• Joel Koechlin

The Great Escape: aftermath

Since a few days we are back home, immersed in our normal routine (if there is such a thing as routine), but somehow the impact of this Great Escape remains vivid and I can still smell the fresh, brisk air of the White Mountains, and feel in my bones the rumble of the ferry’s diesels on the Brahmaputra.

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the tough Royal Enfield “Himalayan” on its favourite terrain


Let Kalki draw the conclusion to our adventure, as she wrote it on the day of our departure from Guwahati:

“3500km, 13 days, 3 states, 2 battered bodies and one hell of an experience. We are exhausted and ready to go home to family, to familiarity and to 3G. The challenges we have faced ranged from how to borrow petrol from one bike to another in the middle of nowhere, what is the value of eating vegetarian, city life vs country life, how to pull-off leeches stuck in your boots, and what is the point of life. I guess the irony has been that even though the show is called “The Great Escape”, we concluded that there is really no escape, we bring our thoughts and our experiences and exchange them with others, we give and take, and try to learn from our mistakes, and thankfully there is no escape from reality, from facing ourselves daily and becoming more evolved, more thoughtful and more sensitive. We should call it “The Great Space”, a space which allowed us to rethink things and get fresh perspectives. And of course get to spend some quality time with daddy dearest, a rare luxury for any daughter or son, once they are thrust into adulthood. And boy, has he matured over the span of the last ten years (!) “

Kalki Koechlin

Frankly, here I wonder how to interpret this last sentence of my daughter.. Matured? Meaning I am not a kid any longer? How sad… The Peter Pan in me would have finally grown up? I am not too sure of that… But maybe she simply means that I have become more tolerant of life and people, and that I lose my temper less often, cope better with the ups and downs of relationships with fellow humans, in which case, yes, she is probably right.

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Kalki & dad in Tawang’s market


From my side I would like to acknowledge how Kalki graduated from ordinary “Kinetic Honda rider” into a full fledge ”Iron Butt Lady”, all in the space of 2 weeks, but what weeks! She has seen it all and handled it without incident: heavy city traffic, fast 4-lane highways, kacha roads, no roads, hail, snow, thick fog, extreme cold, scorching heat, deep slush, breakdowns in deserted places, beyond 13,000 feet elevation mountain passes, getting out of a ferry-boat on a 1 foot narrow plank, and I forget some… So, congratulations, my girl, and welcome to the club!

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not exactly the biking dress but it’s ok, our hosts in Arunachal will love it!


I would like to add a word about the crew who have been fantastic throughout our journey, hard-working, dedicated and always helpful: the producers/directors, cameramen, sound engineers, the Shillong based support riders, even the support cars drivers who logged long driving hours, and not forgetting our personal guardian angel, Alethea — we love you! I was particularly impressed by the camera and sound guys, who had to go through the same hardships as us, and worse, by the fact that they were in addition carrying cameras and other heavy equipment. I can still see these guys sitting “hulta” on the pillion seat of a “Bullet”, flying across the bumps and (most of the time) landing back on the bike, oblivious of anything, be it sun, rain or sleet, but their filming act! Under the apt leadership of Mervin, these guys were truly the Magnificent Seven! Even our Director, Neeraj, took his share of filming cum riding. One duo particularly — ”Bullet driver” & cameraman — was so hilarious, wrapped in some terribly useless ponchos flapping in the rain, that Kalki and me had baptised them “Batman and the Joker”, and we could not help but laugh to tears while commenting on the intercom. In spite of the hardships, they were always cheerful and merry going, and it was a real pleasure to work together. A big, hearty thank you to the whole crew!

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Four of the Magnificent Seven in Sangti


And now, what next?!

Our lives will go on, doing whatever we do for a living, but let’s hope that — thanks to the efforts put up by both cast and crew, and still ongoing with the challenging editing work in process  — this TV Travel Show will turn into a success and be appreciated by the audience. In which case we hope to come back for a “Great Escape”, Season 2! For after all, we have scouted only three (Assam, Arunachal and Meghalaya), of the famed “Seven Sister States”…

It all depends on the viewing mileage you will give to the show, so tell your friends and don’t miss it!

Joel Koechlin

To be aired this coming August on FOX life TV Channel

“THE GREAT ESCAPE WITH KALKI”

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