Author Archives: Akhil Kalsh

About Akhil Kalsh

Akhil has been a biking fan since his umbilical was cut. He got his hands on a Pulsar 150 when he was in college and has ridden its sorry ass about 50,000 kilometers since over most of India, including Ladakh. Now he can be seen on a Duke 390 trying to run as far away from civilization as possible.

Isle of Man TT: My experience – The End

“You ran all this way with that bag on your shoulders?”

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t you just leave it at the camping spot, pick it back up after the race?”

“You could do that? Fuck me.”

I make a lot of mistakes. I guess everyone makes mistakes, it’s just that I put myself into difficult situations as often as I can, put myself under pressure, what you get is more mistakes than average. Mistakes are fun though, I doubt I’ll change.

The latest in a long line of mistakes I call life, was my plan to follow the boys.

“We’re gonna go try some new places to watch the race from.”

“I’ll come with you.”

“We are on cycles, you are on foot, with a giant bag on your back.”

“I’ll attempt to come with you.”

I had imagined that there would be some sort of a path running right along side the course that you could take, it made sense that people wouldn’t really want to get trapped at one point, so there should be something to help them move. I had forgotten I was in Isle of Man.

The boys were up and gone by the time I had loaded myself with the bag, they were on mountain bikes, and their bikes were at home. I started my slow and steady walk back down to Hillberry, taking the same path I had taken this morning to avoid running on the road during the final stretch to Creg Ny Baa.

As I approached the end of that path, I noticed the guys were lined up in front of a gate. There was a huge farm behind the gate, with a few cows grazing in the distance. They were discussing something, and as I reached the gate, I noticed them picking up their bikes and tossing them across the gate.

Oh shit.

The gate was big, probably some 8 feet high. I could probably climb it, but if I jumped down the straps were sure to break, and my shoulders with them. I watched them climb up, pick up their bikes, and keep going, one by one. Once they were all done, it was time to make a decision.

The place where I found myself now wasn’t too bad. I had a decent view of the course, and I could have just sat here till the end of the race. But of course I didn’t.

There was a small gap in the hedge near one of the gate posts, if I was somehow able to make it to that point, the jump would be about half the height, and I probably would survive. My first concern was that I was trespassing, and someone was bound to come and shout at me. My second concern was even if I somehow made it inside the farm, what would I do to get out again?

The good thing about making so many mistakes so regularly is that you’re quite confident digging your own grave.

I climbed up the gate, slowly, looking around for anyone running towards me, dogs included. The gate swung more the higher I got, but I did manage to climb onto that gap through the hedge. All that needed to be done now was to slide myself and the bag through the gap, and climb down the other side, I only realized once up there that a jump wasn’t a good idea.

I made it, although it did take a lot of pushing and pulling through the hedge. The bag straps started making love to the hedge branches as soon as they touched each other, and it was rather tough to separate the lovers. The climb down was uneventful, and now I stood inside someone’s private property.

“Those are some big cows.” 

That was the first thought that came into my head when I turned around. Cows in India look cool, pleasant, loving, these looked like direct imports from the most brutal bull fighting arenas across the world. They had looked harmless from behind the gate, once I was inside, trapped with them, things were a bit different.

On top of that I noticed that the boys themselves had stopped in the middle of the farm, a giant herd of cows blocking their path.

I had 2 options:

  1. Climb back up and out
  2. Run to the boys and hope to go across with them

Frodo, while entering Shelob’s Lair said, “I cannot go back.” So did I. It was time to run again.

I did a weird walk-run type thing, didn’t really want to spook the muscular cows. I could see the cycles getting closer, they were still trapped. As I got closer to them, I noticed a strange sensation inside my shoes. It was cold, very cold, and then I realized how truly fucked I was.

The grass was all damp, wet patches everywhere. My shoes were soaked, my socks were dripping, my feet were wet with ice-cold water.

Where did it come from? Probably the rains of the last week, or it was just the regular water tumbling down the mountainside. By the time I understood what was happening, it was already too late. I was soaked to the flesh, and chilled to the bone. This was not good.

No point stopping though, running feet are as wet as standing ones.

Just then I noticed one of the track marshals shooing away the cows, opening up the path for the bikers, and me following them at a distance. I was a bit farther away than I would’ve liked to be, but once I saw the marshal scaring the cows like it was no big deal, I got a bit of confidence myself.

I couldn’t run anymore, I had to dodge any deep pockets of water that I could, and running made a weird noise, like someone was shagging inside my shoes. I was tired, so I decided to wait by the marshal’s post to rest a bit. The boys had carried on, and I could see them pushing their bikes over the gate on the other side.

“Would you like some lemon tea?”

“Yes, please.”

“Here you go.”

The marshal opened his thermos, poured out a steaming cup of tea into the cap, and handed it to me. I took off my bag, leaned onto the gate, and sipped.

“Where are you from?”

“India.”

“Oh you’ve come all the way from India for this race?”

“No, no, I’m staying in Milton Keynes, that’s where I’ve come from.”

“Ah, coming from India sounds much more exciting, doesn’t it?”

He introduced to me to the other marshals sitting around, told me he’s been marshaling this event for 20 odd years. I asked him if he was interested in motorcycles, he said no, it wasn’t motorcycles he was interested in, it was the event, the people it attracted, and passion of the participants. Couldn’t argue with that.

While I was enjoying the tea and talking to the marshals, one of the cows had decided to eat my bag. The marshal shouted at her, and she moved aside a bit. They look big for sure, but in their eyes you see the same type of harmlessness as their Indian versions. A few more sniffs and licks of the bag, and she quickly lost interest.

The tea was hot, it took me a while to finish it. The marshal said I should volunteer to be a marshal next year, you get to be close to the action, and it’s all good fun. I washed the cap the best I could with my bottled water, and gave it back. This random person who gave me a hot beverage while my frozen feet were dragging me into depression, was also part of this island’s personality.

“You carried that bag all the way from Douglas to here?”

“Yeah.”

“Wow, you should be in the SAS!”

The marshal told me that once I crossed the other gate, I could have to take a different route as there would no longer be a path next to the course. Nothing could’ve bothered me now, I had nothing to lose. A quick goodbye to them all and I was on my way again.

There was a lot more water than before in certain sections, a lot of it probably was cow piss, but by this time any sort of warmth was welcome.

I made it to the gate, and noticed that the cycles were parked right next to it, outside. I climbed up to see their owners standing on a nearby mound, watching the race.

“You are quick! I thought we’d lost you.”

“I was right behind you guys all the way.”

This was a new point to watch the race from, and a very interesting one. You could hear them speed up from Creg Ny Baa, shifting all the way up to 6th, and then downshift one gear to take a slight left corner right in front of us. We could see them come sliding in, pick up, accelerate, shift up, shift down, down, down, and take the Hillberry turn. It was scary, one of the riders almost high-sided in front of us.

A lot is talked about just how dangerous this race is. I’m sure it looks very different from the point of view of the rider, but from the outside it looks like everyone is on the edge, and if you go beyond, there is no margin for error. If you crash on a track, you have run-off , tires and air-fences to protect you. If you crash here, you go into an electricity pole, or a tree.

You notice one more component of the Isle of Man mindset in these poles and tress, most of them exposed to the track are covered by a sort of foam, red colored, tough padding.

“There’s an electricity pole by the road, someone could crash into it and die. Let’s cover it with a thick, old, fat pad that offers no protection, and mark it red so it’s easy to target fixate on.” 

They know what they are doing.

The boys wanted to keep watching from this new place, I decided to carry on to Hillberry. They were much faster than me, I had to get a head start.

It was a long way to Hillberry, the distance was nothing if I could go straight, but I had to go in the opposite direction for a while, then run parallel to the track, and then turn the right way. I did get to go through some deserted sections of the island, saw some more spectacular houses, but by the time I made it to Hillberry, the race was almost over.

People were already getting ready to start leaving, so I found a good place to watch the last lap from.

It was quite beautiful, watching the riders push it till the very end, spectators giving them a standing ovation.

The race finally ended, the marshals then did a final lap, boy do they fly. After a long wait the road was opened again, and we all started walking towards the pits. I hadn’t managed to catch a cab in the lazy morning, it was obviously impossible to get one in the crazy now.

I saw two young boys fondling an electricity pole on the way. They were more drunk than Seth MacFarlane when he created The Orville. The world is much more fun when you watch it through beer goggles, I wish I knew how to put them on.

I have the opposite of a drinking problem, I have a can’t-start-drinking-even-though-he-really-wants-to problem.

Made it back to the pits, which were just getting ready for the party. I gave some more money to the island, bought a few t-shirts, and a hoodie. I was just walking around the shops looking for something else to pick up, when I noticed a small line in one corner of the shop. I crossed that line a few times trying to reach different parts of the store, it was probably the 4th time that I turned my head to look at the source.

Fucking hell that’s John McGuinness signing books.

There were just a few copies of his autobiography left, I instantly bought one and stood in line. It was kinda sad how small the line was, if this was a Youtuber, the line would probably have curved on itself like an anaconda, here I was, waiting to chat with John McPint, with 4 people in front of me. The world is full of stupid.

People were talking to him, taking photos with him, joking with him. What was I going to say? What could I possibly say to John McGuinness that would make sense?

I hope you get better soon? I bet he hopes that himself more than I ever can.

I am a big fan? He’s got fans like I’ve got dandruff.

How does it feel to be a 23 time TT winner? Dumb, dumb, dumb.

“Hi John, could you please make it to Aki, A, K, I?”

“Sure my friend.”

“Good luck John.”

“Thanks.”

I took no photos, and that’s all I could say to him. At least I didn’t stammer.

I had initially booked the 3 pm ferry out to Liverpool, but at the last moment I had changed that to 11:45 pm. It was a good decision, if I had to leave at 3 I would’ve missed the Senior TT, wouldn’t have got the signed copy of McPint’s book, and wouldn’t have had the lemon tea. My feet would probably have been dry, but that’s not important.

This meant that I had to lot of time to pass, so I started walking towards the ferry terminal, zig-zagging my way through Douglas. I tried to find a good restaurant where I could chill out for a bit in the warmth, but ended up eating a burger and some fries outside a takeaway, fighting with the cold wind for every bite.

It was dark, and I had nowhere else to go, so I entered the ferry terminal and things were better. The ferry was late though, due to bad weather, and I watched the crowd grow as the time went by. This was the most crowded time to take the ferry, everyone has had the same idea that I did. The good thing about being in the UK was that the size of the crowd didn’t matter, these guys love beer only slightly more than they love queues.

The ferry finally arrived, the check-in gates opened, and I went in.

“This ferry is overbooked, you will have to put your bag in the hold.” 

“Oh, let me take out some items.”

