It was 19 Nov 2013. I walked out of my corporate life as Head of Products at Tata communications, with just a laundry list of things to do
• Settle personal finances
• Learn how to repair a bike
• Learn how to do first Aid
• Travel solo
While this seemed such a short list, this became a big exercise, it has taken me 2 years to come close to it
My Garage Experience
My learnings started with good friend Kitty’s garage, I expected 1 week will be enough to learn repairing & then I can start with the next learning, After 4 days of working on my own bike under the supervision of Kitty I planned to stop going to the garage, assuming I learnt everything. That’s when Kitty asked me to work independently on whatever I learnt. This probably was the worst day I had. My hands were shivering, I hardly remembered the steps & my ability to use the right tools in the right way was no where close to what was required. I could see Kitty smile. He advised me to have patience and practice and give it a little more time. What was supposed to be a 1 week of learning became a 5 week activity. You should be an expert if you want to be alone in those mountains.
After those 5 weeks of working in the garage like a regular mechanic repairing any bike that came for service, I was able to get confidence. Every single day reporting to duty, working till 6pm in my uniform, groomed a mechanic out of me. Today I have travelled almost 30000kms alone in some of the roughest, torturous conditions. Thankfully my bike has not given me much trouble except for small issues like spark plugs, punctures & cable cuts. My learning at the garage to do preventive maintenance by checking on each part regularly helped.
Except for twice, Once when there was a short circuit in the wiring, & other time when there was a leakage in the fuel tank. which I could solve on my own in the middle of a highway at 1.30 in the night. More than my own bike I have been able to help so many people on the road who are stranded without even having basic knowledge of tools.
Based on the garage experience completely redesigned my bike which now carries all tools in the additional boxes that we fixed. I today carry almost all tools to open any part of the bike. I even took 3 groups of riders in Ladakh, Spiti & Bhutan where I played the mechanic.
This activity of learning the in-depth of bike gave a clear perspective of what I should do on the way forward.
My Hospital Experience
After the bike it was very clear that I have to do the medical training and this was the TOUGHEST one. There is not a single agency in India who train you on actual FIRST-AID, I called & visited most of the hospitals in Bangalore to get trained on Advanced First-Aid, For me first-aid included knowing basic medicines, how to give injections, how to stop bleeding, how to handle fractures, how to handle AMS, HAPE, HACE, How to administer fluids, how to identify symptoms. Which are serious conditions & so on ….Most of the Courses today are fit for nothing, It is rather useless I must say. (not being –ve but expressing my displeasure over the system flaws).
This is when one friend recommended a solution which was doable only with influence. but I will not get certified about the same. I finally managed to be in a ER of a hospital for 10 days & fortunately got a Fabulous person to guide, mentor, monitor me. I performed CPR on a patient who’s pulse had stopped & he had collapsed, we revived him. Then I administered IM & IV, Learnt how to handle emergencies including cuts, fractures & even in case one hand was split into 2 pieces. These 10 days of experience has become my backbone. This is when I realised I have so much more to learn.
My Experience with Civil Defence
Post my hospital experience I did research for almost 2 months to finally shortlist the BEST PLACE To get trained & be ready for disaster management, I wanted to be available for any disaster such as Uttarakhand or Nepal, this can only happen with a government agency called Civil Defence. This is the team that is deployed in case of Flood, Natural calamity, building collapse or any disaster situation. They not only have the expertise they also conduct regular trainings for people. Since most of the my time is spent in mountains & nature takes its toll anytime, I decided to get trained & registered my self. It has been 6 months my enrolment is pending as the police verification is pending, despite personally meeting senior most officials & the entire rank below. This is the efficiency at which our government system work. I am waiting & I will ensure I complete all the trainings.
My Ladakh Solo Riding
When I went to Ladakh alone with my bike, while everyone claims to know Ladakh, I realised we hardly knew Ladakh. I travelled the length & breath of Ladakh alone, In last 2 years I have travelled almost 90% of Ladakh & it has taken me almost 80 days of Solo Riding, and found new routes that are absolutely unknown to common internet people, While I am still not completed. The time that I invested in Ladakh has given us the unique edge of creating routes that are absolutely new, different & unique. I can feel more local at Ladakh today.
I have got lost in absolutely bad roads with no one around, no one to ask, got misguided by some people, reached places with absolutely no clue of where to stay. Fallen from the bike & picked myself back with that 220 kgs of bike . Sometimes its so tough to lift the bike alone when its down its like carrying a mountain. One thing that kept me going was the fact that in these places if I wait I may be waiting for hours or even days. There are no people who cross you for days in many routes. Despite being warned of the same I had to do it as I wanted to do these routes & did it.
Ladakh has huge variations of weather & altitude, You can not only fall sick but people die here due to their negligence. As an organiser / solo traveller we need to know how to handle this. My personal learning in this area has been an humongous. Probably this area is one of the WEAKEST Links I have noticed with most of the Travel industry conducting activity around High Altitude locations.
