"Every summer, we complain about how hot it is, but as soon as the weather gets better, we forget about it completely. Everyone wants change, but isn't it our individual responsibility to create some change?"
This was the thought that drove a Hyderabad techie to quit his job and cycle from Kanyakumari to Kashmir for a 'Ride for Better India'.
Ravi Kiran, who is on the last leg of his journey near Punjab, has cycled close to 6,000 km over a period of 100 days, spreading awareness about climate change and the need for sustainable energy. Kiran says that he has conducted over 100 workshops as part of his awareness-building ride.
"Climate change is happening. We are seeing water scarcity in front of our own eyes. People, and animals too, are directly suffering as a consequence of this. We need to be alive first, before we can lead a comfortable life," the 28-year-old software engineer tells TNM.
"We may be able to survive, but our next generation will have a very tough time if things continue this way. I'm not doing this for me, but for a larger social issue," he adds.
The Hyderabad resident, who is a native of Telangana, started off from Kanyakumari on January 6, and is almost entirely self-funding the trip.
This is not Kiran's first trip. Besides a bicycle ride to thank the police and the Army for their work, Kiran also undertook a 1,000-km journey over 12 days, to meet with farmers across Telangana.
"I had some idea because of that on how to prepare for long trips. I picked the issue of the environment, since it’s a global one, and started making plans last year," he says.
"While I had ideas, nothing can really prepare you for the road. The route is the only thing that was planned," he adds.
From common tyre punctures to a whole lot worse, says Kiran, he saw it all on the road. "A puncture is something I can repair, but a few times during the trip, my tyre itself burst. What does one do then? Sometimes I was not sure of my next destination. I could not estimate where I would reach by a specific time the next day. A lot of factors are out of our control. In that sense, every day is challenging," he says.
On his way, Kiran has planted several trees, and also conducts seminars and workshops in schools and colleges almost every day.
For this, he also carries a speaker, a projector, and other equipment that he needs, as he often visits government schools, which do not have the resources.
"I start off every presentation with 'My name is Ravi Kiran and I'm in an Indian'. I do this so that people get a sense of collective responsibility towards our country. We keep our homes and our classrooms clean, but we dump garbage on the streets. It's because we need that collective sense besides a sense of individual responsibility too," he says.
When asked about his audience, Kiran says, "While college students are more quiet, school kids are very inquisitive. They ask so many great questions, and want to know the answer to everything."
Kiran also plays them a video, and explains to them that the next generation will have to carry 'oxygen kits', if the situation doesn't change. Thankfully, he says, all the young students seem determined to make that change happen.
Kiran has already passed through Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Agra, and Delhi and is now in Punjab and plans to visit Kashmir at the end.
He's visited the Taj Mahal, visited the Sheroes Café – run by acid attack survivors, rescued snakes in Gujarat, and more recently, even visited the Tamil Nadu farmers protesting in Delhi.
"I'm going from 30 metres (Kanyakumari) to 3,000 metres above sea level (Kashmir), and it’s quite an experience. Everyday is a learning experience for me. I could have sat at home, but if we don't protect our environment, there will be no environment to protect soon," Kiran says.
He adds that it’s unfair for us to sit back and blame governments when we’re not willing to take the small steps we can to protect the environment. "It's easy to blame the government or the municipal corporation, but it’s harder to blame ourselves for not using dustbins or not segregating the trash. Every day we generate waste. We should know where it goes and what happens to it. We need to take at least small steps before we complain about how things are, or they will never change," he adds.
Kiran also says that he is grateful for all the help he has received on the way from friends and family, to complete strangers.
"Many people from a bicycle club that I'm a part of, have welcomed me and fed me. Complete strangers who I've never met, have treated me so well after they came to know about my cause, and it’s quite heartening," he says.
Once he's done with the trip, Kiran plans to get back to his job.
"Even though cycling is one of the least expensive modes of transport, journeys like this still take a lot of money. I have spent around Rs 2-3 lakh for this trip, and I have to get back and take care of my own survival," he says.
However, he says that he will definitely plan more such journeys if he finds the right purpose.