Out came the contact lens case and my charger, and we were done. I climbed on the ferry, found a seat inside the movie room with a charging point close by, put my phone on charge, took my lenses out, and instantly fell asleep. I have no memory of the voyage back home, the ferry could’ve dodged 100 foot waves, it could’ve been abducted by aliens, experimented on, and put back into the sea, I couldn’t care less. I hadn’t slept in 48 hours, had pushed my body beyond the limit. Those 3 hours of sleep were mine.

We arrived in Liverpool at 3 in the night.

I took my bag, and walked out, the city was deserted. It didn’t make sense for me to spend money to get a hotel, the plan was for my wife to join me in the morning, and we’d go some place else. I had tried to find a camping spot around Liverpool for the night, but there didn’t seem to be one. The wind was flying here just the way it was when I had left. I found a corner in front of a closed building door, took the new t-shirt that I had bought, took the new hoodie I had bought, and put them both on.

What to do now?

I saw a few taxis coming my way, and an idea came along with them.

“Hello, could you take me to the Liverpool Lime Street station please?”

I had expected that such a big station should have trains running throughout the night. I would just find a bench somewhere, catch some more sleep, and wait for wifey to arrive in the morning. I reached the station, found a bench, wore all the dry socks I had on top of each other, covered myself with my sleeping bag, and went to sleep.

“Hello, don’t you have a train to catch?”

“What? Oh, hi, no, I am waiting for my wife.”

“Your wife? Where are you from?”

“Milton Keynes.”

“So you aren’t taking any trains right now?”

“No, she’s arriving in the morning, I thought I’ll just spend the night here.”

“We’ve got the close the station, it needs to be locked up.”

“Oh, of course. I’ll pack my stuff and go outside.”

I wasn’t wearing my lenses, so I couldn’t see her face clearly, but she looked beautiful. I guess everyone looks beautiful when you are half-asleep and legally blind. She was the station manager.

I peeled myself out of the sleeping bag, she was looking at me. She either thought I was a homeless person, or that I was a security risk. My plan was to move out the gate, and sleep on the floor immediately next to it. It was raining outside, I wasn’t going anywhere far.

“Do you think you could just sleep here if I lock the gate?”

“Absolutely.”

“You’d be alone in the entire station for some 3 hours.”

“That would be OK.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

She locked me inside. I spent a night inside a giant railway station, completely alone. It’s at times like this that it helps to be an atheist. No god = no ghosts.

I was woken up around 6 am by the sound of people walking about. I decided another hour of sleep would be good. I ended up sleeping till 8 am. I was woken up by 2 more security guards, they were either concerned that I had died inside the station, or they thought I was a terrorist. I told them the same story I’d told the lady yesterday night, and they let me sleep.

I woke up finally, packed everything, and put on my shoes. They damn things were still wet. I made my way to the paid washroom, brushed, cleaned up, and put on my contact lenses. The cleaner looked at me funny, but didn’t interrupt.

I was ready by 8.30, called my wife, and she hadn’t even woken up yet. I couldn’t wait for 4 more hours for her to come, I told her to keep sleeping. Had a weird avocado sandwich at a restaurant inside, and then it was time to go back home.

“One ticket to Milton Keynes, the fastest one you’ve got.”

“That’ll be 60 pounds.”

I do not remember the return journey either, I didn’t sleep, at least not all the way, but my brain was switched off. I got off the train at Milton Keynes, and then walked 40 minutes to home. I could’ve taken a cab, but I didn’t. I guess I forgot, or that my body liked the punishment. Either way, I collapsed on the bed at home, and didn’t wake up till night.

I could have done this trip much more comfortably, but for some reason I did not. I made a series of choices, most of them to save money, that ended up with my body being destroyed. But I liked it, that I could trust my body. It complained, almost died on me a few times, but it got the job done.

The trip was over, the ring was in Mount Doom, it was done.

This is what I like to collect, this was an achievement. Whenever things go bad in life, which they always do, I remember the good times I’ve spent, remember the adventures I’ve been to, and that helps put some perspective on the immediate problems. Life is stupid, existence is a pain, the world is unfair, doing what you want to do is the only way to live. 

Isle of Man TT: My experience – Part 3

What now?

It was 10 in the night, I was outside the ferry terminal, and I had no idea where to go. I stood outside for a while, just to see what others were doing, and that didn’t help much. All the taxis that came in were taken quite quickly, so that wasn’t an option either.

Out came the phone, destination set for the closest camping site, time to walk.

It was surprising how alive the place was at 10 in the night. There was a rock concert going on in one corner, some roller-coasters was flying in another, and the roads were full of motorcycles, buzzing around like flies. It was like Diwali night in India, without the firecrackers.

I wasn’t feeling as energetic as everyone else though, I guess the ferry ride had taken its toll. I must’ve walked a kilometer or so, and I knew I had to get a taxi. I was in kind of the sleepy part of Douglas by now, so getting one wasn’t that hard.

“Where you off to my friend?”

“Just need a camping spot for the night.”

“I got the place for you.”

One of the reasons why I started walking to begin with was because I was scared of taxis ripping me off. The guy driving me could easily have, I had never been to this island, he could’ve driven me around the same place thrice and I wouldn’t have known. Instead, he told me about the places to eat, about the timings of the race, and about the best places to watch from. He took me to a camping spot right besides the race route, charged me by the meter, and left.

The theme continued inside the camping office. They gave me a full schedule of the race, told me about the facilities inside the area, and charged 15 pounds for the night.

Now it was time for the real challenge, putting a tent up for the first time in my life, in the dark of night.

I found a place close to the entrance, everyone else had giant tents with them, only my tiny one could’ve fit in there. Even though I could barely see what I was doing, I did manage to prop the thing up without much trouble. I only made the mistake of not using any of the tie downs to secure it to the ground, I was too tired to bother with it, I should have.

It was a cold night. I spent it shivering inside the tent, unable to sleep because of the rain smashing on the top, and the wind trying to take me back to Liverpool. One by one I put on every piece of clothing I carried, curled myself inside the sleeping bag like a featus, but it made no difference. I was getting a bit sleepy around dawn, but by then bikers had started looping around the course one last time before the race began.

By 6 am I decided it would be better for me to get ready and find some place warmer.

The washrooms were surprisingly clean again. It might seem a bit stupid to most people outside India that I’m constantly surprised at basic hygeine, but you don’t know. I was ready in half-an hour, and on the road to the nearest McDonald’s.

I have a complicated relationship with McDonald’s, I ate their food a bit too much over the past few years. When I came to the UK, I suddenly lost the taste for their burgers, and the situation hasn’t improved since. For a vegetarian like me, not being able to eat McDonald’s can be a problem during travel. You can’t always find cheap, eatable veggie stuff on the road. At a McDonald’s you know what to expect, makes life a little bit simpler.

More importantly, nothing else was open at that hour. The place was warm, the McEgg burger was eatable, and the coffee sucked slightly less than I remember it did.

Now all I had to do was make it to Creg Ny Baa. That’s where I had booked my grandstand ticket, that was the only one available. I looked for a cab for about 15 minutes, nothing came. Well, time to walk again.

I hadn’t noticed it during the night, but this island is full of amazing houses. I don’t know what people here do to make so much money, but I saw a house with 2 Ferraris and a GT-R parked in the driveway. As I walked along with sidewalk, I saw one gorgeous house after another, huge lawns, beautiful architecture, filled with greenery.

I guess that kinda explains why nobody seemed to want my money, money is the last thing they need here.

As I kept walking, following Google Maps directions, I started noticing familiar names on the screen. The first was Quarter Bridge, and then I was climbing up to a place called Bray Hill.

Holy shit, I was going to the paddock.

Maybe it was the lack of sleep, or the shock of not finding a taxi, but I hadn’t noticed that my path to Creg Ny Baa was to go through the heart of it all. I obviously didn’t complain, just crossed over the road and found myself walking around the pit lane, bikes lined up everywhere, stars walking about the place.

The first person I noticed was John McGuinness, he wasn’t doing so well. I saw him sitting inside his tent, looking rather injured, which is what he was. The next person I saw was Guy Martin, who was pushing his TT Zero bike to the scrutiny with a mechanic. Both Guy and John were meeting fans, John had a bit more time than Guy, but it was surprising to see how well Guy handled the crowd. He noticed a guy holding a phone in his hand, taking a photo of him from a distance. He went to him to make sure the dude could take a close-up selfie.

I did not go closer than 10 feet to either one of them, there was no reason to. These guys have a job to do, me chasing them down for a meaningless picture isn’t going to help them do it. They are both extremely nice, it would’ve been easy to get an autograph or a selfie, but why would I bother them? There was nothing I could give them in return, my words don’t matter, they hold no value, and there’s no gift I can give to them they could make use of.

The difference between the Isle of Man TT pit and a MotoGP pit is like the difference between a school yard and a prison yard. Even so, I did not intend to take any advantage of that difference.

I walked around a lot, saw a lot of very busy people, and a lot of very happy fans. It’s not everyday that you get to stand next to a race bike while mechanics are working it, and have one of the team come and explain what they are doing, the finer points about the bike, and answer any questions you might have.

It was time to get going again, my destination was still very far away, and I had to walk it all with 15 kgs on my back.

By this time it was getting close to race time. The entire road is blocked an hour or so before that happens, that was my only road to get where I wanted to go. There are marshals everywhere on the course, every time I ran into one I asked if I could still carry on walking. I was hoping for someone to put me out of my misery and tell me that the road was closed, but all they ever said was “If you go fast enough, you will make it!”.

I should’ve known better than to ask an Isle of Man TT marshal for advice about giving up.

I kept going, walked until my shoulders hurt, ran until it felt like my thighs would detach from my hips, and then walked again. I could have stopped and watched the race from anywhere, but I wanted to make it to Creg Ny Baa, it was my own little race before the big boys started theirs.

After Hillberry, there’s an almost straight road uphill to Creg Ny Baa. The marshal at Hillberry was of course optimistic again, but told me to make a run for it. It’s even more difficult to try to get somewhere when you can see how far that place really is. The bigger problem was that this stretch of road did not have a sidewalk, so you had to walk on the road. It was embarrassing to watch bikers slow down for me, bikers who were clearly enjoying the course, their free track time. I thought of asking some of the passing cars for a lift, but it would have been too dangerous, stopping a car on a narrow road. I just had to keep at it.

I ran, I was scared of my bag’s shoulder straps tearing off and getting me into some real trouble, but I ran. When I couldn’t run anymore, I walked. Luckily, the last 500 meters or so there was a path by the road that went through some fields, and I could at least get off the course. I must have walked the last few hundred meters with my back parallel to the ground. I was half-dead, sea-sickness, sleeplessness and exhaustion had been my last 24 hours, but the party was just getting started.

