The Philosophy of Life The simplest truth is that life is a journey and the essence of a journey is in movement, be it temporal or spatial. Movement means we keep moving from one place, an abstract or concrete, to another and in the process we grow and grow and grow. The nature of life is nomadic and this process begins the moment we leave the womb of mother which is the first time we move from one place to another. We start growing into a child and then the child leaves the sweet space of childhood and moves into adolescence and the tricky teenage and amazing adulthood and so on. It’s a beautiful evolution from one phase to another as we always keep growing into a different being. We humans have a tendency of craving for something that we don’t have and it’s natural, but when it comes to growing and ageing it becomes a little confusing. As a child we all are fed with the desire of growing up through the constant questioning like “Bade hokar kya banoge?” (What will you become when you grow up) What does a child know about becoming and all that! It has got a life, a carefree childhood and is enjoying the process happily. How can s/he tell where will the journey take him/her? We are over seven billion people walking on as many paths and each one’s different from another and still we always try to make others walk the one we’re on. How ridiculous is that! Whoever has ever forgotten his own path and tried to fit into someone else’s path has failed miserably. We grow up in a system called society and at times it becomes very dangerous for the individuals because society has designed a single path for everyone. If everyone walks the same path then that will be the end of growth and exploration and evolution and hence life.
I was born in a small village in Haryana in a very conservative family. I grew up in a very restricted environment, completed my graduation and somehow convinced my father to send me to Chandigarh for higher studies to which he finally agreed after I cleared the Panjab University entrance exam. I studied literature there and honestly that was my first genuine experience with books so I nurtured a habit of reading and also got the opportunity to go on a couple of short trips to Himachal. There I also watched a lot of movies, before that I had been to theatre only once and at home we didn’t have T.V., so most of my time would be spent in playing cricket, working in the fields and going to college. So the time in Chandigarh with all the books, movies and those trips opened up new horizons for me. In college days I wanted to become a cricketer but my father didn’t like sports and also we lacked resources so I shifted focus to studies and gradually became eligible to become a teacher. In 2016 I started doing 3 things together: enrolled myself in PhD, started teaching temporarily, and traveling during the holidays. In the next three years I traveled extensively in Himachal, Ladakh, and Kashmir on bicycle . In these years my madness for traveling grew more and more, and I lost interest in research and all that so I decided to quit everything and travel around India to follow my dream and maybe destiny also, so I packed my bag and took my bicycle and left. When I told my family about my desire to travel India on bicycle they were not just shocked but started believing that I had been suffering from some mental illness and that disappointed me a lot at that time. But I was determined in my heart of what I had dreamed and decided, so ignoring everything negative and discouraging I just embarked on my journey.
It’s been around 2.5 years since I left and I have traveled to so many places and met amazing people on the way and crossed through almost everything from high snow covered mountains, freezing weather, hailstorm in Ladakh, heavy rain and flood in Punjab, scorching heat and over 45 degrees temperature in the desert of Rajasthan, cyclone in south Bengal, one of the largest salt lakes and the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, my first experience of seeing a sea in Mandavi, Mumbai-the city of dreams, riding by the Western ghats, Christmas and New Year in Goa, the vibrant cultures of south India, the end point of India in Kanyakumari and Rameshwaram, and beautiful fields and rustic life of different parts of India. How many people get a chance to see and experience this much in their life? Not many of course.
The journey has been full of great and some bad experiences but that’s how journeys are like. I have survived on many occasions with the help of locals when I had no money, some really wonderful friends have been supporting me in my tough times, I lost my everything in Goa but still didn’t give up, mostly I have been sleeping in the open on the ground (beach, footpath, outside temple or petrol pump etc) and all these things have taught me many things about life. This is why I love traveling because it’s a great way to go out in the world, observe, experience, learn and grow as a human.
I have overcome many doubts and unnecessary fears I used to have earlier, mostly about the unfamiliar places and people. Now I can go to anywhere, anytime and stay in a completely remote and isolated place for many days without any fear. I have learned to survive in hard conditions, live with very little, stay calm in unfavorable moments, be grateful for being alive, respect and love life in every form and more importantly to be content and patient in life and follow the heart. Traveling constantly on a bicycle is always challenging and for those who are passionate about it is adventurous too. Now many people know about the journey I have taken and many of them have curiously asked a few questions about my journey so here I am going to answer those questions.
How it all started? I remember four instances that can hint at the growth of the curious wanderer in me.
The first happened in October 2011 on the PU’s English dept trip to Manali. During that 3 day’s trip most of the time I roamed around alone through the streets and trails and in Manikaran I even forgot that I was with a group and kept wandering. The entire group left in the bus and I was lost wandering through the streets there, they stopped in Kasol where someone realised I was missing so someone called me and asked where I was and I said in Manikaran to which he asked me to get on the road and take any vehicle going towards Kasol then I hiked on a bus and joined back the group. It was the first trip of my life and first time I had seen mountains I couldn’t help getting lost.
The second came in the first week of April 2014, when I went on another PU trip to Dharmsala. This time we went on the Triund trek and it was again my first trekking experience so I was happy and enjoying walking up to the top through that trail and when we reached the top the view was mesmerising all around and I saw the snow for the first time. So I instinctively felt like spending some time up there but to my disappointment just after 20 minutes the leaders of the group called out for the trek down to return before the dark. I was helpless but that day I decided that one day I will come here and spend at least a night at the top. I fulfilled that dream in 2018 winter when I went to a Himachal-Kashmir winter cycling trip, I went to Triund and rented a small tent for me and what a night it was- December 25th, Christmas with the full moon.
