Sunday, August 2, 2009
Lately, if you have been awakened by the collective roar of a Royal Enfield ‘Bullet’ 500cc engine with riders clad in leather with a dragon’s crest and the credo, “Bhutan Dragons Motorcycle Club,” do not be alarmed! It’s a group of friends on the wrong side of thirty living the Robert M. Pirsig dream, with a difference.
They were buddies since kindergarten, mimicking bikers. As teenagers, they became ardent motorcyclists, testing the trails off the beaten path on scooters and dirt-bikes. Though they are in their late-thirties the passion has not ebbed, if anything, it has given birth to the kingdom’s first motorcycle club.
Thinley Wangchuck, Agay Tandin, Chimi Dorji, Tenzin Namda and Tshering Tashi are the founders of what is today a philanthropic club known as the Bhutan Dragons Motorcycle Club. It’s open to anyone with a Bullet (now you know that’s a motorcycle!). The club was formally inaugurated in an initiation ceremony that had 12riders cruising from Thimphu to Paro, with another 10 members awaiting them at Chhuzomsa.
The club was born, on October 17, in an open garage in Paro- surrounded by autumn fields and golden rice stocks, amidst monks, gongs and Bullets.
Along with prayers, the charter was invoked and vows administered together with their new avatars: Thinley’s Pale-Rider, Agay went Ghost-Rider, Chimi took the much coveted Cool-Rider, Namda is Wind-Rider and keeping in mind his historical bent, Tshering was tagged Scribe-Rider.
The biking-avatars are tripling. In keeping with tradition, I became Toxic-Rider (work in progress on background).
This is what makes the club unique. Where motorcycle clubs around the world are associated with gangland activities, the Dragons’ adage is, “love to Ride and Ride to Love” with a considerate swerve and a responsible clutch, one might add.
The next day, members rode to a monastery high up on a ridge to pay their respects and to distribute winter-jackets for the young novices studying there.
The club’s president, Ghost-Rider, adopted one of the young novices. They are all orphans.
It’s this philanthropic bent, a notable theme of the club’s ‘Charter’ that makes Bhutan Dragons an inimitable club indeed. The club now has close to 40 members and counting; a Japanese woman, an Englishman and a German bring some added flavour. A week back, a big herd of riders from Germany were the Dragons’ guests of honour as they were received all the way from Phuentsholing to the club’s Thimphu house, known as the “Thimphu Chapter” for a member’s initiation.
The club has two more ‘Chapters’ in Paro and in Phuentsholing. Pale-Rider, perched on his iron horse, said that one of the aims of the club is to have a ‘Chapter’ in every dzongkhag and to change the stereo-typical image of bikers. Biking, he said, can be, “cool, fun and socially beneficial too as we have designed. When we ride, we designate specific schools or villages in specific dzongkhags, contributing what we can to the community from the club’s funds, which come in the form of membership fees and donations.”
The club rides formally thrice a year and as many times as is possible casually, depending largely upon free time, since the majority of members are well cocooned family men.
When they do get together for the rides decked in their leathers and the club’s colours, the men turn into excitable boys once again. Only this time they get to actually ride the book of ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.’ So if you see a bunch of bikers manoeuvring the highways, give them a smile and a wave, along with the right of the road. For the Dragons have rules and regulations, a charter and a code of ethics, that states that all members must ride responsibly, without intoxicants and bring whatever help they can to wherever they are riding, along with an annual contribution of Nu 6,000.
A small fee for a ride that is thrilling, free and full of camaraderie.