Archive for 2018

How I hugged the world!

Believe it!
In everyone’s life, there comes a time when you put all your daily chores asides and go out to welcome the world with open arms. For me, that time arrived in the monsoon of 2013. I’d been contemplating a bike ride to Ladakh and Khardung La – the world’s highest motorable road aka the holy grail of biking in India – since three years by then. Finally, I decided to bid adieu to laugh in the face of my 9-to-5 job and the naysayers and set forth on a solo journey which changed my outlook on life.

Back in June 2013, I set out to check Ladakh and Khardung La Pass off my bucket list. And in the process of doing so, I had also checked off a number of other items off my bucket list which I had never mentioned in the first place. While I had Khardung La set as my North Star, I had a number of heavenly encounters along the way. I set out on a one-way trip not knowing when I’d return, all I wanted to do was discovering the purest joys of life and soak in all that this world has to offer. And boy, am I glad that I did that! 

Here’s how the world embraced with open arms:

Made me float through the clouds

At Rohtang Pass

One fine morning, after the overnight torrential downpour, I decided to start my ‘real journey’ from Manali in search of that elusive land called Ladakh. While climbing up the notorious Rohtang Pass, as the altitude increased and temperature fell, I found myself surrounded in clouds. Visibility was barely 50 meters and you could barely see where the cliff ends and 1000ft drop start. Though there was danger lurking at every corner, riding in clouds gave a heavenly feel to it. It almost made me feel like Santa Claus (minus the belly and beard) flying it’s sleigh over the Nordic clouds.

This taught me an important lesson about the world: Heaven isn’t a post-life imaginary place. It’s right here on this earth, we just need to know how to find it.

Made me learn the shape of a snowflake


Riding along the gorgeous Baralachala Pass, I felt a tiny polystyrene ball bouncing off my helmet visor. At first I thought my brain was playing tricks owing to the high altitude but it happened again. And again. And then again. And within no time, it was like someone had cut open a beanbag. Tiny snow balls bouncing on your helmet and then sliding down on the helmet visor just centimeters in front of your eyes in their trademark snowflake shape while you’re riding along a sheet of snow is an experience like no other. Calling it "Surreal" will be an understatement.

This taught me an important lesson about the world: You’re never too small or too insignificant to bring a smile to someone’s lips.

Made me take on a storm head on

Sand rising through the Nubra Valley

The above paragraph heading is no metaphor, that’s literally what I did. And won.
If you’ve seen the movie ‘The Mummy’, you’d remember the scene where the reincarnated Mummy of Imhotep raises a sandstorm in order to engulf the hero who’s in a tiny propeller aircraft. Keep that sandstorm in mind and picture the phenomenon heading towards you while you’re stuck on a hilly road with mountain on one side and a 500ft drop on the other and nowhere to hide. While returning from Turtuk (the last village on the Indian border), on my way to the sleepy town of Diskit, known for its 16th century Diskit monastery and a giant statue of Maitreya Buddha, I was a brown wall heading towards me from the Southern end of Nubra Valley. What looked like rain clouds at first turned out to be a crazy sandstorm. Due to its unique geographical location, during the evening time the hot air rising from the deserts of Hunder had created a sandstorm engulfing everything on its path. Like a Hollywood movie I was counting down the ‘Time to impact’ while riding straight towards the storm: “T-1 km, “T-500 mt”, “T-100 mt”, “T-10 mt”, “BRACE FOR IMPACT!”
As it hit me, my bike slowed down from 65-70mph to less than 30kmph even in fourth gear. In fact, it was a good thing I kept riding in to the storm instead of standing by waiting for the wind to blow me away. The bike’s momentum negated the storm’s force and helped me get out on to the other side unscathed.

This taught me an import lesson about life: Whenever you’re faced with a crisis, face it head on. Your momentum and confidence will negate all the destructive forces.

Made me conquer one of the world’s deadliest roads

Way to Zojila, the last good piece of tarmac before the carnage starts.

The Zojila Pass is in the list of the World’s Deadliest Roads for a reason. With 1000-feet drops, zero margin of error and a gradient that provides zero to shit-in-your-pants grip, the Zojila Pass is not for the faint hearted. B the time I reached Zojila, I had already crossed the world’s top three motorable pass; however, what Zojila lacks in altitude, it makes up in sheer ruthlessness. Once I started the mountain climb, I lost track of time or distance; I kept tackling one corner at a time. At the end of what seemed like an eternity, I had finally conquered one of the deadliest roads in the world.

This taught me an important lesson about life: However, difficult a task is, perseverance always pays off.

Made me realize that strangers are friends you’ve never met

Became friends with two young  (and mischievous) monks at the Lamayuru monastery who were more than happy to pose for the camera

I met a number of military men, locals and monks during the trip. I spent significant amount of time talking to them, learning about their life and their way of living in the Ladakhi wilderness. I was helped my total strangers on a number of occasions. Recounting each tale would fill up an entire book and yet I wouldn’t be able to capture in words the experience of meeting all these amazing people; whether it’s the Ladakhi family in the village of Stok who welcomed me in to their home and poured me their local brew or the soldiers in Nubra Valley who offered me juice and biscuits just because I stopped by to ask for directions. 

This taught me an important lesson about world: It’s full of people who’re different just like us.

During my Bombay To Leh solo bike trip spanning 7 states, 16 cities, 43 days, 5300 km, millions of breathtaking moments and a lifetime worth of memories; I learnt a very important lesson that the journey itself is as important as the destination itself.

Cafe Gumri situated at the foothills of Zojila Pass says it beautifully.

Hence, I urge everyone become a bit more open minded, be ready for experimentation and trust strangers and then see at how this world embraces you wholeheartedly. It's full of amazing experiences and awesome people who're just waiting to be discovered. In other words, just #SayYesToTheWorld.

Don't forget to check out the below video of why people love the world. 

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