On the days he crosses national borders, Rohit Subramanian, 21, shaves his beard. “I follow the words from the wise. Everyone has told me to do that,” says the Chennai boy who started from home on January 15 in a Royal Enfield Classic Desert Storm.
He aims to ride a distance of one lakh kilometre by July 2017, covering 46 countries, spread across South East Asia and Europe. “You never know what the officer across the border looks for,” says the young traveler. He has even managed a sponsor to groom his beard during his nomadic trail.
Having crossed Kerala – twenty kilometres outside Trissur, he had villagers taking turns to help him push his bike when it ran a hiccup, Karnataka – “I managed to use Instagram, Facebook and other social media and I was still stuck in traffic at the same spot”, Pune – “What’s with the bane mask riders wear around there?”, he is finally in Mumbai this weekend. He will cover a good distance across the state, before he heads for Gujarat.
If the ride looks interesting, his rules make it even more engaging. No stopover at hotels, only at homes off the road, or pit stops at petrol pumps, police stations, or bus stops. “I once told a police officer ‘if I lose my belongings in the night I will come to you. So why not park myself inside the police station’. He obliged,” says Subramanian. He is not the first person to trek this long distance alone, but he wants to believe he is one of the youngest Indian bikers to take such a trip. “I have been getting advise from people who have done this before through Twitter and Facebook. Someone who did this in 1970 wrote to me,” he adds.
On the weeks leading to the trip, after he had spent many weeks on crowd funding and scoring sponsors, ‘shamelessly asking for help’, Subramanian and his room mate locked themselves in a room with “good internet speed” as they googled the places his bike would take him to.
“It’s a bit tiring. A lot actually. I actually wrote down the distances and details of every place in a piece of paper, then manually typed THEM in an excel sheet. The research was incredible as the idea was to map the place. But everything is still a discovery. I plan to keep things like that. One learns from traveling. That is the beauty,” he says of his unplanned stopovers. Till now, he has seen the insides of a college hostel, homes across the coast, several petrol pumps and even a doctor’s clinic.
At 13 years of age, his “claustrophobia” led him to take a bus to Trichy from Chennai. Though he didn’t venture beyond, he repeated the stunt in 2012, when he called home from Delhi to say he would be unreachable for a month, before finding himself a job as a bike mechanic at Ladakh. “I just like the idea of now. Travel gets one that. I am not much for saving money. I don’t think, apart from the paper work, I am dealing with it anyway. Most days I have been having one meal, dinner, wherever I am hosted,” he says. “At most places, I have offered to work. Till date, I have worked as an ice-cream vendor, put tar on roads in Kerala, worked as a bar attendant in Goa and a tea vendor in Karnataka.”
He travels for seven hours daily and his fuel tab of Rs 60,000 for the whole ride across the country is sponsored. A GoPro fitted on him always gets a lot of waves with people always wanting to look good. “I plan to document the whole journey. I already have promised and taken assignments from various people on social media. People want personalised travel videos of cities. That’s how part of crowd funding works. You give them something in return,” he says.
The journey so far has its share of stories. “People connect. Its been overwhelming that even in today’s troubled times, nobody is judging. I have had moments when people have sat me down, told me their stories and even fed me a meal. In Kozhikode, a man walked to six nearby hotels to get me food. I was only thankful,” he says. In another place, a divorcee finally opened up for the first time on why he terminated his decade-long marriage. “I am a different person too. I had set out to discover the world. It’s more learning, that I have achieved. I am a different person every day. How I was a month ago, I am new now. Travel teaches,” he says. Prod him further, he says there are other perks too.