It’s been a long break between blogs - and it struck me that I haven't written a blog post about my new book yet!
2020 has been quite a fecund year for me - this is my 5th book of the year! A new record! My 11th Travelogue, my 6th motorbiking travelogue and 15th book overall!
This has obviously been due to the fact that the lockdown limited all other activity and luckily enough the muse also blessed me and allowed my writing to flow freely. The year started with ‘One Man Goes Trekking’ - then followed the rest of the ‘Backpacking’ series - ‘One Man Goes on a Bus’ and ‘One Man Gets the Sack’. Then I went several years ahead in time and told the story of our cycling trip ‘One Man Goes Cycling’ which was pretty recent.
So now you had 5 books of the Amigos and 5 books of the Backpacking series.
Now it was time for a bit of a homecoming and writing about Motorcycle travel! But one can think of it as a coming together of the motorcycling and solo backpacking travels - as this book was about my first solo long ride. All my earlier rides had been as part of a group - either a big group like the Royal Enfield official rides or the rides with our local group - the alas now-defunct Konkan Moto Tours - and then obviously the memorable adventures of the Amigos.
But alas, the Amigos were not available for a long ride - Adi was out of India...and married...and Delzad was wrapped up in work. So what to do?
What to do? Ride Alone of course!
Bharathi SHE WHO MUST BE OBEYED kicked me in the pants and reminded me of my solo travel days, and I decided to go alone for the ride. Travelling alone is a different experience altogether and is very intense and different from travelling in a group. I had ridden alone earlier - but this would be the first long ride alone - and I looked forward to it!
And Uttarakhand was a place which I had been wanting to explore on bike for quite some time. I had made numerous trips there before of course - but not on bike.
The thing about a solo trip is that you are completely free to do your own thing and let your thoughts and behaviour flow freely. Obviously, you need to have a broad schedule in mind, but you can do your own thing all the time. Thus I was able to do crazy things like go solo trekking to Valley of Flowers and Tungnath and Deoriyatal and meet sadhus and solo bikers and wage a battle against bureaucracy to ride to Mana pass etc - which would probably not have been on the menu if I had been in a group.
Writing this book was a real joy - I had made daily notes of the trip and between those and the photos I took, was able to recreate the trip easily in my mind. I think that a travel book without historical, cultural and emotional context is just a guide book - you might as well just read a ‘Lonely Planet’ - and so I enjoyed plugging in all the titbits I found interesting - History, mythology, culture and my personal experiences and thoughts.
One thing I have been trying in recent books is to mention writers if they have written about the area I was travelling through and bring forth their points of view. Thus in ‘One man goes on a bus’ I quoted Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Kim’ - because he seems to be the only guy to have even mentioned the Spiti region ever in a book. In ‘One Man Goes Cycling’ I mentioned Jerome K Jerome and his awesome cycling adventure ‘Three men go on a bummel’ and P G Wodehouse’s hilarious stories of Bertie Wooster and his midnight ride on a rickety cycle.
And since I was writing about Uttarakhand, there is only one writer who springs to mind - Ruskin Bond, the grand old man of Dehradoon. I have been a fan of Ruskin Bond since childhood and thus was very glad to pop in a homage to the master in my book.
Check out this review of the book https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3628616373
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less travelled by... and got hopelessly lost!
And found that it was the wrong way!
And so had to come back and take the one more travelled by!
- Robert De-frost"
One more marvellous travelogue by Ketan Joshi. This time he rides and hikes alone to Uttarakhand. Uttarakhand, especially the Garhwal Himalayas have always fascinated me. So when I read the title of the book, there were no second thoughts about ordering it. A book about biking and hiking in Uttarakhand, and penned down by Ketan Joshi, one of my most favourite travel writers, is certainly something to arouse excitement. Ketan's style of writing is hilarious. He makes normal incidents extraordinary, with his choice of words and expressions. His adventures and misadventures are a treat to read. What is the life without misadventures! I equally love reading about when he gets lost, as about his spending emotional moments all alone at wonderful places. Nature evokes all of our suppressed emotions and makes our thoughts clear. Time, spent alone with Nature, is something to treasure for life.
All the places visited by Ketan are all described in detail in a picturesque way. Sometimes I felt I am riding and hiking beside him. His leisurely journey was enough to refresh my wandering soul that was under lockdown for past eight months. I am a big fan of travelogues, but because of not being able to travel anywhere during lockdown, I kept myself away from travelogues. But Ketan's books were an exception. These always bring a smile on the reader's face.
Icing on the cake was Ruskin Bond. How? Ketan, being a huge fan of Ruskin Bond, has quoted a number of lines about Garhwal Himalayas, written by Ruskin Bond. I am an ardent fan of Ruskin Bond. So this was sure a triple treat for me.
