Today is the birthday of my first travel book ‘Three Men on Motorcycles - The Amigos ride to Ladakh’!
It went live on Amazon exactly 4 years ago, on 17th April 2017.
This book was written 4 years after the actual ride in 2013 - and indeed, was largely written as an exercise to clear my mind and keep my spirits up… as it was written largely in hospital rooms where my mom was fighting her battle with cancer. I used to carry my laptop to the hospital and write when she was sleeping.
This was not my first book - it was actually my fifth.
My first one was a traditionally published professional book- ‘What they didn't teach you about Marketing.’ But my main writing was fiction - short stories (these were collected and published as ‘Bombay Thrillers’ and ‘Dipy Singh, Private detective’) and was followed by a novel - ‘Dipy Singh and The Mystery of the Office Rat.’
But all of these books had not exactly set the world on fire, but were chilling out in the depths of the charts and showed absolutely no signs of swimming their way up to bestsellerdom. I was not too worried about it - I had enjoyed writing them and was happy just for the fact that the books existed. I would have loved for them to be successful, of course - but I was happy just to have books out.
I had started writing small travel blogs during our trip to Spain in 2014 - and the character of ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed’ jumped straight out of my brain and into my laptop. I just loved writing about SHE and our travel adventures, and even illustrated them with little cartoons and stuff. I started writing travel blogs fairly regularly - and when I started motorcycling, I started blogging about that as well. I used to post them on a blog site and shared them on social media, and got a lot of positive feedback from readers - not just people I knew, but also from strangers.
And all of this - my experience of writing short stories and comedy and thrillers, my love for writing travelogues and my decision to break away from all established tropes of writing and write in my own way and my own style and for my own enjoyment, and of course my urge to poke fun at my nearest and dearest - came together as I starting writing about our ride.
It started just as a journal or a blog, but the stuff just poured out of me like oil - and before I knew it - it was a book! You can’t really go wrong when you have so many amazing ingredients - the Amigos - (Me, Mr Perpetual Motion (Adi) and the tandoori-chicken-eating Ghost Rider (Delzad)), SHE WHO MUST BE OBEYED, the Diva-like personality of the Royal Enfield, various supporting cast members like the boys from Bangalore with the ancient grandma bike, the RD350s, the big BMWs - and of course the obligatory RE. The biggest character was obviously the grand land of Ladakh - which was the amazing canvas on which all these stories were written.
I tried to make it as different from other travelogues as possible - while trying to take the best learnings from my favourite writers - Jerome K Jerome, Bill Bryson, R K Narayan, Pu La Deshpande and of course, the immortal Wodehouse.
No filter - but no nastiness and no incessant cribbing, love of travel - but no fake enthusiasm, tell it like it is - but make it fun. Add in lots of context - history, geography, stories and legends, local culture, true events, mishaps and misadventures - to make the trip relatable. And put in lots of photographs so that readers can actually see the people and places and get a real feel of the ride. I posted galleries of photos on my website and gave links to them in every chapter, so that readers could see full resolution pics rather than small grainy pics in the book body.
I loved writing it - it was a blast! I went through various rounds of rewriting and polishing - and Adi made the most kick-ass cover ever! What an awesome creation!
The book went live on Amazon - and to my utter surprise, became a success! It got a lot of very kind reviews and went to the top of the best-seller charts in Travel Writing in Amazon India, and stayed there for quite a while. I was totally stunned. It had readership in other countries as well US, UK, Australia, etc - with no marketing whatsoever. I had no idea about book marketing then ( and I still don't!) and all sales and page-reads were totally organic. I even got contacted by a travel site for an interview! I was gobsmacked.
My mom passed away just a few months after the book was published - and I will always be grateful that she got to see the book do well and hit the #1 spot and get that orange ‘Bestseller’ badge. She was so happy.
I enjoyed writing ‘Three Men on Motorcycles’ so much, that I immediately started writing the next one - ‘Three Men Ride Again - the Amigos ride to Spiti’ and enjoyed that too, and wrote another and another and another... Now there are 11 travel books so far - 5 books in the Amigos series, and 6 books in the ‘One Man’ series. I have a long line of books in the ‘To Be Written’ list and hopefully will get around to writing them soon. (fingers crossed...waiting for muse)
And it all started with this book.