I made it to Creg Ny Baa, found my seat on the grand stand, and immediately got out again to find some better place. The grand stand was cold as balls, facing away from the Sun, and the view wasn’t any good either.

I had destroyed my pelvis to make it to this place, and now I was hungry. The race got delayed a bit, and that gave me the chance to get some food in me. Once I was done, it was time to scout for a better place. There was no way I was going any further uphill, so I started walking by the course down the way I had come.

“Looking for a place to watch the race from?”

“Yeah, can’t find any!”

“It’s all taken, people have been sitting here since 7 am, you can sit with us if you like.”

I watched the race with a few young Irish bikers. If they hadn’t given me space, I wouldn’t have been able to get as close to the action as I did. How close? Here’s how much.

First up we saw the TT Zero race, those bikes can accelerate. It still surprises me that the only real electric bike race in the world happens here, not something promoted by Dorna or MotoGP. Those guys are missing out on a lot of fun.

Next up it was time for the Sidecars. I have no idea why these things exist, what’s their purpose outside the race track? I think the “monkey” has probably one of the hardest jobs on the planet, holding on for dear life, no control over his death. Sidecars scared me, the first time one passed a few inches off me, I almost dropped my phone. The are fucking loud, and they weave around on the bumps, looking constantly out of control. Even by the standards of Isle of Man, that stuff is batshit crazy.

By this time me and the Irish lads had talked a bit, I told them about my journey from India to Milton Keynes, and then on to here. They had been on the island for a week, and had struggled against constant rains, high winds, and no races. I realized my luck again, I had come to the only part of the whole race weekend when there was some sunshine. Because of the bad weather over so much of the week, a lot of races had been crammed into the 1 day that I was there. Jackpot.

I couldn’t really have asked for anything more. Sitting in the warmth of the Sun, bikes screaming past a few centimeters away, the beautiful island mountains and coastline beyond for a view. There were a few food tents too, the lads had their beer, I had my hot chocolate.

Then came the Senior TT, the race everybody was waiting for. It is hard to describe the feeling of 200 horses being put down on the asphalt so close to you. I was on a stretch of road where I could hear the bikes push it all the way from 1st to 6th, with they going past me while upshifting from 3rd to 4th. You had to be there, you should be there.

Hutchy unfortunately crashed out during the race, we saw the helicopter airlifting him to the hospital. His crash did produce a magical moment, where marshals and all the racers did a safety lap of the circuit all together. The noise was unbelievable, a lot of wheelies were pulled. Hutchy would have enjoyed it.

With a few laps left of the race, the boys decided to start heading towards Hillberry. They had planned to get to watch the racers from a few other points on the course, while also getting away from some of the traffic that would start at Creg Ny Baa after the race had ended. I decided to follow their lead.

I should’ve stayed.

Isle of Man TT: My experience – Part 2

I am not scared anymore.

We take it for granted, not being scared at a new place, alone. But picture yourself when you first started traveling, the nerves, the fear, the anxiety. I like doing this, to look back and see how much things have changed, to be happy where I am now.

When I first started traveling, I was still struggling with major OCD issues. I still do sometimes, but nothing like that level. Once my packing was finished, I would get concerned about missing something, so I would unpack everything, only to find that nothing was missing, and then repeat about 5 times. I used to have major germophobia, if I was sitting in a bus and someone’s foot touched any part of my body, that was the end of the day. Nothing short of a full-bath and a change of clothes would do. Being able to wash your hands about 30 times a day is not a luxury you have on the road either.

And these were just the more obvious issues. My reason for travel is to get to meet new people, to see new places, to have new experiences. To be able to enjoy new experiences, you need to be calm, in the moment, aware of your surroundings. My brain used to be on a constant loop of what had gone wrong, what was going to go wrong, and why did I have to do this to myself.

When I got off the train at Liverpool, I was aware of the fact that I was at a place I’d never been before, alone, and I was at peace.

Liverpool

It was raining, of course.

I love England for the people, they are clean, polite, and keep to themselves. The land is beautiful, but the weather is total, absolute shit. One of the first people I met here was a taxi driver from Ghana, he described UK as “A cold, wet, miserable island”. Liverpool lived up to the definition.

It’s not just the more or less constant rain, it’s the wind as well. Usually, it feels like you are being followed by a bunch of people holding an industrial-sized fan. This means that umbrellas are meant only to be bought and then destroyed the instant you dare open them.

The further north you go, the more beautiful the land becomes, and the faster the wind blows. I hadn’t experienced this level of wind force in my life, the only reason I didn’t fall over multiple times was the Lannister in my bag. A 15 kg backpack keeps you steady like a rock.

As expected, even with the 1 hour train delay, I had some 4 hours to go before the ferry to Isle of Man. Open phone, start Google Maps, and there was a choice to be made, World Museum, or Walker Art Gallery. Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, to the art gallery we shall go.

There was a time when I used to think people who stare at paintings are weird snobs, now I am one of them. My interest in art grew after I saw my wife paint, that is one skill that I don’t have the patience or the strength for. If I ever painted, the painting would never be finished, and there would only be one.

I have read about a lot of painters, but I only recognize the names of a few popular ones, and the paintings of even fewer. I can, for example, easily identify a Van Gogh, but Monet confuses me, as I guess is the case with any 6 year old. Joseph Wright, JMW Turner, and John Constable’s work is what looks the most beautiful to me, but my knowledge of art is comparable to Hitler’s.

I spent 3 hours inside the gallery. The museum people thankfully gave me a place to keep my backpack, although I guess that had more to do with me walking around and damaging priceless pieces of self-expression, rather than my charm.

I was out again, and this time there was only wind, but this time it felt like I standing directly behind a jet engine. I saw people holding on to street lights for the first time in my life, and I almost tripped over a few times. But the wind was the least of my problems, I was hungry.

Most museums and galleries have food that tastes like it was made by child laborers in a damp, dark and depressing basement, and then left on some ice for about a century. I had to find some human eatable food, and find it fast. The only problem was the part of Liverpool I found myself in had only 2 options that I could see, 5-star restaurants, or McDonald’s. I didn’t have the money for the first, and the taste for the second, so what was supposed to be a short food hunting mission turned into a marathon around Liverpool, my face smushed against the glass doors of restaurants, ready to lick the menus, creeping everybody out.

I finally saw the board for a cafe, and by this time I was ready to eat literally anything. The staff were preparing to close the place for lunch break, which I found to be a bit weird, a business that serves food to people was closing down when people want to eat food, so that the people who serve the food could eat food. I was told to go upstairs, the place below was shut till the night.

I went upstairs, and was greeted by one of the most beautiful girls I have ever seen. It was not the way she looked, it was her smile and the way she talked.

“Hi, I was told I could grab something to eat here?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, we only have drinks out here, no food.” 

“Aah, of course.” 

I did forget about my hunger for a few minutes after meeting her, but attractiveness cannot power the mitochondria.

The first thing I saw when I came outside was the Museum of Liverpool, and I knew that was my only option. My lunch was orange juice with chocolate cake. They waited for me to finish and then shut shop as well.

Liverpool hates afternoons.

The ferry

It’s easy to find the Steam Packet ferry office, look for the place with a bunch of bikes parked in front it, and you are there. I went inside the office, opened my bag, gathered my ticket, passport, and BRP, and went to the counter. They took my ticket, and nothing else. I was given another ticket, and told that once I enter the waiting area I won’t be allowed to go out again, and there’s no smoking inside. I should’ve proudly told her that I smoke about once a year, but I don’t think that would’ve helped my charisma, and it needs all the help it can get.

Between the office and the waiting area there is a small security check. They took my ticket and told me to move forward. I, being an Indian, assumed there would be a bag check, and went to the nearest table and started opening my bag. The security lady was almost offended.

“What are you doing?”

“You don’t need to check this?”

“No, go to the waiting area.”

It’s important to point out that UK was on “high-alert” at this time due to a few terrorist incidents in the months before. It was from this point that I started to get an idea of the Isle of Man mindset.

“You’re gonna blow up our ferry? As long as you don’t smoke in the waiting area, go right ahead.” 

The waiting area was empty when I went in, because of course I was early. The time was spent looking out to the sea, looking at all the people who came in after me, and reading Wikipedia. I was reading about the ferry that was to take me to the island, I was told by Yubanaswa that it’s an ex-US Navy destroyer, and I had a tough time believing that. Reading this article gave me yet another insight into the mind of the island.

“We want to travel from the mainland UK to the Isle of Man. We must buy an ex-military vehicle that has seen active duty, add some TVs, a bar, and see how that floats.”

It’s hard to overstate just how insane this is. Manannan is not just an ordinary boat, you understand that when you watch it approach the harbor from the waiting area. It looks like something designed for Star Trek. As it comes closer, you start to realize the size of this thing, and when it finally hits the docking area, the impact is like an earthquake.

For someone like me who had never been to a proper ferry before this, the experience was something. Once you get on, it feels like you are in a hotel lobby. As expected, the moment we boarded people were lining up to the bar to get a drink. I lined up too to get some real food, the sandwich is surprisingly good, the coffee helped.

It took about an hour for everything and everyone to be loaded. By that time I had walked up and down the whole thing, out every door that would open, to every place I could enter. There were a few rooms with movies running in them, and that’s what I decided my home would be. I hadn’t quite expected what was to happen next, but that’s a theme running through this entire journey.

“This is the captain, we should reach our destination in about 3 hours. Weather is expected to be good, and we hope your journey goes smoothly.”

When the engines start, you know it. Manannan is not an ordinary boat, rather than use propellers, it uses jets of water. It makes one hell of a noise, especially if you go the rear balcony and watch them from a few feet away, which of course I did.

The speed surprised me as well, boats are supposed to be sluggish and fat, this thing basically felt like a speedboat on Nitrous. The long line of white foam at the back told you a lot about the power, it must be fun to “drive”.

I spent a lot of time outside, on the rear deck, in the balconies, anywhere I could see the sea. An hour later it started to get dark, and I decided to head back in. One of the movie rooms had a film about the TT running on loop, and I made myself comfortable.

That’s when things went wrong.

Either the weather suddenly and unexpectedly went bad, or this was their version of “good” weather, but by the time we were halfway thorough the journey, the ferry was rocking from side to side like we were going over a bunch of tsunamis. Even sitting in a seat I had to hold on to the arm rests or I would’ve been flying.

What surprised me was the fact that there were no announcements of rough weather. If you are in a plane and there’s a little bit of turbulence, the seat belt signs come on, announcements are made, and food is pulled out of your mouth. Here nobody gave a single shit. The bar was still serving drinks, and there were half-drunk people walking through the hallways, hitting one wall and then the next, spilling over most of their beer, but still determined to go to their seats.