1. A travelogue about Uttarakhand
2. A travelogue by Ketan Joshi
3. A number of excerpts from Ruskin Bond's books
I loved this book and will be waiting for more such gems from Ketan's experiences."
Do check out the book - ebook and paperback versions are available - and do let me know your views.
I started a new podcast! It's called 'Travel with Ketan' and is available on Anchor.fm and Spotify and is being rolled out to other podcast apps as well.
To start with I will be doing a book reading of 'Three Men on Motorcycles' - a toe-dipping into Audiobook territory - do check it out. As of date I have put up 4 episodes - do check them out - click on the link above
The awesome fun of doing something new!
I am making this with just my phone - and nothing else! I am recording on the Anchor.fm app - it has an awesome and intuitive interface for recording, editing, embedding background music etc. No fancy mike, no sound editing software, no studio, no pros! I made the cover art myself at Canva.com - my favourite site. I use Canva to make every visual thing - my book covers, banners, channel art, visiting cards, social media banners - everything.
Do give it a listen - and let me know what you think of it!
You can ping me from the 'Contact me' on this site, or on facebook/twitter/instagram or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org - or even send me a voice message from the anchor.fm site!
The lockdown is still on here in India, and it has been a boon in disguise for me - as, since I cannot travel, I can focus on writing and pushing out that long ‘To Be Written’ list of books! This is the third book I wrote during the lockdown - after ‘One man goes on a bus’ and ‘One man gets the sack’ - and is 4th book I released in 2020 (‘One man goes trekking’ was released in Feb, just before I went to Japan)
This is my 10th travel book - so I am in double digits baby! Woohoo! And is my 14th book overall.
OK, now that all that self-congratulation is out of the way and I have nearly sprained my shoulder trying to pat myself on the back - let me tell you about this book.
I took up cycling for many reasons - fitness, a challenge of doing something new, etc. As I mentioned in the book, I started by doing regular early morning cycling as an alternative to jogging or running - because a) Its too boring b) I was afraid of busting my knees c) I was afraid of causing potholes on the road by pounding such a heavy body on it.
I got bored of just going round and round in circles and decided to use the time to go to various places in Mumbai and explore the place. I had explored so many far-flung places in my time - and it was a great pleasure to explore my close surroundings as well. It was like shifting from the telescope to the microscope.
A deeper and sadder reason behind cycling exploration was that my mom was very sick and was in and out of hospitals all the time. I obviously could not go out of town and leave her, so I used to go on ‘micro-vacations’ - long rides on Sundays to explore the city. I would plan the trip the day before, and leave before first light so that I could do a 6 to 8 hour trip and be back for lunch. I would then tell my mom about it and show her the photos and she would be very happy.
She succumbed to the big C in 2017 and I stopped cycling for some months at the time. But I remembered how I had been happy while cycling and exploring at the time, and how mom used to be happy to hear about my adventure and see the pics and so I got back into the saddle and started preparing for a long ride.
This book is the story of that cycling period - the fitness challenge, the local exploration, the micro-vacations, the long trip and the joy of cycling. The book is very funny (well, I hope so) and was a joy to write.
I didn't mention the sadness of that period and the memory of mom in the book as I didn't want it to be a downer book - but it is part of that cycling story and I thought that I might mention it here.
Life comes at you, but you can take it on the chin and smile!
Click here to check out the book
The 4th and final book in the ‘One Man Goes Backpacking’ series.
This is my 13th book (unlucky for some...number 13! As the Housie guy might announce), my 9th travel book - and my 2nd book to be written in the lockdown! (See? The lockdown is good for something)
The Backpacking series follows my pre-motorbiking (and pre-baiko) adventures...the first book was about my first toe-dipping into travel - to East India with my friend Chinmay and the crazy solo spur-of-the-moment trip to the Maha Kumbh Mela at Allahabad (Now Prayagraj). The second book was about how I met the great SHE WHO MUST BE OBEYED and trekked to Everest Base Camp,and the third was about our public-transport trip to Spiti and Ladakh.
This book is about a tumultuous period in my life, when I came back from that Spiti trip and promptly got the boot from my then employer! I was pretty cut up about it, but Bharathi pointed out that this was a great opportunity to travel without constraints of job and boss and approved holiday schedules.
So I took that advice to make lemonade when life gives you lemons and used the break to travel a lot, and focus on my writing.
But the unemployment period went on and on and on - for years! It was very tough and soul searing - but I survived to tell the tale. The trick is to keep your chin up and keep fighting. Take advantage of the good opportunities and not be crushed by repeated rejections and rebuffs.
I travelled to various places around India and abroad, and wrote my first books - and discovered the wonders of editorial rejection :)
Keep your spirits up! Keep the flag flying! Travel... Write... Eat tandoori chicken… Drink beer... Run the marathon… (or at least try…) and read P G Wodehouse!
