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On the highway for a cause

Fathers and Sons. In the 50’s they called it the generation gap. Then it lasted forty years, currently it lasts only as long as it takes to launch the latest silicon chip - just about four years. Swapnapriiya Manna writes about a unique bike trip with the aim to bridge this divide.

delhi Updated: Aug 17, 2009 22:34 IST
Swapnapriiya Manna

Fathers and Sons. In the 50’s they called it the generation gap. Then it lasted forty years, currently it lasts only as long as it takes to launch the latest silicon chip - just about four years. " Which makes me seven generations removed from my son! So if we have to get to really know one another – we have to be very very intentional," says Sanjiv, a 49 yr old Delhite, who is soon hitting the highway on a bike with his youngest son Ashish (21) to do "Whatever it takes", a 10 day bike trip to Leh (August 10 - 21).

This is not just about a let's-cruise-on-a-scooter-over-the-hills-and-through-the-valleys-in-the-sunset-and-with-the-warm-winds-in-our-face trip, Sanjiv and his son are joined by Martin, James, Stephen, Jeff and T Rajan, 3 copies of the 54 year Bullet Machismo and a support car and well not to forget a cause.

This trip as it is called " Whatever it takes" is a fund raising initiative by Commotion, a loose network of NGO’s that got its foundation after many conversations and endless cups of coffee, and was formed to catalyze a change in values and attitudes towards lesser privileged people in the city. The trip intends to raise money to get kids in Bengali Basti in Musoodpur, Vasant Kunj, a proper school. http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/images/BengaliBasti.jpg_250px.jpg

The settlement doesn’t actually have a name but Rajan, who started a school there, calls it the Bengali Basti; since most of the people living there are refugees from the borders of West Bengal and Bangladesh. " With no way of earning a living in their home towns they made their way to Delhi with the hope of a better future. And were they successful? I don’t know," says Sara Larsson, a representative of the group. " We live in an unequal world, and can easily be immune to suffering. Commotion is committed to make a sound in the city on behalf of those whose voices cannot be heard," she adds.

Apart from bringing together different sections in Delhi, this trip is bringing closer lives of people who somewhere got lost in the time warp of their busy city lives. That which would not have seem so obvious, this trip is for the father and the sons. " My life's been busy busy busy. And my 3 kids have had the worst of it-with each kid the next one had less of me. So me and the youngest are going on a bike to connect-father and son, up in the mountains, to discover what it feels like to do things together since the last time we did, which was a long time back," says Sanjeev, who works in city slums, villages, researches, teaches and has done a little of everything not so white collar.

Apart from the two fathers and their two sons there are Jeff (57) and Stephen (44) who have left their families behind for this trip. " When Martin, who is my mentor, mentioned, back in January, a mad motorbike trip from Delhi to Leh it instantly struck a chord in me. So here I am, sitting in Sanjiv’s house, in the heat of the Delhi monsoon season looking forward to riding a motorbike into the Indian Himalayas, out of the furnace to the freezer and then back to the furnace," says Stephen who served the British Army for 22 years, serving in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Kuwait as well as Germany and the UK. "

"In the early seventies India was the place you just had to go to – so I quit my job, packed all I could into my 1966 VW Camper Van and drove to India with my girl friend Yvonne. I have been fortunate to be able to keep coming back visiting old friends in between being a husband to a wonderful woman, (yes, the same one I married in Delhi) a father to three great Kids, as well as teaching, mentoring, coaching and counseling with a little time for writing and travel," says Martin who is on the trip with his son James (30).

The stunningly beautiful route runs through over 2000 km of Himalayan mountain 'roads' to the destination at 18,500 ft. This will be ten days of tough riding for driver and pillion passenger (yes pillion!). Heading north on Aug 10 are three bikes and a support vehicle, filled with clothes, food, spares, medical kit and other stuff men think they will need when they leave home. http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/images/Sanjiv-ashish_250px.jpg.jpg

"Honestly there aren't any expectations, the most unexpected thing has just happened, a ten day bike trip with my dad. I think I am going to leave it to several twists of fate and well broken roads up the mountains," says Ashish, Sanjeev's son.

The journey’s grand finale is a music event on Aug 21 which is on the same theme; “Whatever It Takes”. Royal Enfield also is a part of this trip and the sponsors for the bikes.

T Rajan who is probably the reason why all this came into place is part of a recently started programme, Sahaitha, for street kids in Saidulajab. He rented two cardboard houses in the basti to start a school here. " Its a trip of great vision to me. So as to get a school up and running for kids who never would have had the opportunity. They've never seen a computer. I am happy that after this trip they will, " said Rajan.

And just before the bikes arrive at Sanjiv's house for trial rides, this what he has to say " I haven't driven an Enfield for 15 years. Or for all that matter any two wheeler for any significant distance since then. And I'm a bit out of shape, low on stamina, creaky knees, stress neck, kidney stones... might there be a war? Crazy how one generation passes on DNA to another, good and bad. That’s why we’re on this trip, to break the cycle."