Aashiq, a young entrepreneur from Kerala runs his family business Saina Media - a name that was so popular during the reign of VHS cassettes. On its successful entry into the digital phase, Saina Media is now safe in the hands of Aashiq who firmly believes that nobody should remain stagnant in one place, both physically and ideologically.
Who was your inspiration to go on long rides?
I always had a passion for motorcycles from my teenage years. I loved travelling solo and doing small stunts on my bike. Several bruises and injuries later, it was kind of obvious for my parents that I absolutely adore motorcycles and rides. So they were not surprised when I told them that I’m going on a pan-India trip on my Royal Enfield Himalayan.
Your parents showed no resistance when you mentioned your wish to go on a long trip across India?
Convincing my parents was not easy, especially for a trip that covers thousands of kilometres. But finally, they agreed on one condition that I keep them updated throughout my journey, which I agreed wholeheartedly. I went with one of my best friends who was always with me on several shorter trips.
What was the route you took on the trip?
I used to go on several shorter trips in South India, mainly to Kodaikanal. My first true long ride was to Ladakh. I took 32 days to cover 6200 km. I took the west-coast path, starting from Kerala then heading through Goa, Mumbai, Pune, Chandigarh, Delhi and so on. I was accompanied by one of my close friends. We took our time enjoying the sights and staying wherever possible to get the best experience.
So, it was a comfortable ride? You didn’t take any risky path to keep your parents worry-free?
Haha! Far from it. We suffered nine accidents on the way, of which eight were faced by my friend. The last one was a nightmare - he went under a truck and lied motionless for several minutes. I was panicked and didn’t know what to do in that situation. He came back to his senses, asked me, “Where are we? Is the bike OK? Let’s go!” and fell unconscious. Police and ambulance rushed in and took him to hospital.
Sounds really traumatic. Did he recover and resume the journey?
Since it was his eighth accident and this particular one was serious, I decided to convince him to return home as I thought we shouldn’t push any further. So as soon as he got discharged from the hospital, he was sent back home in a bus. I resumed my journey but before that, I took a much-deserved break to calm my nerves and relax a bit. Thinking back, that accident still sends chills down my spine, especially when I remember him not responding to anything for a few minutes.
How did you feel after the trip? Like many riders say, did you feel like a changed man?
Absolutely! It changed me in so many ways. For one, it changed my perspective on life. I used to think one-dimensionally, just from my side. I saw a lot of people in my journey - those who live by selling the law, those who live by selling their bodies, those who live by selling the gods! All of them just want to live and survive. From Red Street to the temples and mosques of Ajmer, the story of common man is the same. I saw rich people who were hesitant to share what they got with others and poor people who would gladly their tidbits of food with stray dogs. I saw an entirely different face of India. It did change me in a lot of ways as I began to see everything from other people’s perspective as well.
From Red Street to the temples and mosques of Ajmer, the story of common man is the same.
That’s really insightful. What’s the single best thing you learned from this trip?
Towards the end of the trip, I began to feel like I was pursuing an oasis. But I also realized that it was nothing but a mirage. I was chasing after something that’s non-existent. Also, I began to miss my parents so bad and decided to return home. They didn’t ask me to come back soon or anything like that, but I thought it was better to return home.
Are you planning to go on another trip soon?
Yes, this time I was to ride through the East coast and reach the North-East. I want to experience the life there. Lucky for me, I have some contacts there who will help me with the stay and guide me to the best spots to visit.
Were there any bitter experiences on the way?
I was told that a lot of bad people in remote villages. But I didn’t have bitter experiences from any people. Maybe I got too lucky, as I have heard stories of riders who were attacked by burglars. But for the most part, I think it’s some people and media who are trying to badmouth some places for their own personal gain. One difficulty I had was my lack of knowledge in Hindi. I don’t speak Hindi very well. Actually, I don’t speak it at all. So, there was an initial trouble with the natives who don’t know English.
Don't be afraid to mingle with the local people, most of them can help you without expecting anything in return.
How did you tackle the problem?
Using the good old way, hand gestures! laughs All I wanted to get along were the signs to ask for food and toilet. Jokes aside, I tried my best to understand what they were saying in Hindi and began to use Hindi towards the end of the trip.
Are there any particularly memorable experience you had with the local people?