Happy birthday, book!
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.
Today is the birth anniversary of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, lovingly addressed in India as 'Mahatma' (the great soul), or 'Bapu' (Daddy). His birthday is celebrated as 'Gandhi Jayanti' and is a national holiday in India - all schools, government offices and even banks are closed today.
But who was Gandhi - and why is his birthday anything to celebrate? The only thing most people know about this day is that it is a 'Dry day' - so if you want a tipple, you have to stock up!
Now more than ever we should be remembering Gandhi and his message of non-violence and peace and tolerance. In an age where institutional violence is being propagated against minorities and women and students and political opponents and anyone who is perceived to be against you.
The Amigos visited Porbunder, the birthplace of MKG during their ride of Gujarat - and I had written this about our visit there. I was fascinated that two very different people were born just hundred kilometers apart and they influenced India is such different ways - Mahatma Gandhi and Dhirubhai Ambani!
Check out this excerpt from 'Three Men Ride West - The Amigos ride to Gujarat and Diu'
After Madhavpura, we came to the birthplace of the ‘Father of the nation’ - Porbunder.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was one of the greatest personalities of the modern era, and is strangely forgotten today. It seems strange to say that he is forgotten - after all, his name is ubiquitous - every city in India has a road named after him, every banknote carries his smiling face, every garden has a statue of him, every one knows his name - but today no one seems to remember what he was and what he exactly did.
One tends to think of him as a ‘naked fakir’ - a poor skinny man dressed in just a simple dhoti and shawl and hanging out with poor people, and thus might be forgiven for thinking that he was a poor man, a man from the lower classes.
Nothing could be further than the truth. He was the hereditary ‘Diwan’ - Prime Minister -of a princely state called Porbunder, and as such, his family was among the wealthiest families in Porbunder. His father - Karamchand Gandhi - was the Prime minister of Porbunder, and then later became Prime minister of the neighbouring Rajkot state, which was bigger and richer. Mohandas studied to be a lawyer so that he could follow in his father’s footsteps and himself become the Diwan of Porbunder. He went all the way to London to study law and he himself became a wannabe ‘Brown sahib’ and became as westernised as possible, dressed in a sharp suit and started a law practice in South Africa.
But Gandhi discovered to his shock that his nice suit, his education, his careful diction, his knowledge of english were all irrelevant as far as the coloniser was concerned, and he discovered this most painfully when he tried to travel in a first-class compartment in South Africa. No niggers were tolerated in the first-class bogey and he was physically thrown out of the train at a station called Pietermaritzburg. He stood there in his nice suit - now all dirty and torn from the fall - , humiliated beyond belief…and no one else seemed to think that what had happened was in any way unusual or unexpected. He had asked for it by being a nigger and trying to travel in first class.
He had discovered the innate viciousness and inequality which is the hallmark of colonialism. The great evil of race-based colonialism is that there is no way that equality can ever exist in its construct - the ‘nigger’, the ‘wog’, the ‘chinky’, the ‘native’, the ‘half-breed’ - are permanently and unequivocally inferior to the white man, just because! And to maintain his superiority, the guy on top will inflict as much barbarism and cruelty as he can.
He pondered a lot on this, and finally decided to resist.
To resist. To protest. To fight. But without getting bad karma.
That was the main genius of Gandhi. India had been beaten into submission with hundreds of years of foreign rule - first the Mughals, then the British - but he ignited a simple spark among them. What is happening is wrong, and should no longer continue. We must resist. Courageously.
But while other revolting revolutionaries started chucking bombs about and popping guns here and there, Gandhi decided that he will not lift his hand to harm anybody. ‘An eye for an eye’ as he famously said ‘will make the whole world blind.’ He decided on a course of ‘A-himsa’ - ‘Non-violence’. Vigorous protest, but without violence.
