“Not all those who wander are lost.”
J. R. R. Tolkien
For Rohith Subramanian, Monday morning blues is listening to Eric Clapton sitting on a hillock sipping hot tea as he watches the sun rise over the horizon. He’ll probably take his own sweet time doing this because there are chances he will get caught in the rush hour -- traffic that comprises herds of cows and goats. He knows it’s the best kind of jam to be stuck in. The jingle of the cow bells set the rhythm for the day and the curious nibbling of his fingers by the billy goat is an acknowledgement that all’s well with the world.
Jealous? I am too. In fact, I am envious of all those who get to set off on the road just so they can feel the breeze on their face and cherish each moment even as they leave one scenery after another in a blink. The act of moving itself provides the perfect lesson to living in the present.
Rohith is all of 21 and has embarked on a road journey on his Royal Enfield that will take him to 46 countries in the next one-and-a-half-years covering over one lakh kilometers. That is one big target for so young a person. But if you were to see him, you’ll think Rohith is much older, and not only because of his long beard. Having been on the road for nearly a month now, the many kilometers have added a certain kind of wisdom that reflects on the faces of those who befriend the road less travelled.
Having set off from Chennai, his hometown, last month, Rohith was in Bengaluru recently en route to Hampi. Taking time out to talk to me, Rohith says that the journey has taught him to become a patient listener. “I think I have developed my sensitivity. I pay more attention to minute details, and am realizing that no matter how much we plan, we have to give in to uncertainties of the road or the weather or plans gone awry because of a bike breakdown,” he says.
It sounds like a dream to take off like that without a care in the world. But what about the funds? It seems Rohith’s decision to do this was not a spur of the moment one.
“It all started last year. I have a crowdfunding startup called FundMyDream, and we (with his co-founder) thought we’ll use our platform to run my travel campaign.”
Rohith has since stepped down as its CEO but still holds a stake in the startup. So far, Rohith has managed to raise Rs 6 lakhs which he is keeping aside for the international leg of his tour.
For the Indian leg of his journey, Rohith found a smart option. He approached different brands and companies to sponsor his ride. So Wrangler is sponsoring his clothes, WickedRide, a luxury bike rental company, is his on-ground partner that helps organize bike meetups for him. In return, he talks about them to bike enthusiasts and anyone else who may be interested.
Zeus is sponsoring his cool riding gear, and you won’t believe this, but he has even got a sponsor for his beard!
“Actually, it is interesting how this turned out. Last year, when I was meeting potential sponsors, I realised that no one was taking me seriously. They all thought I was some computer hacker nerd,” he tells me. To prove to people on the other side of the table about his serious intentions, he decided to grow a beard. As you can see, the trick worked, and he managed to pocket the above-mentioned sponsors. “On a lark, I approached Ustaraa that makes grooming products for men, enquiring if they will sponsor my beard.” Voila! That worked out too. There’s also a wellness company for which he is championing its universal brotherhood concept of spreading unity.
At the time of writing this, Rohith had already covered all the southern states and was in Goa chilling out on the beach playing football with a few early participants of the India Bike Week scheduled there from February 19.
“I had a fantastic ride from Gokarna to Goa. In fact, all my rides are memorable. But more importantly, I consider this to be a journey of self-discovery,”
he tells me over the phone from Goa. His feet dug into the cool, wet sands as he lounges under the shade of an umbrella (at least that’s what I imagined while talking to him!).
Rohith, who carries a small duffel bag with his clothes and essentials, his laptop and chargers, believes in traveling light. He has a GoPro attached to his helmet that records every second of his journey. “Through my travel so far I have crossed different terrains where people speak in a variety of languages and eat food that is at once familiar as it is different,” he says.
Strangers have welcomed him into their homes and offered food and shelter, and in places where he was unable to find a local host, he has not shied away from making the bus-stop or even a police station his night halt. “I reckon that if my stuff gets stolen I would have to come here anyway to lodge a complaint so might as well,” he says as a matter of fact.
To get a feel of the “real” India, Rohith also pitches in to help a roadside chaiwallah in his stall or carry a farmer’s basket with him to the fields.
Since childhood, he has harboured a desire to pick careers of a bus driver or a shoe-polishwallah, and similar odd jobs, and this helps him relive those dreams.
In 2014, along with a friend, Rohith started FundMyDream when he walked out of an internship session while studying for his integrated MBA degree. “I had had enough of internships. As I was coming out of the management building, I met a friend who was complaining that he wanted to make a film but there was no way he could find a sponsor. I decided to help him, and managed to get him some finance through my network,” he says.
Last year, Rohith came across an online article written by a 40-year-old American where he regretted that he could not pursue his dream of travelling the world when he was in his 20s. “It made me think long and hard about it. I had always loved riding a bike, and I suddenly realised that the article was telling me to go after my dreams,” he adds.
This journey, says Rohith, is as much about seeing the world as it is a journey inwards. He adds that riding a motorcycle for him is an act of meditation, “it’s about connecting the dots.” That’s a Zen thought that maybe Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenence: An Inquiry Into Values, would testify to. For he writes in the book,
“The place to improve the world is first in one's own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.”
(Images courtesy Rohith)