Pedalling to believe in humanity

Prajakta Joshi
Tuesday, 19 March 2019

“I don’t call myself a traveller because I don’t go to places just to see the points of interest, and then go ahead to a new one. I live with people and I live their life. I eat their food, I contribute in their work, I try to become a part of their lifestyle. That was one reason why I chose cycle over any other means of transport,” Arora said.

Pune: “I have at least 400 families across the country, and I believe, that is a greater achievement than anything else in my life,” said cyclist Ankit Arora, as he caught up with Sakal Times on his way to Joshi Rail Museum in the city. A journey-man, as he calls himself, Arora is travelling across India on his cycle, creating a world record of longest cycle journey in a country. What began from his passion for travelling and exploring new places has turned into a mission for him.

“I don’t call myself a traveller because I don’t go to places just to see the points of interest, and then go ahead to a new one. I live with people and I live their life. I eat their food, I contribute in their work, I try to become a part of their lifestyle. That was one reason why I chose cycle over any other means of transport,” Arora said.

His journey began on August 27, 2017, a project that emerged from his dream of exploring the whole country, and experiencing the diversity first-hand. Till date, he has been to 15 states and six Union Territories (UTs), and has met and interacted with lakhs of people, over 560 days into the journey.

“Many people are confused when I say I move on cycle. I wanted to explore places by being out, open to everyone, by being close to nature. When people see me on cycle, they become curious and start talking to me. I have had people inviting me to stay with them within 15 minutes of conversation,” the cyclist said. Arora also pointed out that what he has most significantly noticed in the year-and-a-half that he has been travelling is that the poor village people are more welcoming than the well-settled ones in the city in most cases.

He said, “Of course I have lived with well-off people. But it has been much easier to find accommodation with the rural poor ones, than in the cities”

While he is active on social media platforms, Arora proudly states that only about 10 per cent of his connections in the country has been made on social media. All the rest were made only through his spontaneous personal interactions.

Originally a media person and a freelance journalist, Arora shares the stories of the places, and more particularly of the people, who he meets along his way on his page ‘India on my cycle’.

“Everyone I meet has a story to share, everywhere I go, I get unique experience. I have lived in the Naxal-affected tribal areas of Chhattisgarh, as I have lived with families in the militancy-affected regions of Kashmir. People are innocent, it’s heartwarming to hear their  stories. The families I lived with in Kashmir told me to go back and tell the world about them, that they too are normal people just like the rest of the countrymen. We just need to open our minds and hearts to them,” he asserted.
Having travelled across the country with huge linguistic diversity, Arora feels that language cannot be a barrier.

He shared, “I travelled to Dhanushkodi, a hot and humid place, all tired. I could not find a hotel or a home to have food in. It’s a fishermen’s village. Somehow, I tried to ask a local shopkeeper to sell me the fish and lemon water at the shop, by pointing towards them. I don’t know how, but he realised that something was off, and offered me his own lunch to eat. He also packed the fish and lemon water for my journey, all for free. And we communicated all of this without knowing each other’s language.”

That poor man’s heart was bigger than anyone else, and I have met so many such people, Arora added.

As he has learned the art of travelling and exploring all the while, he is also trying to find unexplored places, unknown art and culture of the places that he is visiting. Across his way, he has also interacted with more than 15,000 students, mostly in South India. It’s no more just about travelling. It’s also about sharing the stories that make a difference.

“Everyone’s idea is to make their own world. I want to make the whole world my home,” said Arora as he signed off towards his next destination. 

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