His nice suit was no use to him, so he cast off all his wannabe cracker clothes and dressed like the poorest and simplest villager in India. Even when he was invited to meet the King of England - the freakin’ King of England, the richest and most powerful man in the world - he declined to wear anything other than his dhoti and shawl. Just think about it - you would wear your best suit just to meet your local Congressman or your CEO. This guy wore a simple homespun dhoti to meet the King of the world!
‘Mr Gandhi, do you think you are properly dressed to meet the king?’ the press asked him.
‘The king has enough clothes on for both of us.’ Gandhi replied.
The Indian-hating Churchill was spitting mad at this! ‘It is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr Gandhi, a seditious middle temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir… striding half-naked up the steps of the Viceregal palace… to parley on equal terms with the representative of the king-emperor.’
The sheer strength of mind which Gandhi brought to the arena was enough to energise an entire country. He would not demand anything from his followers that he would not do himself. He walked the padayatras, he stood in the frontline to take blows from the police, he fasted for days to get people to change.He was the one who walked alone in the ghastly riot-torn, and fasted in burning and bleeding areas to stop Hindus and Muslims from killing each other. He would not let up an inch on his demand, but would not offer violence.
In a world which was full of violence - Russia, China, Spain, two world wars and uncountable amounts of Anarchists, Marxists, Leninists, Bolsheviks, Communists, Maoists, Fascists and thugs and murderers and killers of all sorts - this non-violent protest was something new. No one knew how to deal with it.
The police would viciously beat up the protestors, and they would quietly accept the beating - but not back down. The police would launch a lathi charge and club down hundreds of unarmed peaceful people - and hundreds more would take their place. The Army would shoot down hundreds of peaceful protestors - and countless more would take their place.
The world watched in horror - this was not putting down a despicable protest…this was sheer murder! The British were gobsmacked - back home in London they talked about being the ‘Land of the free’ and ‘Bastion of democracy’ and here they were being exposed as being the opposite of every positive epithet they gave themselves - they were oppressors and slave-drivers and dictators.
Gandhi shamed the British into seeing their true self.
He showed a new path to revolutionary movements all over the world. To embrace non-violence rather than violence. Nelson Mandela adopted Gandhian thinking in his struggle, and that enabled South Africa to escape the fate of other African countries which got freedom by the power of the gun, but later spiralled into dictatorships and civil war. The Dalai Lama adopted Gandhian principles in his protest against the Chinese conquest and military dictatorship of Tibet. Martin Luther King Jr adopted Gandhian learnings in his civil rights campaign for blacks in the US. Aung San Suu Kyi adopted Gandhian protests in Myanmar.
MKG was a pretty unique fellow. As Einstein - a Jewish guy who had seen vicious evil oppression under the Nazis - said about him - ‘Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.’
Gandhi being modern India’s wonder-boy, I was sure that his birthplace would be treated with veneration. It should be up there with Mecca, Jerusalem and Lumbini in India’s consciousness! After all - if the whole bloody state of Gujarat was declared a ‘Dry’ state just due to the fact that MKG was born there, so the actual place where he was born must be a huge deal. Or so I thought.
When we entered Porbunder, I was surprised to see no huge signs saying ‘Welcome to the birthplace of the Mahatma’, or ‘This way to the birthplace of Gandhi’. The place looked like any other small town, and no one seems particularly impressed by the fact that this was the fountainhead of Gandhism. (Gandhi-ism? Gandhian-ism?). We had to depend on Google Maps to guide us. But I got more and more antsy as Maps took us into narrow gullies in the old city, and finally came to a chaotic square and said ‘You have arrived!’ (I always shouted ‘I AM CUMMING! I AM CUMMING! When Google said in her sexy voice ‘you have arrived!’
I looked around in confusion. There was no sign of any Gandhigiri anywhere. No statue, no banner, no flashing lights, no direction signs… how strange! I had thought that this would be some major pilgrimage point or something. This complete lack of interest baffled me.
I looked around again…it was an ancient market square in an old part of the town, with crumbly old buildings and ancient shops tarted up with modern new vinyl signs, and chaotic power cables hanging threateningly from electric poles. There was the obligatory statue of Gandhi there, but it looked like any of the anonymous statues found all over India, and not anything special.
