Shivam Porwal, from Ahmedabad, suffers from Phocomelia syndrome. With no lower limbs and a few missing fingers, he speaks of his road trip on his bike to Ladakh, and his journey of finding freedom.
It was Ahmedabad-based Shivam Porwal’s dream to experience Ladakh on a bike. While this is a dream that many have, for Shivam to see it through was not an easy feat.
Born with Phocomelia syndrome, it is a rare birth defect characterised, in most instances, by severe malformation of the extremities. Infants born with this condition will have arms and/or legs that are severely shortened or sometimes completely absent.
This syndrome left Shivam without his lower limbs and he has only three fingers on each hand. But this didn’t deter him from living his life.
Speaking to The Better India, he says, “I am 26 years old. I feel like I have so much to do with my life. So far, I have experienced zip lining, have been on long bike trips, but still, have to do paragliding and sky dining.”
Having graduated from IIT Shivam is currently employed with BSNL. When he is not working Shivam is a motivational speaker and a poet.
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While growing up, Shivam would look at others riding their cycles and always felt the urge to do the same. “At that time, I could not cycle and my dream of speeding in one remained unfulfilled. However, my parents never let me feel bad about my situation. They would encourage me every step of the way and made sure that I did almost everything I wanted to,” he says.
He says his father instilled in him the need to be self-reliant and his mother pushed him to excel in all spheres of life. “It was my father who made my dream of riding a bike come true for me. When I was in college my father bought me a scooter, despite several financial hardships. That was a turning point in my life. With the scooter, I felt independent. Even when I landed my first job I would drive myself to work every day.”
Shivam also rode the same scooter all the way from Ahmedabad to Udaipur, covering a distance of 260 km in total. Accompanied by his wife, Preeti, Shivam says that they enjoyed the trip thoroughly. “We ensured that we did not ride at night and took a small break after every 50 km,” he says.
It was this trip that set him up for another big ride. Before planning a trip to Ladakh, the duo went to Goa and Jodhpur on the bike as well. Despite some of the challenges they faced, their resolve to travel to Ladakh only kept getting stronger.
Even though Shivam and Preeti were confident about making a trip to Ladakh, none of the family members were convinced. Even more so after the challenges that they faced during their road trip to Jodhpur. “In 2021, during our Jodhpur road trip, the scooter would stop several times along the way. We had to camp in unknown small villages at night because we could not go very fast on the roads, even though the roads were very good and free of traffic,” he says.
Each of these trips that the duo went on, fuelled Shivam’s confidence of making it to Ladakh on a bike. It was with this intent that he started looking at buying a bike that could support his dream. Nevertheless, he was fuelled by the confidence of one day being able to take more road trips and wanted to buy a new bike.
Bike of his dreams
In December 2021, without informing his father, for fear of being stopped, Shivam went ahead and booked his dream bike – the bullet. “I had taken my mother into confidence though,” he says. A month later when the bullet arrived, Shivam’s happiness knew no bounds. “I designed it as per my requirement. That was not an easy task at all. It took me about two months of working with local mechanics to get it into a shape that would best suit me,” he adds.
He continues, “The bullet is a heavy bike and to ensure that I would be able to remain stable in it, I had side wheels installed in it. I used the wheels from an Alto car for this. The first time I took it out on the streets of Ahmedabad, I couldn’t even ride it. It was when I participated in a small group trip organised by Royal Enfield that I felt confident. That was when the plan to travel to Ladakh was made.”
He started taking his bike for more spins on the Ahmedabad-Gandhinagar highway to practise.
Convincing his father was also a challenge but one that Shivam managed. “I assured him I’d always stay with the group and prioritise my safety above all else. Eventually, he was convinced, though the fear in him persisted,” he says. Shivam found a group from Ahmedabad travelling to Ladakh and decided to join them. The group also had a backup vehicle and a mechanic travelling with them.
Armed with all kinds of safety gear, which included riding jackets, helmets, saddle bags, tank bags and a trekking bag, Shivam set out for this epic ride on 2 June 2022.
As predicted by many, the journey was a very difficult one. “From the time we reached Jammu, from where our journey towards Ladakh began, there were challenges. The roads were bad and even applying the brakes was proving to be a challenge. However, with Preeti right behind me we somehow managed,” he recalls.
The duo managed to comfortably travel through Khardung La Pass, the patch considered the most difficult, without any issues. “I would constantly sip on water and electrolytes to keep myself hydrated, that is an important thing,” he adds.
Having completed this ride, Shivam not just fulfilled his dream but has also allowed several others in situations like his to dream big. “Where there’s a will there is always a way,” he says with a grin.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)