‘One Life To Ride’ – A Book Review
Imagine you are at a friend’s place that is approximately 500 meters away from a national highway, rather a major one like the NH4. Although the place is considered inside the city, it is quite easy from the place to go outside the city. You are at your friend’s place because you planned for a long ride the next day but silly constraints of work stop you.
That’s exactly how my position was some time back. I had been to a friend’s place at Baner in Pune, where the flat is a stone’s throw from the highway. Owing to some external pressure, the plan for a long ride seemed faded enough to convince that we are not going tomorrow. But, the sound of large commercial vehicles on the highway wasn’t letting me sleep when this book, ‘One Life To Ride’ caught my attention, lying on the wardrobe.
I started reading it at around 00.30 am and I came out of it at around 4:30 am! This book, by Ajit Harisinghani is about his ride on an Enfield Bullet to Leh, all the way from Pune. A ride on the famous Manali – Leh road (world’s highest motorable road) that is open in select few months of the year was the motive behind this ride.
The book has excellent narration and if travelling is your hobby, riding a bike is a daily thing for you; it will keep you hooked on for a long time with hangovers assured! You might not even notice how the pages turn.
It starts with how the author loves the legacy system called Enfield Bullet despite the introduction of new age electronic-start, fuel efficient sports bike in recent years. He has had multiple cross country trips before but the one on Himalayas was something special that he could not complete. He takes a trial ride from Pune to Goa and back just to assure that his age supports such adventures.
Starting with NH4 with first stop at Dahanu (a town towards north of Mumbai on the Maharashtra border), then NH8 till Delhi and further ahead, the ride is all smooth till Manali. The real adventure starts after Manali where the 500 km long stretch till Leh that occasionally has glacier melting on it. While in Rajasthan, he comes across some fake saints, also comes across Sufi saints who tell him that ‘your white hair would save you’. It turns out magically true in Kashmir where he is in some serious trouble due to bike wheels getting stuck in the boulders. This experience is well narrated in the book. The fellow riders that he meets all come up with their set of problems faced en route but nothing stops where there is a will. The glitches while on the Manali – Leh route are enormous with the fear of not making it to planned destination before sunset, bike failures, health problems due to low oxygen in air and strangeness of the adventure!
The world’s highest motorable road is finally reached by him, Kargil, Dras all visited. And the stories do not end there… A strong nature’s call while going through stretches of high military protection, the joy that Maratha regiment has over sighting a MH 12 (RTO registration number for Pune vehicles) vehicle and meeting Marathi speaking army men in Kargil makes the book an interesting read. The author reaches Jammu and as planned travels by Jhelum Express to return for Pune with the machine in luggage section.
The excellent narration would not realize you that you are reading a book but would take you to those places in Himachal and Kashmir mentally. I cannot write the stories/experiences in detail as it would truly spoil the fun of reading and would be legally and ethically wrong.
IMHO, the only thing the book lacked were photos of the ride as very few images could be found in the book. But the narration would force you to form images in your mind. Also, the first two chapters on the emotions felt for Enfield were a bit lengthy and tempted to skip the content.
The different flavours of India, the common thing that binds us all, chai (tea) and sutta (cigarette), ever helpful nature of people all across the country from west to north India could be well found across the book. Overall, it is a must read for all those who have ever had road trips in life (which I believe everyone has), especially on 2 wheelers or those who are interested in anything like travel, geography or places around the world. Sure, this piece of literature is something I would like to see finding a mention on something like National Geographic, Lonely Planet or Outlook Traveller.
At 4:30 am, I realize chirping sound of birds only to remind me that it is morning and that much dreamed trip to Matheran on Pulsar ought to be done today anyhow, especially considering the hangover of this book!
My Rating: 4.5/5