I parked the bike and went to the traffic cop, who was chilling at the corner and chewing some paan. He paled a bit at the sight of three fat terminator type men coming towards him and looked ready to make a run for it - and he was very relieved when we asked him where the Gandhi birthplace was.
He pointed towards a most unprepossessing road - which was not even paved! We would have to pass under a most dilapidated arch, which looked like it was just waiting to fall on our heads! Seriously - the wooden railing on top of the arch looked murderous! The road after the arch looked pretty sad too…full of broken stones and stuff. It looked more like a road to the garbage dump than to a national monument.
I looked at it doubtfully and turned back to the cop. ‘Are you sure?’ I asked
‘Yes yes…just 100 meters down…or maybe even less…’
We entered the gully and there it was! A sign that said ‘Kirti Mandir - Pujya Mahatma Gandhi birthplace.’
We had arrived!
The entry gates were simple and understated - red ochre walls and a nicely carved cream door, with a sign of the ‘charkha’ on them. (A charkha is a little home machine for making yarn out of cotton - it was Gandhi’s symbol of opposition to the gigantic cloth mills of the UK). We entered the gates into a medium-sized bungalow. The courtyard was tiled and the walls were plainly painted. There was a small painting and photo gallery at one side, a library and reading room on one side and an entrance to the actual house of MKG’s ancestors. A plaque at the entrance told us that it had been bought by his great-grandfather in 1777 and in due course of time expanded to three floors and had 22 rooms and so forth.
The house was old and ancient (Duh!) and once you entered the first floor there was a big swastika near a wall, and a sign saying that the dude was born right here! Here! On this very spot! Putlibai delivered here! (TMI, if you ask me.)
And that was about it.
There was nothing else in that whole structure. Not a stick of furniture, no photos, no historical information, no audio, no video - nothing. It was just a starkly empty old house.
I mean - sure, the place is a monument to an ascetic…but this was going too far.
We came down and out of curiosity, I went to the library. Much as I expected, every shelf was locked. The books were a decoration, rather than something to be read. The paintings and photos seemed to have been put up 30 years ago and never touched since then.
The whole place rang, stank and vibrated of neglect.
It was very clear that neither the State government nor the Central government gave a fuck about the place. In fact, no one did. The citizens of Porbunder definitely didn’t think much of it - as could be seen by the lacklustre surroundings and lack of signage of any sort. The Gujarat government recently built the worlds largest statue - ‘the Statue of Unity’ - but it was of another Congress politician - Vallabhbhai Patel - and not of Gandhi. Patel himself was a great devotee of Gandhi and I am sure he would not have been happy that his memorial dwarfs Gandhi’s.
I was very sad as I looked around - our great independence struggle has been forgotten by the country, and is only taught by uninterested teachers to uninterested students - who forget it immediately. Great freedom fighters like Gandhi and Nehru are being vilified in social media by modern politicos and dirty trolls wanting cheap publicity for their right-wing or left-wing parties - or worse…completely forgotten! Gandhi is relegated to being the face of bank-notes (a really ironic place for an ascetic to end up in) and as a neglected statue in parks around the country, for pigeons to shit on. Actually, Gandhi’s image is so ubiquitous in India, that it has become invisible.
I found it amazing that even though we have an Ex-Chief minister of Gujarat state who has become the Prime Minister of India, this historic place is still so neglected.
Hey - Even if you don’t give a shit about his philosophy, the place might become a major tourism draw and make money if you jazz up the place.
‘This is it?’ Bawa said, looking around. ‘They made the whole state a dry state for this?’
We took a photo of the three of us posing like Gandhi’s three wise monkeys - See no Evil, Say no Evil, Hear no Evil - and got out of there.
Check out my blog on my visit to Mani Bhavan - Gandhiji's base when he stayed in Mumbai, which has now been converted to a museum.
I was looking through old boxes of photo albums, looking for photos of long ago trips to put in the photo galleries of my book 'One Man Gets The Sack' when I found this awesome comic strip I had created when I was 13 years old.