Third instance came In October 2016 when I had planned a trip to Dharmsala in Himachal to watch India-New Zealand match and go for some trekking and other places nearby with two of my friends. But just a week before the match we found out the tickets had been sold so it was a little disappointing. I suggested that we can still go and travel around the places, but my friends decided to use those holidays to do their research work. I wasn’t in any mood to cancel the trip so I decided to go alone and I started searching for places to travel in Himachal on google. So one of the places came on the screen was Kinnaur and as I read a little more I got fascinated by one line that read “Kinnaur is one of the least explored regions in Himachal.” That was enough for me to decide and I told my friends that I am going to Kinnaur to which initially they said it could be risky going alone but then wished me well. So I boarded a direct bus to Rekong Peo, Kinnaur that reached the destination at 6 pm after an over 12 hours journey. The sun had gone down behind the mountains by that time and the snow capped peaks were looking down at the new guest who in the years to come will fall in love with the mountains and will come to meet them again and again on his bicycle. I walked towards the market and rented a small room for just Rs 250 in a home stay where the lady agreed to give me a bucket of hot water in the morning to take bath. The weather was getting really cold and I, after doing the hand and face wash, decided to find a dhaba for dinner and get into bed to keep myself warm and plan the next days roaming. Next day I went to Kalpa and Roghi where I saw four people, two Israeli and two Brazilian, in a small cafe where they were having a little difficulty in communicating with the waiter so I helped them with the order they wanted to place. We started talking and found out that our next 3-4 days plan in Kinnaur were matching, so after eating there I bade them bye and started walking back and after a while they also crossed me in their taxi and that taxi stopped a hundred meters ahead and they waved at me to get in. I got in and it went on, inside it they offered me to join them for the next 3-4 days as we were going to the same places and the driver Sonu, who was from Shimla, also urged me to join as he didn’t know English and he thought it would be nice to have me in the company so I also found it a great opportunity to meet some new people and travel together there so we all agreed on that. Next 4-5 days we traveled together from Peo to Sangla Valley and Chitkul, they had already booked their hotels and I always prefer to stay in home stays in the mountains so in Chitkul I rented a wooden homestay for Rs 500 a day. We spent over two days in Chitkul, it’s the last Indian village on that Indo-Tibetan border, and in the homestay I met another Israeli couple who were really nice people. I and that couple went out for dinner in a small hotel in the village and then we heard some music in the village so we followed the sound and found out that a wedding was taking place so we joined in for a while and then came back to the homestay. We sat together in my room for another hour and talked about many things, they shared their adventure stories about the bike they were traveling on and asked me about stories from India related to the pictures hung on the room walls and then we went off to sleep. Next morning when I woke up I found a note under the door from that couple in which they thanked me for telling them stories and also invited me to Israel someday. It was a beautiful gesture that made me smile and I felt the world is a beautiful place and people are amazing.
I called Shimon and we met at the main street of the village where I had my breakfast and then we started the journey back, they had hired that taxi from Shimla so we reached Shimla by the evening and I also decided to stay for a night in Shimla so took a room near the Ridge and then we all agreed to meet in an hour at the Ridge for dinner and there in the Shamiana we celebrated this memorable trip with some whiskey and delicious food. We had become friends by then and it was a little hard to say goodbye so we went off to sleep with a promise to meet one last time at the breakfast next morning. We had the breakfast and said farewell with warm hugs and hopes to meet again someday. I took the bus to Chandigarh and they went to Rishikesh. I returned with a lot of memories and a new energy and fascination for this wonderful activity called traveling.
The Beginning Of Madness
The fourth freaky and landmark instance happened on 27th April 2017 when I was in SMS hospital Jaipur with my father where he was being treated for Polymyositis. I don’t know from where this crazy idea of going on a solo cycling trip to Ladakh entered my mind, I thought for a moment and pondered is it possible and searched on google ‘Manali-Leh on bicycle ‘ so a few tourist websites popped up with organized group tour and that assured me that there is a way and it is doable. Initially I thought it’s just a random thought and it will disappear but it didn’t, in the coming 2-3 weeks I found myself checking out pictures and videos of Ladakh multiple times a day and I realized that it wasn’t any random thought so as always I obeyed my instinct and in my mind I made a decision that I am gonna do it. The first thing that happened to me and most likely will happen to you is that there will be a lot of people around you who will ask you to reconsider this dangerous idea and some might even discourage you not to go but remember one thing that this is the only life you have got and you cannot afford to postpone your dreams just because somebody else is afraid of your courage. My philosophy is that your dreams may not make sense to everyone and neither these should. Inspiration and fear both lives inside you and both will try their hands at you but its all up to you which one you go with. Now coming to the planning of this trip, fist of all by the end of the May I got my bicycle Raleigh Terrain-10, a camping tent, a sleeping bag, a first-aid kit, and a tool kit for bicycle and on 28th May 2017 evening I climbed the bus to Bhuntar with my bicycle on its roof. I reached Bhuntar at 4 am on 29th and at around 5 am I started cycling to Kasol because by then the Manali-Leh Highway was not opened so I thought of spending a couple of days in Kasol and I had a good time there, on 1st June I started my ride to Leh. It was a dream that I had seen just a month before starting the trip, people, including my family declared me crazy, some tried and suggested not to go and especially alone for this venture, but you know then how the minds of crazy people function. So ignoring everything and surrendering to my instincts I just left. On 11th June 2017, after 11 days’ super-challenging journey, cycling for 555 Kms, struggling against weather, cold wind, rain, snowfall, five high passes, altitude ranging from 14000 to 17600 ft high, fighting for breath at height and most of all temperature below zero degree, finally I made it. The rest is history.