Motoring

Off the grid in Binsar

Up to the task The Indian FTR 1200 S

Up to the task The Indian FTR 1200 S   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

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You can take the Indian FTR 1200 S pretty much anywhere

Given all the invocations of ‘freedom’ and breaking free from the wash and churn of urban existence, the prospect of riding off into the sunset on premium motorcycles in India has always been hampered by the lack of a support mechanism in places far from metros. That continues to be status quo, and motorcyclists brave enough to tackle inclement terrain hundreds of kilometres from the nearest service station are eternally optimistic, if not brave, souls.

Indian FTR 1200 S

Indian FTR 1200 S   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Given my lack of both, I was rather circumspect about taking the FTR 1200 S, the newest steed in the Indian Motorcycles’ stable, for an arduous ride to the Uttarakhand Himalayas. My scepticism turned out to be unfounded: the FTR, a curious mix of a scrambler and roadster, close to what the Americans call a ‘tracker’ motorcycle — with raised handlebars, a generous clearance and an inherently sporty character — tackles unpredictable road conditions with a popular solution — by putting crucial motor components out of harm’s way.

I could go on about the Indian FTR’s heritage, and the performance spiel the company puts out to sell this motorcycle in North America and Europe, but, in India, we are still grappling with more elementary real-world concerns. On my weekend ride to the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary — a gorgeous untouched oasis of flora and fauna in the Uttarakhand hills — the FTR was up to the task on tarmac pockmarked with craters, unmarked speed bumps, and intermittent gravel. But it was really within the park — a short but challenging ride through mud ruts and rocky forest trails — that it really shone.

Indian FTR 1200 S

Indian FTR 1200 S   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Eager like a pup on its morning run in the park, the motorcycle surmounted all that was thrown at it with a poise almost counter-intuitive to its unabashed frivolous personality.

Digital detox

Off the grid. The term literally means a lack of connectivity to the electricity grid. Add to that an absence of mobile networks, and piped water supply, and you have a remarkable alienation virtually unheard of in these times. Here, in a small clearing facing the magnificent Trishul peak of the upper Himalayas, and surrounded by more leopards than humans, a couple and their pre-teen daughter live a life completely sequestered not just from the trappings of urban city life but disconnected from the digital age and the Internet.

With finite resources — electricity from solar panels; water drawn from a non-perennial spring and augmented by harvested rainwater; seasonal produce, grown and vegetable patches near the house, to eat — the family keeps a constant tab on consumption. Almost a precise microcosm, as it were, of the planet and the challenges we face today with sustainability, and conservation. Fascinatingly, the changes this family has implemented are hardly radical: zero plastics, in-house water purification, and a basic cognisance of a sustainable give-and-take relationship with the environment. Of the three, the precocious home-schooled child presents the most obvious manifestation of this alternative lifestyle.

The family moved here from Bengaluru, and the difference could not be starker. She is least interested in a ride on the motorcycle and suggests we walk “in order not to frighten the animals in their homes”. “Which city do you prefer?’ is a question she has clearly spent some time contemplating. “I don’t think that’s a fair question,” she says after some consideration. “Now that I live here, I like Binsar.”

Meraj Shah makes a living chronicling his experiences on the road, shooting video and writing on auto, travel and golf. When not roving the globe, he lives in Delhi with a motorcycle named Blue

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 3:01:32 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/motoring/off-the-grid-in-binsar/article29896964.ece

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