The lawyer who befriended Aslan
Vishal Jaju, a lawyer by profession, a traveller by choice. Partner with Jurist Chambers, a law firm. Into legal profession since last 12 years. Married to Mamta Jaju, a lawyer too. A Royal Enfield rider and a member of motorcycling club called Bisons Ride Hard.
He recently started a community called “The WanderLust”. The WanderLust is a platform specially created for people who love travelling and exploring new terrain, countries, lands and generally the world. It’s a platform for the wanderers to dream beyond limits and take the plunge into the world of limitless travel and adventure. After all, what is life but an adventure for all of us. While some take up the challenge and prove themselves the masters of the road, some choose security over the unpredictable journey up ahead. Through The WanderLust, we give the space to travelers to come together and share dreams, expeditions, experiences and travel stories.
1. What inspired you get behind the handlebar?
“Explore the unexplored” that’s the only inspiration I have to get behind the handlebar. I always wanted to travel and explore more on the countryside. When I was in Goa for a vacation, I hired a Classic 500 to explore Goa. That was the day I decided to buy myself 2 wheels and specifically the RE Classic 500 to explore the beautiful countryside.
2. What set of wheels do you own other than the Royal Enfield?
Apart from Desert Storm, I have Skoda Laura (L&K) and a Maruti D’zire.
3. Can you tell us more about your relationship with your bike – Aslan?
Aslan and I share a different bond. Firstly, because it’s my dream machine bought with my own funds and Secondly, because of this machine I got the opportunity to travel across India, explore more and meet fabulous people like you guys. And Aslan never disappointed me or put me in trouble on treacherous terrains like Spiti and Zanskar. He is a true friend.
4. How would you define your traveling style? (Example: Family, adventure, paced)
I am a laid back traveller who loves to travel to explore more, learn different cultures, enjoy food, meeting people on the road and interact. Adventure is always a part of any travel but still I will call myself a laid back traveller who loves to enjoy roads and road sides.
5. Was an incident on the highway where you felt touched by human kindness?
Yes. Once when we were travelling to Nathu La in Sikkim and just before 2 km of Nathu La, Aslan’s rear wheel got punctured and we had only an hour’s time to reach Nathu La before it closes for a day. I left Alsan on the road side near an Army camp and moved ahead to explore Nathu La and Zuluk (Silk Route) and when I came back next day to pick up my bike, I realized the Army personnel from that Camp had already taken my bike to their service station inside and got the puncture fixed. When I went there inquiring about my bike, they told me that they have already fixed the puncture and invited me inside their barracks to have lunch with them. While leaving from the camp, they also offered me a bag filled with juices and biscuits. Its experiences like these and kindness from strangers that makes road travel and exploration the absolutely only way to go!
6. What inspired you to start “The Wanderlust”?
Since the time I started traveling and interacted with fellow travellers on the road, I came to know one thing that most of the people who are traveling are doing so with basic knowledge of the terrain they are visiting. Upon reaching there, they come to know about a lot more in that area which they hadn’t heard of and which they ideally must visit. So the idea cropped up in my mind as to why not to have a community of travellers where people can get information from the fellow travellers only, who have already visited that destination and how to plan and prepare for the same. And that was the only thought behind forming of “The WanderLust”. In WanderLust, we are promoting various ideas of responsible travelling and encouraging people to travel leaving behind their inhibitions.
7. Can you tell us about the future plans for Wanderlust? What’s the secret behind the phenomenal growth on Facebook?
At the moment, we are only concentrating on encouraging people to travel and explore while providing information for their travel plans. We believe in responsible traveling and exploring more in least cost hence providing support for fellow travelers about home stays, hostels and other relevant information and logistics.
On Facebook, we got a lot of support from all the fellow travellers because everyone liked the idea behind the WanderLust and promoted the same in their friend circles too.
8. Which is your favorite highway in India? and Why?
It’s the “road” from Kaza to Gramphoo and a road leading to Zanskar valley. I am calling these routes as ‘roads’ because the government calls them so but there are no roads. Only tyre marks are to be followed for you to reach the destination. Though these are not highways but have given me memorable moments to cherish for life.
9. You are a member of Bisons Ride Hard MC in Mumbai. What role do you think clubs can play in promoting road travel in India?
