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Extraordinary journey

January 15, 2011

Let me tell you here about a simple, peaceful and yet one of the most unconventional journey I have been on till date.

What was the journey all about?

The journey had no plan but had a purpose. The purpose was to explore Nature. No, this was not a trip to Himalayas, North-east India or Leh-Ladakh but into the villages of Rajasthan (near Udaipur).

  • It was a journey we undertook not to appreciate but understand nature in its very raw form.
  • It was a journey we undertook to connect with communities, people at a deeper level.
  • It was a journey we undertook to deepen our relationship with Earth.

8th January

With all this in mind we sat down to give some framework to this journey we were about to pursue. There were 19 of us who wanted to take part in this journey. After an hour long discussion we decided on the following ground rules (some being pre-decided) –

  • This would be a cycle journey and we would need 19 cycles to begin with. So went ahead and arranged for second hand cycles and some repair kit.
  • We would start on 9th morning from Udaipur, reach Jaisamand Lake and try and come back to Udaipur by 12th that is some 120 km.
  • We would not carry any money, credit card, ATM cards with us.
  • We would not carry any electronic items (cell phones, cameras etc) with us.
  • We would not carry our watches and would try not to ask people what time it was.
  • We would not carry any medicine, cosmetics, soap, shampoo etc with us.
  • We would eat breakfast before leaving on 9th but would not carry any food with us.
  • Lastly that we would not use any bathrooms/ toilets and use open spaces to defecate.

And all this to experience the real, the harsh, and the lovely Nature in it’s true form

At night we arranged for some bed sheets, jute sacks (to keep warm), some blankets and sleeping bags. Some of us also prepared small boards that we would tie in front of our cycles. My board read – “Hum Hain Rahi Pyaar ke”. Another board read – “Phir milenge Chalte Chalte” and yet another read – “Ho shuddh Hawa, Jal, Ann Jahan; Us Jahan ko dhundu Kahan Kahan

9th January

Morning we prepared and had some poha and laddus. We all got ready with our cycles, blankets and back-pack by 8AM. At 9AM we all started on this journey with full enthusiasm, saying Hi to everyone and singing a few slogans – “Cycle chalao, prakriti bachao… Cycle chalao, dost banao… Cycle chalao, sehat banao… and many more…”

As we started moving through Udaipur shouting slogan people started coming and talking to us. We explained to them what this journey was all about – “No, this is not an NGO”, “No, we are not activists”, “No, we are not here to teach you something”, “No, we are not tourists either”… “We are here to learn from all of you, make friends with many, build relationships, feel love and care and explore nature”.

And then we moved out of city – into the Aravallis on to the wavy road. The fresh air, trees on both sides and clear sky had quite an energizing effect. Two hours of cycling and one of us (Harshita) fell down while coming down the slope. Her cycle’s brakes failed and she injured her arm. We did not have any medicine and so found some local herb (leaves), crushed them and applied on the wound. After a couple of minutes my cycle tyre got punctured. We somehow managed to reach a nearby village and got the puncture repaired for free. There we cleaned Harshita’s wound and applied some fresh turmeric. Despite the hurt she was up and running and enthusiastic to complete the journey. She remained an inspiration for all of us throughout the journey.

After sometime we reached a small village called Kevara, situated at foothills of Aravallis. We took some rest and then divided ourselves into groups of three and went into the village to talk to different families and build relationship. Our group made friends with two small children – Deepak and Laxman. They showed us the whole village and then took us to their family. The village was beautiful. Within sometime we made good friends with the family. They also taught us how to identify and remove weeds from the farm. We did that for an hour till it grew dark and then at night had food with the family. That was our first complete meal that day. We ate Makka di Roti with Mirch di Chatni and it was yummy. At night we went and slept in a nearby school.

10th January

I along with Rahul decided to climb the nearby mountain. We had heard that at the top somewhere there is an automatic source of water which is spouting out of the mountain from nowhere. The villagers had built Lord Shiva’s temple at the foothills of the mountain. We started climbing early in the morning and within sometime reached the source. The place was beautiful, with huge green trees all around. We saw a variety of birds, identified a few trees and also climbed a cliff.

After spending sometime with nature we went back to the village. The guy was in field preparing Mauwa (local alcohol made from a fruit called Mauwa). We learnt how to make alcohol and helped him cut some wood. No, we did not get a chance to taste the local elixir. By noon we were ready to leave the village and cycle ahead. We thought of reaching Jaisamand (the largest sweet water lake in whole of Asia… 21 square km) by evening and spending the night there. Jaisamand was around 25km from Kevara. We ate some food offered to us by villagers and started cycling.