It was a bit surreal to find myself inside one of the fastest ferries on the planet, humans bouncing off the walls like a game of Pinball, and rivers of beer flowing down the hall.

Another lesson in the island mindset.

“The weather is bad you say? We must get some beers, try and see how far we can walk from one end of the ferry to the other without smashing our heads through the windows.”

The last hour of the journey was the worst for me, I just couldn’t take the constant rocking anymore. I generally don’t get motion sickness, but this was fucking insane, the boat rocked so much that at one moment the window would be nothing but the sea, and the next moment it would be nothing but the stars. I had expected a bit more beginners luck during my first sea voyage.

I was going to be sick.

There were a bunch of sickness bags lying around, but surprisingly there was no vomit mixed with the beer river. I guess I was the only one on board getting queasy, but it was time to head to the loos.

There was a neat line of people standing outside the door, rocking from side to side as the boat moved, and I wondered what the inside would look like. I was with a bunch of drunk bikers, on a boat that’s trying to shake us off itself like a dog shaking off water, it was logical to expect the washrooms to be a nightmare.

I got in, and locked myself in a booth, and realized that the place was cleaner than most homes in India. English people must hold their liquor very well, I can’t imagine anybody being able to piss in a straight line after downing pints of beer, inside a moving toilet. I, however, didn’t have much time to appreciate the alcoholic skills of Brits, I did not know what was happening to me.

I knew if I vomited, that would take all the energy out of me, and I needed the energy to find a camping spot on the island. It was only about half an hour to go before we would be off, and I tried my best to hold onto my sandwich and coffee.

It wasn’t going to work inside the loo, so I decided to risk going outside and distracting myself with the movie. I couldn’t sit, the moment my ass hit the seat I knew something explosive was going to happen. I was tired, but I held onto the backrest of the last row seat, and tried to forget about the battle for Minas Tirith waging inside me.

I survived.

I must’ve looked like someone who had a violent sexual encounter with a bear, but I was off the boat. I didn’t look back, it was an experience to be on Manannan, but I would need to grow taller sea legs before I could truly enjoy the experience.

That’s when I remembered, the return journey tomorrow was on the same ferry.

Isle of Man TT: My experience – Part 1

I have mixed feelings about luck.

In one sense, I don’t really believe in it. There is no destiny, the lines on your palm are meaningless, and reading horoscopes tells you as much about the future as does urinating on a Ouija board.

However, I often find myself in a place where I couldn’t have been unless random chance put together a series of events, involving a variety of people I didn’t know, and timed it all to perfection.

I did my engineering in Electronics and Communication, mostly because my sister had done the same a few years before and I could use her books and notes. In the last semester, I did my training on Oracle, because it was the easiest one to do. Because of the Oracle training, I cleared my interview for Patni Computer Systems, the only interview I gave in college. I joined them at Chennai, where I met my wife. I was sent from there to Mumbai, where I met LOST.

Change one variable in the equation above, and I am a completely different person.

If I hadn’t come to Mumbai, I wouldn’t have met Vishal with whom I went to Ladakh. If I hadn’t gone to Ladakh, I probably wouldn’t have started RiderZone. If I hadn’t started RiderZone, the LOST crowd probably wouldn’t have known about me. If I hadn’t become a part of LOST, I wouldn’t have gone to Bhutan with them.

I would like to think that good preparation, long-term thinking, and hard work makes it look like you are lucky. I would also like to think that if I hadn’t started RiderZone, I’d have done something else interesting, or if I hadn’t met LOST I’d have met someone else. However, there is no doubt about the fact that I couldn’t be what I am but for a series of unpredictable turns my life took, without my knowledge, outside of my control.

I am undeniably lucky to have experienced the Isle of Man TT 2017, and this is the story of how that came to pass.

The beginning

I came to the UK because of my wife, she got an onsite opportunity and dragged me along.

As soon as I got here, one of the first things I did was research about the visa requirements for Isle of Man. Turns out the tiny island is part of the UK, and all I needed was my visa to get in there. I later found out that I didn’t even need to carry my passport along, I was inside the UK, and nobody even bothered to check my ID at any point doing the entire trip.

I arrived in the UK in November, there were a lot of months to go before the TT. I could see the ferry tickets selling away, and I could see the grandstands filling up, but I had no choice but to wait. IT jobs can get you to travel the world, but they can also be quite fickle. We were prepared to be sent back to India on a week’s notice.

And so the time went on by, and it was April. I went back to India for a few weeks, and then to UK again. Now it was time, and it didn’t take me long to get everything booked and ready to go. The trains were easy, Virgin was the fastest way to get there. The stay in Isle of Man was easy as well, there were no hotels available, so camping was the only option. The ferry was a bit difficult, because I didn’t know which site to book it from, but then Yubanaswa Chakraborty came along and told me about the official Steam Packet site, and that was sorted as well.

I was actually a bit surprised to still find tickets for the ferry just a few days before the TT was set to begin, but I obviously couldn’t complain.

Isle of Man TT is free to watch, all you have to pay for is the transport, once you are on the island, you find any random place next to the road they call the track, and that’s all it takes. There are a few grandstands along the 61 km route, and I bought a ticket on one at Creg Ny Baa.

I didn’t have to, but I wanted to, I wanted to give some money to these people who have created this insane spectacle for everyone. Even though I bought the ferry ticket just a few days before the event, I didn’t have to pay a crazy price like an airline would’ve charged me. I had heard the camping cost was like 10 pounds a night. These guys didn’t want my money, and that’s all the more reason why I wanted them to have it.

A trip to Decathlon and I was sorted for camping. As a self-proclaimed traveler, it is a bit embarrassing for me to admit that I had never camped before in my life. After buying the stuff, I ended up spending a good few days trying to figure out how to use everything. The tent was the hardest, I broke a pole in the process. The sleeping bag and the air mattress were easy, apart from the section where you have to put those bloody things back into their covers again. Felt like trying to put the intestines of a camel back into its belly.

I was ready, as much as I’d ever be.

The trains

8th June 2017. Today was the day.

The TT goes on for about 2 weeks, 1 week of practice and 1 week of racing. Since I had a job at that time, I couldn’t attend all of it, no matter how much I wanted to. I ended up planning only 1 night stay on the island, getting to see only the Senior TT. It later turned out that I’m luckier than I think I am, but that’s a story for later.

I do not like to travel under stress, so I usually keep a huge buffer before any mode of transport, and then a small buffer before the buffer. What this usually means is that I arrive hours before I should have arrived, but I don’t mind. Things go wrong sometimes, and when they do, I have no reason to panic.

I woke up, got ready, had some breakfast, and calmly walked about 40 minutes to the station. My backpack felt like I was carrying Tyrion Lannister inside it, but I didn’t mind. It was going to hurt me in more ways than one later on, but I couldn’t have known. I always travel as light as possible, and I was carrying the bare minimum I needed to. In fact, I should’ve carried along more winter stuff, much more, but that’s easy to say now, and easier to laugh about.

The train arrived, I sat on my reserved seat, and on we went.

“Attention passengers, a train has broken down in the middle of the track, we would have to divert from a different route, which would add about 1 hour to our journey. Apologies for any inconvenience.”

Ah, trouble, exactly what I was prepared for. It feels kinda sad that I prepare for everything to go wrong, and it only happens 1 out of 10 times, but when it does, I enjoy the feeling of being right.

Let’s get some coffee, do some people-watching, and enjoy the new route.

My route was Milton Keynes – Stoke-on-Trent – Crewe – Liverpool, because this was the cheapest ticket I could get. The ticket mentioned that I was only allowed on specific trains that left at a specific time, so I was not certain what the 1 hour delay was going to do, but it didn’t matter, I had time for everything.

People watching can be a bit difficult, people don’t like to be stared at, except for kids. The only solution I’ve found to this problem is glass. Find any glass surface around you, mostly it happens to be the window, and if you are in the right position, you’ll end up looking at people without them looking at you. Brits take real good care of themselves, most of them look like they’ve just walked off the ramp at some up-market fashion show. I feel inadequate, under-dressed, shy, and that’s even more reason to spy on them indirectly through reflections.

I had never been on this route before, so when Stoke-on-Trent arrived, I was a bit surprised to find a tiny little 2 platform station. I had imagined it to be some massive interchange, but here I was, standing with 10 other people in the entire station.

The train I was supposed to catch had already left an hour before. I found one of the station employees and asked what to do now.

“You got a ticket to Liverpool don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Take whatever train you find next, nobody’s gonna stop ya.”

That was easy.

The next train that I could see in the direction I wanted to go was to Crewe. I waited, and then something interesting happened.

I saw what appeared to be a toy train approaching my platform. It was just 1 coach, the train driver was at the front, and the passengers sat at the back. It actually looked like a bus had been hijacked off the road and fitted with some steel wheels to make it run on the tracks. The train traveled slowly, I could hear the diesel engine breathing from a distance, it almost sounded like a steam one. I wouldn’t have been surprised if it let out a whistle like the old trains used to, and a bunch of clowns stepped off the door, children running behind them, the sound of laughter filling the air. But that didn’t happen.

This was my train.

The door opened, and a lady stepped out. She looked at me and nodded. I went to her and showed my ticket, she nodded that I could go in.

The inside could only be described as what a very clean BEST bus would look like. The windows were of that old style that can be pushed up or down with 2 latches. Once I was in, the lady closed the door, and rang a bell to tell the driver to get going. The thing chugged, and off we went.

We stopped at a station on the way that was literally just 1 platform, nothing more. 1 person got in, nobody got out. We went through shades of trees on both sides, almost completely covering the track. Lazy farm land in both directions, greenery and sheep. The “train” must’ve been doing 100 kmph, or that’s what it felt like with all the shaking.

There was a lady with 2 kids sitting opposite to me. I’ve noticed that English parents are quite strict with their kids, not physically strict but verbally. They also seem to have a lot more control over their children than Indian parents appear to. The younger of the 2 kids kept pulling his socks off and throwing them as far as he could, and the mom would politely put them back on and tell him that’s not a very nice thing to do. The elder boy wanted to explore the train, and the mother gave him strict instructions to say “Excuse me” if he found someone in his way, and “Sorry” if he even as much as touched someone.

I wonder where the dad was. I wonder that a lot over here.

The journey ended, and I was in Crewe. I got out of the “train” and looked back again, just to confirm I had really traveled in something that wouldn’t be out of place in a museum.

Crewe was the major interchange that I had expected Stoke-on-Trent to be. A lot of platforms, a lot of bridges, and a lot of people. I found the platform where my train was supposed to come, I had missed the Virgin one, so I decided to try the London Midland. Why not? Spent some time inside the coffee shop, and then it was time to get going again.

