Gokulram Vasanthi who rode from Chennai to Marsimek-La on a low-powered Bajaj M-80
Gokulram Vasanthi has a strange sense of humour. For a road adventure all the way from Chennai to the forbidding Himalayan passes of Khardung-La and Marsimek-La and back, he bypassed a 350 cc Thunderbird and a 250 cc Jawa Model ‘B' and settled on a low-powered 76 cc Bajaj M-80. “I have gone on long rides on those big bikes. This time, I wanted to do something different,” explains Gokulram..
Gokulram wanted to ride to Kanyakumari and turn back towards Delhi, where his friends from Madras Bulls would join him with their bigger bikes — transported from Chennai — and the group would head to Leh and the passes. Restoring the dilapidated 1995-model M-80, which involved installing a second-hand bore procured from Pudupet, and getting a fitness certificate from the RTO resulted in a delay. Gokulram had to revise his timetable and his route. On July 6, he set off from Chennai towards Ongole.
With barely sufficient time to join his friends who had taken a train to Delhi, Gokulram had to make do with brief stops at villages, cities and towns on the central route. When he entered Sagar at night, he sensed warnings of an electrical problem. The following morning, there was no sign of the glitch. The bike started and ran without any hitch all the way to Jhansi and then to Gwalior.
Stranded on the highway
“When I left Gwalior, I experienced an unexpected and severe cloudburst, the bike's wiring got fired up. It was a Sunday and I was stranded on the highway with a bike in disrepair. As it was futile to look for a mechanic, I settled down to re-wire the electrical system,” he recalls . “By then, the hope of meeting my friends at Delhi was dashed. They were on their way. Bypassing Delhi, I headed towards Amritsar via Rohtak. They were sight-seeing in Amritsar when I caught up with them.”
Gokulram now faced a different challenge: keeping pace with his friends and their powerful machines. Rajasekhar and Hari, who rode 500cc Royal Enfield bikes and Vineeth, who was on a Yezdi Roadking; and later at Leh, Sankar who joined the gang with his Pulsar.
When they rode on the Pathankot-Udhampur route, Gokulram was not handicapped by the bike's lack of speed. “Despite a top speed of 60 kph, the M-80 managed very well,” says the proud owner. The group stayed at Patni Top. Gokulram and Vineeth left earlier. Due to a heavy downpour on the way to Srinagar, Vineeth and Gokulram were separated. Reaching Srinagar first, Gokulram booked a boat house where the rest joined him.
Reaching Leh via Kargil, they explored places around Leh for two weeks. Reaching Khardung-La gave them a high. But the more daunting Marsimek-La still lay ahead. “While on the way to Marsimek-La, we were stretched to the limits. There were no roads, only trails. The path was straight and steep. At five points, we had to get down, accelerate our bikes and run along with them. It's still a wonder how my M-80 withstood this ordeal.
As oxygen levels were low at Marsimek-La, a pass believed by many bikers to be higher than Khardung-La, we had to return after spending just five minutes savouring the success of our expedition.”
On the return journey, Gokulram's biker buddies bid him goodbye at Delhi. “Between Ajmer and Indore, I was caught in a flood.” With the Chittorgarh river in spate, he halted for three days before embarking on an all-night ride towards Pune.
After Goa and Mangalore, he was heading towards Thrissur when the engine valve broke. “I pushed the bike for 20 km to reach the city. After much difficulty, I located a second-hand auto spares market where I found a reed valve.” Riding through Thiruvananthapuram, he reached Kanyakumari.
On the way to Chennai, he was met by 40 bikers from Madras Bulls at Mamandur (near Chengalpattu). For the short trip back home on August 21, he was accompanied by this motorcade. The Madras Bulls have honoured Gokulram in another way: they call him ‘Terror'. For them, it's additional proof that nothing daunts this soft-spoken, 25 year-old biker boy.
In 2005, he lost three fingers on his right hand while performing a procedure that is linked to his mechanical engineering course. Within six months, he overcame the handicap and learnt to accelerate a bike with just two fingers.