On our way we stopped at many places, enjoying the scenic beauty of Aravallis and talking to everyone who was intrigued by us. By evening sometime we reached a village. This village was 3 km before Jaisamand. Here we met Jia Mausi from Kevara. Our group had had food at her house in Kevara. She requested us to stay in her house that night and leave for Jaisamand the very next day. We all moved to her hut. The place was full of life. They had cows, goats, hens, dogs and of course a variety of birds. That night we had to find some food as it was not possible for Mausi to feed 19 of us. So we decided to go to village and ask for vegetables, cereal, oil and masala and then cook food. We started going from house to house and collected enough to make nice dinner. One of the families I went to had almost nothing with them. They had some 20 Rupees with them and after listening to our story offered us all the money. It was an overwhelming experience. We relented as we had pledged not to touch money and thanked them for the help. They said that they would not let us go empty handed and gave us some chillies, turmeric and pulses. All that I had read was so true.

We went back and cooked brinjal vegetable and makka di roti and again enjoyed a sumptuous dinner. At night we all sat down under the sky and sang. Ramji sang some of Kabir’s bhajans and they were awesome. I played my harmonica and we sang some old bollywood songs including – “Abhi na Jao chodkar, Taal mile Nadi ke Jal se”.

That night I learnt a how to see time and date at night by observing the stars, how to locate Andromeda galaxy. I saw artificial satellites, quasars and couple of shooting stars. One thing I observed was that shooting stars are very common and that you could easily spot a few daily – if only we had clear skies in cities too.

11th January

We all got up early in the morning and divided ourselves into two groups – one that would collect stuff and prepare food and the other that would go work in the farm. I was in the second group. We had to remove all kinds of weeds from the wheat farm. I had done this before. We worked for nearly three hours and my back had started to ache. I realized how much hard work is required just to clear the weeds. However, it was good to see the part of field cleaned up with wheat plants lined up neatly next to each other.

After working we went back to the hut and had Rabri (a special Rajasthani dish prepared with chaas and makai). We had lots of it (as we were not sure of getting anything else before the dinner time) and started cycling towards the lake. The lake was only 3 km from the village. The climb however was quite steep and we had to walk and push our cycles up. On our way up one of us broke the flywheel of his cycle while trying to pedal up. He had to go down to get the thing replaced. It cost him 80 Rupees. He started collecting money from various people, worked at the cycle shop for some time and got his cycle repaired. The cycle wala did not charge him anything for service.

Meanwhile we all reached the lake. It was beautiful, one of the most beautiful lake I have ever seen. Some places you could see no boundaries. The water was sparkling clean. It was prohibited to swim in the lake as it was too deep and also had some crocodiles in it. But then one of us met an old friend there and he gave us special permission. He also asked us to stay in his village that night. His village was situated on a small island in midst of the lake and we just could not say no to the offer. He asked us to wait for a couple of hours for the boat to arrive. Some 5 of us dived into the lake. Water was freezing. We swam and swam till like eternity before our muscles started to ache because of cold. We did not venture too much into the lake for the fear of crocodiles. A paani poori wala offered us free puchkas for the day. In return we took over his work of preparing puchkas and giving out to people for some time. We also spent some time singing Kabir’s bhajans and Kawalis while some us also danced to the tunes of a few Bollywood numbers.

Evening sometime we took a boat to the village island. It was a beautiful village. We could see lovely green and yellow fields spread out everywhere. At night we had food served to us by the people living there, sang some local songs with them. This was the first time we slept in open looking at the stars. I started counting them and somewhere in between dozed off.

12th January

12th morning was spent cleaning the cow shed and khas area. It took us couple of hours before we cleared away everything. After that some of us went to the lake to take a dip. Sometime in afternoon we returned back to where our cycles were and commenced our journey back to Udaipur. It was 60km from Jaisamand and so we decided to stop in one of the tribal village near Jagat.

25km of cycling and we were in the village. It was a small village with only 12 huts. It was growing dark and we thought that it would be impossible to find both work and food here. One of us managed to talk to a person from the village and explain the situation. He asked us not to worry about anything. Our stay was arranged at a small place near the village. At night the villagers came with three kinds of chapattis, two types of dals, some vegetable and chaas. They asked us to sit and served us with their own hands. It was a life altering experience for me. In the short period of time they had collected food from the 12 huts. They did not allow us to even wash our own dish. Everything was taken care of by them. I do not know if they had given us their share of food. I think they had. At night all of us sat down with them to sing songs. I went to lie down in a corner and started thinking till I dozed off.

13th January

In the morning we prepared poha, had lots of it and started cycling back to Udaipur. No, we were not able to thank those people properly. No thanks or feeling of gratitude could suffice. Udaipur was 40km from the village. Most of this stretch I cycled alone. 25km of cycling and we reached Rameshwaram temple. We spent some time there exploring the beautiful stream running nearby and then started cycling again.

