I am from Bangalore but I was working in a hotel in Singapore till 2017.
I've been passionate and concerned about the environment from a very early age. While growing up, news about the earthquake in Gujarat, Tsunami's in different places across the globe created within me a sense of fear and interest toward the environment. I was always busy planting. I wanted to keep the portico in front of my house full of plants.
During my tenure in Singapore and seeing how eco-friendly the country is, it urged me to bring a change in my own country. I was already fighting for environmental causes like pollution, use of plastic bags, etc. The biggest trigger for me was when I heard about 10000 trees being cut down in Delhi for housing developments. I knew I had to return and do something.
What made you decide to take on a venture like K2K? What was the cause you were fighting for?
I know that a lack of awareness and education is a big cause why so many of us are indifferent toward the environment. I wanted to do something that makes people stop, notice and think. I took the initiative of walking 5-10km per day covering the entire stretch from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. Yes, that's right. I decided to walk through India and spread the message of the environment. I chose to begin around July because the weather wouldn't be that extreme in South India from where I was to start and it'd be winter by the time the hit the North. I chose to do this venture along the NH44 so that I'm able to create awareness while I walk.
What was your route?
The route was from Kanyakumari to Kashmir crossing 11 states namely Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Andhra, Telangana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir. The walk was along the National highway covering 3800kms.
How long did it take you to complete the entire stretch?
It took me seven months to complete, i. e from 27th July 2018 to 26th February 2019.
Didn't you have any support?
Yes, I had immense support from my friends. Whenever I was in need, there was always one of them to help me out. My family too encouraged me to proceed further. During my journey, when I was reaching Bangalore, they gathered and gave me mobile Gadget, Decathlon gave me shoes and many NGO's came forward to help too. Special thanks to Khoon Ka Rishta, GoGreen, Shuddhi etc.
What Gear Did you Carry?
I carried a weight of 10kgs while I walked which included 5 pairs of walking shoes from Newfeel, 2 t-shirts, 2 pants, 3 trousers, a shaving kit, 2 power-banks, 3 mobile chargers, 2 liters of water, a 2-man tent from Quechua and a few of my personal documents.
Where did you stay on the way?
My accommodation was split in three-ways
Wasn't that difficult?
My stay was difficult as the journey was through eleven states. I've had to struggle for accommodation in various places including seeking permission from Grama Panchayats, in Temples and even in Railways Stations. North was quite difficult due to weather conditions, I didn't have blankets and I had to borrow from people when it got very cold.
But none of the difficulties stopped you? How did your days pass?
I was determined to walk, It was my dream to do it. I kept myself updated on the news, what's happening where. Watch youtube videos on the environment, wash my clothes, shoes and plan for the next day's journey. I would also use my free time to take rest, plan my maps and count on kms left.
What was the agenda, what activities did you do to spread awareness?
I would seek permission from higher authorities in schools and then deliver talks on Swacch Bharath to students and make sure they follow it appropriately. In Nagpur, I did an awareness program called "Grow Trees, say No to Plastic!" I had a good response from the public. Even the police personnel supported me to publish my article in Nagpur Today. It was Dipavali, I felt the need to spread awareness since it was polluted, adaption could happen quickly. Everyone wished to see one of the wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal as it was recognized by the UNESCO. Since it was on my way, I conducted an awareness program called "Grow Trees to save the Taj Mahal from Pollution." After completing the awareness bit, my intention was to give them a moral message about the environment so that they could protect it.
Any disruptions that came your way?
During my journey, two political leaders passed away, Karunanidi and Vajpayee. This called for State Bandhs which made stay and food difficult for me. I had to meet PM Modi but he was in Tamil Nadu in a Rally. I even reached Delhi to meet Kejrival but he was occupied by other meetings which I had scheduled by canceling the environmental programs. Even in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, there were political disturbances and thus they didn't allow me to spread my views and thoughts to educational institutions.
What about the food?
It was a great experience to enjoy the different tastes of 11 states but I had to stick to vegetarian food, juices, and vegetables so that I'm fit for the journey and don't get ill on the way. In a few places, I didn't have access to food so I had to carry fruits and vegetables. In Tamil Nadu after completing 500kms in the highway, there weren't any ATM's so I had to starve for some time because it wasn't a good idea to carry a huge amount of cash for security reasons. I had to manage food by asking people to keep myself alive and continue my journey.
What were some of the other difficulties you've faced?
Starting from Tamil Nadu, after approx 625kms the temperatures were very high and walking became difficult. I had to wake up early so that I was able to complete before sunset. I consumed 5 liters of water to keep hydrated. I consumed the same routine food everyday. The major difficulty was in carrying a weight of 15kgs which became quite challenging. In Andra Pradesh, I fell sick and was supposed to be hospitalized but instead I took 2-3 syringes for my treatment. It was hard because there was no-one to take care of me. Then again in Madhya Pradesh, I was suffering from a running nose. I didn't inform my family or friends because I didn't want them to get worried. I even struggled with network in a lot of places.
Another problem was that I didn't have winter clothes to manage in the climate plus with moist soil and landslides, deterred me to walk further in some places.
Also, the biggest incident was the Pulwana attack that happened during my journey. There were inquiries very often by the army personnel. I had understood that we had lost our soldiers and I completed my journey with the nation's sorrow. I realized that I should respect the soldiers and stopped my journey. I even met the Deputy Commissioner of Srinagar and he suggested me to end the journey as it was a safety issue.
What next for you?
I want to continue my passion for walking and running. I have joined one of the leading sports company in Bangalore. If someone is willing to support me in my mission, I will be very grateful. My goal continues to be giving awareness to people about my intentions toward the environment. I as a responsible citizen believe it's my and each individual's duty to protect it and save it for a better future. I would like to keep creating awareness and continue this passion until I take my last breath.