One Life To Ride: A Motorcycle Journey to the High Himalayas by Ajit Harisinghani
My rating: 6/10
One Sentence Verdict: A travelogue with a twist, the reader takes a mental as well as physical journey with the author which is both engaging and rewarding although not enormously fast-paced
I found this book in a café-cum-library in Old Rajpur just outside of Dehradun. The café had mainly spiritual and theological books, which was great for me but not really ideal for a bit of light reading. The book has a message in the front of it from its previous owner, a student named Naveen who, from what I glean from the scrawl inside the cover, had just finished his exams and was preparing to graduate on the 23rd of June 2010, when he bought the book in the Cambridge Book Depot in Mussoorie, where I myself had bought books not two weeks ago.
The book is an account of a cross-country motorcycle journey from Pune to Jammu, through the high Himalayas, by a fifty-four year old speech pathologist, Ajit Harisinghani. From the photos inside the book of the author with his family, he strikes you as a kindly family man, not a daredevil. But the contents of the book detailing his journey show him to be a man of extraordinary strength and resourcefulness.
As I have no knowledge of motorcycles or cars or any vehicle at all, road trip books don’t usually strike a chord with me as much as they might with someone who has an inside knowledge of the kind of travelling being written about. However, Harisinghani’s writing style is such that the reader might have been there with him, riding pillion! His voice is much younger than his real age, and at time she sounds like an excitable young man on his first journey into the world, despite his wealth of experience and knowledge.
The author writes with humour about the people and places he encounters on his trip; the book starts with his “practice run” to Goa, and an amusing anecdote about an old woman who offers him a room with a pig-toilet which he is in no hurry to try out! On the road to Ladakh, in the mountains, he meets fake holy-men, other adventurers and soldiers desperate to get home.
The reader takes the journey with Harisinghani, and I was quite curious to see what each new page, each new leg of the journey would hold for us. The author manages to inject a moral into every story, and the result is an emotionally intense yet simply and enjoyable read for anyone; even one utterly ignorant about motorcycle riding!