I even attempted a second issue in book 2! And the artwork style was influenced by the new style being pioneered by Marvel at the time - of breaking through the little box panels and having splash panels all over the page.
And I added a new character too...named after my brother!
Here's where I broke free of the grid and experimented with splash panels
It seems that the pressures of being writer, illustrator and colorist got to me then... the plot was clearly going downhill! Creative juices seem to have dried up at that point...
Alas...I abandoned comic creation after this. A pity ... but I did continue to dabble in drawing in that notebook.
I seem to have been experimenting with political cartoons! This seems to be about the Hindu Muslim unrest faced by the Narasimha Rao government - the cartoon was called 'Mr Rao's dilemma' - so I assume the figure on the right was supposed to be PV Narasimha Rao...
Face cheeks and butt cheeks both got a beating here...
then some faces ... maybe this was supposed to be Murli Manohar Joshi?
This was probably supposed to be V P Singh
I never did enter the art field... or become any kind of artist... But I did draw the illustrations for my book covers! The covers of the 'One Man Goes Backpacking' series were drawn by me!
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
Moments like these are what make writing worthwhile
A reader from the US read the 'Amigos' motorcycling series and liked it so much that he got in touch with me and couriered me a gift from the US - 'guardian bells ' to protect the bike from gremlins...one for each of us :) jacket patches, and a very sweet letter.
I was extremely touched. Thanks Mike.
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
‘I want to ride!’ Adi wailed and stamped his feet and pulled his beard. ‘I want to ride ride ride!’ You buggers are just sitting on your asses and my lovely lovely bike is just standing there and not moving. What is this cruelty? This imposition? This inequity? Bikes are meant to be moving - not standing in garages and gathering dust!’
I, Adi and Delzad were the ‘Amigos’ - fellow riders and lovers of big fat Royal Enfield bikes and have done a number of long rides over the years - Konkan, Ladakh, Spiti, Coorg etc. But Adi’s riding lust was unabated and after a few rums inside him, his angst bubbled over. As usual.
Delzad burped and reached over a gigantic pile of tandoori chicken remains and crumbs for yet another piece of chicken. ‘What?’ he said defensively when we looked at him . ‘I am on a diet.’
‘Diet?’ I looked again at the huge pile of bones and remains. It was like something Genghis Khan would have left behind in Asia after a particularly brutal campaign.
‘High protein, man! Build muscle! Lose weight! Burp.’
Me and Adi looked at each other and shrugged. And Adi was back to his point again.
‘I want to ride...ride ride ride...Let’s go somewhere over the weekend. Let’s go down the Konkan coast and go to Anjarle’
‘Mmm.. Let’s go!’ Delzad agreed enthusiastically. ‘We will eat awesome fish there - Surmai, Pomfret, Rawas…’
‘What is this obsession with riding?’ people ask us. ‘Why would you get on this rickety rattly bike and go on an uncomfortable journey where you will bake in the sun and freeze in the cold and get soaked in the rain? Why not do as we do and go in a comfortable car or bus? You will have air conditioning and nice music and can chat with the family and eat khakras.’
‘Tchah’ I reply. ‘Pah! Gah!’
‘Kulkarni..’ I would say … or Mahalingam or Ahluwalia or Bandopadhaya or whatever the name happened to be… ‘Motorbike Riding - Long distance riding - is something very different from sitting in a metal can with five other sweaty noisy bipeds and ingesting carbs.’
‘Er...that’s right...what he said.’ Adi would say after a moment's thought. Delzad would not say anything at all, having used this opportunity to take a quick power nap.
‘A bike in the city is great for commuting - it is cheaper than a car, can get through traffic better, is easier to park etc - But that is not riding. That is just commuting.’
‘Riding - with a capital R - is when you go for a long ride - get out of the city and hit the highways. Get out of this pollution, the crowds, the noise etc. Get out of the normal hurly burly and hustle and bustle.’
‘But where will you go?’ Ramalingam...or possibly Muthuswamy ...would ask. ‘There is nothing to see around here.’
