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Growing up on a Motorcycle by Nikhil Rajaram

Faizan Ali

About Trail

Vehicle: Pulsar 200 NS

Start Point: Bangalore

Start Date: 01-June-2018

End Point: Ladakh

End Date: 29-June-2018

Too many college kids think life is about reaching somewhere, about ending up in some material-filled haven. They dream of a big house, a beautiful spouse & a high-paying job. Fortunately, I can never relate to such fantasies. For me, life is a journey, and every moment must be enjoyed to the freaking max. That is why I joined a rider club and planned to go on a road trip after the end of my final year exams. I considered it an experience without which life’s journey would feel incomplete. It would begin on 1st June 2018, with the starting point being my hometown i.e. Bangalore, and destination - Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir. Basically, this meant a total ride distance of over 6000 km.

I was the youngest member of my riding club and this was going to be the first time I would be riding my jet-black Pulsar NS200 for such a long distance. So I decided to prepare myself thoroughly. My trail started 6 months before the actual trip. I began a thorough fitness regime that would help me get in shape for longer travels. Even during my exams, I did not give up on my fitness because I knew the exams would be easy compared to a 6000km long bike trip. And after 6 months, after losing close to 5 kgs and after thorough planning, I was sitting on my motorcycle, ready to kick it into the ignition. All set to make my way towards Ladakh.

I still remember the exact moment when I first got a glimpse of India’s northern mountains. No, I don’t remember where I was or what time it was. Instead, I remember the excitement I felt, that glimpse was like a signpost that read ‘you’re very close, Nikhil, very close to your calling’. Riding towards that signpost was like leaving the rest of my life far behind, I was traveling through some sort of wormhole and entering a completely different universe. It felt like the world was always in peace here, there was barely any traffic, any dispute or any hassle.

When we made our first stop in J&K, the cold weather started to get to me a little. My Pulsar’s carburetor-based engine began to give away. But the locals came forward to help, offering me all sorts of soups to help me stay warm and helping me with my bike so I can keep riding on. They also helped us navigate our way through the beautiful state. They never asked for anything in return for all their help. Such a huge difference in culture from India’s metro cities.

When I finally reached Ladakh, I felt like I had reached heaven. But with this happiness also came a kind of emptiness. ‘What’s the point?’ I asked myself. I’ve traveled 3000 km on a Pulsar NS200 and traveled through some of the toughest roads. But what’s the point? I thought I’m still not satisfied. Maybe my soul and my motorcycle are asking for more. So, I made mine towards another epic rider’s destination in the north – Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh.

Among Himachal’s innumerable roads, the one I miss the most is the stretch from Kalpa to Shimla. That road felt like a biker’s wet dream with its smooth terrains, well-planned turns and some of the most scintillating sights a person will ever get to see. Driving on the smooth roads did not feel like you were riding a motorcycle, it felt like putting a knife through soft butter. The ride was so organic that there was no effort involved. It felt like nature’s very own cruise control.

As that beautiful stretch ended, it hit me that this isn’t going to last forever. In the end, we were going to have to make our way back home. My mind was overcome with a bittersweet thought. That even though this ride will come to an end, the memory (or the trail) will stay with us forever. I had realized the purpose of going on a road trip. Road trips are for people who’re tired of hearing other people’s tales. Instead, they like creating their own trails.

The ride got tough on our way back from Spiti Valley, we faced unforgiving Mumbai rains that made us feel numb all over, we faced the traffic, heat, and pollution of urban India between Chandigarh and Delhi. But we endured. We endured all the way back to Bangalore.

And you know what, like those other college kids, I felt like I had reached somewhere in life. I had seen and rode through the Himalayas, met and learned from a completely different kind of people, realized the importance of going on road trips and gained the confidence that I can do anything I set my mind to.

The day I reached Bangalore was 29th June 2018. The very next day was my 21st birthday, making these 6000 kms a birthday gift to myself. A birthday gift that helped me reach the starting point of the next big journey of my life. Becoming a strong-minded, confident & ambitious adult.

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