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Episode 4 of TDA Talks with Shaik Baba
In this episode we chat with our good friend, Baba – a longtime TDA staffer who is based in Bangalore, India. He has worked with us as a assistant tour leader and mechanic since 2011 and has a knack for fixing any problem on any bike, always with a giant smile on his face.
TDA Talks host Shanny Hill first met Baba in 2011 when we were in search of a new route for our cyclists in southern India (back when we ran a tour known as the Indian Adventure – the forerunner to the current Hippie Trail cycle tour). We eventually abandoned those southern Indian routes but realized from that first encounter that Baba was a highly positive and multi-talented person, one we wanted to work with.
Since then Baba has spread his big smile across India and parts of Madagascar and Europe as he supported cyclists on our tours over the years.
We apologize for the poor audio quality on this interview. As a result we have included the full text of our interview below the video. Click here to skip to the interview text below.
‘TDA Talks’ is a new series, with each episode lasting 15-20 minutes. Host and TDAer Shanny Hill will have discussions with past participants, aspiring riders and TDA staff to delve into their thoughts, feelings, memories, and seek out advice for our larger cycling community. For the moment we are releasing a new episode each week, but over time we plan to reduce the schedule to once per month.
We hope you find the content unique and insightful and that you will forgive our amateur production quality from time to time. For anyone with an interest in travel and cycle touring we think you will quite enjoy these conversations.
Interview Transcript (edited for length)
[Shanny] If you can introduce yourself. So tell us your name and the tours you’ve done and how you first got involved with TDA.
[Baba] So myself, my name is Shaik Baba. I’m from India.. located in Bangalore. I did 9 tours with TDA.
Ya, so I found TDA through a friend Depi Chaudhry. I think you asked Depi to find someone and Depi gave me your contact details and that’s how we connected. And we sent emails and then we did a recce in south India in the state of Karnataka.
I think it was Belgaum to somewhere then we did recce and came back. I got the opportunity from you to join next year tour. ‘Indian Adventure’ as the ATD [Assistant Tour Leader]. And I said yes! yes! I’d love to and that’s how I connected with TDA. 2012 was the first tour and then 2014 again same route. Then 2016 [the tour name] became ‘Hippie Trail’ then [again in] 2017 and 2019. It’s been 5 Indian tours and 2 Madagascar tours 1 Trans-Europa and 1 Trans-Himalaya.
[Shanny] So tell me a bit about how you and your family are coping in the current the situation and the lockdown.
[Baba] Right now I’m in Bangalore at home quarantined so just following the guidelines you know by keeping safe myself. Every time Washing my hands frequently, avoid touching my nose and mouth and staying home as much as possible.
[Shanny] I heard that where it was possible that you were also helping out with some of the less fortunate people in your community. Do you mind talking about that a little bit?
[Baba] I was just helping poor people that live around my place. Like migrants, and then workers and people from different places who got stuck during the lockdown and couldn’t go to their [homes]. So [since] I am from here then at least I will get some stuff from the government you know like everyday milk packets, some vegetables.
So I belong to this place so I know places and people. I can go outside and I have access to motorbike and car. I mean those people don’t have anything. They got stuck and they are workers and don’t have sufficient money to go outside to get something. It is also prohibited. You can’t go outside to buy anything. With the lockdown, there are different zones: red, green and yellow zones. In green zone you can walk a little bit. Red zone you cannot go. Everywhere is [CCTV] cameras and drones going. If you got caught you would be going to jail.
So people just suffering. I know people [living at] building construction [sites]. And I went there and asking how the situation is going. The people are also very shy for asking for food you know. I just get some food, some vegetables whatever I can give and I drop it there and give my contact number in case of emergency to let me know.
[Shanny] That’s great. It doesn’t surprise me at all because I know you to be a very kind and generous person. All the same it’s really nice of you to do that. I have seen on the news how desperate some people are in India, and other places but especially India it’s been a huge impact.
Well that’s great. Also happy Ramadan! It’s in the middle of Ramadan right now so your family is celebrating. Has it been a bit more challenging to celebrate each day for Ramadan given the conditions?
[Baba] This year I’d say is a special Ramadan. First time in Ramadan I am staying 30 days 40 days at home and not going anywhere. Fasting is going very well and praying all the time. Ya, it’s good.
[Shanny] Do you have a favourite memory from a tour you have done with us or a nicest experience you have had?
[Baba] If you asked me then I would share the nicest experience was Trans-Europa. I love the trip because it was my first trip to Europe. I never thought I would be cycling in Europe. It was my dream and my dream came true. I was just happy. Riding a bicycle in beautiful country while stopping and seeing the landscape and taking pictures. Every time stopping at coffee place. Ice cream parlour. Europe I like very much the roads. When you go from your place to different countries and you will see how people are living what we have.. I mean what is the difference between us and them.
One thing I liked very much is the rules. People follow the rules and respect pedestrians and cyclists. People give respect in India in a different way. You know the people, it’s like completely upside down. Every time people honking so much. Honking without any point.
In Europe .. they honk if something is wrong. Or maybe something has happened. Otherwise people don’t honk. While cycling and driving in Europe and enjoyed my time. And I liked very much the camping it’s neat and clean, very well organized. The roads and the landscape.
[Shanny] How do you think these tours have changed you? What sort of lessons have you learned as staff on these tours?
[Baba] The change, coming to new places and seeing people live under varying conditions, it has helped me understand and accept different ways of life. That’s a very good thing I learned.
[Shanny] Do you have any message or anything you would like to pass along to TDA staff past and present or other staff that might see this?
[Baba] I hope you are all keeping healthy and safe. I miss everyone and hope to work with you all soon again. So once again stay safe and stay home. You know there is one small message I need to share. If you stay in the virus stays out. If you go out the virus comes in. So better not to go out and stay in and stay safe.
[Shanny] Ya that’s great, so true. Well thanks for doing this Baba. I know for me it was really cool to meet you in 2011. It’s been really fun to work with you since then. I feel really fortunate in the job that I do to get to meet interesting characters like yourself and all the other staff that we have on our tours. Every person like yourself I get to meet. It adds to our lives and gives us new experiences and new perspectives. So thank you and thanks for being a friend from afar.
[Baba] Thank you Shanny. Thanks to you in making this phone call. Giving me hope and strength because I already told you I never done this kind of interview. I think I am a little bit confident talking with you now. I looking forward to next time maybe I’ll do a better interviews.
[Shanny] No, it was very good. You should be confident and you have lots of interesting things to share and I am glad you took the time to do it.
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