My Experiences with Ladakh, Zanskar & Spiti people
As most of my travel included rural locations there are not even Tea shops in these places, so obvious is to stay with local villagers. People in Ladakh & Spiti are some of the best you can find in your life, You can approach anyone in the village to stay overnight, every one will welcome you & offer you hospitality that you would not get even in a 7star hotel.
What is most surprising is that the people here do not worry about how much money you have, they think you are the messenger of the world & you should not go back with any complaints, they put in their 100% to make sure you are comfortable.
You would be very shocked to know what they want from you – “ People at these places want you to spend time with their children & teach them, That’s is the only expectation they have from you”
Just sharing few of the experiences that impacted me the most
The European Influence
Every year young people (30 to 50) from Europe come to one / two village in Zanskar / Spiti for annual vacation & spend 45days there. I was astonished with the kind of receptions europeans get in these places, When I found out the reason I was shocked, They are funded by NGO’s based out of Europe. The objective of this group is to physically build schools with their own hands during the day time. They take turns in teaching the children of these villages on daily basis for these 45 days. This entire period they live like locals, They pay for their own cost & they build as much as they can. If they have built one room for a school, next year one more group will come & build another room & the process is on going. They have been doing this for years & they continue to do even now….
If you interact with the kids in some of these villages adopted by the Europeans you will realise their English is flawless & their communications skills are as good as any metro kid or probably better.
If this is what these young enterprising people from Europe can achieve by coming all the way to India … why not me … working on this plan & will reach there soon….
Life in a High Mountain
Living in High altitude locations is something unexplainable, you can only know when you are there, I have been in tears so many times when I hear the life of these people. Below are some of my real life experiences from Zanskar & Spiti which I feel is worth sharing
When I was visiting Zanskar I stayed with a family. Both husband & wife were busy working from the time I met them in the noon till almost 8pm. I was wondering what is keeping them busy as they were not even taking a 30 minutes break. That is when I decided to spend a day more with them & understand their life. I spent the entire day with them helping them in their work & talking to them….
The family of 5 (3 Kids – 5yr, 3yr, 4mnths old). This family gets only 7 months a year to work & earn money. Rest of the 5 months they are cutoff from the world & cannot really do much in the harsh winter with –25º C temp & 6 feet snow outside & continuous snow fall. So in the available 7 months this family does farming in a small land next to their house, where they grow green peas. The quantity they produce is hardly enough to meet their own requirement, So they have cattle for milk based products. Between the husband & wife you would see that most of the Woman in the hilly regions do more work & are more committed to the family welfare. They start their day at 6 am & are working non stop till 10pm. In these 7 months they have to stock enough food for the winter months when nothing is available. They also have to stock & store enough food for the cattle for 5 months when they stay locked inside. They have to go out every day to clean the cattle droppings & provide them water to drink. As the stored water is completely frozen they have to fetch fresh water from the river. This is harsh life, the winter is so harsh that the skin of the children crack & starts bleeding, they have no options but to live with the pain.
They milk the sheep / Yak daily & make cheese which they sell in Kargil / Leh markets for Rs.450 per Kg. with this they buy what they need for their winter survival. The ANNUAL Income of this family of just Rs.17000/- only & that is what they could generate in the 7 months. Rest of the 5months they stay locked in surviving on what they earned in 7 months.
I had always wanted to be in Komic as it is India’s highest altitude village connected by road at 15350ft above sea level. I reached in the noon & was looking for an accommodation. that’s when I met this wonderful man Thampa who said I could live with him & he has a homestay, I asked him how much he will charge he said Rs.500 (accommodation + all meals + tea + ++++) I bargained saying I will pay Rs.350/- & he agreed. (don’t judge me these were my early days)
Later I spent the day with his family, in the evening I went for a walk & was sitting on the hill top alone, that’s when Thampa came & sat with me. We got talking & he kept asking about how is Bangalore & what is life in Banglore, our lifestyle & so on…
After sometime he became quiet (seemingly in deep thoughts) & I asked him do you want to come to Bangalore, he can stay with us. That’s when he said his annual income (7 months) is Rs.26000/- & he cannot afford to travel, he has not even seen Shimla & Delhi. Then he went on to say something very meaningful. Sir here we can wear the same clothes everyday. We wear a jacket & inside we wear even torn clothes no body cares as everyone is the same. If we have to go to cities we have to wear lesser clothes that need to be not torn & we do not have any. Our clothes will stink & we will not be treated well. I will save money & educate my children so they can live in towns like ours. I just could not say anything as I was choked.
From that day he is a good friend of mine & I have been giving him business by sending travellers to stay with him every year.
There are many such experiences that I can write & there is not enough that I can capture in this 1 note.
During my travel Met so many amazing people, many who have become a part of my life, many who have common interest, many who appreciate what I am doing. Its fulfilling when you recall the last 730 days, which just passed by.
I want to probably signoff with this I did Burn Boundaries in some aspects, I have probably earned money equivalent to my 1 month salary when I was working, But the life that I have experienced cannot be compensated by any amount of money & I am not going to waste the rest of my life inside the 4 walls of a corporate life.
Will keep sharing my experiences & look forward to motivating many of you to Love Life & Live Life.Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in