London Midland trains are usually slower than Virgin ones, they have more stops, and they aren’t as sexy. I found a bunch of students inside, skateboards everywhere, bags with more stickers than bag. The windows are bigger, so that’s a plus, you get better view of the outside and a better reflection of the inside.

I looked at these kids around me, all incredibly smart looking, fashionable, and wondered how on earth they could suffer from any sort of inferiority complex. You read about it a lot these days, kids having a bad self-image, feeling they aren’t beautiful enough, and it seems to happen more frequently in developed countries like the UK than in India. I remember what I used to look like back in college, a pulsating mass of ill-fitting clothes and unshaven beards, beard that even till now doesn’t grow like a real man’s. I used to think I was the sexiest man on campus, I had the self image of Mr. Neo Anderson. I guess it’s all relative. It must be tough to be a kid here.

Liverpool Lime Street station was here, and it looked like someone had chiseled through a huge rock to get this place setup. I did not know it at that time, but I was going to get to know this station much more intimately.

400th post: A year away from motorcycles

2017 has been an interesting year.

I found myself in the United Kingdom, got a job, went to the Isle of Man TT, watched the Silverstone MotoGP, and gave up on automobiles. The only driving I did was a 600 km trip of Scotland, and the only biking I did was the 2000 odd kilometers on my cycle.

To some, it might look strange that the owner of RiderZone decided to stay away from motorcycles for an entire year. My reason was quite simple, I was never emotionally attached to motorcycles, they were and continue to be just a means to an end, which is travel. Motorcycles are essential to my style of travel in India, everything else is too slow, too costly, or too boring. In the UK, there are better ways to travel, faster, more comfortable, cheaper. It was an easy decision.

A year away from bikes meant a year away from this site. I wrote probably 5 or 6 articles in the entire 2017. My attempt has always been to write from experience, no experience meant no thoughts to share. It was a surprise to me that still in 2017 the site averaged around 1000 views a day, although unfortunately the main reason for the traffic continues to be the Bullet article.

I enjoy living different lives, and last year was a major change. Different country, different culture, different job. I listened to a lot of books, improved my physical and mental health substantially, added some stability to my life and some zeroes to my account balance.

I visited most galleries and museums in London, explored the canal and river network around Milton Keynes, toured Scotland, saw Wales, and spent an amazing few days in the Lake District.

2018 is here, and I think it’s time for a different life.

I’m planning to get back into the world of IT. It’s hard for me admit, but I miss the structure of the IT life, I miss the routine, and I miss logic, that’s the base for the entire industry. It’s not going to be easy, it’s been 3 years since I quit, and in those 3 years I’ve done 3 different things. I do not have a career anymore, and that’s something most companies seem to dislike, but as always, we’ll do what we can.

I’m taking a course in Machine Learning. It’s a fascinating field, and I am happy to announce that for the first time in my life I’m getting to use calculus, algebra, and matrices. It always bugged me that our education system thought it was better to teach me about Fourier Analysis, rather than teaching me how to swim. It makes me slightly happier to know that all those years I struggled with mathematics are finally doing some good.

I also plan to get a driving license in the UK, at least try to get one. I cannot drive motorcycles on my Indian license, although even if I do get a UK one, things won’t be straightforward. I’m still researching into this, but it looks like I would be restricted to 125cc bikes for the first 1 year. I don’t really mind, I’ve already decided to pick up a used Aprilia RS 125 2-stroke. It’s most likely going to be a bad idea, but isn’t that what we live for?

I don’t know what I’ll do once I have a bike, this place is cold as balls, riding a motorcycle on most days is like sliding butt-naked on a slab of ice. The biggest reason why I’d still like to do it is because it just feels sad to not do it, to not ride in a place with such splendid roads, road sense, and views. Also, I want to understand the licensing system of this country. I may end up getting a car at some point as well, but that’s just the worst case scenario.

If I get a bike, this site will live as well. Assuming I will have a job, this might be a good time to get back to writing. There would be no pressure, no fear of failure, no restrictions. Just like old times.

What is not like old times though is me. It’s difficult to measure, but I think I have changed a lot over the last year. I have read so much philosophy, interacted with people so different from me, and experienced places so distant from home, that this was bound to happen.

I have also become a huge fan of Star Trek during the last few months. I have no idea why, but until a few months ago I had only seen the movies, never the TV series. I do not know why I ended up being so dumb, but things are better now. I’m watching it in a rather odd fashion though, I’ve just finished Voyager, and now it’s time for Enterprise. Everyone tells me that The Original Series and The Next Generation are far better than Voyager, but I find that hard to believe.

As stupid as it may sound, I am trying really hard to become a Vulcan. I have always hated emotion, have always loved logic, so the infatuation was inevitable. I would like to think that my writing till now has already been logical, without any sentimental baggage, but if it wasn’t, it is going to be.

The biggest reason I would like to write again is because I enjoy it, I enjoy the feeling of being able to express my thoughts into words. We take it for granted, all of us, but that’s what art is in essence. Painters express their thoughts on a canvas, singers with their voice, writers do it with words. It’s not the most abstract way of doing things, but that’s exactly the way I like it.

I am also going to take a course in creative writing. I am self-taught, I never had an editor to tell me what not to do, no boss to shout at me for making a mistake. I have always written on my own site, which means that I never had to follow any rules. As much as I like myself, almost to the point of being a borderline narcissist, I am aware of the fact that I need to improve. What direction that improvement might go into is a mystery.

Things have a way of not going the way you want them to, and it’s quite possible all my plans will go to shit, but that’s OK.

The only thing I really care about is that I do not want to live in India anymore. I need to see the world, and not just as a tourist, but to actually live at a place. That’s kind of like the slowest way to travel that there is, go somewhere, get a house, a job, become a part of that world, and see it from the inside for years. That’s how I would like to do it, and that’s how I am.

It’s a good time to be alive.

Don’t envy the travelers

Like most articles on this website, this one is meant to organize my own thoughts.

When I see Sarath Shenoy riding the Raid de Himalaya, or getting to influence the development of a motorcycle, or travel the entire country by two wheels, I sometimes question my own life choices.

When I see Candida Louis flying from one end of the world to another, experiencing different motorcycles in different cultures with different people, I get a bit envious.

When I read the books of Sam Manicom, watch Africa go by through his eyes, feel what he felt in Australia, see what he saw in Asia, I feel that there is no reason why I shouldn’t be doing what he has done.

Many of you may have had similar thoughts about similar people, it’s part of the human condition to want what we don’t have, and ignore what we do. My position, however, is of one who has attempted to live such a life, and failed. This article explains how I made peace with my relatively boring existence, how I started enjoying the simplicity of everyday life, and how I started appreciating people who sacrifice so much to live a life of adventure.

Before we begin, it’s important to point out that even though I’m not the wild self I used to be, my life isn’t exactly a walk in the park. I travel quite often, almost every weekend, but I’ve started focusing more on what Alastair calls micro-adventures. My life is quite a bit more adventurous than an average human, but here I’m talking specifically about the big boys of the traveling world.

Travel isn’t glamorous

Too many people, especially young, have this huge misconception that travel is all about selfies, chilling by blue waters, and trying every variety of beer known to man. The reality of the situation is far from being this sexy.

The time spent during a long motorcycle journey can be divided into following components:

  1. 20% is spent being worried if you took a wrong turn somewhere, if you will make it to your destination before sunset, or if you’ll find some decent food on the way that’ll not give you explosive diarrhea
  2. 20% is spent with your balls frozen, or your blood boiling away, being generally uncomfortable and asking yourself why the fuck did I do this
  3. 10% is spent hunting a cheap hotel with safe bike parking, followed by undressing, followed by unpacking, followed by cleaning dead bodies off your helmet visor
  4. 1% is the time spent enjoying breathtaking locations, speaking to locals, chilling
  5. 49% is for putting on your gear, packing and loading the fucking bags in the morning

People think that traveling is stress free, that if they could only get out of that meeting with the client and hit the open road, life would be so much better. What they don’t realize is that life on your motorcycle is much more stressful than life at your desk.

When you get stressed at your job, it could be about your boss giving you an impossible deadline, or the client shouting at you for crashing his server, or the HR spitting in your face for being dressed improperly.

When you get stressed on the road, it’s because you are stuck in the middle of nowhere with a bent rim and burst tire, or that you suddenly find yourself in thick fog at night while riding the mountains and almost fly off a cliff, or that you get happy about getting a cheap hotel with safe parking only to realize later you are sleeping in a brothel.

More importantly, you get paid to be stressed at your job, you spend money to be stressed on the road.

You don’t know the full story

This is one of the reasons why most “professional” travelers irritate me, all you see on their social media feeds are their fashionable clothes, amazing views, and bleached assholes. What you don’t see are the dirty undergarments, the snot filled handkerchiefs, or the boots that smell like a homeless guy ejaculating into a bucket of vomit next to a sewage treatment plant.

It’s quite obvious why everything you see online is disturbingly positive, the selfies against snow covered mountains, the pictures of breathtaking views, and the poses with superbikes with tits mashed together are little more than our delusional selves forcing us to believe that life is better than it really is.

My own profiles are filled with pictures of one natural wonder after another, what you don’t see is how much goddamn money I spend to get there, or the hilariously shit job that pays for all this travel.

I work as an insurance claims manager. My day is equal parts asking people who can barely speak any English to repeat what they just said, calling insurance companies to get an update only to be told to call back next week, and photocopying random stuff. My engineering degree has no value here, my IT experience is useless, my marketing experience is not needed, my writing skills are irrelevant, my photography skills are irrelevant, everything that I have done in the last 28 years has no connection to what I’m doing now.

Why don’t I put up a Facebook post every day about how intellectually sad my day was? Because I don’t, because we don’t do that, nobody does that. We all understand that life is one awkward groan between birth and death, and we’ve decided to ignore that fact all our lives.

The problem is these people who actually pretend like their life is NOT shit, and the bigger problem is these other people who believe them. The first kind of people set these unrealistic standards about how a life should be, and the second kind then compare their lives to the first kind and moonwalk into depression.

Are there people who have great jobs, travel like a ninja, and rarely ever face any real problems in their lives? No. This species of humans doesn’t exist, everyone is fucked no matter how much money you have, how many miles you do a year, how many likes you get on your pictures.

The next time you look at some video of some dude racing on his S1000RR through the highways of Germany, or some girl sailing across the world on a luxury yacht, or some popular instagrammer getting a billion likes on a picture of a single pubic hair, remember that all of their lives are exactly the same level of shit as yours, they are just slightly better at fooling themselves and you.

