by "Burn" for webBikeWorld.com
One Life to Ride
by Ajit Harisinghani
Bibliophile South Asia,
Softcover, 226 Pages, Text
Price: 195 Rupees ($22.65)
It isn't hard to get me interested in a motorcycle book.
It's the reading part that's tough.
Not that I don't love to read, mind you.
It's just that like everyone else in our modern world, I'm so used to sucking down information fast and furious via the Tube that having to actually work at it by running my eyeballs across a page is too much like work.
And my brain -- ouch! You mean I have to put it in gear too?
It's like raking the leaves. I can't just jump up from the dinner table and run outside and start raking.
I have to work up to it. Sometimes, it takes me a couple of weeks to work up to it. Sometimes, it takes months...
That's why Ajit Harisinghani's book "One Life to Ride" sat in the pile after it arrived, collecting dust before I finally talked myself into peeling back the cover to see what's inside.
I'm glad I did. I should have done it sooner.
The problem with most of the motorcycle adventure books I've read is that, well, they're not written by writers.
By that I mean they're usually written by people who think they can write and who think that just because they went off on a long trip somewhere and brought along a laptop that the rest of us really care.
The fact of the matter is that a true adventure yarn is way more than a diary that reads like a ship's log.
We don't really care if your bike took two rather than three liters of oil the 12th day into the journey.
In fact, a good motorcycle adventure story will only peripherally mention the bike.
Yes, it's there, in the background, and serves as the sort of canvas that holds the ink, but the real story is in the impression of the color, the art and what it says.
A good motorcycle adventure book will be just as interesting to non-motorcyclists also.
An example or two can be found in the webBikeWorld book reviews.
Surprisingly -- or maybe not -- the best ones were written by authors you never heard of, like Frank Huffman's classic Monks and Motorcycles and Theresa Wallach's book The Rugged Road, to name a pair.
These are stories written by people who understood the romance of the road, the nature of an adventure and who were eager to learn everything they could about different cultures and traditions.
They also knew how to convey the freshness and excitement and awe to their audience.
One Life to Ride joins that august club, because it too captures this essence.
A promise to a dying friend and a lifelong devotion to that most peculiar of motorcycles, the new/old Royal Enfield, ignited the spark that started this tale.
What is unique is that it is of India by an Indian, looking at his country, his people and his culture with the objectivity of an outsider but with an insider's depth of knowledge and understanding.
India seems a mythical land to the rest of us, and we could never hope to understand such a deep and complex world even if we took 1,000 journeys across the vast sub-continent.
But Mr. Harisinghani has spun a wonderful narrative of a journey where you're riding pillion on a 4,300 kilometer adventure from Pune in west-central India all the way north, through Jaipur and New Delhi, all the way up to Leh and Jammu.
It's fun, it's exciting, it's spiritual with a sense of humor and you'll learn a lot about a fantastic and varied country and a culture that is one of the foundations of the human race.
Highly recommended, One Life to Ride would make a great surprise holiday gift for any of your book-loving, adventure-seeking friends, motorcyclists or not.
Publication Date: November 2008