate basis. You see, if you want to arrange for a stretcher in a flight to carry a patient, you need to book the same a minimum 48 hours in advance and it will have to be a specific flight that the airlines will tell you. You can't choose the flight and you can't change it post booking. Of-course this is applicable for normal folks like you and me. If you have some good connections (specially political connections) then none of these things will matter. I know because one of my friend's brother had gone through this earlier and they are well connected. That guy got airlifted from Ladakh on urgent basis and was in Mumbai hospital in under 24 hours.

Next morning, only a single driver turns up with nothing with him. Not even blankets or a pillow. This driver is totally rude and refuses to help us in lifting me to get into the ambulance. Says his job is only to drive to CH and come back and he won't wait for our train. He will just drop and leave. The ambulance agency guy wouldn't pick up the phone at 4 am obviously.

So we borrow blankets and pillows from hospital and start. After a lot of hard talk later, with the driver and the agency, he finally agrees to wait with us until the train comes in. Again there were no helpers at CH. Agency guys says that he was not able to arrange the same. So finally at CH station we get coolies and railway stretcher (as the Ambulance was not carrying its own).

All this pain because I was not allowed to move at all. You see, the injury or the body pain isn't as hurtful, as is seeing your family members go thorough this agony for basic services that we were paying for. People going back on their word while providing emergency services is the last thing that we would expect. And all because someone had an urgency to buy some sweets.

Next day we reach Mumbai where things were pre-arranged by my wife for my further treatment at Jaslok Hospital. I got the required further treatment at Jaslok by qualified doctors and the services were great. Being from Mumbai, we know the best hospitals in Mumbai and know what to expect. I can confidently say that Mumbai has one of the best, if not the best, healthcare facilities in India.

So we did meet another group of people who knew how to fleece others while they are in need.

Post discharge, I was on strict bed rest for 2 months with a cervical collar around my neck all the time - 24x7. But I have a supportive family who cares for everyone in it to such an extent that I thank my starts everyday that I was born into such a family. It was wonderful to see my 2 year old son after a long time. It was wonderful to hear how his first words and his initial broken lines, asking me to give him his color crayons while he paints our walls with them

My office folks have been supportive too and fortunately I had some accumulated leaves that I was able to utilize for this emergency. I have now started working from home and hope to resume my work schedule in a couple of weeks or in Feb 2020 for sure.

I used to run for 70 mins and cover 10Kms before the accident. Post the accident, I was not able to get up from my bed without help, not able to move my neck in any direction and not able to balance properly while standing. But now, I have started walking and can walk for 40 mins slowly. I have a long way to get back to my normal as I am still in recovery mode and it will be slow. But with my family's support, I am sure I will be back to my 70 mins runs one day.

Last edited by sunilch : 13th January 2020 at 08:47.
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Old 13th January 2020, 10:14   #4
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Thread moved from the Assembly Line to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 13th January 2020, 10:39   #5
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Wishing you a speedy recovery. One positive from such experiences is that it helps you appreciate the work other family members do for you.

What happened to the FIR? Also, what happens when it reaches the court? Will your side be fought by the state, or will you have to get an advocate?
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Old 13th January 2020, 11:08   #6
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My god.

Do you think a neck brace would have helped in an accident like this?
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Old 13th January 2020, 11:23   #7
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Ohh thats an experience and thanks for sharing the incident in detail. Wish you recover 100% and fit for road trips soon.

This really shows the ugly face of our country. Atleast glad to hear that local people were supportive and even stood witness in the FIR. This is quite rare these days as no one wants to get into legal issues. We have to be very cautious while taking such trips and travel in bigger groups so that such things can be handled well.

I also have a similar question what happened to the FIR. Were Nexa guys brought to task?
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Old 13th January 2020, 11:32   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KL01toKA03 View Post
Wishing you a speedy recovery. One positive from such experiences is that it helps you appreciate the work other family members do for you.

What happened to the FIR? Also, what happens when it reaches the court? Will your side be fought by the state, or will you have to get an advocate?
The FIR is active and waiting for a date in court. When it reaches, I will have to hire a lawyer to fight or dispose it off. The corporate chain that owns the local Nexa showroom has given us calls seeking sympathy for their driver who suffered no damage or any other loss. They are selling us 'Duhai' of the driver and his family. But here is the read deal - In such a case they don't want a court date at all. The reason is that the employer can be summoned by the court and if found non-cooperative, an arrest warrant can be issued against the owner. Hence the Nexa guys are following with use to have the FIR cancelled. We have been clear that we tried to help them but we will follow the rules of the law.

