Monkeys, Motorcycles, and Misadventures by Harsha are the tale of three friends who decide to walk on this well known yet practically unknown journey on the footprints of Lord Hanuman. In Ramayana, Hanuman meets Ram in Kishkindha – somewhere near present-day Hampi in Karnataka. He then traveled back and forth to Sri Lanka various times. First in search of Sita, then as part of Lord Ram’s Army. And finally to get Sanjeevani Booti for Lakshman.
I am not sure if anyone else has attempted this journey – either in history or in the recent times. So, for me, this was a very intriguing journey to read about. The fact that author Harsha had a dream about taking this journey added to the intrigue. And true to the character of Hanuman Bhakts, there are no girls in the story. In fact, apart from a brief appearance of the family, it is all about – boys, journey & Hanuman.
At one level this is a story of 3 friends who set out on this crazy journey that passes through unknown trails and dense forests. The fact that the two friends agree to do this journey following the dream of a third friend – gives me lot of hope for tomorrow. Real world relationships are not dead yet. Friends, when they come together can achieve the unthinkable. For the reader, the journey of the 3 friends is as enticing as the route they followed. It’s their banter, their idiosyncrasies, their antics and their persistence and commitment that you enjoy. Their conversations add a spark when the journey gets a little dull. These conversations would also engage the younger readers who would relate to it more than I did. This track looks like a dream sequence, maybe it is.
At another level, this book is about faith. It is about taking a cue from a dream and create a journey route that you want to follow. It is about not knowing if and when you would be able to complete the journey. But nonetheless keep walking for you have faith and someone up there is performing the director’s role. And it is about faith to not stop when your body gives up or when your logical mind tells you to. It is about building faith in humanity. It is about faith between friends and it is about faith in the world at large. I am happy that author in an unapologetic way writes about his faith and at places the lack of it. He talks about the visions he had before and during the journey. Not many people today talk about it with sheer honesty.
As a traveler, it was the discovery of a route that we have known since childhood but never thought much about. It was an introduction to the jungles and the rules of the jungles (pun intended). More importantly, I read about so many temples dedicated to Lord Hanuman on this route that the epic came alive for me. If you ever had a doubt that it was not a real historical event, the temples at every step commemorating some event from the epic Ramayana remove that doubt. It was an introduction to the temples of Sri Lanka. And the place where Sita spent some time comes alive. I re-visited Sita Eliya with this story. I learned that Dakshin Kailasam there is located at the same latitude as Mount Kailash – is that not incredible.
You can also pick up some practical travel tips for long trekking trips – especially how not to pack in this book Monkeys, Motorcycles, and Misadventures.
There is a generous sprinkling of travel quotes that I enjoyed reading. I still wonder how they researched the whole route. Although Harsha has given a detailed bibliography at the end to share his sources of research. I am so happy someone took an offbeat journey and wrote about it – hope Harsha’s readers are inspired by his journey. And I also hope that he takes on more such journeys and writes about them.
Overall, Monkeys, Motorcycles, and Misadventures remain a quintessential boys’ journey – a free-willed journey to explore the world even when they are following a well-defined journey.