204 days, 30,000 kilometres: Malayali duo's bike journey into the villages


Ashmila Begum

A bike journey encompassing the culinary patterns, culture and heritage of the villages adjacent to India’s neighbouring countries including Nepal, Myanmar, Bhutan, Pakistan, China, and Bangladesh.

204 days. 30,000 kilometers…Kalpetta resident Yaseen and Koduvalli resident Fayiz are on a bewitching journey, exploring the villages located along the borders of India. They are at the peak of elation after breathing in the beauty of the places that they have read about in their social studies textbooks. An abundance of sights and a plethora of memories! The sole mission behind their journey that started on 12th December 2020 was to see and experience India. A bike journey taking in the essence of the villages adjacent to India’s neighbouring countries including Nepal, Myanmar, Bhutan, Pakistan, China, and Bangladesh, and experiencing their culinary patterns, culture, and heritage. They have also started a YouTube channel that goes by the name ‘Yaseen Vlogs’. Here is a sneak peek into the story of their journey and the irreplaceable memories that they have collected.

Longleng, a mystery

It was during their journey to Assam that they learned about Longleng, a district bordered by Mon district in the north. The people who live here are the ethnic group of Konyaks called the ‘Headhunters’, who rip off the heads of their enemies and store them at their houses. For each head that is ripped off, a new tattoo is inked on their body. This village is still under the rule of a king. Half of the castle lies in Myanmar and the other half in India. The king rules over 62 villages out of which 32 are in Myanmar and 30 are in India. Born warriors, they are said to have defeated even the British. This village has taken up the manufacture of guns to be used by the king as a cottage industry.

The wonders of Arunachal

They harboured a desire to see the sights of Arunachal, a place that has not received many travellers. Kaho, a village on the Chinese border is the first village of Northern India. They consider it their luck to have witnessed the sunrise in Dong, a village that receives the first sun rays in India, and resided there as well.

The life and the homes of Apatani tribal group living in the Ziro valley in Arunachal Pradesh are considered eccentric. In the olden days, the women of the tribe would pierce their noses and tattoo their faces to stay safe from the men of different groups. The last generation of these women resides there now. They got to the town of Mechuka after going off-road for almost 300 kilometres. A land without network, a land untouched by outsiders.

A plan that sprouted during lockdown

Yaseen and Fayiz started preparing for the journey when the lockdown was declared in India in March, 2020. They listed out the places that they had read about in the Indian edition of the book named ‘Lonely Planet’. The next step that lay ahead of them was to get to know those places. They formulated a solid plan after reading travel blogs and journals and by watching videos on YouTube. The journey started from Yaseen’s home at Kalpetta.

They experienced a wholesome journey by mingling with the locals. Even as the country is under the grasp of the second lockdown, these youngsters are still travelling. They found the money to meet the travelling expenses by taking a loan. The hike in the petrol prices during their journey has impacted the overall expenses. The income from YouTube has been of great help for them.

A fruit of travelling, their friendship

Fayiz, who had lost his way from Hyderabad during his journey to Ladakh in 2018 was helped by Yaseen. When they got acquainted, it became clear that they were both building on the foundation of a common dream and that led to the birth of a beautiful friendship. They were conquered by the ardent desire to travel all throughout India. They met Batheri residents Lalu Noushad and Manu Shaju in Guwahati. They have been with the two of them since then. Yaseen is the son of Abdul Basheer and Ramla and Fayiz is the son of Syed Mohammed. They believe that the love and support of their families is their greatest strength. As they set off on their journey back home, new dreams have started to set up camp in their hearts.

The sights of Mizoram

The people of Mizo village still continue to communicate through walkie-talkies. A village on the brim of being converted into a town with its people craving for every bit of development that they can get. Moreh is a town that will grant entry into Myanmar upon paying a tax of Rs. 10. One can spend time frolicking around in Myanmar from ten in the morning to four in the evening and return after that.

Mendhar in the midst of the Vale of Kashmir

They arrived in Kashmir during the second wave of the Covid pandemic. Complete lockdown meant no stepping out of houses. The Indian village of Mendhar in the Poonch district. An air of constant fear and hardships fills the lives of these people living near the India-Pakistan Line of Control. The community is forced to witness the havoc wreaked by encroachers and the defence exhibited by the Indian army. A month of seclusion taught them the importance of freedom and peace. The dream of travellers, Ladakh, Leh, Nubra Valley, Pangong, and Chang La Pass sketched out an adventurous journey for them.

In the land of Aryans

Aryan Valley, the land that belongs to the people who claim to be the real Aryans and the successors of Emperor Alexander. The land of ‘Pregnancy Tourism’ where women from other countries including Europe visit and conceive there. The houses are as old as nearly 200 years. The region is sandwiched between Kargil and Leh with the population being predominantly Buddhists. These people who live near the valley seldom interact with other people.

The omnipresent Malayalis

Malayalis accompanied them on their journey and were always keen to help. They visited the Mizoram governor, P. S. Sreedharan Pillai at Raj Bhavan. Malayalis run schools and other educational institutions in the North-eastern states of India and were of great help to them. Manoj, a Malayali provided them food and residence for a month. Idukki resident Pradeep, a Mizoram police officer invited them to his home. Malayali officers in the Indian Army were down to help in all ways that they could.

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