We clearly asked them if they have any 'Humanity' in them for the damage that they have done to us. Not just financial damage but mental/emotional and physical damage too. Their response - Nada. They have no shame as there was minimal damage to the car and they have hardly anything to loose financially. It is only because of the active FIR that they are/were following up with us. The company is actually quite resourceful and hence I am not sure how things will unfold in coming days.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Red Liner View Post
My god.

Do you think a neck brace would have helped in an accident like this?
I read about the Neck brace only recently after my accident. These seem to be a relatively new development. My orthopedic surgeon, at the time of the accident, said there is limited gear available for the neck and so it seems he wasn't aware of the same. I read some articles where-in the brace seems to be helping but again, these are all more recent studies.

Helmet design is actually limited or flawed in my opinion. I had shared the same opinion earlier with multiple riders and no one has a solution to this problem. But this neck brace seems to be complementing a helmet and hence is worth a try. If it is light weight and won't impact/limit your riding experience.
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Old 13th January 2020, 11:33   #9
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Default Re: A Kiss of Death in Magical Himachal

Thanks a lot for penning down the whole incident for us. This really helps one in handling things if god forbid something like this happens on a trip.

Wish you a very speedy recovery & back on the road running & riding.

Cheers,

Pawan
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Old 13th January 2020, 11:44   #10
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Default Re: A Kiss of Death in Magical Himachal

The only option ahead seems to be to pursue the FIR to its logical conclusion.

Since the Nexa guys have been completely un empathetic, it should be none of your concerns if the driver is punished. And he should be taken off the roads asap in the interest of other innocent road users.
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Old 13th January 2020, 11:56   #11
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Default Re: A Kiss of Death in Magical Himachal

My full sympathy for you buddy. Our roads are full of morons. What an unfortunate situation to be away from home. Hope you recover fully and let me assure you, that you would be able to do 10 kms 70 min runs again.

Come what may, do not spare the Nexa Guys, they need to be taught a lesson.
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Old 13th January 2020, 12:41   #12
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Default Re: A Kiss of Death in Magical Himachal

Wishing you a very speedy recovery & we hope you hit the road soon. It hurt's a lot when you have to suffer for no fault of your own. Glad that you were helped by local people who usually stay away from legal issues. Please do carry on your fight against nexa showroom so that they get the punishment they deserve.
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Old 13th January 2020, 12:42   #13
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Default Re: A Kiss of Death in Magical Himachal

@sunlich,
I started out reading this thread with an extremely dejavu but happy feeling as a fellow bhpian and I did a 2 week ride trip across Himachal Pradesh on rental Himalayan bikes from Delhi, traversing about nearly 70% of the route taken by you, with halts at similar locations (e.g. Jibhi), just a few weeks later (mid Nov) after your trip.

Really sorry to hear about your situation. This took a very serious change for such a stupid reason. The last post of yours was even more of a dejavu because I had a very similar accident between Mandi and Jibhi - hitting a local Maruti Alto head-on on one of the twisting roads. Full riding gear ensured I had zero external damage and thankfully I was able to walk away from that incident.

I do hope your situation turns for the better over the coming weeks. And I hope you aren't too much troubled on the FIR business. Do let us know how this progresses as and when you can. And I trust your judgment on the trip hasn't changed - seemed like you had an excellent trip and that should be the feeling you need to take forward for the future.
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Old 13th January 2020, 13:29   #14
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Default Re: A Kiss of Death in Magical Himachal

Wish you a speedy and complete recovery. There would be plenty of people on our forum itself, with accident recovery experiences. Here is one example.

https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/shift...ml#post4635795 (The Weight Loss Thread)
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Old 13th January 2020, 13:51   #15
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Default Re: A Kiss of Death in Magical Himachal

It was all inspiring and awesome with all the photos and experiences you shared at the beginning. I kept wondering why the title until I read the end.
What a horrific experience. I pray no one ends up in that position/situation ever.

You were really in luck while not being so lucky with all the treatment and help you received. And glad that you have recovered well to pen down for all of us. Wish you a speedy recovery. You'd soon do 10 km in 70 mins again, I'm sure.
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