They’re members of a biking club with a driving passion for wild adventure in the toughest terrain. tarun goswami gets to hear a fascinating story from Subrata Boral
WHAT do Subrata Boral, Shantanu Roychowdhury, Manas Sen and Indradeb Chatterjee have in common? Quite a lot, actually. They’re all in their mid-40s, have families to look after and spend busy days in office, as do most of us with mouths to feed. But what holds them together and has intensified the bonding is a passion for motorcycle adventure that has fetched them the rare honour of being recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records for biking to the Changchemno Range, situated at 20,488 feet. Long-distance bikers, they realise and accept the challenges thrown up by the roughest terrain, which makes what they do far more fascinating than any movie. Given that Bengalis are often criticised for their lack of courage to indulge in adventure, these four more than pass muster.
The North Kolkata Disha Motorcycle Club is well known for organising expeditions to the most remote corners of the country and being members, Boral, Roy Chowdhury, Sen, Chatterjee and Srikanta Biswas, under the guidance of veteran and well-known mountaineer Gautam Datta, successfully reached the Everest North Face base camp, situated at 17,200 feet in China, on 26 September 2000. To its credit, the team has twice found mention in the Limca Book of Records.
Boral is a trained mountaineer who learned the tricks of the trade, so to speak, at the National Institute of Mountaineering in Uttaranchal. After making the summits of several peaks, including two unnamed ones, he began to believe it would all be so much better if these remote areas could be reached on two-wheelers. The germ firmly planted, he left for a tour to Rajasthan in 1995, his long-distance debut, without telling his parents he would be doing so on a Suzuki Shogan 125-cc motorcycle. The trip was “very encouraging” and paved the way to a new world of excitement. Boral learned to ride on a 175-cc Rajdoot and then bought his own, a Hero Honda Sleek, in 1992. He now has a Bullet 350-cc, but employs lighter bikes on mountain runs as these are easier to manoeuvre.
In 1997, the North Kolkata Disha Motor Cycle Club conducted an expedition to Khardung La — a very tough run because one has to ride along non-metalled roads strewn with stones and pebbles. Not only is biking on this terrain difficult, one has to be extremely careful and intense patience is called for. The journey was a success and this gave the team the “get up and go” for Everest base camp run. Earlier, Boral had done a “char dham” to Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. It was a combination trip and then team had to leave their bikes at Gourikendra and walk up to Kedarnath. In 2003, Boral and his partners went off to Sandakphu, traversing a difficult and tiring terrain. “Long-distance biking requires a lot of tenacity. Not only should one be in optimum good health, one must have patience and a cool brain to face all odds. At high altitudes, the weather changes abruptly and one should have sound patience as snags often dampen the spirit and make bikers depressed,” says Boral.
In 2008, the club organised a mega event – a trip to the Changchemno Range near Marsemikla, situated close to the India-China border. Situated at 20,488 feet, the journey was not only challenging but difficult as well. The roads were steep and it was very cold. Also, the lack of oxygen often posed problems for the adventurous bikers. The dare was 20,000 feet and beyond and Boral and his mates did it, thereby earning the brightest feather for their collective hat.
Boral has slo done Mana Pass, situated at 18,399 feet. This is the highest motorable road, as claimed by the Border Road Organisation. What transpired makes for a fascinating story.
Free Souls Rider, a Delhi-based club, was organising a trip to Mana Pass in 2012 and invited participants from across the country. Boral&’s application was rejected twice and, finally, when he sent his bio data, the organisers had no other alternative but to include him in the team. On the day of the rally, just before the flagoff, all the other bikers who were using 350-cc and 500-cc motorcycles, raised questions as to whether it would be possible for Boral to complete the tour on a lightweight 150-cc Hero Honda Hunk. He certainly was the odd man out, wearing a T-shirt with a picture of Swami Vivekananda on the front, the others were clad in full bikers’ gear. The journey till Badrinath was peaceful, but problems cropped up when the administration told them they had not received any written instructions from Delhi about their journey. After much persuasion, the district magistrate of Josimath gave the clearance and the 11-member team were once again on the move. But more trouble awaited when the Indo-Tibetan Border Police refused them access to Mana Pass for lack of proper documents. Two bikers returned to to Joshimath for the required papers and in the process three days were lost. Finally the team left for its destination, situated at 18,399 feet. The distance was 56 km via Ghastoli, Rattakona and Jagaro. It was a difficult run, with the heavy bikes developing trouble that ranged from clutch problems to overheating and a thinning of tyres. Moreover, the road was full of boulders and many of the bikers fell and sustained injuries. “But our spirits were so high that we could ignore all the hindrances that came our way. Though the distance from Managram to Mana Pass was only 56 km, we could not cover it in a day and had stop and spend the night at a camp. The next morning we reached our destination and, while coming back, we faced two problems. The evening was lengthening and the weather became cold and winds began to blow. The bikes along the riders needed a rest. But the Army officials refused to keep us in their camp and asked us to go to Managram because of the biting cold. Negotiating the toughest road, we finally reached the base camp,” says Boral.
To inspire youth, Boral has set up Rajarhat Bikerz, and its team members, inspired by Tapas Chatterjee, chairman of Rajarhat Gopalpur municipality, reached Dhaka to participate in the Shahbag movement. Boral is now busy inspiring young people to take up adventure biking. “It gives them an opportunity to come close to nature and enjoy its beauty. It gives them self-confidence and develops patience, which is required to face the world we live in.”
An ardent follower of Swami Vivekananda whose message “not only makes one face the world but also builds enormous confidence”, Boral went to Kanyakumari on his motorcycle to celebrate Swamiji&’s 150th birth anniversary. Echoing his own motto, his message to youth is, “Be bold, have faith in yourself and you will reach the top some day.”