Ankit Das and a friend of his began on a 20,000-kilometre walkathon from Pondicherry on January 5, 2020, with the aim to walk to the end of Europe. However, the COVID-19 pandemic ended the journey abruptly after they covered 1200 kilometres. Now, he is back again with an aim to bicycle around 1600 kilometres from Kolkata to Majuli and the motto is simple- to understand life and shed away the fears and the insecurities that surround us
How about taking part in a no-money cycle ride from Kolkata to Majuli via Bihar and Jharkhand, covering a distance of around 1600 kilometres?
Sounds interesting and adventurous, right?
Yes, it is indeed interesting as it sounds and the man behind this unique initiative is Ankit Das- an avid traveller who calls himself a 'banjaraa' (social nomad).
The seeds for this unique journey were sowed in 2020 when his walkathon from Pondicherry to the end of Europe was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The journey, which was named Vishwa Ki Khoj, began on January 5 from Pondicherry and was supposed to continue to the end of Europe, however, the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown brought it to an abrupt end.
"After walking about 1200 kilometres from Pondicherry till Dharwad in Karnataka, despite our strong commitment to walk approximately 20000 kilometres till the end of Europe, we had to stop," Ankit said.
Even though he had wished to re-start the walk and continue it in 2021, however, the COVID-19 situation made him reshape the idea and instead of journey on foot, Ankit decided to embark on a bicycle journey without money from Kolkata to Majuli.
The expedition will start from the Gandhi statue near Eden Gardens in Kolkata somewhere between April 18 to April 20 and it will conclude at Vivekanda Vidyalaya in Majuli.
The entire trip could take up to around 20 days and the riders will be passing through various places like Dakhineswar, Bardhaman, Guskara, Shantiniketan (Bolpur), Rampurhat, Pakur (Jharkhand), Farakka, Malda, Raiganj, Solpara, Islampur, Kishanganj (Bihar), Chopra, Siliguri, Jalpaiguri, Coochbehar, Tamarhat (Dhubri), Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Chirang, Goalpara, Guwahati, Jagiroad, Dongkamukam (Karbi Anglong), Nagaon, and Tezpur to name a few.
As this trip will mostly cover West Bengal and Assam along with some parts of Bihar and Jharkhand, Ankit decided to call it The Eastern India Cycle Yatra aka TEICY.
"The original plan was to start from Hyderabad and continue to Guwahati, however, with the sudden increase in COVID-19 cases and the fear associated with it, I decided that doing a shorter route might be better," he informed.
This is not for the first time that Ankit is embarking on a journey like this as he has walked and cycled crossed various parts of the country previously as well and every time it has been without money and a phone.
Ankit has previously walked the Dandi Path in Gujarat (400 km) without money and technology, walked in Bastar, Chhattisgarh (200 km) with a group of Adivasis while cycled without money in Assam with few others (1800 km).
In June 2019 he walked along with four others from Dehradun to Yamunotri Pilgrimage (190 km) without money and he calls it The True Pilgrimage.
But the question remains- why undertake this challenge and the challenging journey?
"Over the past decade, I have travelled extensively and lived in all parts of the country. I have met different types of people. This is when I realised that travel isn’t about going from Point A to Point B, and just waving our hands in the air while," he further said.
"I learnt living between people, calming myself despite having less or no private space, no choices, and no fixed bed to sleep on. I ‘struggled’ physically to grow mentally," he further added.
"All of this eventually led me to go on different walks and cycling journeys across different parts of India," he further said.
"I think it's part of my larger effort, to allow each of us to deeply look inside and assess our fears and insecurities," he added.
And when asked as to why no money or phone, Ankit said, "We all don’t need money or a phone to survive exactly. Yes, we do want them so that our lives are comfortable, our fears are never on the surface and we just sail through the ocean of life as smooth as possible."
"People are helpful and there are good people everywhere. Someone or the other comes with a helping hand, offers you some food to eat and a place to rest if you have the desire to go on unconventional travel journeys," he further said.
"As I have said earlier, travelling is not just about going from point A to point B and ever since I started travelling on my own across India, living in the villages of all the states so far, I discovered a sense of purpose, of my being, not in a way that can be accounted or compared through numbers or data," he further added.
"This is where most youngsters today struggle in finding themselves, it’s about the idea of who you are, whom you can become. Honestly, words cannot describe this yet we are so limited in our abilities to express in such a modern world," he added.
However, considering the COVID-19 situation, phones would be allowed this time but only for limited use.
"Well, the situation this time is more demanding and challenging so we have decided to keep a phone, but we would use it in a limited way. Two calls a day and that's it," he added.
So who can join in this no-money cycle ride?
Anyone and everyone, who agrees to the following, can join this no-money cycle ride-
"I am not being sponsored by MapMyRide.com, I should clarify here," Ankit was quick to add.
He further said that if the probable rider(s) has an anti-COVID certificate and is of sound health, it would make the entire trip a smoother experience.
No-money cycle ride sounds adventurous but it has its challenges as well.
"Since we will not be carrying any money, our source of food and replenishment will be entirely dependent on the people we meet on the way, except for a few friends who have agreed to host us in some of the places mentioned above," he said.
"Since there will not be any money, any cycle repairs needed have to be pro-bono offered by someone or the repair shops, we might have to face challenges in such cases," he added.
"Due to the fear of corona, uncertainty is always a big factor these days playing out everywhere- and a lot of that is unplanned," he further said.
So what can I and the ones reading this article do to help Ankit and his team in this no-money cycle ride to Majuli?
"If you wish to help in some way then you can share my blog post about this trip with your friends and family, talk to more people and spread the idea of a fearless and loving world," Ankit said.
"If you live in any of the places in the above route, you can host us as well as offer us something to eat. Someone can also give away your old bicycle in Kolkata and I will donate the cycle to Vivekananda Vidyalaya in Majuli upon completion of the journey," he further said.
So, what is the purpose behind this no-money cycle ride? Travel, adventure, thrill or is there a bigger meaning?
"Through this journey, we intend to not disprove existing realities or hardships people go through, in their daily lives. This is purely a personal journey even if it might benefit a lot of those who might be living in absolute fear and the myth that life can only be lived in a certain way," Ankit informed.
"As I will be cycling, texts or calls won’t be answered in real-time. I will be responding to any missed calls or texts twice a day," he concluded.
Ankit has an overall experience of working since mid-2010, which include working as a writer, running his own business in the IT/ITES sector, and a development sector experience of working in rural Uttarakhand and Maharashtra.
He presently lives and works on several domains, primarily in rural parts of the Northeast.
He initiated the banjaraa [network] and is a Founder Trustee of Jeevan Shiksha (started in 2017).
He is also a Trustee in Vivekananda Foundation, Majuli and People’s Initiative for Rural Development, Karbi Anglong (W).
He is also the co-founder and partner at Around Love & Life aka ALL, which is presently setting up operations for ‘Village Industries’ in rural parts of Telangana.
Let's hope this no-money cycle ride of this young and enthusiastic traveller is a success.
Partha Prawal (Goswami) is a Guwahati-based journalist who loves to write about entertainment, sports, and social and civic issues among others. He is also a published author.