Two hours of cycling and the city suddenly hit me. There was smoke everywhere, cars were zooming past me and no one had any time to look, stop me and talk to me. I was stopped by random people several times during the journey and we spent quite some time sitting under the shade to discuss the journey and change. But nothing like that happened in the city. The skies were no longer clear. While cycling on the country side I remembered what Fukuoka had written – “A child’s ear catches the music. The murmuring of a stream, the sound of frogs croaking by the riverbank, the rustling of leaves in the forest, all these natural sounds are music – true music. But when a variety of disturbing noises enter and confuse the ear, the child’s pure, direct appreciation of music degenerates“. I could feel it. I could hear it.

I have stayed in a city all my life. I have also gone and stayed in my village several times. Never before had this stark difference in emotions, life that humans have hit me so hard. The last part of the journey was mainly gloomy. The cars were honking and trying to steer me out of the road. I felt like an invited guest into my own place. The life and vitality, that smile on the wrinkled faces, that wisdom on the wrinkled hands, that love and care for the smallest of plant and all life form had evaporated somewhere in between and I was in midst of machines once again.

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18 Comments leave one →
  1. Rihana permalink
    January 16, 2011 07:13

    Nothing less than extraordinary! Do let know when another such journey is organized, would love to be part of it..

    Like

  2. BDA permalink
    January 17, 2011 17:03

    mast experience hai consti ….insti mein aisa ek elective hona chahiye tha. 🙂

    Like

    • January 17, 2011 17:08

      ha ha.. tune apna public name BDA hi kar diya hai..
      bolo to abhi marein fight ek aisa elective karwane ki 🙂

      Like

  3. shiwa permalink
    January 17, 2011 21:25

    Dear consti,

    I can imagine how exciting it must have been.small incidents on the journey would have left a deep impression.cheers for all the positivity which exists in our environment and in people around. love which oozes out for an unknown friendly soul is remarkable.

    kudos to your friends, yourself for all the different things you are trying mainly becuase you feel the passion for it.

    on a lighter note, i miss the days in insti when we would sing songs together and let the night slip away in front of our eyes!and ofcourse bunk classes/ddp work the next days!!

    macchar

    Like

    • January 17, 2011 23:42

      🙂 true true.. lets organize one by ourselves.. wat say.?
      Yes, wat a year it was devoid of any care, when all we did was to stand and stare.. 🙂 and going to agarwal’s every now and then too.. btw nice nic “shiwa”

      Like

      • shiwa permalink
        January 18, 2011 12:44

        omg..agarwal’s food is just amazing!!pata nahi kya kya adveture’s kar liye ek saal mein..skating, dubaare islands, shooting stars :), jheel/saara, ur’s and monkey’s holi..aur hostel nights..maccha diya tha yaar..kaise ladte the chotti moti baton pe.. aur phis vaapas dosti ho jat thi!!awesome!

        keep me posted on ur travel plans for sure 🙂

        Like

  4. January 17, 2011 23:15

    Reading this post, I felt sad. Don’t know why. Let’s catch up on one of the weekends that you are in Ahmedabad.

    Like

  5. January 18, 2011 02:58

    Shiwani linked me here.

    And I’m glad she did. I’ve been fortunate to bask in the warmth of bucolic life, quite a bit. Although these days, not so much. But I cherish every moment of the crisp, clean, rural air, resting under the branches of trees, watching the most basic rural life processes–bread roasted over a charcoal fire, milking of cows and buffaloes and literally running after a chicken to catch it to cook it! 🙂

    –Tamanna

    Like

  6. Arshmeet permalink
    February 27, 2011 23:34

    hey, just came across the article through a fiend. well more than the article or experience I loved the thought behind it. Best wishes for the thoughts………… n there respective journey

    Like

  7. nishant permalink
    January 31, 2012 05:57

    consti, guess it was my bday the day you started. wish i was there and you know that i would have obviously joined you for that. wish we could do that sometime.. and btw clibing the cliff reminded me of the one we climbed near bangalore, only to figure out that probably this was not the right choice as far as coming down was considered…hahaha…. but we made it.. and ofcourse was reminded of the beaches in chennai we cycled to.. and the little bit of skating whatever it was……
    but any way .. those were the days.. and phir milenge, chalte chalte.
    frus2

    Like

    • January 31, 2012 06:48

      Janamdin bahut bahut mubarak ho dost.. I am so sure you would have joined for this trip and I am also sure that we would have gone on a lot more had u been in India.. Yeah we had to throw our bags down and drag ourselves down the hill (that journey was really fun, with all the punctures, police, rain, puddles).. I would have told the story to n hazaar people..
      thnks for keeping in touch.. let me know when you are here next, will plan something and I will keep myself free.. phir milenge chalte chalte 🙂 tc

      Like

  8. March 12, 2012 13:58

    Awesome experience Amit! I wish I could go on the cycle yatra this time as well! Ramji is truly a wonderful person to be with. Maybe someday I will host one and we all can go! 🙂

    Like

    • March 12, 2012 21:56

      Yes he is.. I would love to take part if you organize one.. we were thinking of doing one from Hyd after April 20th.. will let you know if something gets finalized..

      Like

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