This article is brought to you by TVS.
Photographer Megha Chakraborty was a self-confessed city commuter. She got her first Scooty at the age of 15 and would use it to go for tuitions while studying for her Board exams. But when she saw the ad calling for applications for Season 2 of Himalayan Highs, she decided to apply anyway.
“I sent in my video despite the fact that I was not comfortable in front of the camera and have always preferred to be behind it. I was not expecting to make it because I thought experienced riders would be applying. When I got the call, it took time to sink in. Even after I reached Bengaluru for the final round, I still did not know what to expect. I met all these riders who were talking about their rides, and I had nothing to say. But I was confident that I was a good rider,” says Megha.
Following the final audition and medical exam, Megha was among the 10 finalists who would join Anam Hashim from Season 1 of Himalayan Highs, on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure riding to Khardung La on the TVS Scooty Zest 110.
“During the final riding test, all I can remember is thinking ‘don’t fall, don’t fall’. But after the test, I had a feeling that I may be selected. So, when it did happen, while excited, I was also scared because I had no idea what to expect because I had never been to a place like this. I was wondering what the roads and the weather would be like. It was a mixed bag of emotions.”
Megha says her primary focus was reaching Khardung La. “I just wanted to complete the ride. I kept telling myself I had to finish this and not give up. I kept telling myself that I could not fall sick,” she says.
But all the trepidation and anticipation did not prepare Megha and her fellow riders for what was in store. “As soon as we started from Mandi, it began raining and we were completely drenched on the first day of the ride. It was cold and I was praying that it would not rain the next day. We spent the night drying out our gear. When we started the next day, our entire focus was on the road. We had been told there were water crossings, bad roads, uneven terrain and sharp turns. I was not used to any of these things. But the Scooty was stable and we managed,” she says.
“After Solang Valley, temperatures suddenly dropped. I am only used to the cold in Bilaspur and Pune. I had no idea what to do in temperatures of 4°C. The terrain also kept changing. But I could not get distracted as we inched along. ”
“The other thing I was anticipating was the food. I was eating only vegetarian food till we reached Nubra. We got momos, thukpa, and parathas. In Pang, we met Sonam Aunty, who owned the hotel we stayed at. She cooked us wonderful food and told us that we should eat only vegetarian food at this altitude,” says Megha.
The riders rested in Leh for two days before proceeding to Khardung La. “That was when the feeling sunk in that we were almost there. All that anticipation had built up to this moment. But Khardung La is at about 18,000 feet and the oxygen is very thin. All I kept telling myself was don’t faint,” she says.
Megha also has fond memories of the 10 other riders. “We became really good friends. Before the ride, I anticipated a proper biker crowd that was much older. Also, I am an introvert, so I did not know if I would be able to interact and talk to people. But we bonded and were helping each other continuously,” she says.
The other thing Megha did not anticipate was a place in the India Book of Records with her fellow riders. Their certificates and trophies were waiting for them at the end of the ride and it was a complete surprise. “We were teary-eyed and very excited,” she says.
Megha says this adventure has made her more outgoing and confident at work. “I can feel the difference. Earlier, I would prefer to communicate with clients via WhatsApp and mail. Now, I pick up the phone and call. I take initiative. Even my work style is more decided. Even when things go bad, I know I can deal with the situation and get the work done.”
She cites an instance. “I had a pre-wedding outdoor shoot recently and it started raining. We had not anticipated rain and we were not really prepared. I did not want to reschedule and the client also did not have time for the next two-three months. We put the cameras in plastic bags and continued. We finished the shoot and the pictures looked great. I’ve learned not to put off things for later,” says Megha.
She recommends that everyone visit the area to enjoy its pristine beauty, and dreams of a time when she can go back and relive this ride. It is this feeling that the filmmaker aims to capture in his interpretation of anticipation in the video. And just like Megha’s dream to return to the valley, one can only anticipate what will happen next.
You can see anticipation, the fifth video in the Himalayan High Season 2 Series here.
Watch the other videos from the Himalayan High Season 2 Series here.