Freewheeling Motoring

Horses for courses

Triumph Thruxton R (right)

Triumph Thruxton R (right)   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement


With a gorgeous minimalist design, the Triumph Thruxton R proves a benchmark for a classic café racer

The dust rises in spirals and comes to rest long after our passing. In the hinterland of Shekhawati — a historical region in northern Rajasthan — unpaved tracks still outnumber asphalt roads. Here, our retinue of a dozen Marwari horses, thundering through small hamlets, barely turns heads. “The villagers are used to it,” says Raghuvendra Singh Dundlod. “People have been riding horses here for centuries,” he adds.

There’s no mistaking the leader of this troupe — Raghuvendra is from an erstwhile noble family of the Shekhawati clan and runs horse safaris in the countryside. Our motley bunch consists of who you may call true-blue equestrian aficionados. No exaggeration considering they have come to Shekhawati from around the globe to ride hundreds of kilometres on horseback.

Shekhawati is beautiful, though not in the stereotypical way that Rajasthan is usually depicted in, with all the grand ramparts, vestiges of royalty. This region is famous for its magnificent ‘havelis’, most of which lie abandoned, that hark back to prosperous times when Shekhawati was on the Silk Route. Today, it seems a far cry from the choreographed photo-ops in tourist hubs such as Jaisalmer and Jaipur. In this semi-arid region, cameras still evoke curiosity, foreigners are still strangers and fading façades of buildings haven’t been distempered over. It’s unsurprising that I can’t explore this hinterland on a motorcycle — the Triumph Thruxton R — that I rode down from Delhi on.

Horseriders at Shekhawati

Horseriders at Shekhawati   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Its lack of prowess in the sand notwithstanding — a café racer isn’t meant for off-roading — the Thruxton is a fine steed and made the one-day traverse to Shekhawati almost as much fun as the horse ride. After riding a mare for a few days, it seems like a fatuous comparison, but, as numbers go, the Thruxton puts 97 eager horses at your disposal, that can be summoned with a slight twist of the throttle. With a gorgeous minimalist design, it is a benchmark for a classic café racer. Yes, there is some minor subterfuge — those lovely-looking carburettor bodies are just a front for fuel-injection units, and behind its classic façade, the motorcycle’s computer-assisted riding modes are as cutting-edge as you’re likely to find on two wheels. Still, technology and tradition — unlikely bedfellows at most times — are wary allies on this motorcycle.

The old-world charm of Shekhawati

The old-world charm of Shekhawati   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

I bid goodbye to the riders in Mehensar, a tiny speck on the map of Shekhawati that’s largely given a miss by visitors — a shame because the township’s overpowering ambience of being stuck in time and abandonment is so emblematic of Shekhawati’s glory days. Nothing typifies this haunting quality as well as the fort of the erstwhile noble who ruled over Mehensar. A sprawling property — ‘palace’ would be a bit of a misnomer — largely derelict, part of which has been restored — appears out of the faded annals of history. A labyrinth of narrow passages, stairways, minute windows and alleys that often lead to nowhere. The few rooms that have been refurbished to host visitors are the only ones occupied, except the ones in which the present-day descendants — Maheshwar Singh and his wife, Aruna — live in. Singh still remembers the grand days when his parents entertained scores of guests and threw fabulous parties. Today, the fort appears like a living image that’s been de-saturated. By time and loneliness.

(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 | Jan 19, 2020 11:53:03 PM |

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