Biking clubs are already playing an important role in promoting road travel in India. They are encouraging their members to explore new destinations by arranging monthly rides. They are also educating their riders about ride safety and traffic rules and how to be responsible riders. Encouraging riders to travel to different destinations apart from the proclaimed Leh – Ladakh – Khardungla is what clubs are required to do hence forth.
10. As road trippers what do you think are our responsibilities, and what are our rights?
As road trippers, we have a lot of responsibilities out of which the most important is to follow traffic rules. It is our utmost responsibility to set a good example and if we keep breaking rules, we lose the right to blame anyone in case of a mishap as we ourselves never followed the rules. As a legal professional, I feel the following areas require our attention as far as responsible traveling are concerned.
1. Respect pedestrians
2. Never drink and drive / ride
3. Respect the ban of dark, black or reflective glasses.
4. Never indulge or promote under age driving
5. Don’t try to skip speed breakers.
11. How do you go about planning your road trips?
Once I decide on a destination, I start searching for information about it and the surroundings on Google. After gathering this from travel blogs, Wikipedia and other sources available online, I try to gather information from the travelers who have already travelled to that destination who help me with more info about the place to stay, roads conditions, off beat locations, trekking destinations and unexplored roads etc. Connecting with fellow travelers also helps me with a local contact who can help in planning my trip in a better manner. Then I start preparing for things to carry. I believe in less baggage and more fun on the road.
12. In your travels so far, can you tell us the most unforgettable moment, and the most regrettable moment?
There are many but the one I can never forget is when I was stranded at Rangdum in Zanskar valley because my handle bar broke! If that hadn’t happened I would have missed the chance to explore an amazing village hardly 7-8 houses away situated between the ranges of snowcapped mountains and huge grasslands. Rangdum is one of the most magical places I have ever visited.
There is only one regrettable moment which is missing Chandra Taal because of AMS. But that will soon be off my bucket list!
13. How is traveling with your wife different from when you’re alone? What are the things you need to consider when you travel with Mamta?
That’s a tricky question I admit ;). Traveling alone has its own pluses and minuses and so does travelling with my wife. Travelling with Mamta is always fun because firstly I get a good companion who knows me, my habits and my temperament better than anyone else. Secondly, her nature of exploring more and visiting all places wherever we go makes me explore more than what I have planned for. She is the perfect company to travel with. About traveling alone, it always gives me sense of adventure and a feeling of accomplishment.
14. How would you rate this government as far as road transport, infrastructure is concerned? What are the additional measures they can take to make it better?
Road conditions are just OK India but what is lacking is traffic sense and that is required to be imbibed in every citizen’s mind.
Make footpaths safe for pedestrians: Roads are the most important public spaces in cities and pedestrians are its largest users, but less than 30% of urban roads in India have footpaths. This grave concern of pedestrian safety is because of footpaths being used by two wheelers, zebra crossing know how is missing and hence jay walking is the order of the day. The International Federation of Pedestrians has been explicitly advocating the right to walk in public spaces as a basic human right but no implementation has been achieved in India. There is a need to build not just roads but safer roads for pedestrians throughout India. Since the law is in place, effective enforcement is required.
Define Road Rage and enforce law: Road rage is an expression of human behavior with criminal consequences. But there is no clear law defining road rage in India. Literally, Road Rage is a term used to refer to the violent incidents caused by stress while driving on high traffic zones on roadways casing death, attempt to cause death or injury. Most road rage incidents occur during peak traffic hours. Prime reasons associated with road rage are: Traffic congestion, Noise levels, time constraints, alcohol consumption. It is high time for the government to define and enforce strictly so that people do not take law into their own hands as it’s become a real menace for society.
Discourage and punish under age driving: The biggest problem is that parents encourage underage driving when the law clearly does not permit it. Even parents who sit behind an underage driver, are breaking the law. When an accident occurs, the culpability of the parents is booked for failing to meet moral and legal responsibility. Schools can play an active role in educating students and parents about this menace of minor driving.
15. How do you respond to someone who asks you, “Kitna deti hai” on the highway?
Doesn’t make any difference to me. For me it’s my travel with Aslan which matters and for someone who is asking “Kitna Deti Hain” mileage matters.