I was doing a project of exploring Mumbai - it had started by me starting cycling! I started cycling as a new project for the year - it started by being a fitness thing, but I got bored of going around in circles and started going further and further and exploring and discovering unknown parts of Mumbai (well...unknown to me at least) on cycle. By this time I had gone and explored various ancient forts of Mumbai - Sion, Sewri, Mahim, Worli, Bandra, Dharavi - by cycle. (You can check out the blogs by clicking on the links)
After doing this, the exploration bug kicked in a little more, and I started exploring even without a cycle. While going over the lists of tourist attractions in Mumbai - I saw that one of the main attractions was Mani Bhavan - Mahatma Gandhi's memorial in Mumbai. It was on the lists of all the Mumbai tour operators trips - and every firang visitor to the city seems to have seen it ... but I had never done so. It had never been in my mindspace at all - I had not known of it, not wanted to see it.
Well - this is 'diya tale andhera' stuff, and so I decided to check it out.
My friend Vijay claimed to know it well - as it was just behind his college - the Wilson college, Marine drive - and so we agreed to check it out together. I took an Uber and reached the place - and there was no sign of Vijay! He was late as usual.
The building was in a fancy neighborhood - Laburnum road, just off Marine drive. I thought rather cynically that Gandhi seemed to have chosen to live with this rich seth in a fancy location, rather than in a poor and humble place.
As per the Wikipedia entry - 'Mani Bhavan was Gandhi's Mumbai headquarters for about 17 years, from 1917 to 1934. The mansion belonged to Revashankar Jagjeevan Jhaveri, Gandhi's friend and host in Mumbai during this period. It was from Mani Bhavan that Gandhi initiated the Non-Cooperation, Satyagraha, Swadeshi, Khadi and Khilafat Movements. Gandhi's association with the charkha began in 1917, while he was staying at Mani Bhavan. Mani Bhavan is also closely associated with Gandhi's involvement in the Home Rule Movement, as well as his decision to abstain from drinking cow's milk in order to protest the cruel and inhuman practice of phookan meted out to milch cattle common during that period.'
In 1955, the building was taken over by the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi in order to maintain it as a memorial to Gandhi - and I wonder if they paid the family anything for this prime piece of real estate? It would be worth many hundreds of crores today!
I wonder what the family of Jhaveri seth feel about it now :)
I hung around outside Mani Bhavan waiting for Vijay - and was stunned at the amount of tourist traffic the place seemed to have. Every minute a little tourist taxi would zoom up, a guide would hop out with his clients and give them some info about the place and they would be in and out within five minutes and off to the next tick mark on the itinerary.
My heart went out to the tourists - the guides were untrained and unqualified and obviously knew nothing about the place, about Gandhi, about Indian history or the freedom struggle. He would have mugged up something and duly replayed it to every client and just made up stuff when asked questions. Poor tourists.
I finally gave up on Vijay and went inside alone.
The place is rather depressing - being ill-maintained and utterly out of date. It doesn't seem to have been touched since 1955 and is a dead mausoleum.
The first thing you see is a big Gandhi bust, and there is a library full of his writings. Imagine that - he wrote so much! And like all Indian libraries - the shelves are locked tight and are dust covered! The books are things to be worshipped from afar and not to touched or read!
Go up the stair case - and you have his old room with a charkha and some knick-knacks of his. And a few cool dioramas - small scale models with little human figures and little houses and painted backdrops - depicting his life. But this too doesnt seem to have been touched or restored since 1955.
There are some cool framed photos - Gandhi with his brother, him as a young man etc and some frames showing evolution of Indian flag etc.
But overall, it is rather sad and depressing - showing the utter disinterest successive governments - Congress and non-Congress - have had in Gandhi's message and philosophy. Which is a great pity. All they do is pay lip service and make everybody put a flower basket in front of Raj ghat.
in 2010, Barack Obama became the first high-profile international visitor to visit Mani Bhava in the last 50 years. Before him, only Martin Luther King Jr. had visited Mani Bhavan in the 1950s.
I think Rajkumar Hirani's movie 'Lage raho Munnabhai' was the finest modern-day tribute to Gandhi and his philosophy and reintroduced millions to Gandhi - and it would be great if some modern museum curator takes this place under their wings and reinvents it. Old and forgotten museums like the Bhau Daji Lad museum have been resurrected by modern curators, and hopefully a similar thing can happen here.
It should bring out the ramifications of Indian history and Indian culture - British rule - the good and bad, why Indians fought for independence, the story of the freedom struggle, the uniqueness of Gandhi's approach and how it made a difference and why exactly Einstein said that 'future generations will not believe that such a dude ever walked this earth.'
The Apartheid museum in South Africa is so powerful that it makes your flesh creep - and Gandhi section there is better than all Gandhi museums here. Maybe someday we can do a better job of presenting our own history.
Till that happens, Gandhi will just be a face on a currency note - a legacy which MKG might not be very happy about.
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 email@example.com - or even send me a voice message from the anchor.fm site!
I got a pleasant surprise the other day, when I got a Twitter notification about an book review blog mentioning my book 'Three Men on Motorcycles' on whatshouldireadnext.com
The article was titled 'Must-read alternative travel books about India' and mentioned four books - Three Men on Motorcycles, 'Truck de India' by Rajat Ubhyankar, 'Chai Chai' by Bishwanath Ghosh and 'Postcards from Ladakh' by Ajay Jain.
Check out the article - click here
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 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 blog about my travels - and the thoughts they set off! Sometimes the simplest destinations can be the most thought-provoking!