Sunday, November 16, 2014

Decoding A Biker

A wonderful advantage of being a writer is that you get to connect with some truly fascinating people. I mean, what would you plan for your 60th birthday? A special puja? A family reunion? Or perhaps an exotic holiday for a week? Well, Deepak turned sixty recently. In celebration, he donned his leather gear, hopped on to his Enfield and set off on a 13000-kilometre road trip with his friend, Aditya Raj Kapoor. If that’s not fascinating...what is?

Men in Black - Deepak Amembal (left) & Aditya Raj Kapoor

I’ve never ‘met’ Deepak in the literal sense. Four years ago, when the first edition of my book came out, Deepak (then a stranger) was one of the first to buy it, read it and  review it. He reached out to me with very kind and encouraging words – the only thing a debut author needs.

Ever since, I’ve been a quiet follower of Deepak’s travels – both on his wheels as well as through his camera. Here’s a link to his photo-streams: I’m sure you’ll agree with me...his photos are very kinetic capturing life in all its vibrancy, urgency and colours. 

Deepak and Aditya are just back from their epic road trip. Trust me, it was a feast to open Facebook each day this handsome duo was on the road. Fascinating updates of places, people, food, bike parts filled my newsfeed...what a refreshing change from all the usual whining and preaching doing the rounds J

I requested Deepak to do an interview for my blog...and here it is J

1)    My earliest memory of a travel was probably when I was 5-6. It was my first journey in a train. What is your earliest memory of a journey...and why do you think it has stuck with you all these years?

Deepak: My earliest memory of travel is when I flew with my mum and younger sister from Mangalore to Mumbai in a Dakota. Must have been just around 5 years old then. The scene that has stuck in my mind and can still vividly visualise it is of the flight purser coming to strap on my seat belt during the time the aircraft flew into air pockets due turbulence. Inevitably he would be jumping in the aisle as the aircraft would drop precisely at the time when he was right next to me and his hands reaching out to my seat belt. I enjoyed it thoroughly as for me it was like sitting on a ride in an amusement park.

2)    When was the first time you realized your travels were not just about a “holiday” – but a way of life?

Deepak: An annual visit to our ‘native place’ was the done thing during our summer holidays. The trips were generally by train if tickets could be procured or by private buses that operated between Mumbai and Mangalore. And so it happened that I was stranded in Mangalore without a ticket and had to perforce return to join my new class in school. I must have been around 12 years old then. After asking around I found out that a friend’s uncle was a driver in one of the companies operating the buses on this route. Connected with him and he promised that he would ensure I wont miss a single day at school, however full the bus might be. On the morning I reached the bus stop with my bag and met him at the bus terminus. He made me sit in the driver’s cabin on a makeshift seat and said I might have to travel all the way to Mumbai (around 24hours) on that seat. I was thrilled as it seemed to be a great adventure. And boy, did I have fun! Getting down at every little stop for chai and meals, chatting with the drivers and my first taste of ‘life on the road’. Have never looked back J

3)    All of us, at some point in our lives, would have thought “I wish I can do that”. Only very few do everything it takes bring those dreams to fruition.  I realised that calling your travel bug a ‘hobby’ would be underplaying it to a very, very large extent! Travel for you is more of a calling. Did you have to take any conscious decisions, make long-term plans to make your dream come true? Is it as simple as “have bike, will travel?”

Deepak: Travel is in my genes. My grandmother used to travel alone till she was in her late 80s! My parents too were great travellers and used to ensure we had a vacation every year albeit to our ‘native place’. Hence travel was something that was naturally a part of my life. After marriage to a wonderful girl who shared my love for travel, we did take conscious decisions of saving up for travel by avoiding splurging on frequent fine dining and continuing with our routine life till vacation time when we let go! A certain amount of planning is needed though  most of the time it is ‘have bike/car, will travel’ specially when we travel with family.

4)    What are some of the practical aspects of cross-country rides? For example, the budget...breakdowns...sore muscles...

Deepak: We generally plan on a shoestring budget, keep a bit aside for emergencies though if ones vehicle is well maintained, the chances of breakdown are very rare.
Sore muscles are felt on return from the holiday J

5)    Your latest itinerary was absolutely epic! Can you give our readers your route? When did you plan this trip...and what all preparations – including mental – did you do?
Courtesy - Deepak & Aditya
Deepak: After retirement, I realised that the children are grown up, busy with their lives and wife too is waiting for retirement. That decided for me. In 1982 I had done an All India trip on my Yezdi with 4 other friends but had missed out on Ladakh so I thought of riding to Ladakh and being atop on my 60th birthday last year. Unfortunately due to a sever attack of sciatica just 3 days before I embarked on my ride, had to postpone the plan.

And then I met Aditya Raj Kapoor, a retired management consultant, now into acting, writing and directing following the footsteps of his illustrious father – Shammi Kapoor. We were members of the same riding club – Bisons Ride Hard. Soon we realised we had similar dreams of riding and we started planning almost 4 months prior to our actual departure. What started off as a simple ride to Khardungla pass turned out to be an epic 73days, 13000kms ride across the country. Mentally, we were prepared for a long time.
Made a list of essentials to be carried, procured riding gear and were helped in route planning by Mr. HV Kumar ( who is a highway wizard, and by Dr. Alap Mehendale for our medical needs and Mr. Vinod for our bikes.

6)    What are some of your funniest, heart-warming memories from your travel?

Deepak: We were riding in the desert somewhere between Barmer and Bikaner in Rajasthan. For a long time we had not sighted a single shack/dhaba for chai. The road was deserted too. Finally we spotted one and happily rode towards it and were parking our bikes when a young lad of around 12years of age saw us and ran inside. We assumed he was going to arrange for tea. Aditya went behind him to place our order for chai and the boy ran further inside and disappeared. We were wondering what happened and there was nobody else there to ask. In a couple of minutes a jeep drove in and a hefty man jumped off and came towards us asking us what we wanted. He laughed out loud when we told him we wanted chai. Apparently the young lad thought we were dacoits/terrorists because of our riding gear and called his uncle for help. Later we all got talking and he refused money for the tea and biscuits.

7)    Did you have any experience that scared you off your socks?

Deepak: None actually.

8)    What goes on in your mind when you are on your iron horse and an endless road moves like a conveyor belt below you? What do you think about?

Deepak: Think about various things. Actually it is quite a spiritual, meditative, introspective experience. Apart from the ride itself I tend to think about my past, my present and my future. I delve deep into myself.

9)    Travelling opens up the mind in a way no university degree can. Do you think travel has changed you – as a person? If yes, can you share in what ways?

Deepak: Yes. It has made me tolerant,  patient and an optimist

10) I guess the journey excites you more than getting to a destination. Even so, which is that one place that has lured you again and again? Why?

Deepak: India because it is indeed incredible and would take a lifetime and more to understand its mysteries J

© SUMANA KHAN - 2014


  1. Deepak is my Hero. I am too excited to say anything more. Thanks for the blog. Congratulations for being the first one.

    1. The blog does not do justice for his amazing travels...I hope he writes a book :) Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Well written blog..Hats off Deepak and Aditya Raj..a true inpiration for all.God bless !