Image: My Dad, Codanda Nanjappa Jairam – My Inspiration
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do… Explore. Dream. Discover.”
— Mark Twain
There are many things in life to be grateful for. First and foremost, our parents, without whom, we would not be here. My parents, Codanda Koily and Jerry Jairam – the people who dared to dream and moved to Sankelshpur to build a life for themselves in the early ‘70s, kindled the spirit of adventure in me, which I am ever grateful for. As a little girl, I had a lot of company –plants and trees, the ponds and meandering streams, coffee plantations and paddy fields, dogs and chickens. Growing up on a coffee plantation I discovered nature as my first ever companion.
The pace of life flowed with the elements and my companions changed with the seasons. Every season brought with it a different aspect of friendship, of sharing and of learning. And so was laid the foundation for my life. The elements, that we as human beings are part of and resonate with, were my companions.
My dad was a farmer by profession and a wanderer in his heart. Wandering, he taught me, was the journey within our self. His love for travel and adventure was an integral part of our life, naturally. Why, he had ridden back to India in 1965 across continents on his BMW R/25 after he completed his studies in the USA.
And so, for me motorcycles was just an extension of ‘family time’ and every year, his precious motorcycle was stripped down to the frame and my brother and I would be the assistant mechanics, passing over the tools, cleaning the spark plugs and draining the oil, while the bike got a new lease of life.
My tryst with the mountains began in 2000.And I have gone back every year to the Himalayas since, either trekking or on a motorcycle. The mountains are a humbling experience. And time for me to re-connect with myself.
My first adventure on a motorcycle took me to Bhutan. Seventeen days of riding through a country that showed me happiness lies in simplifying our lives, and less is more. It left an imprint, which has remained with me. We were 3 bikes and all four of us had maps and plans, and more plans. And once on our way, there was not much one could do with all the “equipment” in the world. When you are on a high mountain pass in the middle of nowhere and all of a sudden you have a flat tyre. We begin to change the tyre and the rain arrives, torrential rain. We had absolutely no inkling of what we were in for! We learn from locals that the next “puncher” shop is 70km ahead or 70km behind!
That is how travel opens our minds and hearts to the element of surprise, surprise at our own ability to be able to deal with situations that no one can plan for. And these are the moments of truth that define the beauty of travel.
Then came the chance to ride in Cambodia , a land where the ravages of genocide can still be felt in small villages, which are off the tourist maps.Yet the land is kind and fertile. It has a special relationship with the people it nurtures and their faces tell their story.I could sense their spirit and the quiet sense of pride that is manifest in the rice they grow.
Cambodia to the world is mainly Angkor Wat, one of the seven wonders of the world and yet on a motorcycle, through the little lanes of the villages, where chickens scurry to get out the way of some mad Indian motorcyclist, suddenly in the middle of nowhere looms in front of you the ruins of yet another magnificent temple that is unmarked on the tourist map. With the sun setting and a full moon on the rise, you wonder of the time gone by and the spirit of man to build such a beautiful temple, that has stood the test of time and the ravages of a genocide and neglect. This is something that I could not have experienced if it were not for the motorcycle.
Sri Lanka, another war ravaged country was a completely different experience. The natural beauty of its sea shores and its lush mountains and its rich and well preserved game reserves made riding through Sri Lanka a real pleasure. However for me the “reality” of any country comes alive when we are able to connect to the local people. The road side chai, bajji and bonda stalls where we stopped for a break were amazing experiences. The owners and local regulars share their lives and experiences which are so different from anything a regular tourist very rarely experiences.The secret is seeing a country off the beaten track on a motorcycle. We are exposed in a sense because of the motorcycle, and our interactions are completely unpretentious and direct.
Nature, my childhood companion had a home ready for me. Ladakh. I discovered it in 2008 and riding every year to Ladakh is like going home. The motorcycle is an amazing way to connect with the Himalayas through all its grandeur, its stillness, its majesty and overwhelming might. I look forward to being ‘home’ every year.
It grounds me, teaches me that I am but a speck in the scheme of this Universe.
We are at the mercy of the elements, and anything can happen at any time. Although I relive this experience every year, there is always new learning. Nature is a mighty teacher.In her presence the mind is empty of vanity. And that’s a wonderful place to start learning. It humbles me. It teaches me to extend myself so that I can reach out and try understanding the meaning of life. It helps me to chisel away at traits of my personality, to be kind and give of myself when and where I can.
Earlier this year, June 2013 I did a ride to the Pamirs in Central Asia. Our country has a long history with Central Asia. There are many connections to India through battle and trade along the Silk Route.
My ride began in Kazakhastan and through Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Most of the route was along the old Silk Route which took us on the famous Pamir Highway. The people of these countries are very friendly and would immediately recognize me as a “Hindustani” because of the nose ring. So, for them, Hindustan is another “stan” for them. Interestingly, bollywood and our stars of the hindi film industry are famous even in the most remote villages of Central Asia.
Why at most of the border crossings, the guards would mention Raj Kapoor and Mithun Chakraborti and sing their songs for us. Some of them even had the video clips on their cell phones.
The highlight of the ride was of course the Pamir Highway – located so remotely, that there were times I felt like I was the only person on the planet! It was indeed exciting to see Afghanistan, which was just across the Pyanj river from the border of Tajikistan.
The people are extremely hospitable and friendly, though everyone only speaks Russian, it was never a barrier.
Along my journey, I encountered another wonderful aspect of life – yoga. I believe, yoga is the martial art of the soul and it helps us recognize and fight our biggest enemy, our ego.
I started the practice of yoga in 2004 and now I teach yoga. The layers that fell away after I started practicing yoga, are almost like shedding unwanted baggage that weighs us down because of “fear that we might need them’. I am beginning to discover the real joy of life and as a teacher of yoga I hope that I can spread that joy to other seeking souls.
As a qualified counselor, I worked with terminally ill cancer patients at a Hospice as a volunteer counselor. The satisfaction one receives when we give unconditionally from our hearts is priceless. To be able to reach out and lend a ear to a complete stranger, knowing just that simple act gives so much solace, is immeasurably gratifying.
We all live in this Universe as part of the whole, we are a part of Nature and if we are open, we will be able to hear the music of the Universe that pulsates and resonates with us.
Before I end, I would also like to give gratitude to my alma mater – The Lawrence School, Lovedale. For here is where my journey began. The friends I have made at Lovedale are irreplaceable and that is because we all felt the same connect in the openness of our campus. The place that nurtured my spirit, I know, has also nurtured thousands of other young hearts, minds and spirits. I realized that sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, the wind chills us and then again the sunshine thaws us – all a part of life. Nature and its elements give us much to learn from, and Lawrence School provides the environment to nurture that.