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Archive for January, 2014

14th Nov 6:30 PM : The cold cut into my bones as I rode through Karnataka in the evening. I knew I was behind schedule by 5 hours but hoped to reach Pune by midnight. Soon I had to slow down owing to the road conditions and the locals suggested I put up for the night in Belgaum. So I checked into a hotel some 4 kms into the city where over a cup of coffee I reflected on my journey so far.

It was the 8th day of my motorbike trip ( I called it my pilgrimage) and had had some great time with my classmates Saji, Santosh, Arpita & my ex colleagues and all through the ride there were moments which took my breath away. 40% of the journey still remained.

I had started on the 7th and travelled from Kolkata to Kanyakumari via Vizag, Chennai, Bangalore & Rameshwaram and was heading towards Pune to attend a 3 day spiritual workshop at the GMCKS Arhatic Yoga Ashram on a hill. Santosh had joined me in Bangalore and we made it to Rameshwaram and then Kanyakumari before seeing him off on 13th. Post the completion of the workshop my plan was to head for Mumbai and then cut through the India map horizontally and return via Raipur & Rourkela.

18th Nov, 3PM : I packed my stuff and after a hearty meal with the staff,  walked towards the parking lot.  30 mins later with a heavy heart I bid goodbye once we exchanged some last moment pleasantries. ‘I will be back’, I said to myself.

The road was narrow and went through some scantily populated villages and at times you would see some gypsy tents. All around were hills and at times the path also went through the woodland and the experience was exhilarating. They said that the narrow road leads to Lonavla and I couldn’t hold my excitement any longer. And then I met Umar and his mate! Umar was doing the test ride of the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R review for Autocar India ( http://www.autocarindia.com/auto-reviews/kawasaki-ninja-zx-14r-review-test-ride-364800,2.aspx ).Image

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12th Oct 2013, 1:40 PM :- Goldy Singh walked in the front as I drove my Jazz out of the India Border at Sonauli towards the Nepal border. Neetu was in the front and in the back seat was Fernando ( a Spanish guy we picked up on our way to Sonauli. He was looking for a lift and was standing on the side of the road waving a placard) &  Goldy’s assistant who was waving at the guards on both sides. I just cannot express in words the excitement of that moment. In the next couple of hours our permit would be in our hands along with a Nepalese number plate.

The drive to Nepal was not planned in advance. When my friend  Akash Mukhia updated me about the road condition on NH34, we dropped the idea of Pedong & Kalimpong and chose Satkosia & Daringbari in our route plan. On 10th, the day before our departure, we got news ( fortunately my friend  Jiten Mohapatra warned me )of an approaching cyclone in the coastal belt of Orissa and started looking for an alternative route. With the assistance of Mahendra Pratap Sharma  my colleague, I was able to establish a contact with Chunnu Bhai (Mahendra’s friend) in Gorakhpur who confirmed the road condition to be motorable. Without any booking anywhere on the route, 9 hours later Neetu & myself hit the highway looking forward to an exciting journey to an unknown land, unknown terrain & unknown people.

From Kolkata, Varanasi, Sonauli, Pokhara to Kathmandu and back via the Birganj Raxaul border, it was a journey to remember through the low hanging puffs of white clouds, through the rain amidst the greenery and the hills with their sensual curves offering a surface to experience the adrenaline rush at high speeds and a drive covering more than 2500 kms.

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04:30 AM, Oct 27 2013 – Break of dawn

“30 mins before we hit the road”, I muttered to myself as I stashed my binocular into the deep pocket of my backpack. I knew I would be late by 20 mins.

Raima is known for springing surprises and so I wasn’t surprised when the night before she told me about this ride she & Sukanya (her friend & a great rider) had in mind and my friend John wanted to tag me along. When I googled, I found out that Rolling Wheels ( a motorbike club in Kolkata) & XKMPH had been there some time back.

I had not heard about Gangani (a canyon in Bengal) and at this point I would shamelessly admit that I have yet to discover many of the interesting places in my State. Few hours later I would witness the breathtaking view of the canyon along the course of Silavati river.

So the four of us met at Dakshineshwar and Dibyendu joined us from the Kona Expressway connector. Sukanya was riding Apache RTR, John was on Duke, Raima on Avenger and Dibyendu & myself with our CBRs.

Via Kolaghat, Kharagpur, Salboni, Chandrakona and Garbeta the ride was picturesque as we passed through stretches of paddy fields on both sides dotted by rows of trees and at times segments of NH60 looking like a silken ribbon laid ahead for us. From the highway connected a small road and aound 1 km from there emerged a trail through the greenery and then abruptly the landscape changed! I could not believe my eyes when I saw below the horizon the long serpentile river, the canyon bordering its bank soaked in the wilderness.

With us and our motorbikes parked on the ledge I understood what it means when they say ‘Eyes are voyeur & nature is exibitionist’. And then I forgot all about my Olympus 8X40 DPSI.

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3rd Oct 2013: I must say that my friend John is a tough guy. 1200 kms in a day battling some technical glitches along the way is not a simple ride. The other day John had agreed to do the endurance test with me on a very short notice and we then had to quickly finalize on the route.

On 2nd Oct we started at 5AM in the morning and hit NH6. Then we got into NH60, NH5, rode through some heavy rain and finally landed in Rambha. After a quick stroll near the Chilka we had lunch at OTDC. Then made a U turn and on 3rd early morning  made quite a decent landing with sleep driving the pins into our eyes.

With the beautiful landscape around I badly missed my camera but it was a conscious decision not to stop & take pictures as it was a race against time. So John and myself had to settle for less and took some pictures with our cell phones.:-(

A hot shower freshened me up before I left for office at 10:15 AM still carrying the hangover of those 24 hrs which flew with us with every moment soaked in waking consciousness within the space – time fabric.

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28th Sep 2013 -The sky was overcast and it was drizzling but it felt pleasant. I was longing to meet the children and bought some chocolates from the roadside store. From DH Road I turned into James Long Sarani and then after asking some of the local residents found RCFC on 59 Motilal Gupta road.

The moment I walked into the campus I could sense the peace and love around. Although I have been in touch with them since the last few months and trying to contribute to their mission this was my first visit and a very humbling experience.

RCFC was established in 1973 with the aid of a philanthropic organisation from Germany with a mission to improve the quality of life of children with orthopaedic deformities. With a modest beginning the centre grew under the able leadership of a British nurse & Social Activist Late Jane Pamela Webb.

I met Kakoli di who has been working in this organisation for the last 11 years and she told me everything about the NGO down to the minute details & Anupam showed me around and introduced the key people who run the centre. He took me to the post operative ward, OT, classroom, the physiotherapy units, the training unit for children with Cerebral Palsy and also the small factory where the mobility aids are fabricated.

They have been silently working and have achieved the following in the last 39 years:

66,346 patients have been assessed in OPD clinic
More than 10,550 surgeries conducted
17,075 mobility aids & appliances distributed
23,466 children have benefited from immunization program
49,890 patients have undergone physiotherapy program.

Recently they have been experiencing shortage of fund as one of the major sources have stopped funding them. Therefore they are now open to accept sponsorship from anyone who would like to contribute and change some lives.

Let us wish them success in their noble cause and help them within our capabilities.

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