New Delhi, September 15, 2019: Like other college students Suryanarayanan planned a bike trip across India.
However, unlike others who undertake the trip with their friends, the 21-year-old BSc Agriculture student at Doon College of Agriculture and Technology in Dehradun planned the trip with his father.
The father, an agriculture professor and an avid biker, however could not make the trip because of some unavoidable emergencies.
“He told me we could do the motorbike trip later, but urged me to do one with my friends and also to ensure that the trip is in some way connected to my course,” Surya said.
So, he and his friends floated the idea of doing a cycle trip from Kashmir to Kanyakumari to promote environmental awareness. The initial idea was to go as a group of 10, but finally only Surya and Abin C Joseph, who is pursuing BSc Forestry in the same college, could undertake the trip.
“We knew doing such a trip on the Srinagar to Kanyakumari NH44 highway was going to be tough, especially on a cycle, but we decided to do it because it was in line with our goal to be ecofriendly,” Abin explained.
The two students, native of the southern Indian state of Kerala, began their trip from Jammu, where they headed straight to the army camp in Samba on July 9.
“We told the army personnel about what we were trying to achieve with our trip titled Go Green India, and they were more than happy to flag us off from the camp. We are probably the youngest cyclists in the country to have got an army flag off.”
The youngsters’ goal was to cover 120-150 km a day, cycling between 5 am to 11 am and then taking a break, before resuming from 4 pm to 7 pm.
“In the first leg of the trip, it was easy because the weather was cold and we could go on,” says Surya. “However, when we reached Haryana, the temperature used to around 42-52 degree Celsius. One day, I fainted because of the heat during the trip and had an accident.”
Though the two had no additional support, help arrived in the form of a stranger.
“A pick-up driver had stopped and took us to the hospital. He bore the expenses after he got to know about our mission,” the youngster says. “He also provided stay for us at his house that day, and we got to know that he had also helped a German tourist earlier who was trying to cover 29 states during his trip.”
Abin says that the people they met on the road, especially in Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Delhi were extremely helpful and co-operative.
“Many had also asked us about last year’s floods in Kerala and how the situation was right now. They were genuinely concerned about nature and pollution, when we tried to explain to them why it is necessary to go green,” he recalls, adding that they stayed at temples, police stations and petrol bunks during the trips.
The journey, spanning 4,500 km, also taught them about various green practices followed in certain states.
“In Tamil Nadu, we met a few architects who showed us places where they practice the Miyawaki method of building forests in urban settlements,” explains Abin.
[The Miyawaki method of plantation was invented by Japanese botanist and plant ecology expert D. Akira Miyawaki. In this method multi-layered saplings are planted close to each other. This blocks sunlight from reaching the ground and prevents weeds from growing, thus keeping the soil moist.]
“While most trips to spread awareness on environment stress on planting more trees, we also explained to the people why it was equally important to follow up and take care of the plants.”
The trip cost each of them 30,000 rupees, including the cycle and accessories. Incidentally, a person named Don Bosco they met in Salem also sponsored them 5,000 rupees when he got to know about their campaign.
“It also exposed to a lot of cultures. Now, I have contacts in each of these 16 states that we covered, and I could also become fluent in Hindi, English and Tamil,” Albin claims.
After the trip, Abin says the biggest takeaway for him was the awareness that Kerala is the most beautiful among all states he covered. “We must do everything we can to preserve the beauty.”
Meanwhile, the duo has already started planning their next trip. “We want to walk the distance of 600 km from Manali to Leh in 12 days,” Surya said.