"When I expressed to my family that I want to go ahead with the ride, they were not quite happy as I had just recovered from COVID for which I was hospitalised for two weeks"
Abhijit Shome is an electrical engineer by profession and an avid biker by passion who hails from the beautiful city of Silchar in Assam.
Abhijit Shome often hits the road to explore new things and experience life and the COVID-19-induced lockdown offered him an opportunity to travel across the country and create awareness of the deadly virus.
A COVID-19 survivor himself, Abhijit Shome undertook a 4000-kilometre journey from Rajasthan to Moreh- a town located in Indo-Myanmar in the Tengnoupal district Manipur- and spoke to people about the deadliness of COVID-19.
The Story Mug (TSM) caught up with the enthusiastic Abhijit Shome and learned more about his passion and the journey that he undertook.
TSM: How long have you been riding?
Abhijit Shome AS): Travelling and exploring had always been my passion. My first long-distance ride was the Nagaland Motor Rally 900 km in 1991. But since then, due to family obligation and work I could not pursue it further. This ride was a journey back to the old days for me.
Later in 2019, I decided to continue with my passion for riding and the journey is on.
TSM: Have you taken any rider-training courses?
AS: No, I have been mostly self-taught and then figuring out the rest along the way.
TSM: Is it critical for a rider to have formal training?
AS: I do not think it is critical but it helps to know the intricacies of off-road and the driving capabilities. Formal training certainly enhances your driving skills.
TSM: When did you take your first solo ride?
AS: Previously most of my rides were of a shorter distance. My first solo long-distance ride was flagged off from Barmer on January 30, 2021, with an aim to create COVID-19 awareness.
TSM: Tell more about this COVID-19 awareness trip.
AS: My ride aimed at spreading the national integration campaign Ek Bharat Srestho Bharat' to unite North-Eastern states with the mainstream.
Assam and Rajasthan were paired for cultural exchange. This ride was also associated with creating awareness about the on-going pandemic and highlighting the importance of wearing masks.
I distributed masks to the construction quarry workers at Sanchor, the national level swimmers at Fateh Sagar Lake and Udaipur, the farmers at Kota, tribal people at Dima Hasao Assam, Banskandi ME, school students, at Silchar. Also requested all these people to take COVID-19 vaccination
TSM: How did you come up with the idea?
AS: Being from Assam, the initial riding plan was conceived to introduce my children to the state route- NH 27 which is an East-West corridor beginning from Porobonder to Silchar and the second-longest highway NH44 covering over 4000 km connected to Barmer and my place of origin - Assam.
I have been working on an Oil and Gas project in Barmer since February 2019 and the trip was scheduled for April 2020. But with COVID and the lockdown across cities,’ the trip had to be put on hold.
With the completion of my contract in December 2020, I decided to continue with my travel plans but to pursue a solo trip. Unfortunately, I was hospitalised for COVID-19 treatment and then the objective of the trip changed to self-discovery and creating awareness towards COVID-19.
TSM: Which were the places you have visited and what was the experiences
AS: The trip began on January 30 post flag off by BSF at Pakistan border Munabao, Barmer District, Rajasthan.
On the first day, the route traversed ended in Barmer Rajasthan Royal Enfield service centre to change the rear wheel bearing.
The Second day began from Thar Hospital post flag off by Dr Vikas Chaudhary. The route was through NH68 to Palanpur and then onto Udaipur via NH 27 East-West Corridor.
At Udaipur, I halted at the Royal Enfield Service Centre to fix the speedometer.
Later the journey continued passing various routes across many cities at Barmer, Udaipur, Kota, Kanpur, Ayodhya Gorakhpur, Kushi Nagar, Forbesganj, Siliguri, Bongaigaon, Maibang, Silchar, and Imphal.
On February 13, from Imphal, I rode to Moreh, Myanmar border and ended the trip at Friendship bridge over the river.
The total distance covered was 4000 km approx crossing eight states' borders - Rajasthan, Gujarat Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam and Manipur along with two international borders- Pakistan and Myanmar.
I was driving 2016 Himalayan and the start odometer was 23000 km.
TSM: What has been the support of the local administrations of the places you have visited
AS: The trip was self-supported and focused on daily mileage and to spread awareness on COVID-19 and National Integration.
To start my ride from Barmer, I sought permission from BSF and they extended all support with accommodation and refreshments.
During my ride, I had fallen sick when I reached Kanpur; there I approached Gorakhpur police for help. DIG Jogendra Punia extended all his support with accommodation and bike custody.
TSM: What was your family's reaction when you shared with them the idea of taking a sabbatical?
AS: While I was in Barmer I was part of the ongoing Oil and Gas project. Post the project completion and with the end of my contract, I decided to take some time off and focus on myself and explore life.
When I expressed to my family that I want to go ahead with the ride, they were not quite happy as I had just recovered from COVID for which I was hospitalised for two weeks.
They were concerned about my well-being as it was a solo ride. But I managed to convince them and I continued with my ride and it definitely wasn’t easy. But returning back to them at the end of the trip was a big moment for me and it keeps motivating me.
TSM: What bike do you mostly prefer to go on a trip?
AS: It is always a pleasure to ride with Royal Enfield Himalayan and it gives you comfort when you are travelling.
TSM: What are the preparations required before embarking on a trip
AS: Planning is an essential requirement and it needs a lot of time and effort for a conclusion of a successful trip.
As my journey was alongside the N27 Highway and had to travel through different states and also considering the pandemic situation across the country, I had to do a lot of research on the mapping of routes, distance to be covered each day, setting up a timeline for completion of a journey, rules and regulations set by the respective state government, precautions to be taken as per the state requirement, locating pit stops, accommodations, etc.
Apart from this I serviced Himalayan and fitted the back carrier and saddlebags and decided to carry a tent along with me to camp on a road if required.
As the journey was in the month of January when the temperature is likely to get low during the night; I decided to do a dry run at the farmhouse of my friend- Dr Vikas Chaudhary who has supported me throughout this journey.
TSM: Tell something about the protective gears you use
AS: This included LS 2 Riding Jacket, Shin Guard, Full Mask Helmet, Gloves and Riding Shoe.
TSM: Have you made any collaborative rides?
AS: I was part of the Nagaland Autumn Motor Rally in 1991 which is now part of the Hornbill festival.
TSM: One place you love visiting over and over again?
AS: Being born and brought up in Assam, northeast is a place that always fascinates me to explore.
TSM: Any message for the budding riders
AS: One has to be passionate about solo rides mainly for long-distance tours, country crossing borders, etc. It is always good to have someone accompanying you.
For a solo ride, one needs to be mentally and physically prepared but it gives you an unimaginable experience.
One should enjoy the momentum of the ride after all it is not just the destination but the path that leads to it.
The Story Mug, a Guwahati-based blogzine, believes in telling stories that matter.