Chopper Charlie: India Part 2

Article By: Chopper Charlie

Originally Published In The February 2019 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

At the end of my India, Part 1 article, I left off talking about how we had become stuck in Kaza due to landslides and snow storms and about how we had to backtrack our way out after five days of impatiently waiting. I went back just now, before starting this, reread that article and quickly realized that I may have missed the mark on what I really wanted to portray about our experience and about how what I actually wanted to capture was the true essence of what India is and how it taught us some valuable lifealtering lessons. Now, before you put this down thinking that I’m about to get all sappy and try pulling on your heartstrings, just bear with me. India was never really on my radar as a high priority destination. In fact, it was far enough down my list that I hadn’t given much thought to it yet.

 

Sure, the Himalayas were high on the list, but I always just assumed that we would tackle those from the Nepal side of the border. The idea of wandering the streets of Delhi never did much for me. The idea of wandering the streets pretty much anywhere in India would almost immediately send me down a daydreaming rabbit hole where I would inevitably find myself with Hep C and a lifelong bout of diarrhea. Not to say that this couldn’t happen in reality, but with a little common sense, it is certainly avoidable. I suppose, looking back now, that I failed to follow my own rules and ignored my belief that every place in the world has its redeeming qualities and is worth exploring. I had it so in my head that India was nothing more then a poverty-stricken wasteland of pollution and chaos that I failed to remind myself that there is always something of value. This was an incredible lack judgement on my part and a mistake I will not make again.

India is so much more than pollution and poverty, and that is something I really want you to take away from this. Sure, there is certainly an undeniable fact that the air quality is awful, more often than not at unhealthy, even dangerous, levels. Yes, the streets in the cities are absolutely littered with filth. Poverty and homelessness is at a level of which I’ve never witnessed, but that is not all there is. In fact, even if that was all, there is I would still encourage you to go visit. I would still encourage you to wander the streets and explore the back allies: if for no other reason than as a stark reminder of just how fortunate we are to live in a first world country where our concerns and frets are menial in comparison, and how we need to start thinking globally. We need to start thinking beyond our borders and remind ourselves that there are people, literally all over this globe, that are dying of starvation on the street, living under bridges and simply trying to survive on a daily basis. Witnessing these lives first hand, not on social media or CNN, is important. When it is right in front of you, when you can see and smell and hear these struggles at arm’s length, it becomes, very much so, an undeniable reality and immediately dissolves our concerns and worries about things that, at the end of the day, are meaningless.

 

Our guide on this Himalayan Heroes ride, a gentleman by the name of Moti, expressed at one point on our journey how he didn’t like when people only spoke poorly of India, focusing only on the pronounced negatives and claiming that the only good part of India is the Himalayan Mountains. I promised myself I would not do that upon my return so I would like to continue by focusing on the positive because there is a lot of that to take away from this.

Yes, the Himalayas are a mountain range of such grandeur that they will take your breath away, quite literally if you dare climb to the heights of which are achievable. I think for me though, it was much more than the dramatic craggy spires of prehistoric rock, that seemed to reach to the heavens, that captured my soul, it was the vibrations in the air that seemed to soothe and slow the mind. It was like being cloaked in a warm blanket of peacefulness. Time stood still, along with my thoughts which tend to race, and no wrong could be had. As much as I love the Rocky Mountains in my backyard in Colorado, the Himalayas captured my heart in a way I never expected. I could make this bold statement for all of India though, not just for the mountains towering on the north side of this immense country. After having some time now to dissect these thoughts and wrap my head around what I had just experienced, I’ve come to the conclusion that is the people who define India, not the landscape.

 

Yes, the Himalayas are a mountain range of such grandeur that they will take your breath away, quite literally if you dare climb to the heights of which are achievable. I think for me though, it was much more than the dramatic craggy spires of prehistoric rock, that seemed to reach to the heavens, that captured my soul, it was the vibrations in the air that seemed to soothe and slow the mind. It was like being cloaked in a warm blanket of peacefulness. Time stood still, along with my thoughts which tend to race, and no wrong could be had. As much as I love the Rocky Mountains in my backyard in Colorado, the Himalayas captured my heart in a way I never expected. I could make this bold statement for all of India though, not just for the mountains towering on the north side of this immense country. After having some time now to dissect these thoughts and wrap my head around what I had just experienced, I’ve come to the conclusion that is the people who define India, not the landscape.

The Indian culture is filled with pride and a deep, undeniable love for their country. You can see it in their eyes when you begin to ask questions about the culture and ways of living. Suddenly they are beaming with excitement to tell you all about how they live, what they do from day to day. It is not an easy lifestyle, but it is one that instills pride and develops a sturdy mind and callused hands. Moti told us about the 45-minute trail hike to his house through an apple orchard. There are no roads or driveway to his front door. Everything is hiked in and out, including his son to and from school every day. This would be considered virtually unheard of here in the United States, but for him, this was typical and not anything he gave great thought to. Others would work long days, breaking up boulders by hand and then sweeping the road with a typical house broom in order to clear the road to their village after a rock slide. Again, this would likely never happen around here. It isn’t just the mental fortitude and physical toughness of these people though; it is the deep sense of spirituality that rings through. A midday prayer or meditation is commonplace. The realization that hard work with the hands must be balanced with maintenance of the mind.

 

This balance in life, I believe, is the defining quality of the Indian culture. This is the quality which I will take away and hope to portray among you. In our society, one that is defined by how many hours we work in a day, how many commas are on our bank statement, where success is measured in the square footage of our homes, we have a lot to learn. Success should be measured by happiness, a lust for life and a longing to grow, not only as an individual but as a society. If this is the case, then I would claim that India is a very successful culture and we have a lot to learn from them. This leaves me with nothing more to say than words of encouragement to visit and see it for yourself. Expel the negative thoughts you may have of India and replace them with curiosity and a longing to experience and learn from a culture that is so inaccurately defined by what is at the surface. And yes, while you are there, you should take in the grandeur of the Himalayas, tour the monasteries and mosques, eat the food and ride the roads. But most importantly, experience the culture with an open mind, open heart and open arms. Bring that home with you and spread the word that India is so much more than what others will lead you to believe. Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @ charlietravelingchopper for more photos of this trip and others.

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