The Solo Biker

Born in a middle class family in Chapra( Bihar), there was no motorbike in the family. In 1985 when he was only 15, motorbike was a status symbol then and was mostly used to commute in the city.

His childhood friend, Pratap had a Rajdoot 150 cc, and Shamim learnt riding on it. Pratap’s family considers him as their own so taking that bike whenever he wanted was never a problem. Since his early riding days Shamim used to prefer to ride alone.

By the time he was 18, he rode all over Bihar on that bike solo. On his 20th birthday his father gifted him a Hero Honda 100cc which were like wings to him. He decided to ride from Chapra to Kathmandu, an unchartered territory at that time. Nobody agreed to be his pillion and rather he was scorned at. So, he decided to ride all the way solo. He not only reached Kathmandu, but covered almost half of Nepal in that ride.

The majestic Himalayas, the mountain road, the cool breeze on the face, left an everlasting impression on him. He was simultaneously taking pictures as he had been practicing on his Russian SLR since the age of 10. He was also shooting commercially since the age of 15. Seeing the Himalayas and nature at its best in Nepal, something that worldly got seeded in him. Biking to him was no longer just to feel the thrill of speed and control. It became his medium to be able to ride to serene places where he was “able” to talk to the forces of nature. He knew that this romance of solo riding was there to stay for life.

During his graduation days in Patna, he rode several times to Nepal and covered almost all of Nepal. The thirst for riding to new places kept rising and then he decided to venture into north east India. In 1991, he rode to Darjeeling, Sikkim, Bhutan, and Assam. He was mesmerized at the sheer beauty of nature and hoped that all his life he would only ride and take pictures.

Destiny works in strange ways, and he qualified JawaharLal Nehru University M.A. entrance test and came all the way from Patna to Delhi on his 100cc bike with one small back pack in 1992.

From Delhi, he rode to the entire Uttrakhand ( Nainital, Almora, Pithoragarh, Haridwar, Rishikesh, Joshimath, Badrinath …) and found that if there is one place to settle down in the spiritual Himalayas, it’s Almora.

Then he rode all over Himachal Pradesh, covering the remotest villages, taking mostly off roads. In 1994, he decided to ride to Ladakh. He had no idea of the tough terrain neither did he knew about his 100 cc bike’s short comings. Still he managed to cross the Rohtang pass with great difficulty and then the bike “refused” to go any further. With a heavy heart, he returned.

Despite being a foot loose solo wanderer, he was equally responsible towards his family. So, for the sake of family and following his father’s “direction” he prepared for civil service, managed to qualify and became an IAS (Allied) officer through the 1995 UPSC Civil Services exam. He married Sasmita in 1997 and was posted to Lakshadweep after training.

The poor road warrior ended up in Lakshadweep, the beautiful coral island group , where the largest island is of 9 km in length and in some places less than half a kilometer in breath. His official vehicle was a scooter, some solace indeed. He used to ride with his newly wedded wife several times on the only road of the island just to get the feel of a long ride!

When transferred back, he stayed back in Kerala for a fortnight and borrowed a bike from a very special friend, and rode extensively in the state. Riding in Kerala was altogether a different feeling to this hilly rider. Nonetheless, Kerala is truly a blessed land. One can come across sea shore to backwater and thick forests till the hill station of Munar , just in about 100km.

After coming back to Delhi, he became a domesticated animal and a cog in the machine taking care of his newly born daughter and a big family of eight siblings younger to him.

Biking took the back seat and now he was more of a “ formal” guy sitting in his official Gypsy and at times going on family vacation in car. But still after serving three years as SDM from Tees Hazari Court , in the summer of 2002, he could not take it any more and entered on two months leave. He borrowed his younger brothers’ bike CBZ and rode in Uttrakhand for two months all by himself.

He hadn’t yet got over the pain of not being able to reach Leh. Finally listening to his inner soul, in 2006, he got his own bike Thunderbird 350 cc.

Within three days he rode his new bullet for 500 km on highways and got the first service done. Ladakh was calling, and he made the entire circle from Delhi to Manali ,Leh, Kargil, Daras to Srinagar, and back to Delhi in just 11 days. The trip was fulfilling and he returned again in 2008 riding solo. In 18 days, he managed to cover the entire region of Ladakh including all the four lakes. That ride resulted in his another coffee table book “Rode to Heaven- Ladakh “which became a best seller in no time.

He again rode to Ladakh solo in 2012 to capture the region with a different point of view. That ride resulted in " Ladakh hues" a body of Infra-Red photography, one of its kind.

Now, he knew that biking will always be a part of his life. In the year 2014, He took three months leave and went to North East. He traversed all the seven sisters and ventured into some of the remotest areas of the region. This was probably the first of its kind solo ride by anybody in India, where a solo rider took all the offroads without coming back to Assam again and again to reach to another state. He is working on his subsequent coffee table books on North East India, which could be an eye opener for many.

As a biker, Shamim is highly disciplined and in his riding life of more than a lakh kilometres, he has not met with any untoward incident. He believes that solo biking lifts his confidence and gives him a chance to connect with different kinds of people. This enables him to achieve the goal of becoming a better human being. 

He is inspired by Sherpa Tenzing‘s  words,

“ Climb, if you will,
but remember, that all the courage and strength are naught without prudence,
do nothing in haste,
look well to each step,
and
from beginning, think what may be the end.

Ride free, Ride safe.