Interview Travel

Biking across the country

Shilpa Balakrishnan

Shilpa Balakrishnan  

Biker Shilpa Balakrishnan is yet to get back to normalcy after an all-India ride on her CBR 250R

When Mumbai-based adventure enthusiast Shilpa Balakrishnan tells us that travelling is in her DNA, there’s good reason to believe her. Accompanying her dad (who gave her the travel bug) on his extensive train journeys in childhood, she learnt about smaller stations, from the language, the culture and several aspects that completed the place. These were precisely the moments that shaped her desire to travel across the country some day. She did precisely that recently on her Honda CBR 250R, taking a four month sabbatical from work. A week past her trip, yet to recover from her biking hangover, she says, “Normalcy doesn’t feel normal yet. I feel this is temporary and will start going on my bike elsewhere”.

I always loved to travel and take up new challenges. I was supposed to do this with another friend of mine, but she got a new job then and couldn’t join me. I was apprehensive of making the entire trip alone due to all sorts of incidents surrounding women safety” Yet she believed nothing could go wrong in her own country. Through the trip, she stayed in inexpensive lodges, guest homes and sometimes friends’ places. “I was dreaming of doing this four years ago, but it took time to materialise and prep up for the journey (the maps, routes, things she had to carry and other prerequisites),” she says.

She had challenges thrown at her; her bike broke down at a village in Jharkhand while she wasstill 400 km away from Ranchi, her next stop. “The only biker I knew from the village had gone elsewhere. Surprisingly, though I didn’t plan to stay here, a relative of my friend allowed me to stay for a night and took me to a service centre the next morning.”

Her fondness for dhaba food helped her sail though. “I stopped at dhabas whenever hungry. It was a solo trip, so there were no rules, halts and things moved on at my own will.” She reveals her mother and friends weren’t worried but wanted her to be safe, particularly after sunset.

From tool kits, biking gear to clothes and other daily necessities, she carried a heavy backpack. Grasping languages wherever she went wasn’t an issue, a mix of English and Hindi got her through, so by the end of the trip she could say thank you and namaste in multiple languages. “One thing I’ve realised through the trip is my ability to write blogs, travelogues and people liking them. Prior to my journey, I didn’t expect to write so much, forget be appreciated. A book is on the cards once I settle down in my regular life.”

Her ride sought to promote the touristy side of the country, but she didn’t want to pick up a placard and place it on her bike to declare it is safe. “Being close to nature, with no internet connection or communication facilities in northeast regions, was a good time to forget technology.”

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Printable version | May 25, 2020 9:19:11 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/Biking-across-the-country/article17201235.ece

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