Day (2) 20th August 1994, Saturday……..Mandi-Rohtang Pass-Manali (201km)
We caught the group in between Nadaun and Hamirpur at a dhaba, where they were fixing a bike. There was lot of cheering and excitement on our arrival. Little chit chat and a cup of tea later we rode together and reached Mandi at 2am morning and stayed in a Gurudwara for the night.
We woke up quite late that day. I paid my membership fee for the last two years and expenses for the ride to the leader of the group. After breakfast we began riding towards Manali. The destination for the day was Keylong, took a break for lunch in Manali. I bought a jerry can and some other stuff.
By mid day, we began riding to Rohtang. It was for the first time I was riding with a group.The road was tough and steep. We were riding faster than to my liking. A little break at Marhi and we hurried on towards Rohtang. The landscape around was beautiful, but I was not able to have a good look at it. I wanted to ride slow and stop at some of the places to soak in the beauty but was not able to instead was riding way too fast. Luckily or unluckily I didn’t know back then, my bike refused picking up accelerator. Rohtang was just a few kilometers away.
One of the member of the group knew a lot about bikes. He checked the bike and told me that there was a problem with the clutch plates and needed to be replaced and that we could not ride any further as the part is unlikely to be found anyplace before Leh. So he advised we should return back and get the problem fixed at Manali. They would wait for me at Keylong till 11am and If we did not reach they would continue with the ride.
It was already 5pm evening and we were almost at the top (Rohtang pass). The group left and we were stranded at Rohtang Pass. Clutch plates of my bike were gone. There was no fun pushing the bike to Rohtang. So the only option left was to push the bike down 46 kilometers to Manali.
For sometime I was in shock, went blank and did not know what to do. I thought that should not have happened to me. Might be I was riding too fast to keep pace with the group, bit disappointed with the group as well. I thought how could they leave me like that, that was the very reason I joined them, that in case of any eventuality I would get some help. But they left me on my own, to fend for myself.
But you know….when going gets tough, the tough gets going.
All of a sudden I started feeling good. I thought that was not the problem but an opportunity. Opportunity to see what could I do. Instead blaming I started thinking about the solution. Instead of depending on somebody I started probing myself. I thought why should I be dependant on somebody. I could take care of myself. If I were to fulfil my dreams I need to believe in myself.
I decided to take charge. To believe in myself. Learnt one of the biggest lessons of my life. I decided to believe in myself and not be dependant on anybody else. That was 22 years ago. That sole lesson learnt at that time standing near Rohtang Pass became a turning point in my life and has helped a great deal in shaping my professional, personal and family life thereafter.
I am glad this happened to me!!!
Light was fading fast. My younger brother and I were alone. We had no option but to push the bike 46 kilometers back to Manali. With renewed belief we began pushing the bike down the slopes of Rohtang-Manali Highway. It was easy on the descend but tough on the ascent. We sat on the bike when riding down and got off while pushing up. Huffing and puffing, we were getting out of breath constantly. We would stop and rest after every few kilometers.
While that was going on we saw a bus coming down from Rohtang. Waived and it stop. I told my brother to get in and wait at Beas bridge, Manali. He was reluctant and did not want to leave me alone and that too in the night, pushing the bike through the lonely and secluded road. I was sure I could handle it and was more worried about my brother thinking how he would walk 46 kilometers in the night and in the bitter cold. I had to virtually push him into the bus.
I was alone but relaxed by then. At least one of us would reach safely and make some arrangement in case of emergency. More so I knew I could handle myself in difficult situation but wanted my brother out of that difficult situation. I continued with pushing the bike on ascent and riding down on descent.
Night fell very quickly and it became dark all around. Bone chilling wind started blowing. The road was rough and lonely. There was virtually no traffic on the road. I saw no body on the road. The trees and mountains around started looking menacing. Strange sounds started emanating from all around.
Atmosphere around started becoming fearsome. The fear of pushing the bike for 46 kilometers on that high mountain road got replaced with the fear of wild animals and strange figures. Tiredness was gone instead there was spring in my strides, an urgency to get out of the situation as quickly as possible. It felt like a horror story. While I was struggling with all that I saw lights of a vehicle coming from behind.
I waved frantically and the vehicle stopped. It was a PWD truck carrying workers. A simple request and the driver asked the workers to pull the bike into the truck. A group of workers pulled the bike easily as if it had no weight and placed it in the empty truck. I tried to participate but they politely asked me stay away.
We took a break for dinner at a dhaba. I had XXX Rum with me, politely asked if some of them would like to use it. The driver, with twinkle in his eyes, nodded in affirmative and asked only if I would accompany them. So some of us enjoyed a drink or two before having nice dinner. The drive to Manali thereafter was a pleasant. We were friends by then, the drink and nice chat created a bond between us.
The driver very kindly dropped me and the bike near the bridge on beas river. I tried to pay but the big hearted driver and the workers did not accept anything. That really touched my heart. I learnt another lesson….more than money, people crave for love and care.
Time was around 10pm. My brother was sitting on the edge of the road near the bridge with a brooding face. After seeing me his face lit up. He was angry that I made him leave me alone in that tough situation and that he worried all the time conjuring up all those dreadful scenes that we create while caught up in negative situation. He was relieved by then and hugged me, as if we were meeting after being separated since ages.
We pushed the bike across the bridge to the mall road. Pretty soon we found a nice hotel and were in a cozy room. That dreadful cold wild dark road seemed a dreadful dream by then. We asked the waiter to bring whatever was available for dinner.
My brother asked me…”what next, are we going back without finishing the ride”?
Sipping at a drink, I replied……”No way, just relax and go to sleep, will see tomorrow, every day is a new day, new beginning”!!!
And I those golden lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi started humming in my inner mind.
रात जितनी भी संगीन होगी
सुबह उतनी ही रंगीन होगी
ग़म न कर गर है बादल घनेरा
किसके रोके रुका है सवेरा
(The darker the night, more brighter will be the day; don’t worry if the clouds are dark, who can stop daylight)