India, much like life, revealed itself to a bunch of young cyclists who decided to ride from Bengaluru to New Delhi.
Siddarth Dudheria is the founder of Ride2Light, a group of motivated individuals who cycle to raise awareness and funds for various social causes.
The group launched its first 2400 km ride from Freedom Park in Bengaluru to India Gate in New Delhi.
Dudheria, who works for a software company shares these five learnings from the trip:
1. You got to be passionate about something. Anything.
What is life that is not lived with passion, said somebody great.
At first there was just one person who had this crazy idea.
He met up with his friend and that became two.
A couple of Facebook posts later we became four and so on.
In the end we were 10 of us and over 800 people followed our trip on our Facebook page.
How did this happen?
We attribute this to sheer passion of everybody who was involved in this trip.
It is not easy to be passionate about something that is both dangerous and monotonous at the same time but for us, the passion came in the form of the change we could bring about in the lives of our benefactors -- the families in south India who could now build toilets, the kids in Orissa and Tamil Nadu who now have a stronger reason to study and become what they dream of.
We were passionate about what we wanted to do and this is what our passion has led us to.
2. People never cease to surprise
We travelled through six states, covering more than 80 per cent of the distance from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.
We met some amazing people, starting from the 104-year-old caretaker of an ashram in Tumkur to the old man near the Haryana-Rajasthan border who was taken for a ride by a hospital.
People are generally suspicious about people.
We would also be so but what we observed was quite contrary and extraordinary.
When we told people why were riding, teas came for free, biscuits were on the house, two rotis ordered became four and a indifferent face turned into a loving and smiling one.
People never cease to surprise.
We learnt this first hand.
The kids on the field who posed for photos, the forest guard who offered his dinner to a hungry rider, the truck driver who helped us carry our cycles into the city, all of these people had no reason to help us but they did.
So much so that, when we set out, we hoped that most people we encounter were good.
They surpassed our expectations.
We never met a single bad person on the trip.
3. Find friends who like doing stuff with you... and maintain these friendships
Being positive is often easier said than done.
When you wake up next morning knowing that you have to cycle another 150 kms in the day, in the heat and dust, along the highway, it is pretty difficult to stay positive.
But we learnt to stay positive.
We stayed positive because we enjoyed the company of each other.
Everybody was cracking jokes at each other's expense, sharing nuggets about their lives, past dalliances and their moments of weaknesses.
When we started, we were united by only a Facebook post but on October 19, when we ended this in Delhi, we were friends for life.
It is important that we make friends but it is even more important that we make friends who share empathy for the things we like doing.
This merry bunch of riders loved cycling and the company of each other.
Find friends that love doing stuff with you and carry them with you for the rest of your life.
4. Pedal away
The most important part of the journey was the cycle and its pedals.
The pedals were the most used equipment in all we carried.
The pedals must have turned over more than a 100,000 times in the entire trip and yet, they remain as fresh as ever, willing to take us on another trip. Pedalling persistently makes distances seem small.
We kept pedalling, uphill and downhill, through rain and sunshine, through dense forests and sparse plateaus, through people-filled roads and empty dustbowls but we continued to pedal.
Pedalling became our expression.
It became symbolic for our mission and goal.
With every pedal, we were moving into new terrain and a new time frame.
When things got stuck, all we said to ourselves was "Pedal for a few more minutes".
Life is very similar.
You got to keep pedalling till you find your expression and destination.
But before you find your destination, remember to enjoy the journey.
Pedal till your legs say no more
Pedal till your breath runs out
Pedal till your existence's core
But pedal till you clear that doubt.
5. Learn to give back
We are what we are today because of our efforts but the very efforts would total to a grand sum of zero if we weren't raised in households that could afford our whims and fancies.
Each one of us comes from households that could afford to build toilet, send us to good schools and colleges and give us the chance of finding our expression.
But what about the millions of others who put in the effort but cannot succeed because of the environment?
In this game, luck seems to be the only differentiating factor between us and them.
But then when we ask ourselves, why luck?
Don't we as the benefactors of this luck have a responsibility to make it redundant? Shouldn't we remove luck from the equation so that everybody deserving gets an equal chance?
We found that education and sanitation were key impediments to this equality and we decided to ride to show the world that we should come together and change it.
Giving back need not be at the Bill Gates scale.
Nobody needs to wait till they become millionaires and billionaires to think about giving back.
Giving back can be as simple as buying a pair of shoes to a school student who cannot afford one (or) spending some time with the homeless on the road.
This trip taught us that large gestures are great but small gestures that put a smile on people's faces go a really long way.
Ride2Light intends to do more such ride. You can follow them here!
Photographs courtesy: Ride2Light