Illegitimi non carborundum! (Translation - Don’t let the b….s grind you down.)
Finally, when I had exhausted all my efforts - the situation sorted itself out with a most unlikely miracle!
Check it out here
As the lockdown enters its fourth stage, I type the magic words ‘The End’ and lean back. It’s done! - a book entirely written during the lockdown!
My earlier book was written half on the road - I carried a bluetooth keyboard and connected to my phone and wrote in all kinds of places - in planes, at airports, in a tent at the Ziro music festival in Arunachal Pradesh, on the roadside in the middle of nowhere next to a one-legged bike...the bike had got a puncture and bawa had to take the wheel and go hunting for a mechanic… I travelled so much in 2019 that I didn't have time to write at home.
But in 2020 the picture couldn't be more different. Everyone was stuck at home due to virus fears. I was bummed that our ambitious travel plans were on the kaboosh...but then I realised that this would be a great opportunity to roll out a new book.
Hey - when life gives you lemons - make Limoncello! Right?
So I typed away furiously and inspite of the best efforts of the wife and kid to distract me - I finished it! WOOHOO. Then of course, came the grind of rewriting, editing, polishing, rewriting, editing, polishing, rewriting...er...you get it. I drew the illustration and made the cover design ( Be Atmanirbhar!) and made the web page and put the photo links in the ebook - and finally published the ebook and the print book! WOOHOO!
This book is the third of the ‘Backpacking series’ - the first book ‘One Man Goes Backpacking’ was about how I started backpacking and went for a solo trip to the Kumbh mela, then the next book was ‘One Man Goes Trekking - with She Who Must Be Obeyed’ - about how I met Bharathi and we went for a trek to Everest base camp in Nepal.
Now the third book in the series. This would be my 12th book overall, my 8th travel book and the 2nd book of 2020.
‘One Man Goes on a Bus - with SHE WHO MUST BE OBEYED’ is the story of how Bharathi and I went on an epic bus journey way back in 2003 and explored the wonders of Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh by public buses of the Himachal Pradesh Road Transport Corporation. We went from Delhi to Simla by train by the Kalka Simla hill railway, and then by bus on the Hindustan Tibet road, the Spiti valley, then down the Kunzum pass to Lahul and crossed the Rohtang pass to Manali for a bit of R&R.
Then back to the bus stand for one of the most epic journeys of all - the Manali- Leh highway. This was the first time I saw that road and I was totally entranced by it!
This trip had everything - Air travel, Train travel, bus travel, trekking - and even my first taste of motorbike travel! This was also the trip where I first noticed the wonders of the Royal Enfield and fell in love with it...though I was not to consummate that love till many years later.
This book is full of quotes from my favourite books and snatches of poems from here and there - so is the most ‘poetic’ book so far. Prose and poetry and photos need to work together as a harmonious whole to show you a complete picture and range of emotions.
When I made the webpage for the book, I realised that I couldn’t find the photos of that trip at all...but it so happened that I had just revisited the place in my latest solo bike trip and used the photos from that trip. So the reader can actually see the locations which I am rhapsodising about so much and get an idea what I am yakking about.
It was a really great trip - and this is a really great book, and I do hope that you will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Check out the book here on Amazon
Check out the photos here - https://www.ketanjoshi.net/one-man-goes-on-a-bus.html
I realised that I had not put out a blog about my latest book, as I had been in a hurry to launch it before I went off on a trip to Japan. After I came back there was all this kerfuffle about the COVID 19 outbreak and lockdowns and quarantines and all kinds of stuff, and it rather slipped my mind.
I started writing my next book and realised that the new book was almost ready, and I had not written my blog for the earlier book yet! Yikes!
So here goes - MY 11th BOOK - ONE MAN GOES TREKKING.
This is the second book in the the ‘ONE MAN GOES BACKPACKING SERIES’ which is about ...er...my backpacking adventures. (Duh. right?) This story is about the strange effects of going on crazy trips and writing travelogues...you come in touch with very strange people.
It is about how I met the pest called SHE WHO MUST BE OBEYED for the first time, and how we went for a trek together. Not just any trek - a month long trek to the highest trekking point in the world - Mt Everest Base Camp in Nepal.
We started the trek hardly knowing each other, and ended it as...well, knowing each other far better. It was basically her form of courting - normal people go on dates, legends go on trips, and mad people go on month long treks in the high Himalayas!
The strangest love story ever.
While I was writing this, I felt that I should share the history - the most fascinating, amazing history - of how and why these high mountains were measured, and how the mountaineering bug hit the world, and how the trekking boom followed that. My researches led me into fascinating areas - the British invasion of India and the need to map and measure their new possessions, the first global cold war with Russia, the ‘Great Game’ and ‘Kim’ by Rudyard Kipling, the amazing scientific minds and the wonder of the Great Geological Survey of India, the history of Tibet and the urge of the west to explore the forbidden kingdom on the roof of the world, the discovery of the great Himalayas and realisation that these are the highest peaks in the world, the rush to ascend the top of Mt Everest - and even why it is called Mt Everest.
