When a 20-year-old Japanese tourist, Ryoma Tanaka, decided to go beyond the beaten tourist path to experience India on a bike, he did not know that his motorcycle diary would read like a lockdown log.
After spending 42 days locked-in at a tourist complex in Pathankot’s Damtal village, he spent the next 26 days at a private officers’ club in Faridkot, courtesy the district administration.
Finally on Friday, he was busy packing his bags to start his bike ride from Faridkot to Delhi to board a flight to Tokyo on Saturday night.
Hours before his journey, Tanaka also cooked himself a comfort meal at the club’s kitchen – a bowl of Maggi noodles made to his taste.
“I love Indian food, but sometimes I cook as per my taste,” he said.
Since May 4, Tanaka has been staying at a room in the club, which is empty except for him and two caretakers. His stay was arranged here by the Faridkot administration, after a city resident – Rajan — spotted him on the road on May 2 looking for help after being stuck apparently trying to get to Delhi from Pathankot. He was brought to Faridkot and his stay arranged at club from May 4 onwards. And now an official from the district administration will escort him to the Japanese Embassy in Delhi for his onward journey.
The twenty-year-old had come from Tokyo to India on January 11 with a budget of Rs 2 lakh. After travelling to over 15 cities, including Kochi, Chennai, Sikkim, Varanasi, Agra, on trains or buses, he made it to Delhi in March. “I stayed in cheap hotels with no AC and TV and hence, I had no idea as to what was happening in India or the world. On March 20, I purchased a bike for Rs 65,000 from Delhi and started a bike trip to cover the rest of the country. I went to Chandigarh on a bike, later I went to Himachal and finally on March 23, I came in Pathankot from where I was not able to go anywhere as India was under the lockdown,” he said in broken English, while pointing out that he did not watch news on TV or read newspapers to know Covid news during the lockdown.
About his 42 day stay at Damtal tourist complex in Pathankot, he said: “I was falling short of funds. It was becoming difficult for me to sustain myself, and people were not able to understand me or help me out.” This is when Rajan stepped in to help.
The Faridkot resident, who was returning from Himachal to Punjab, said: “I saw him on roadside crying for help. I stopped and got to know about his problem. He drove his bike following my car late in the evening on May 3 and we reached Faridkot without much hassle.” However, when Rajan’s family refused to keep him at home, he approached Faridkot DC Kumar Saurabh, who not only arranged his stay, but also got him tested for Covid-19. Thankfully, Tanaka tested negative, but he was asked to complete mandatory quarantine.
SDM, Faridkot, Paramdeep Singh Khaira said, “He was fed up of sitting inside a closed room, as we had sent his samples for testing, and stopped him from moving out. He damaged furniture of the club out of irritation. Later, he was counselled and after he was tested negative he felt relaxed as well.”
Later, he was allowed to roam the city on his bike for about an hour daily along with Rajan, and allowed to cook his own food.
About his family back in Japan, he said, “I did not tell my parents that I am stuck, otherwise they would have got worried.
Moreover, I enjoyed the hospitality of Faridkot administration, though I wanted to move out and roam around. Now, after going back, I will stay in Tokyo, till Covid clears up. Later, I will go to New Zealand for higher studies.”
“Bikers can’t sit in rooms,” said Tanaka, getting ready for a final ride in the city that has been his temporary home before leaving for his own on Saturday night.
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