travel Reviews

‘Riding Towards Me’ review: The long road home

A chronicle of an arduous ride from Chicago to Delhi, through the varied terrain of South America and Africa

The path stretches, the mind stills and astride a bike, it’s always about the ‘here’ and ‘now’. Nicholas Evans wrote in The Horse Whisperer: “I guess that’s all forever is... Just one long trail of nows.” Motor-cycling evokes a similar air as it’s all about the current heart-beat and the thump of a revving engine finding expression through a rider chasing the horizon.

In his book Riding Towards Me, Jay Kannaiyan pursues that eternal dream of urban dwellers: quit the rat-race and travel. Working in the technology sector at Chicago and seeking solace from The Motorcycle Diaries and Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Kannaiyan decides to do an overland trip to Delhi. With his Suzuki sanDRina for company, the techie-turned-author has a moment of epiphany: “At home in Chicago, I felt my life was on pause. Out on the road, chasing down a distant destination, I felt at home.”

Camping in the Andes

Most dreams wither but Kannaiyan swung into action, left his job and commenced his version of ‘around the world’. This wasn’t done in 80 days as it was all about the slow-easy. Riding days together, staying overnight in his tent when there were no hotels in sight, and then at times, dropping anchor in a town for months and even having the time for romance and heart-break.

Kannaiyan wasn’t just traversing different continents and nations, he was also letting his inner-voice whisper its philosophies, be it while camping in the Andes, near the Nile or during the crossing of the seas with the bike resting inside a ship.

There was intense joy and mild sorrow culled equally from his trips and the perspectives that strangers offered. Kannaiyan covered a mind-boggling distance — nearly one lakh kilometres over three years right from Chicago to Delhi via South America, Africa and Chennai. The last-named being his home-town but he also had the fortune to visit his childhood base in Zambia besides doing a hill-run to Kodaikanal in a bid to revive his boarding school memories.

Riding on kindness

And all through this life-altering experience, the writer offers insights be it the devastation of the Amazon forests or the futility of international borders and the resultant sabre rattling.

However, largely this is a book of hope as it highlights the kindness of humanity. It could be a bed for the night, an impromptu breakfast, a backyard tap for a late night shower or a few drinks on the house.

Above all Kannaiyan also becomes a brand ambassador for the good old Indian chicken curry, which he whips up a few times while hosting new friends on the road. At one stage, he questions the rationale behind the drive but when Kannaiyan finally says ‘we are home’, the sense of relief that washes over him, percolates to the reader too. If there are quibbles, it has to do with the recurring typo ‘Telegu’ while referring to his mother-tongue Telugu and the absence of a route-map pertaining to the landscapes he blitzed his bike through.

Riding Towards Me; Jay Kannaiyan, HarperCollins, ₹499.

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 9:40:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-reviews/riding-towards-me-review-the-long-road-home/article31533768.ece

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