On the other side of the bridge, there are people like Sachin Nair and Rohit Upadhyay. All you see on their profiles are good pictures, nice locations, and big adventures, what you don’t see are the sacrifices made behind the scenes, compromises made along the way, and the sheer amount of planned risk that goes into living a life like them.

Sachin has worked in Accenture since the last 10 years. He saves like a squirrel, networks like a router, and plans like Sherlock Holmes. I can’t do any of those things, I refuse to save, I don’t like meeting people, and I love chaos. His Facebook posts contain no trace of these qualities, why? Because nobody cares. He had a baby a few months ago, for a lot of people that would mean the death of motorcycling life. That tit has now bought a 1000cc bike. Do people care how he does it? No. All they look at are how many kilometers he’s done, or the bikes he’s ridden, or how many people he knows.

Who is at fault if someone is envious of Sachin Nair’s life?

Rohit Upadhyay saved up money after working onsite in IT. Me and my wife have saved about 10,000 pounds in the last 1 year of working in the UK. The difference between us and Rohit is that he was willing to spend a large part of his savings on travel. I am not, most people are not. What do you see in his social media posts? Smiles, beautiful locations, and Rajnigandha. He is actually one of the more open travelers I know of, sharing trip costs, bad moments, and mistakes. But the problem is people would rather ask you how many countries you’ve been to than how many times you had to spend a night shivering inside a tent.

Who is at fault if someone is envious of Rohit Upadhyay’s life?

Life is like a rubber band made of shit. You can stretch it in different directions to increase the amount of shit in some areas, while leaving others less shitty, but the total amount of shit remains the same.

There is little money to be made

I have mentioned this a number of times, travel, at least in India, is like burning yourself like a candle to light up your life. You spend your own money to go on trips, work hard to maintain your social media profiles, write, vlog, sell yourself, and what you get in the end is riding gear manufacturers from Pakistan emailing about bulk-order third copies of Alpinestars gloves.

I have published my earnings reports in the past, I haven’t done it in a while because there is nothing to report. I had a full-time job in 2017, so I didn’t bother with this website. Why give a shit if you are making 10 times the money? However, even when I was completely focused on RiderZone, money was something that never came my way.

It is possible that my methods are wrong. There definitely appear to be a lot of people making a good living off the internet. I think part of the problem is India, you get next to nothing for a click on an advertisement, 1000 times next to nothing is just slightly next to nothing. Most of these internet celebrities are not in India.

The other part is that your earnings also depend on how much you are willing to compromise. It’s not difficult to create a click-bait post, nor is it difficult to get sponsored something with a promise to give a positive review.

More importantly, it’s a shitload of work if you want to be popular online as a traveler. You gotta travel, write, create videos, engage with people on social media channels, and then some. It’s a 24 by 7 task, think of new ideas, execute, see if they work and then do it all over again. You need to be ambitious, cunning, quick on your feet, neither of which I am. If I was, it would have made much more sense to invest that energy elsewhere, live like a king, and travel just for fun.

The future is uncertain

Stability is something I have only come to recognize in the past 1 year, before that it did not exist in my universe. As a married man, that isn’t a good thing. It’s fun for a teenager to be unstable, for a 28 year old man it’s a medical condition.

When I began RiderZone, there was no such thing as Motovlogging. Nowadays it’s bigger and more popular than what I do. I hate Motovlogging, and I hate video editing just a tiny bit less. If I want to survive in today’s market, I must do what I hate.

Trends change in a matter of months. It’s nearly impossible that you would be able to keep up with them all. What happens when you lag behind? You make less money, which means less money to travel, which means less things to talk about, and the cycle continues. It’s fickle, transient, impossible to predict, and when the train leaves the station, you better be on it.

Read Sam Manicom’s books, especially Tortillas to Totems, and understand what that sort of uncertainty looks like. It takes a special kind of person to live with that uncertainty, not everyone can compromise the way he did, for a lot of people the entire point of travel would be lost if they had to travel like Sam.

It is also important to understand that there is such a thing as too much travel. There have been times when I didn’t even want to look at my bike, much less ride it. If it’s your job, there is no choice, and it’s hard to describe the feeling of disgust at being “forced” to ride your bike.

I have said these things before as well, in more or less the same words. The difference now is that I’m talking from the point of view of an outsider. I am no longer dependent on the world of travel for my living, I can see it from outside, and I have seen what’s within.

Voodoo Bizango review: 2000 kms experience

It’s been about a year since I’ve given up on automobiles, when I moved to the UK I decided to stop riding and driving. The reason for this decision was very simple.

My requirements for a mode of transport are as follows, in order of priority:

  1. It should be easy
  2. It should be cheap
  3. It should be fun

In India, motorcycles were my choice because they are quick, dirt cheap, and shitloads of fun. In the UK however, public transport is so good that I never felt the need for a vehicle of my own. Most of the time though I ended up walking/running rather than taking the train, why give up on the chance to roll along a canal for hours listening to an audiobook, saying hello to doggos and babies?

Running is slow, walking is slower. I got a bit tired of doing 7 kms an hour, so I decided to buy a cycle.

It was a shock to me how bloody expensive these things are now. I cycled in school, some 14 kms a day and my fancy new cycle at that time with a front suspension and shit cost my parents some 2000 rupees, roughly 25 pounds. I rode the wheels of that thing, quite literally, crashing head on with motorcycles twice, riding it far faster than it was meant to go, like Bill Denbrough’s Silver. Everything bent back into place somehow, and it kept rolling.

Based on this experience from 2002, I decided that my budget should be around 100 pounds. The laughter from UK’s online cycling community should have kept me awake at night.

“Any bike under 600 pounds is by default going to be shit.”

“I bought a 300 pound bike a few months ago, it frustrated me to bits. I upgraded to a 1000 pound one and have never been happier.”

“Budget cycles in the market start at the 400 pound range, buying anything cheaper is like trying to use a table fan for anal pleasure, it’s just not going to work.”

These are the comments I saw in forums and on websites. The more I read, the more sense it made. Cheap bikes are heavy, come with bad brakes, and just aren’t designed to last very long. More money gets you less weight, better brakes, and better product quality.

So I decided to double my budget to around 200 pounds, and ordered a Btwin Rockrider 520. All the reviews seemed to be alright, it looked OK, and I was somehow able to justify the price to myself.

At this point it is important to point out that I could’ve bought a second-hand cycle, a rather good one for the same amount of money. However, I suffer from OCD, a used cycle wasn’t an option.

Then for some reason that I don’t really understand, I researched a bit more. I really should’ve stopped after I ordered the Btwin, but all of a sudden I started questioning why my new cycle shouldn’t have 29 inch wheels, rather than the 27.5 the Btwin had, or why I shouldn’t have hydraulic disc brakes, rather than the mechanical ones on the Btwin.

For a number of bullshit reasons, I ended up cancelling the order for the Btwin, and instead paid 500 fucking pounds for a Voodoo Bizango. Capitalism won again, and I’m glad it did.

I don’t buy a lot of stuff, I learned very early in life that the more stuff you have, the more stuff you need, and the more time you waste worrying about your stuff. But when I buy something, I generally end up using the shit out of it, to the point where my usage of that product may be described as torture. This is why I rarely regret spending money.

I have ridden the Voodoo Bizango the past 3 months, almost on a daily basis, doing a total of more than 2000 kms. Here’s what I think of it.

Keep in mind that I have no reference points at all to compare the Bizango against, this is my first geared cycle, and my knowledge of the cycling world at large is comparable to Donald Trump’s knowledge of the concept of shame.

Voodoo Bizango review: The good

Before I bought the Bizango, I was riding a cheap ass full suspension bike. It’s hard to describe the feeling when I got my ass on the Bizango, I did not know things were supposed to be that way.

I’m sure there are plenty of people who’ll disagree with this, but the Bizango is super light weight, lighter than that tuft of hair that’s always sticking out of Boris Johnson’s head. 13 kgs is insanely light for a cycle in my books, my old cycle probably weighed at least 20, and the Hero Jets that are so popular in India probably weigh about as much as a juvenile sperm whale.

Then there are the brakes. I have unintentionally stoppied twice now, surprising random people and myself. Rear slides were fairly commmon in the beginning as well, until I fucked something up while cleaning the cycle and now they feel like there’s some oil on the pads. I could try to remove the oil, or change the pads, but can’t be arsed, the braking power I have at the moment is more than enough.

The tires aren’t really meant for what I use them for, commuting, but they are awesome for that one time I took 8 hours to ride 50 miles. I took part in a charity off-road cycle ride a few days after I bought the cycle, I didn’t realize how much British Heart Foundation wanted to murder me. I spent hours riding in circles in some forest somewhere, I have no idea how I finished that thing without dying. By the time I got to the end, they were packing their tents up. The tires helped, even if they did that by not getting punctured. I should change them to something less hardcore, but who cares.

The gear shifts were pretty shit in the beginning, but at that time I hadn’t understood the cultural difference between India and the UK. In India, if there anything wrong with your cycle, you just go to a guy and he fixes it for you, for about the cost of a pint of beer, in 1972. When on day 2 I took the cycle back to Halfords, they were baffled, and I was baffled because they were baffled. They reluctantly moved some screws around, put their hands on their waists, and then gave me back something that was worse. Then I went online, learned how to fix the damn thing myself, and haven’t gone back there since then. Halfords can suck it, so can the old and destitute guy in India.

The point is, everything about this cycle is awesome. I converted both tires to tubeless, so don’t have to be bothered with random punctures anymore. I put up a tiny air horn that sounds like a duck, so when I approach someone from behind I sound like a duck, and so they don’t notice me because they think I’m a bird, and I then have to use the normal bell, at which point they turn around surprised and say they thought I was a bird. At least it adds 50 watts to my peak power.

Voodoo Bizango review: The bad

There’s nothing bad with the cycle.

Halfords on the other hand could improve a thing or two. Their technical staff seem to only work from 9-5, M-F, which also happens to be the time when everyone else in the world cannot come to see them. On top of that, their regular sales staff is usually overworked, but curiously agreeable to experiment on random bikes without actual knowledge of what needs to be done, like that dude who tried to bend my disc rotor to fix a weird squeak, rather than adjusting the brake pads which were the obvious source of the problem, something that I realized only later when I gave up on Halfords completely.

Voodoo Bizango review: Verdict

I am not quite sure why I bought a mountain bike, I think I was scared of the ultra-bendy position of road bikes, and their finger thin tires. However, I’ve always been a tourer, and I’ve using the Bizango like a tourer. I don’t really mind, it’s fairly rugged and can take punishment, it’s not high strung, it’s chilled out, and I like that, especially when some random kid decides to make the bike fall over himself and cry, and you know the bike will be OK, especially since it was cushioned by the soft body of the kid, but also because of the inherent strength of the product.

