By Shawn Sebastian
When Shameer and Shafeeq, two young photographers from the southern state of Kerala, embarked on a 25,000 km long journey on their Royal Enfield, the riders were uncertain about what would lie ahead.
They carried with them the well wishes of their family and friends who whole heartedly supported their dream to cover the length and breadth of India’s vast geographical expanse.
Their journey that began from Cochin on July 28th 2013, went along the south-western coastal line, touching Goa, Mumbai and further up till the much contested northern region of Kargil in Jammu and Kashmir. The circuit was completed when the journey continued to Bihar, the North-eastern states, and further down to South India, along the eastern coast.
Considering the limited resources, and their lack of language skills, they knew that the ride would be a bumpy one from the beginning.
Nevertheless, their modestly majestic 1990 model Enfield, painted in silver and black, which they referred to as a ‘friend’, took them, not only to the sprawling metros but to the remote hinterlands as well, touching the country’s 28 states.
Riding, not only held for them a personal affection, but was also a means of speaking to people and spreading a message. As nature lovers, the recent natural calamities such as the landslide in Uttarakhand, deeply disturbed them. “We wanted to spread the message among the people about the need to preserve nature,” says Shameer.
‘Tree Belt- Preserve Nature-All India Bullet Ride’ reads a board behind their bullet. “Throughout our journey, people noticed what is written and asked us more about it. We think it helped in communicating our message,” he adds.
Realising the need to know the basics of two wheeler maintenance, Shameer, before starting the journey, spent 6 months training at a local workshop under a person, whom he refers to as ‘master’. “Since we had to travel to unknown, remote rural localities, it was necessary for us to know how to take proper care of our ‘friend’,” says Shameer.
From the heavily guarded snow-capped mountains in Kargil to the flooded villages in Nagaland, the places they travelled were visually diverse from one another.
They ditched the technology of GPRS and Google maps and relied on the tourist map of India.
“Since we had to stop and ask people for directions, it helped us interact with a lot of people, which wouldn’t have been the case had we used mobile devices for navigation,” observes Shameer.
While some amused villagers frowned upon the purpose behind their journey, some youngsters they met on the way drew inspiration for a similar ride. “An army fellow in Manipur traded his shooting skills in return for a couple of camera techniques,” whispers Shafeeq with a slight grin.
The riders were welcomed on most occasions. “A truck driver in the isolated Leh-Ladakh national highway offered a bottle of water when our cans dried up, and an ageing housewife in Mizoram gave us a lifeline by donating a few liters of petrol,” says Shameer remembering the many faces that offered a helping hand.
Both consider the visuals and people they saw and met on the way as a precious education that can’t be learned in school. “All of us need a journey like this at least once in our lifetime,” Shameer avers.
Considering their constant involvement in humanitarian works like blood donations back in their home town, financial support for this journey came from all quarters.
The two are a week’s travel away from Cochin, where their journey will reach its closure, and where a group of people will anxiously be waiting to receive the biker duo who expressed the will to travel an untrodden path.