By Salil Jose
Nothing can stop you, once you experience the thrill of cycle expedition. It keeps the adventurous spirit in you kindled.
You would feel the essence of different cultures and the pulse of people as you pedal along. And if you have a message to spread, you will be leaving behind a part of yourself with people who have hitherto been strangers.
This is what Hyderabad-based documentary filmmaker and academician Shrenik Rao gained after cycling from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. Last year, the founder and creative director of Dolsun Media launched TreeCycle, an environmental initiative -- he cycled for 4,100 kms as a part of this initiative.
His aim was to raise a pledge of three million trees in support of the United Nations Environment Programme`s `Billion Tree Campaign`. He was awarded the Karmaveer Puraskar, instituted by iCONGO, a confederation of NGOs, for his efforts to save trees.
Shrenik, who can`t rest from adventure, is readying for another expedition this month. He is cycling from Shimla to Khardung La (K-Top) in the Himalayas -- the world's highest motorable pass. As he readies for the 800-km expedition, Sify.com caught up with him for an interview.
Excerpts from the interview:
Last year you took out the TreeCycle expedition to raise awareness of global warming and trees. Do you think your initiative has succeeded in conveying its messages to the people?
The initiative was successful because I could raise a pledge of three million trees from people in different parts of the country. I could take my message to the cities and villages alike.
What drove you to the initiative?
I would like to do my bit to safeguard the environment. It`s part of an effort to tell people about the importance of protecting nature. And I found cycling is the best way to reach out to them.
How many cycling expeditions you have taken out?
When I was teaching in Scotland, I frequently used to go cycling. There are many beautiful mountains in the west coast of Scotland. I would cycle and enjoy the peace those mountains gave me.
I have cycled through many mountains in India and abroad. Nothing can match the sight and sound in the mountains. This is something you have to experience yourself.
Can you narrate some interesting incidents during your expeditions?
The most interesting experience is perhaps in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu. Since Mudumalai is also a house to large number of elephants, I ran the risk of coming face to face with elephants any moment. People tried to dissuade me not to go alone. But I went ahead. It was a chilling experience.
In one of my travels, I met an ascetic of Aghora community who stays in graveyard, worships the dead and eats human corpse.
On another occasion, I was cycling without food for over 10 hours in the middle of a forest. Then, I met some villagers. When I told them I was hungry, they shared their food with me. I can never forget the taste of their exotic food.
I plan to make a documentary on the dangers I faced during my expeditions. You can expect it soon.
You are cycling to Khardung La to spend your birthday this year. Is there any message you want to convey to the people?
It`s to quench the spirit of adventure in me. I like adventure for its own sake. And there is no particular message this year apart from conveying to people the thrill that cycling in the mountains can give you.
I want to celebrate my birthday differently. Two of my friends are accompanying me. We are starting from Shimla on July 25 and will reach Khardung La on July 31 - which is my birthday. I hope it will be an unforgettable birthday.