Aravind KP is a boy at heart, an impish one. Every time I meet him I am pleasantly surprised by it. This time it was all the more surprising because now he was no longer another off-road specialist, he was a Dakar finisher. To him, or to anyone who attempts the Dakar, or even follows the Dakar, it is no less than a victory; the first time around, anyway. Chatting with him about his successful Dakar outing, he drew me into his moments of fear and angst. The last day of the Dakar, just 100kms to the finish he kept leaning down on his RTR 450, rolling off the throttle, listening to his Sherco TVS’ engine for any signs of trouble. Even if he did that a 100 times a kilometre, I’d still think it perfectly sane. Just babying it, “just” making it to the finish. That’s all he wanted. He got it. The weight of his ambition shouldered for three beastly years, now lifted off of him. Each day of the Dakar only increased the weight on his shoulders. The 2019 Dakar unravelled in the Peruvian desert, unleashing many tricks and surprises on the wannabe conquistadors. The desert’s trickery didn’t confound him. “I’m good at navigation”, he quips in a matter of fact way talking about navigating through sand dunes, a skill that many Dakar veterans loathe and fear. “It was the most physical Dakar. Even the others were saying so,” he said in a somewhat pensive manner as his mind flitted back to the ominous sand dunes, with 600-metre ascents and 700-metre descents, threatening him to give up. He snaps back to the here and now as young racers start to whizz past on the track. Aravind KP is not just another rider sitting on the sidelines of the Pune Invitational Supercross. He is here to inspire and to guide the next generation of riders towards success. Another aficionado, recognising KP joins in the chat. Aravind is the embodiment of humbleness, “Sir”-ing his way through the congratulations. He points out a rider leading the pack, Ishan Deshmukh he says is one to watch out for. We chat about growing awareness of off-road and new tracks in and around Pune.
It was a great evening for me, but there was a major win too. For Motorcycles. For passion. For me. Even though I begged, thundered and cajoled, a certain five-year-old refused to step down from his seat. The five-year-old refused to take a selfie with India’s second Dakar finisher. That’s because the five-year-old refused to look away from the action on the track. The five-year-old didn’t want to miss the sight of the Kawasakis, Suzukis and KTMs slapping the whoops, jumping the tops or gassing it out of the berms. We took the selfie, to chronicle a great catch-up. No different from the ones that I would have requested Aravind for in the past. But, I’ll always remember this picture as a moment; a moment that talks of the peaks that the journey of motorcycling passion takes you on and when it stirs strongly for the first time.