Cycling is fucking amazing, I can’t do it in India because someone will hit me from behind and kill me, and nobody will care. The Voodoo Bizango gets 12/10 in my books because he’s a very good boy.

I bought the Bizango when there was a sale at Halfords, the bike was selling for 500 pounds, and I also got a British Cycling membership that gave me a 10% discount, so in the end the thing cost me 450. I have kept it stock, put on a front mudguard, which is quite useless, a bottle cage, and a saddlebag. In the last 2000 kms I have changed nothing, and nothing has broken. Tires still look OK, so do the pads and the chain.

All in all, can’t complain.

This is what racing is about

I hope you enjoyed the French GP just now, all 3 classes had some spectacular racing, but today’s MotoGP was something else. I won’t bother with the details of what happened, as always the best source for everything about motorcycle racing is Motomatters, go there for the technical stuff. What I want to talk about is the very basic question I ask myself whenever there is a race, any kind of race.

What is a race?

For people who don’t really care about MotoGP, it might look like a bunch of millionaires riding million dollar bikes in circles for no good reason. For the casual fans, it might be a lot of dangerous overtakes, high speeds, and crashes. For the hardcore fans, it might be about that one person, as long as he wins the rest can go to hell.

I think a race is nothing more than entertainment, and there’s nothing entertaining about already knowing the ending to a story.

This is the reason why I’ve found it so hard to watch F1, especially in the last couple of seasons. It is true that F1 by its very nature is different from MotoGP, F1 is more like chess, MotoGP is like a 200m sprint, but it’s just hard for me to watch a race where one car can open up a 20 second gap on another car.

The beauty of racing is in the unpredictability. When underdogs win, when GOATs crash, when every approaching turn makes your stomach turn, that’s what I call action.

In recent times, I think people have started taking MotoGP far too seriously. The riders themselves are under strict control by their teams and sponsors, the fans just want their guy to win and rest all to crash out, and the general feeling of fun seems to be missing from the equation.

To give you some perspective of what I’m talking about, take a look at this race below.

Do you see the difference? When was the last time you saw race leaders pulling unnecessary wheelies on the home straight just for fun? This is racing, the riders are having the time of their lives, the fans get to swim in the waves positivity, lap times don’t matter, points don’t matter.

Twitter is exploding right now with the hate of those who cannot believe Rossi crashed out, I don’t understand what they are so angry about.

You just watched a race where Valentino Rossi, the undisputed greatest motorcycle racer of all time, folded under pressure. You just saw his new teammate break the lap record on the last lap of the race. You just witnessed the most experienced racer on the field make a mistake.

How is that a bad thing? All that tells you is what insanely high level of racing we are getting to see the past few seasons. All that tells you is the hunger of these youngsters to become like Rossi. All that tells you is just how strong Rossi’s desire is to win. 

I get it, we all want Rossi to win that 10th championship, there’s something inherently satisfying about the number 10. But your responses to the efforts of a 38 year old fighting it out with a 22 year old, taking it to the limit and beyond, are just odd to me.

I also understand that some people take MotoGP far too personally, all you have to do is look at the comments section of any post where Lorenzo is mentioned. I think the only justifiable scenario where one can truly be angry about a MotoGP result is when you’ve bet a shitload of money on the wrong guy, although the arguments against your anger in that situation would be even stronger.

The point is this, support whoever you like, cheer for anyone, cry for anyone, but don’t disrespect others. I don’t want a championship where you know at the start of the season how it’s going to end, and trust me, neither do you.

It’s easy to get emotional about someone and wish them all the good luck in the world, but when that one person keeps winning, and winning, and winning, you would be the first to switch that TV off and look for something else to get sentimental about.

This article is brought to you by Paganini. Paganini, what is the hell is going on?

Dear “Dear George” writer, fuck off

I would like to begin this article by extending you an olive branch, and invite you to unfuck yourself by gently sliding your fist out of your rectum.

I understand why you are doing what you are doing, I have done it myself, here’s one example. My work against Lorenzo might be a bit more logical than your imaginative bitch moans, but I believe we agree as far as the general sense of direction goes.

More importantly, it pains me to admit that I recognize in you a lot of the things I once was, and it is slightly embarrassing to be suspected that I am the man behind your Facebook page. We share some sarcasm, a twisted sense of humor, and the ability to connect seemingly far-fetched things to prove a non-existent point. I would like to think that I have outgrown your level, but it is easy to overrate oneself.

Now it’s time for you to go ahead and do your favorite thing, a little bit of lube might help, or perhaps you prefer saliva or some other natural bodily fluid. Feel free to use the olive branch I gave you in the beginning as well, there’s no shame, it’s a victimless crime.

My aim in this article is to show you and the people who keep sharing your posts why you deserve none of the attention you are attracting. I would try to keep my arguments as straightforward as possible, but I think we both know it’s much more fun to do the wrong thing.

It’s easy to do what you are doing

It doesn’t take a genius to pile hate on Lorenzo, he is clearly not a likeable guy. He doesn’t give a shit about fans, rarely ever smiles, and has orchestrated some remarkably boring races leading every corner, every lap. It is even easier to dislike him considering the other options available. Rossi attracts fans like Manson attracted groupies, Marquez is popular both on and off the track, and then there’s Pedrosa, who can only be described as the second coming of Jesus.

All you’re doing in an elaborate version of high-school bullying, picking on the one the popular kids hate.

I’m not impressed, and I don’t really understand why so many others are. The only skills required to do what you are doing are:

  • A beating heart
  • Slightly below average IQ
  • A childhood of neglect and abuse, coupled with a head that’s been in the toilet too many times

It goes without saying that you have no obligation to impress me, just like Lorenzo has no obligation to impress you. I am writing this to question the judgement and taste of the people who sit on their knees, mouth wide open, head tilted back, waiting for your pus and blood filled ejaculations.

Your opinion is irrelevant

You are not Casey Stoner, you are not Colin Edwards, you are not Troy Bayliss. I know that because none of them are balding, jobless, twice-aborted online trolls like you, believe me, I checked. From the little I’ve read of you, you come off as someone who not only doesn’t understand what MotoGP is about, but has very little knowledge of sports in general.

The mere act of creating a Facebook page and writing some clever nonsense about someone doesn’t exactly prove your qualifications for the task.

On a similar note, who the fuck is George? I don’t know of anybody in the current MotoGP field by that name. Either you call Lorenzo that because you have no idea how Jorge is pronounced in Spanish, or you are too much of a pussy to use his real name.

My guess is you are from America, because in only that country it is possible for any random turd to stand up and start explosively vomiting words about things he clearly doesn’t understand, while also gathering hordes of redneck supporters who can’t tell bestiality from incest.

Your methods are counter-productive

I’m assuming that the reason you setup the Facebook page is to demoralize Lorenzo, maybe irritate him, get inside his skin. You seem to have completely forgotten that this guy has lived his entire career in the shadow of Rossi, has been booed on podiums, criticised at every step. He thrives on this negativity, loves to give the middle finger to butthurt fans, and steps on little shits like you to reach the top of the podium.

If you really want Lorenzo to fail, praise him, love him, suck his dick or give him a rim job. This man is fuelled by the desire to prove everyone wrong, everyone who thinks he can’t tame the Ducati, everyone who feels he’s not as good as Rossi. You can remove his motivation by being nice to him, what you’re doing right now is only feeding Cthulu.

On a similar note, why would you want Lorenzo to fail? Do you actually wish that a man as talented as him should no longer be able to fight for the win? Don’t you want races like this? Do you really wish that the one guy you jack off to should win without a fight?

I wish that the MotoGP guys should fight like the Moto3 kids do, 5 should go into corner side by side and rough each other up. For that to happen, you need highly skilled people who won’t do a Maldonado in every race. Legends are made not just by the skills of the legend, but by that of the one who fights him as well.

A wise man once said that sports exist for the sole purpose of teaching people to hate other people they don’t know for no reason.

Your followers are pathetic

Most of your followers are Rossi fans. Rossi has this unique ability to make people love him, and more importantly, hate others who are not him. His allegations about the Marquez-Lorenzo relationship didn’t help things, nor does the fact that he has never publicly asked his supporters not to spew hatred on Lorenzo or Marc.

It’s such a disgrace to hear the cries of booing at the end of a race, your page is basically an online version of the same phenomenon.

It’s crazy to find such widespread support for what is essentially cyber bullying. What do these morons even like in your work? I know all too well that fucking up someone’s day is a very rewarding experience, but there at least should be some logical reason to justify such depravity.

At the end of the day, MotoGP is nothing more than entertainment, a show, a theatre. You’re gonna have your heroes, and there will be villains as well, but the intelligent viewer understands that it’s all good business, wishes for some memorable fights, and takes nothing too seriously.

You are being a fucking coward

Let’s for a moment assume that everything I’ve said till now is objectively wrong, we are still stuck with the fact that you have to hide behind Gigi to do your thing. What’s up with that? What are you afraid of?

If you have something to say, at least let us know who you are so we may judge your ability to say those things. What’s the worst that could happen? Ducati might sue you, Lorenzo might send you a legal notice, Dorna might send SWAT to your mom’s basement. I would think that would be an improvement on your existence right now.

As someone who has been sent legal notices from time to time, I would like you to know that it’s not so bad after all. If anything, that helps you get more publicity, although the first few times can be a bit nerve wracking.

Keep the imaginative stories, no problems with that, but at the end of the post just leave a link to your Facebook profile, or any other place where we might get some idea of what dungeon you’ve crawled out of.

In case you are wondering why I wrote this piece, I did it because nobody else seems to have. I ignored you in the beginning, because as Richard Dawkins says, acknowledging your existence is equivalent to giving you the oxygen of respectability. This article will have the unintended side-effect of making some people be aware of you whose lives were until now untouched by the cosmic catastrophe that’s you. However, things were getting a bit too irritating for me, and someone had to tell the world that this is all monumentally stupid.

I’ve said what I wanted to say, and you are now free to extricate your arm out of your ass and move onto your second most favourite thing, sucking your thumb.

The simple pleasures of life in the United Kingdom

I have been in the UK for about 4 month now. During this time I’ve been to London, traveled around Milton Keynes a bit, and been in contact with a few Brits at the place where I work. This is obviously too little an experience to pass sweeping judgments about the way things work in this country, however, I would like to talk to you about a few simple ways in which the quality of life in Britain differs from that in India, and the possible reasons for this difference.

On some level, I understand the paranoia some English people have about “immigrants”. I obviously can’t support their more extreme opinions, being an immigrant myself, but I get the heart of their fears. This is a beautiful country, organised, spacious, serene. People follow unwritten rules in an attempt to make it a better place. Life is lived by the rules of basic human decency, which feel fragile and easy to destroy.

