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“Almost 60% of my body is metal!”

Shashank Sathe, CTO, Aditya Birla Money MyUniverse, on his love for mean machines and how even seven-life threatening accidents won’t keep him away from biking. By Satyaki Sarkar

A hardcore hands-on technologist, Shashank Sathe has been in the IT profession for over 23 years. He specialises in Internet technology and digital media, and his core expertise lies in inclusive financial services, remittance, e-banking, rich Internet applications, and high-availability computing. An avid biker, Shashank talks to us about his love for biking and touring.

Starting early
“My fascination with motorcycles started in 1984, when I was in Std 9,” says Shashank. “I used to watch a lot of Moto GP races, as well as read a lot of touring related articles and news magazines. I bought my first bike as early as I could and have been riding motorcycles ever since. Riding a bike gives me a sense of freedom and satisfaction, while somehow disengaging me from all the other troubles of life, be it family or work pressure, financial pressure, project timelines delivery pressure, etc. Once you’re in the saddle and are riding down the wide open road all of it just gets left behind. Driving, in contrast to motorcycling, keeps you isolated and protected to some extent. If nothing else, you have a full metal cage around you and four-wheels to commute on. Motorcycling is all about being exposed and being one with the elements. There is nothing quite like the air in your hair and bugs in your teeth (in case of an open-face helmet)! That feeling is one of the major reasons why I took up biking. It gives me a phenomenal sense of freedom, self-reliance, and independence.”

On being a biker
“There’s the age-old debate between sports bike enthusiasts and cruiser aficionados. I’d say that I’m neither, but rather a mix of both. I am an adventure sport kind of a person, so I love the tarmac as much as I love offroading. So the motorcycles I prefer are essentially of the dual-sport category. But I am no speed freak. I’ve been in seven life-threatening accidents so far. And though they’ve all been biking related, none were due to speeding, carelessness, or recklessness. Almost 60 per cent of my body is metal, including my right leg, left hip joint, and left shoulder joint. I also have metallic clamps in my spine, and except for my skull almost every other bone in my body has some metallic fixtures! However, I have never let any of that affect my love for riding. I will ride as long as I physically can, and when I can’t, I will start riding a trike, which is a three-wheel motorcycle.”

It’s the ride that matters
“The very dynamism and unpredictability of a journey gives me a high. I can even correlate my day-to-day activities with motorcycling, from discipline and planning to expecting the unexpected and having a mitigation strategy for anything that goes wrong. Out there on the road you are on your own, so have to have all the bases covered; ride with passion and think as if every vehicle on the road is out there to kill you. To me, motorcycling is a curious concoction of a sense of constant insecurity, risk, and heart-stopping thrill, along with the experience of visiting countless places you never knew of, trying out new cuisines, and getting to know more about the country. It’s not as much only about the destination, but it’s even more so about the ride that matters. It is said that while fledgling riders choose a destination, seasoned riders simply choose a direction.”

The biggest lesson
“Motorcycling has taught me to never give up. Looking back on all the accidents I’ve been in and the situations that I’ve faced, the chances of surviving them were probably one out of two hundred. I have crawled to the side of the road with multiple shattered bones, somehow enduring the excruciating agony, while waiting for help to arrive. Every fall makes you wiser and smarter; so you automatically learn not to make the same mistakes. You tend to be more alert, more prepared and more pro-active to handle the unseen and unplanned. Riding is all about being able to predict what the vehicle ahead of you is going to do the next. Courage, perseverance, planning, discipline, respect, empathy, alertness, mitigation, sharp reflexes, and humbleness are some of the attributes you imbibe thanks to motorcycling, in perhaps the most unforgiving manner.”

Making dreams come true
“I currently ride a Kawasaki Ninja 650R, and owning it has been a long-awaited dream come true. Back in 1985-86, I studied at Wilson College in Mumbai. While returning home every day I’d pass the Sah & Sanghi showroom near Chowpatty which had a Kawasaki Ninja on display. Being just a college kid I obviously wasn’t financially equipped to buy a bike like that. My parents believed in a strict, no-nonsense upbringing, and told me that I would have to earn whatever I wanted. There would be no free lunches. So I promised myself that I’d work hard and own a motorcycle like that one day. Three and a half years ago, I achieve that dream of mine! I take care of the bike myself, doing everything from maintenance to repairs, as much as I can on my own. I firmly believe that any good motorcyclist has a responsibility towards his bike, and should maintain it himself. Out there in the wilderness, a well cared-for and well maintained machine will never give up on you, ever!”

Finding likeminded tourers
“I am a member of three motorcycle groups—one is the Kawasaki Ninja 650 Owners Group (K.N.O.G.), which is pan-India with over 400+ members. The second is West Coast Riders, a group of good friends from western Maharashtra; anyone can join without any fee. The third is The Sultans, a group of very close friends/brothers from different mothers. We all usually ride together everywhere/wherever we can. We’re all great friends and we ride out almost every weekend. We meet up Saturday morning for a breakfast ride out of the city either towards Surat, Nashik, Pune, Panchgani, or Alibaug. We head out at 5 am and come back home by noon. We also do interstate rides every quarter. In fact in December 2016, 17 of us rode from Mumbai to Gir Forest, Somnath, Dwarka, Porbunder. It was a 10-day ride. We also covered Dholavira, the Harrappan ruins of the Rann of Kutch, Rann Fest, Dhordo, Mandvi before coming back.”

An unforgettable experience
“One of my favourite experiences was riding to the Himalayas. The road was incredibly scenic. The Himalayas are simply heavenly, and for motorcyclists they are the ultimate nirvana. While riding there I witnessed many unique sights. Once I got to witness all the seasons of nature in a single frame—bright sunrays falling on lush green, rolling fields on my left, a light drizzle where I was standing, and mild snowfall in the distant horizon towards my right on the snow-capped Himalayas, with a dual-rainbow appearing midway. This was an intensely humbling experience. I had tears in my eyes. I simply didn’t know what to do other than just sit there and soak in the whole scene. It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Another such experience was sleeping under the starlit sky at Chandertal Lake on a full moon night. The crystal clear water of the lake acts as the perfect reflection of the starlit sky and the entire experience is downright awe-inspiring, mesmerising, and humbling. Such experiences always make me realise how insignificant we humans are in comparison to the might of nature and all the Lord’s creations.”

Upcoming adventures
“I have ridden to almost all parts of India. What remains now is the north-east, specifically Bhutan, Nepal, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. In February I am planning a ride to Thailand via Imphal, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia. It will be a month-long trip. Although the planning is on I don’t know if it will materialise owing to the civil war going on in Myanmar. If that ride doesn’t happen I plan to do a small roundtrip down south to Bandipur Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, Dhanushkodi, Pondicherry, and the Vivekananda Rock Memorial in Kanyakumari. In addition to that, there is a yearly pilgrimage ride planned to Leh and Ladakh in June/July. I also plan to ride all over Iceland as I’ve heard that it is scenic beyond words and I want to witness the Aurora Borealis. I’m aware that it is a tall claim, but there are many friends who have already done it and so I believe I will too!” 

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