‘Pah! Tchah! Gah!’ I would reply again. ‘there is so much to see and do - wherever you might be. Right here in Mumbai, we have a fantastic shoreline, we have the Sahyadri mountain range, we have wildlife sanctuaries, we have any number of ancient forts and temples... the same applies to any place in the world. There is always a paradise waiting to be discovered.’
‘YES!’ Adi would say. ‘LET’S RIDE! Ride to the mountains...ride to the sea...ride to the riverside...ride to the salt flats...ride to the jungles... ‘
‘And so much new cuisine to be discovered and eaten! Yum yum!’ Delzad woke up momentarily from his nap and licked his lips. Surmai fish in Anjarle, Mutton curry from Kolhapur, Aapus mangoes from Ratnagiri, Chikoos from Bordi…mmmm.’
‘And it’s not just about the destination’ I would explain to Ahluwalia...or Pathania or whoever… ‘It’s the journey. The pay-off is not just reaching the destination and seeing the place and eating the food or whatever...the real joy is in the ride.
When you ride you are in a different world. The powerful bike throbbing under you...the world whooshing by...the wind under your wings...the tight turns...angling the bike so that you can feel the foot pegs scrape on the tarmac and shooting out a jet of sparks… You feel awesome.
As a friend said once ‘It is the closest you can get to flying’
You feel the journey much more intensely on a two wheeler than in a metal can...you can feel the sun on your shoulders, the coolness of a cloud passing overhead, the damp feel and petrichor of a watered field, the sudden gusts of wind... In a car or bus, you are completely divorced from the world - on a bike you are a part of it.
On a bike you are the sole captain of your destiny - you can stop where you want, take a pee by the side of the road, eat that awesome snack the street vendor is selling, explore small interesting looking roads and paths, take photos or just take a nap by the side of the road - you don't need the approval of everyone in the car to do things.’
‘Yes…but..’ Fadnavis...or Gadkari or whoever.. would object ‘But will you get company to do such a trip? I mean, all our friends are enmeshed in their life and jobs and families and stuff. They will not join us on such trips.’
‘One does not need company to ride - solo riding is an awesome experience. It is Zen. All you need is a bike and a road. When you are alone you feel the trip much more intensely. You are open to new experiences. You make new friends. You have time in the evening for reflection or writing or meditation. In fact - solo riding is meditation in motion. Never be afraid to ride alone
Having said that - Solo riding is great but riding with friends is awesome too! There is a particular kind of people who are willing to suit up and hit the open road on a bike and so you are always guaranteed to meet a fun and interesting set of people when you go riding. Stop during the ride for a smoke and a chai and joke about the journey. The end of the day is celebrated with Old Monk and chicken and loads of laughter. What more can you ask for?
Awesome riding during the day, Great sights and experiences at journey’s end and awesome camaraderie in the evening.’
‘But bhat about the bhife and keeds?’ Bandopadhyaya ...or possibly Mukhopadhaya...asked. ‘How can I leave them all and go riding?’
‘Tchah. Pah. Gah.’ I replied with a dismissive wave of my hand ‘ ‘Let there be spaces in your togetherness’ as Kahlil Gibran said. Give some breathing room to your spouse and get some yourself.’
‘Hoodibaba!’ Dasgupta...or was it Debbarman... leapt up ‘Bhat a brilliant idea! The perfect excuse to get away from the bhife! I will tell her that I am going on motorcycle and she obviously cannot come with me on the bike! FREEDOM! WOOHOO! ASADHARAN! DARUN’
‘Joshi saab! You are a genius!’ he clapped me on the back as I simpered modestly. ‘Is that why you bought the bike? To get away from the wife and enjoy with the boys?’
‘Balls.’ Delzad snorted. ‘His wife bought him the bike. Must have been all her strategy to get him out of the house and out of her hair.’
‘Whatever dude.’ I laid back and sighed. ‘Whichever way you look at it - It’s a Win-Win’
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 blog about my travels - and the thoughts they set off! Sometimes the simplest destinations can be the most thought-provoking!