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!
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!