I found all these stories extremely fascinating and tried to weave them into my narrative.
Apart from the story in the book - the story of how the book was written is equally fascinating. I went on this trek in 2002, and kept a journal at the time. And wonder of wonders, I still had that journal 18 years later! Thus I could refer to it for facts of our journey and not trust to my most undependable memory. Given my penchant for losing things, and HER penchant for throwing stuff out - this is nothing less than a miracle!
This book was written in the strangest of places. I carried my bluetooth keyboard with me on my various trips and wrote in the strangest of places. I wrote it on planes, I wrote during my biking trip to Arunachal Pradesh, I wrote in our campsite in Arunachal Pradesh when we were attending the Ziro Music festival.
At one point my bike had a puncture in the middle of nowhere in Arunachal Pradesh. Luckily I had the great bawa with me and he took off the tyre and went off in search of a repair fellow and I stayed behind with my one-legged bike.
What to do just sitting there? I promptly dug out my keyboard and phone and started typing! The various people passing by looked at me curiously and a bunch of nice kids stopped and asked what was the problem and if they could help in any way. And after I explained that it was a puncture and my friend had gone to get the puncture repaired, they asked the question which was the real reason they stopped.
‘What on earth was I doing?’
I explained that I was a writer and was writing a book. They must have thought that I was crazy :)
Finally, after 18 years in the making - the book is released! The story behind SHE WHO MUST BE OBEYED is out! I was happy to see the book at No. 1 in Hot new releases on Amazon, and I hope that people will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed doing the trip and writing about it.
You can check out the book here
I was very happy when I pressed 'Publish' on this book...and a bit thoughtful as well.
There were a few milestones I associated with this book
1) This is my 10th book! I am now in double figures! WooHoo.
2) This is the 5th Amigos book... a trilogy in five parts, as Douglas Adams might say.
3) This was my 3rd book of 2019 - after 'Three Men Ride the Cliffhanger' and 'One Man goes Backpacking'. I didn't hit my target of 4 books a year - but I was reasonably happy with 3 books, given all the travelling I did in the year. I am targeting 4 books or more for 2020...let's see how that works out.
4) This is among the very few travelogues about riding in Gujarat - a rara avis of sorts. There is a lot for travellers to see in Gujarat, and Gujarat will also benefit from more travellers I think - they will open up mentally and become more tourist friendly.
5) This book was partly written on the road. Quite a bit of it was written while travelling to other areas. Some was written on my phone, using a bluetooth keyboard, while I carried my laptop in some travels.
6) It was published slightly less than two years after we did the actual trip. We did the ride in Feb 2018 and the book was published in Dec 2019
We haven't had a Amigos ride since this one - though I did do some epic solo rides and duo ride as well, which I will write about, inshallah. But hopefully the Amigos will be back on the road soon.
What plans for 2020? I have already started on the next book in the backpacking series - One Man Hikes the Himalayas - and on the To Be Written line are the solo ride books about Uttarakhand and North East, and starting my long pending international travel books and my cycling book. ...let's see what happens there.
Travel plans - not fixed yet...but I have been at home for almost a month now and feeling a terrible itch! The roads are calling! I have now been to the northern most point of India, the western most, the eastern most - and now its time to go to Kanyakumari...on bike!
Ah, I almost forgot...you can pick up the book here
Do write in and let me know what you thought of the books and what your travel plans are for the new year.
My this years trip to the Kumbh was a home-coming of sorts - as it brought to mind my first trip to the Kumbh - the Maha Kumbh - I should say - in 2001
And it was even more fun for me, as I was writing my book about my backpacking adventures, before I got into biking. This is the stories of how I first started backpacking. My first trip was to East India, along with my friend Chinmay. We went to Kolkata, explored West Bengal, Sikkim and Bhutan and ended up in Assam.
This got me hooked on to backpacking and I went on a solo spur-of -the-moment trip to the Maha Kumbh in 2001.
The book was a real blast to write, and I hope that it will be equally enjoyable to read as well. Do check it out! I found some old yellowing photos as well - do check them out here- One Man Goes Backpacking
I was flattered to receive a mail from leading Indian travel site www.ghumakkar.com saying that they have heard about my book 'Three men on motorcycles' and asking me if I would like to be interviewed for publication in their site.
Well, of course I would! They interviewed me via email and the interview was published online on 1st July 2017
You can check it out here
I blog about my travels - and the thoughts they set off! Sometimes the simplest destinations can be the most thought-provoking!