Seldom in life do we deliver something that we had never imagined of! But the truth is, if we can do it once, we can surely do it again. Sometimes even better. Following Santosh’s Limca record journey published last week, I decided to write a story of his next and even bigger journey too. Here it goes… from Gully to Guiness…
After completing my North-South cycling spree for the Limca book of records, there would be no points for guessing that I wanted to aim for Guiness! Inspired by the words of Pratibhatai Patil, I decided to take this to the next level. The time came about two years after that journey when one fine day I approached my boss asking for a leave for 110 days. This time it got approved in a blink of an eye!
Now came the difficult part – preparing for this mission. There were multiple aspects of preparation – physical, mental, technical and financial. To increase my stamina, I began working out extra. I used to work out for 2-3 hours, work for 9 hours in office and then work as a part time bouncer at a reputed pub for some extra income. There, a bitter truth hit me. I saw young boys and girls spending in a night an amount which was equivalent to what I was earning in a month after straining my eyes for long hours at the pub. I went there for saving money, and they came for spending it. Later I also took up a job of a car cleaner in a nearby society and when the society members came to know of my motive, they collected much more money for me through contributions. My heart was filled with gratitude. I also received some financial help from friends and some organisations who knew about my previous journey. A popular adventure gear company too decided to sponsor my gear when they learnt about my mission. I had to install some devices like GPS tracker, heartbeat meter, wheel sensor, etc. so that I could prove the authenticity of my journey to Guiness.
During this time, I realised that mental preparation was the most difficult. I am very close to my daughter and she too has a habit of not going to sleep without playing with me. I had to gradually distance from her or else she would have taken it very badly when she would not see me for 110 days. My heart ached as I pushed her away and even scolded her to leave me alone every time she came running with a ball or toy to play with me. I also accepted a part time job of a watchman at an abandoned industrial shed for six months where no one showed up ever. My only companion in those days used to be a stray dog. All of this was to mentally prepare myself so that I do not give up on the mission halfway through due to loneliness or homesickness. My wife was the biggest support I had and none of this would have been a reality if not for her. People often asked me do you have a team, and I tell them – Yes, I do have a team. My wife is my team.
I had carried an egg-boiler, some first aid stuff, glucose powder, basic spanners, an air filler, five sets of tyres and tubes and all the material needed to repair a punctured tyre. The rest of the tyres and tubes were mailed to me by my friend to different locations whenever required. I started with the North as it was October and climatically it was a wise decision as I knew that the monsoon does not retreat from South India till December. I had kept Kanyakumari to Pune as the last patch, though it was against the wind direction, as it was known territory to me. And I reckoned, towards the end I could use the familiarity and knowledge of that area to my benefit.
So, off I went from state to state gathering bittersweet experiences and living the life I yearned for. At one point while I was living with some Naga sadhus in Gorakhpur, I had a strong desire to accept hermitage. All the earthly desires seemed futile to me. But soon I was reminded of my mission and the efforts everyone has put in to make this a success and I shook that thought off! I received help from everyone on my way. Looking at my appearance dhaba owners would keep other customers waiting and serve me with nutritious food, lassi and would offer to use their space for rest. If dhaba owners treated me with awesome food, truck drivers provided useful advice about the road conditions. I had developed a kinship with these travellers and hosts all along my journey.
I also included a spiritual aspect in the journey by covering ten Jyotirlingas and three dhaams to avoid monotony and keep my positive energy going. Once while I was in Rajasthan, I asked a dhaba owner for a nearby cycle shop as I wanted to get my chain fixed. He gave me a reference and personally called up that guy and instructed him to take special care of me. That fellow not only fixed my chain, but also gave me a full servicing for free! Once a particular hotel owner insisted to offer his 3-star A/C room for free, however due to my habit of living with the minimum I was forced to wake up at midnight and switch off the A/C as I was unable to sleep. One time I was attacked by a battalion of about three hundred monkeys and other time by a couple of dacoits, but my presence of mind and survival instinct helped me get out of those situations.
A lot of people had advised me against going to UP and Bihar but that area was my strength as it was completely flat and guaranteed optimum performance. So I had no option but to drive as much as possible through there. However, making friends all the way, I managed to survive in the toughest of conditions.
The last day I cycled for a whopping 180 kilometres and yet had the energy of going all the way again. I reached home on day 110 at about midnight and had swiped my I-card at the company gate the next morning five minutes earlier to log-in time. My boss was speechless. Everyone had gathered to meet me. But I felt a void. What I missed was the thought that I will not be able to cycle from the next day. I felt like I had lost purpose. After completing my record, I had kept it to myself for a few months to help the previous record holder. His wife was pregnant and he wanted his child to be born as a record holder’s child. I happily agreed. After a few months of his wife’s delivery, I applied for my certificate and Karma was at work, my wife was pregnant at the time I received it and our child also got the same honour! What goes around, comes around.
Ask a mountaineer why he spent his entire life and a fortune of money striving hard to climb Mt. Everest. He will say, for those thirty seconds. – Anonymous