Friday, September 6, 2013

Review: "One Life to Ride" (Kindle Edition)


The following is my review of One Life to Ride - A Motorcycle Journey to the High Himalayas by Ajit Harisinghani. The is the second book for the Kindle that I have reviewed. A Google search indicates that the book is available in paperback, but I have a feeling it may be a bit difficult to find. As of this writing the book is $4.99 for the Kindle.

The book is different from many motorcycle related travel stories. It is written by a middle aged, Indian speech therapist with little cross-country riding experience and no mechanical background. This story is about a man and his beloved Royal Enfield motorcycle taking a beautiful trip through his own beautiful country. He rides 2500 miles and climbs to elevations over 15,000 feet. It is interesting to get descriptions and perspectives of riding through India written by a native rather than some wealthy American hipster.


Ajit Harisinghani on his Royal Enfield

I took a near immediate liking to Dr Harisinghani. In the foreword he talks about choosing a motorcycle and compares a street bike (aka crotch-rocket) to a Royal Enfield: "...Lighter and easily excited into full flight with her (the crotch rocket's) '0 to 100 in x seconds' flat! To an Enfield, that's premature ejaculation. It was staying power she (the Enfield) valued." As you probably know, I ride scooters and I can identify with the "staying power" comment. I don't ride to get anywhere fast.  This dry sense of humor is found throughout the book.

In addition to excellent descriptions of the countryside, villages and towns, the author also includes some of his personal philosophy about life. He deliberately stays in very questionable lodging from time to time because "I believe that we should periodically put ourselves through some physical discomfort, even disgust, to better appreciate the good things we take for granted in our everyday, privileged lives." This idea gets implemented on his trip to Goa, where he stays in a tiny, cobweb filled, room with a single window and non-working fan. This is followed by a very entertaining description of the "hotel's" privy.  It is known, locally, as a "pig toilet" and it is basically a platform suspended over the farmer's pigs. This system saves the trouble of plumber the toilet, as well as the need to feed the pigs.
Indian Highways are a bit less "developed" than American ones.

While some stories of epic rides spend a lot of time discussing the minutia of preparing for a ride, One Life to Ride virtually skip that, since our hero is not a mechanic nor hard-core adventure rider. He is simply an ordinary guy wanting an adventurous ride. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy books where every detail of a major ride is covered, but this is also enjoyable.

Another thing included as Harisinghani rides is the camaraderie of motorcyclists. As he rides some of the highest roads on the planet, he meets people on various bikes and from multiple countries. However, the fact that they are all riding gives them something in common that overcomes their differences. I have experienced this myself and it is a good thing. He has no experiences with people in Winnebagoes, however.
There are some great passages in this book about the author's encounters with soldiers and riding along a contested border. (from BCMTouring.com)

The author has an easy to read, casual writing style that I didn't expect from a physician. He covers a lot of ground and he writes just about as much about the ride home, as he does the rest of the ride and it is all good. I will say that I am glad I read this on my Kindle. I used the feature where you can click on a word and get its definition. There are a lot of local words (mostly food dishes) that I otherwise would have skipped over were it not for my Kindle. This is a good read. There are better, but this is worth the time. Read it, you'll be glad you did. 4 stars.








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