Travel

Adventure across India on two wheels

Prashobh I. L.

Prashobh I. L.   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Prashobh I.L. is riding solo through the country

For someone who has never stepped out of Kerala, Prashobh I.L. is on the adventure of a lifetime. The biker has been on the road for close to 300 days now. When he set off from Thiruvananthapuram in August, 2017, dreaming of a ride through India on his prized Hero Karizma, the IT engineer expected to be back in four months. Nineteen states and four Union Territories with detours through Nepal and Bhutan later, he is still on the road and this ride is guaranteed story material for posterity.

Speaking over phone from Khonoma, a village in Nagaland – his second halt after two months in Arunachal Pradesh, before he explores the remaining five sister states of the North East, Prashobh is already talking about a ‘next time’. “That is, if my mother lets me to step out of the house when I am back home,” he says, laughter resounding with mischief punctuating his conversation.

The affable 32-year-old quit his job with a company in Technopark last year to prepare for the journey after a failed attempt at riding through the Golden Quadrilateral – a network of highways connecting Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata. Bad weather and inadequate leave from work forced him to turn back from Pune.

After tendering his resignation, Prashobh spent a month preparing the bike and, most importantly, easing his family into accepting his decision. With assurances of daily calls and video chats whenever possible, Prashobh’s mother, Lathakumari (that’s the L after Prashobh’s name), finally relented.

Memorable moments

From catching snowflakes in Tawang to riding all day through temperature as low as 8 degrees Celsius “in flimsy gloves” and taking in the sunrise from where it is first spotted in India – a valley called Dong in Arunachal Pradesh, there were numerous firsts. “I have no deadlines to meet so I am taking my time. From Jammu onwards, I have been travelling on the basis of people’s recommendations and no, I don’t Google ‘10 best places to visit’.”

“Straight out of college, I immediately applied for a passport to work abroad. But later, I decided that I wasn’t going to another country till I had seen the whole of India. Of course, now I realise that it would take a lifetime. Nepal and Bhutan happened because of cultural similarities and hassle-free entry,” he adds. “A positive attitude, knowing when to keep my mouth shut and not taking stupid risks,” he says, has seen him through every day. He prefers gathering information on the political scenario from local biker clubs rather than from newspapers.

Lodging and food

Lodging varies from houses of strangers to school hostels or even petrol bunks, every day being a lesson for Prashobh. “After a point, you go by intuition, knowing where to knock to spend the night. I asked a shop owner near the Nepal border if I could use his premises to pitch a tent for the night but he offered a spare room in his shop. Most times, they only need to see your identity card.”

Prashobh I.L.

Prashobh I.L.   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

He keeps to the highways, eager to offload his travel gear at his lodging before riding into the villages and cities. A responsible rider, Prashobh also uses his journeys to promote safety awareness by making sure he is always seen wearing his helmet and riding gear when on the road.

All through college, he made do with his father, Induchoodan’s Bajaj Chetak scooter. “A Karizma is the only bike I have ever wanted. My father offered to buy me a regular bike while I was studying but I said I’d wait till we could afford a Karizma.” He eventually managed to buy one using his savings and with his father pitching in. An active member of the Karizma Bikers’ Club and travel community Sanchari, he learnt to run a basic check, taking the bike to the mechanic’s only for any major repairs. Even during the trip, Prashobh dutifully lubricates the bike’s chain at every 500 km, checks the level of oil every 2,000 km and gets the filter cleaned regularly.

Prashobh has lost his heart in an apple orchard in Manali for now, recalling the flavours of a biriyani put together by the host with a salad of diced apple and green chilli. “It was the simplest version I had ever seen, vegetarian that too. But it makes me drool even now,” he says adding, “Himachal gave me the best and worst experiences (in terms of people and roads respectively).”

It was while riding through Bhutan that he met a tourist from Assam who insisted that Prashobh stop by his house when he visited the state. He did, only to leave with goody bags to snack on, packed by the man’s mother. He adds that the option of making longer stopovers where he could work for a few months and travel again was decided against as that would delay him further.

Taste of home

"I won’t reach home anytime soon then," he says. Do you miss pazhampori (banana fritters)? I ask him. Prashobh pauses, then laughs and confesses that while he doesn’t have a sweet tooth, there’s always the longing for his mother’s meals. When he heard that a friend was coming to Nagaland, the biker immediately sent out a request - homemade chamanthipodi, and rode 150 km to collect it.

A job is top priority for Prashobh once he is back home. He keeps a daily log and shoots on his GoPro or mobile, finding a DSLR too cumbersome to carry. With the entire stretch of Eastern India left to cover, Prashobh says he is a changed man. At least he hopes to be once he settles back into the daily grind.

“I plan to upload vlogs after I teach myself to edit. Travelling has shown me how privileged we are in Kerala. People elsewhere make do with so little and a smile. I’d like to do more for those around me instead of being someone who just sleepwalked through life. Once you’ve travelled, everything seems like a ‘simple si baath’.”

Back to school

Braving the cold weather brought Prashobh down with a fever that required 10 days of rest in Arunachal Pradesh where he stayed with a priest who runs a school. Once back on his feet, Prashobh made himself useful. “I set up their science lab, filled in for the driver one day to drop off the kids and was mike co-ordinator for a stage event,” he says.

A school lab that Prashobh I.L. helped in setting up at a school in Arunachal Pradesh

A school lab that Prashobh I.L. helped in setting up at a school in Arunachal Pradesh   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

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Printable version | Mar 24, 2020 10:22:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/prashobhs-solo-ride-across-india/article23600931.ece

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