People here are open, helpful, and intelligent, but nobody wants to compromise on peace of mind at the cost of looking open, helpful, and intelligent. If you’ve ever lived in an apartment complex, you would understand that it takes just one person to degrade the positivity of an entire building. They don’t want this, nobody wants this.

On the other hand, it is also important to understand that all humans have the right to a good life. A lot of people who come here do so with just that aim in mind. To be valued as a human and to exist in a progressive society is a beautiful thing, and England gives you this experience. They repay England with kindness, hard work, and a more cosmopolitan outlook to the world.

It is sad that the actions of a few smear the beauty of many with generalizations, stereotypes, and fear-mongering. It is also sad that the media tends to focus more on rare extremes of hatred rather than the regular banality of love. I hope through the points I’m mentioning below people get an idea of the positive side of life here, rather than all the post-Brexit negativity that pervades the internet.

1. It’s a physically healthy place to be

It is hard to overstate just how naturally healthy the entire setup around me is.

There’s a small garden at the back of my room, there’s a giant park a few hundred meters away, and there’s an even bigger lake at a few kilometers distance. There’s proper space to walk everywhere, which is something entirely absent from India. There’s no pollution, the difference in quality of air is staggering. The amount of open space around you is simply unbelievable, an effect that’s accentuated by the lack of buildings higher than 5 stories.

A small example of just how clean things are around here would be the fact that I can, and do walk around for hours without any goggles on. If I did this in India, my contact lenses would’ve started dry humping my eyes, with the occasional speck of dust acting as lubricant, and I would be blind by the end of the day.

I don’t have a motorcycle here, and obviously no car, hence I depend on taxis, public transport, and my body to take me places. I have made full use of this opportunity, in the few months I’ve been here I’ve probably walked more than my 28 years back in India. It is a beautiful thing to wander around on your feet, thinking, listening to books, and imbibing the surroundings. I also steal my housemate’s cycle from time to time, it has no rear brake or mudguards, but I can’t complain.

One of the primary differences between Indian and UK is the way public spaces are maintained and respected. It is as if I’m in a country whose entire population suffers from uncontrollable OCD urges, which is why everything is so beautifully constructed, kept that way, and improved. The most important examples of this behavior are in the little things, insignificant bushes that have been minutely trimmed, pedestrian bridges that nobody uses but which still stay in immaculate shape, and even graffiti on the walls that appears to have a more artistic touch rather than an anarchic one.

You can imagine how easy it is to find yourself kilometers away from home, walking on some breathtaking paths, all alone.

Although I haven’t been to the US, I did notice that the traditional British food is rather good, tasty and nutritious. It is true that most Indians would find it bland and tasteless, but for a chilli-challenged twat like myself, it is heaven.

On the whole, this is a place that motivates you to keep yourself fit and healthy, and gives you the means to make it happen.

2. It’s a mentally healthy place to be

I feel valued as a human being here, something I’ve rarely experienced back home.

The menace of jaywalking that’s so rampant in India doesn’t exist here, because cars actually stop for you. It took me a few days to get used to this, I’d be on the footpath trying to cross over the road and I’d see a car approaching. I’d naturally stop, because my brain’s still used to the way things work in India, where vehicles have priority over humans. The car driver would look at me and slow down, which would really surprise me, and I’d awkwardly look at him like “What’s up”, and he’d look at me like I’m some sort of jackass. Then he’d actually wave his hand and ask me to cross, at which point I’d run and give him the thumbs up.

When I return to India, the chances of me dying under some vehicle are really high, since I’ve lost that instinct of looking both ways when crossing a road. I did it here in the beginning, but soon found out that people looked at me funny for checking the wrong side of the road before going across.

They don’t know.

Another exceptionally small but important detail is the fact that people open and hold doors for you, for no particular reason. It’s not even like men hold doors for women and old people, everyone does it for everyone. When you do it, people thank you. The only time I’ve seen people be so nice in India is when they are high.

When I go for a run or walk, people look at me and smile, sometime they say hello and ask if I’m “alright”. It took me a while to understand this way of greeting, the first time someone said “You alright?” to me, I thought I was bleeding from my nose or something, but it is just their way of saying “How are you”.

I get even better greetings on my journeys from doggos, many of whom attempt to climb up my legs. Dogs here are very well mannered, they normally just pass you, or come and say “Hi” and then move along. The cats here are fucking fat as fuck, and they run away from me for some reason.

The population density here is almost depressing. If I cycle for 20 kms, I pass no more than 20-30 people on the way. This means that you frequently find yourself in secluded areas without anybody around for miles. I haven’t had any bad experiences till now, and I’ve gone through some rough-looking neighborhoods at rather wrong times. I’m sure bad stuff happens here too, but the implicit sense of security in the surroundings is quite rich.

The sense of security comes from other people and situations as well. When me and wifey recently checked into a hotel in London, I was surprised when the receptionist asked for no ID. Your name is enough to put a room key in your hands. I was even more surprised when at check out time, nobody bothered to go and check the room as it happens back in India. I stood there like a jackass waiting for them to see that all was well in the room, when the receptionist politely told me to fuck off.

When you enter a mall, there’s no security check. When you enter a train station, or even the underground, there’s no security check. You can enter any shop with a giant trekking back on your back, and nobody will stop you. Nobody runs towards you the moment you whip out your phone to take a few photos.

One of the strangest feelings I get is from the houses around here. They are so beautifully made, but very few of them have any sort of gate at the front, and none have any grills in the windows. It feels odd to me that the only thing protecting the items inside their house is a thin sheet of glass. It is true that most houses have alarm systems and security cameras, but they appear to be of more use after a burglary has happened, rather than to stop one from happening. It is kinda sad that I feel this way.

I’m sure I can’t explain to you fully what emotions you feel around here, what I can tell you is that your sense of self-worth increases dramatically in just a few days.

3. Roads are beautiful, road sense is even better

I am in sort of a self-exile from automobiles at the moment, but I do use public transport a lot and it is hard to describe just how good the road infrastructure is around here. There’s no such thing as a pothole, it doesn’t exist, and I’m not just talking about the main roads and highways. The cycle and footpaths that are everywhere are in pristine condition as well, as are tiny bridges going over marshes and big underpasses going below the city streets.

Like I said before, there’s no such thing as jaywalking, because first, there’s a designated area where people can walk, and second, cars stop for you if you happen to be crossing their path. There are clear markings at places where cars get priority over pedestrians, obviously you can’t expect cars to stop and pile onto each other in the middle of a busy road just to let a few people cross over.

One of the most beautiful things I’ve seen around here is the use of high-beams. The only time someone uses the high-beam is to indicate to someone else that you can pass, I’ll wait. This is completely opposite behavior to what you see in India. It is so nice to walk around the city at night and not have your retinas burned out.

Unlike India, where the horn is used as a non-verbal form of communication, here you barely hear it once or twice a week. When you do hear it, you can be certain that someone fucked up real bad.

Another fantastic thing here is the lack of hoardings along the roads. In India, roadsides are generally treated as a giant advertisement space, sometimes at the cost of pedestrians, but here they don’t exist. Everything feels so clean without them, you are not constantly distracted by someone trying to sell an iPhone or detergent powder.

People here follow traffic rules, and not because there’s police standing at every junction. They do it because they understand that they are responsible for maintaining the beautiful system that they have. At a traffic jam, people wait patiently in line, lane discipline is followed, and traffic lights are respected. And all of this without the threat of some police officer jumping in front of your car from behind some random tree.

Drivers here understand that they are not at war against each other, but instead are using the roads as common property to live their lives.

4. Everything is organised, the system works

I have never seen a stray dog here, neither have I heard the cries of their orgies at night like we do in India. Dogs here always seem to be accompanied by humans, and they are both very well behaved. This is the kind of place where one can think about getting a dog, you have space for them to run around in, you don’t have to carry a stick to shoo away the other attacking strays every time you get out of the house, and you have plenty of friends for them to play with.

It is still fascinating to me that there’s no such thing as a power cut here, I’m so used to the electricity supply randomly going off that this is just amazing. On top of that, the streets here look brilliantly clean because unlike India, electricity lines run underground. There’s no mess of wires and poles everywhere, it’s almost magical how electricity is distributed everywhere without any visible signs.

One of the most brilliant things I’ve seen here is the centralized heating system that every house has. It is not electrical, a heater heats up water, which is then circulated throughout the house. Inside your room, you have a radiator, and you can control the temperature by increasing/decreasing the flow of water. It’s compact, there’s no risk of fire, and you can dry your undies on it.

It is hard not to appreciate the intelligence behind all the little things here.

5. Law of personal space is followed

In my time here, I’ve understood that there’s basically only one rule that governs the way people live their lives.

As long as you don’t create problems for others, you can do whatever you want to do.

This is so refreshingly mature, to be treated as an adult human again, to not have your every action criticized by people whose only qualification for being able to do so is their love for power.

Two people kissing in India in public would be such a big deal, people would stop and look, others would whistle and gesture, police might get called. Here, nobody gives a shit, and it’s not “I’ll not look because I don’t agree with what you are doing” behavior, it’s “I’m happy you are having fun and I hope I can add to your romance”. I saw a couple kissing passionately by the edge of river Thames in London, it was romantic in the true sense of the word.

One of the most annoying things for me in India are these jackasses who feel so happy about someone’s marriage or some random festival, that they just have to include everyone within a 5 km radius in their celebrations. They’ll play loud music, burst firecrackers, and generally be dicks in the name of tradition. That doesn’t exist here, and that’s such a satisfying thing in itself.

Even better is the fact that when you want to go somewhere, you don’t have to factor in the presence of any agitations, roadblocks, strikes, demonstrations, or political dickwaving. When people have something they want to complain about, they stay human and civilized, rather than spouting horns and gathering in large numbers in the middle of some highway like cattle.

I’m not a patriotic person, and although I’d like to believe that I can look objectively at things, it is possible that I can’t. I feel trapped in India, I hate the so-called culture, the idiocy, the illogical following of obsolete customs in the name of heritage and tradition.

I understand now why parents get so paranoid when their kids go overseas, I don’t want to come back, there’s absolutely no reason for me to want to live out the rest of my life in India now that I’ve seen that I can have a much better quality of life elsewhere.

At this point, I have newfound respect for people who stay back in India and try to improve things. It is hard for me to imagine the level of selflessness such an act would require. You can live a fulfilling life anywhere else, and yet you decide to spend it in a hellhole, hoping to make life better for others sometime in the distant future.

I think these are the people who come closest to the concept of God.

This article was bought to you by Vivaldi. Vivaldi – Making violinists regret the day they were born, since 1678.