(Written by Aryan Trivedi)
As the six riders Azad Singh Sidhu, Jatinder Singh Chauhan , Mandeep Singh Dhaliwal , Pravjit Singh Takhar, Sukhvir Singh Mlait and Jasmeet Pal Singh from Sikh Motorcycle Club, British Columbia, Canada, reached Chandigarh after the end of 9,500 km motorcycle ride on May 11 in Punjab spanning 22 countries to celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, the riders were surrounded by some riders from Chandigarh and cities like Ludhiana.
The Sikh Motorcycle Club riders happily posed with the other riders and shared the experience with the riders terming it as a life-changing experience.
“Since it is the 550th year of birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Devi ji, we were planning such a ride since the last 18 months. We approached Ravi Singh, CEO of Khalsa Aid International who gave us the support to raise funds for them. And since April 3, it has been a life changing experience. We raised more than 80,000 Canadian dollars and more than Rs 6 lakh from Punjab. When we departed from Canada with our bikes to England via flight, we met an English lady, who asked us about the ride’s motive. We explained the reason and later she handed us 100 dollars as donation. That’s has been one of the biggest take way. To spread the message of Guru Nanak Dev ji. We crossed countries like Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan and we met people who had never seen a Sikh in their life. They would ask us for selfies and also ask us about the turbans and beards and other things about Sikhism. We got love from every country we went and to end the ride in India is a special feeling” said Azad Singh Sidhu.
The Sikh Motorcycle Club, British Columbia was founded in 2003 by Harjinder Singh Thind and it was after a long legal battle by Avtar Singh Dhillon that Sikh riders were allowed to ride bikes with turbans.
The club, which has now more than 120 riders in British Columbia, were flagged off by Narinder Singh, president, Gurudwara Dukhniwarn Sahib, Surrey on April 3 before the group took flight to London and reached Attari border, Amritsar on May 10. With temperatures ranging from -2 degrees to 48 degrees, the group faced some challenging routes in Europe and Asia.
“We used to ride more than 400 km on an average but in Europe, we would cross three countries in day. Crossing through Liechtenstein, a country which has no unemployment, was something to be learnt from. In Turkey, we had planned the ride through northern part crossing cities like Sakarya, Amasya and snowfall happened for 60-80 percent our ride duration. After we crossed the Iran-Pakistan border through Taftan border post, temperatures ranged from 45-48 degrees. That was the challenging part. In Pakistan, we got lot of love from the people. Even though, the current situation between India and Pakistan is not good, people gave us respect. After reaching India, we were joined by riders from Punjab, Karnataka, Rajasthan before we went to pay our respects at Golden Temple. During our ride from Khadoor Sahib to Sultanpur Lodhi, we had expected 500 riders to join us but more than 2500 riders joined,” added Sidhu.
With riding culture getting popular in India too, the riders see it as a positive sign for the youth of Punjab too.
“When the founding members started the club, there were less than 10 members. Now we have 120 members in British Columbia with SMC also functional in other provinces like Manitoba, Ontario and Alberta. It feels good to see Punjabi youth showing their interest for bikes despite the harsh weather conditions in summers and bad roads. But they ride with full riding gear is very important,” said Jatinder Singh.