When my motorcycle got broken down near the outskirts of Goa, we decided to go to a nearby house asking for water. We were “welcomed” with shouting and throwing stones! We were startled by this unexpected action and ran away to safety. A middle-aged man came to us and asked: “Malayali aano?” (Are you a Malayali?) We felt like he descended from the heaven. laughs He took us to his home and gave us water. He knew a very few Malayalam words and told us that he would call another Malayali on phone. He then connected to one of his friends in Kerala and we talked to him and explained our situation. The friend in Kerala then talked to our newly-found-savior about our problem. Our bike was taken to a workshop with his help and we were given food and a place to stay while we got our vehicle back. We were so amazed to see such unsolicited help from a total stranger. We soon realized that his friend in Kerala once helped him on a journey years back. When enquired, we came to know that the family that threw stones at us had a bad experience with some travellers who pretended to be in need of help. The family treated them well, but in return, they stole something before they left.
It’s fascinating how people change their attitude based on their past experiences.
Yes, and we experienced both sides in a single night! Our good Samaritan friend and the family who threw stones at us - both of them were acting based on how they were treated in the past. Meeting such new faces teaches you a lot of new things in your life.
Any memorable spots you discovered on your way that really surprised you?
There were so many different places and spots on our 32-day long journey and this village near Jagraon in Punjab was truly a unique experience. We spend there some time and met a large joint family with a lot of members. They are a group of people who live their lives the old-fashioned way. What I mean by that is that they despise the use of technology to communicate and prefer face-to-face conversations. All the members would meet up in the courtyard after sunset and spend time together eating, drinking, smoking and even taking psychedelics until late night. Everyone can do whatever they want, but they need to do that in front of the others, so no hiding or holding back. No judgement, no restrictions!
All the members would meet up in the courtyard after sunset and spend time together eating, drinking, smoking and even taking psychedelics until late night.
Anything you learned while riding through high altitude roads?
Don’t trust the mileage you get from your bike. In higher altitudes, the figures will be so different. Since the air pressure is low, the fuel intake changes drastically. So, plan accordingly to avoid the risk of getting stuck. Carburetor engines have troubles commonly in places like Pang. The acceleration will be inconsistent, so it’s better to keep that in mind.
Your mileage may vary on high-altitude roads due to low pressure. So keep that in mind when estimating how long you can ride.
What do you think about various time-challenges like completing Kanyakumari to Kashmir in the shortest time possible?
I know a lot of riders are enthralled by this idea of challenges. But personally, I don’t find it appealing. I enjoy riding, but I don’t like to rush. I must also add that these challengers should consider the safety of themselves as well as the others on the road.
What was the reaction of your friends and family after you returned?
Before we left, they were kind of skeptical if we can pull off such a long journey. After we came back, we found that most of our friends and relatives were eager to listen to our experience. I used to update my progress and call my parents daily. Speaking of which, in Jammu, there was this slip-up. I never realized that Indian SIMs won’t work in many regions of Jammu.
One last question - is there any advice you wish to give to new riders?
Yes, it’s not something about the trip itself, but about the passion to travel. I think many new riders are straining too much to go on long rides, especially when it comes to money. Don’t just blow everything you have on a single trip. Earn yourself and travel, that’s the best way to go. One hint about the budget - I was told by a lot of people that the expenses will exceed Rs. 1,00,00. So, I targeted that amount and worked my way to save that much. In the end, I got a good amount left with me, which I used to purchase clothes and gifts for my family. There are so many ways you can save money, like choosing to stay and eat in budget-friendly places. Feel free to ask the locals about best places to stay, that are wallet-friendly. It’s not about saving the money alone, but I think staying in luxury hotels cannot give you this enriching experience that we seek from such long riders. It’s just my opinion though, especially for budget-conscious riders. In short, go on a long ride, when you feel like you are ready - both mentally and economically. Don’t travel just because everyone else is going. Also, learn to enjoy small experiences, both good and bad.
Don't waste all your savings on just one trip. Spend responsibly.
Research about affordable hotels and restaurants on the way to reduce expenses.
Feel free to ask around the local people if you feel stranded - they are more friendly than you assume.
Don’t force yourself to visit every single destinations on the way, instead try to explore each place as much as you can.
Indian SIMs don’t work in some places around Jammu. Don’t get yourself lost. Plan the route beforehand thoroughly in such locations.
Places like Ladakh mess up your bike’s mileage, so carry an ample supply of fuel before hitting such roads.
Make your own travelogues
Article Info & Credits
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- Interview byCharles Andrews