Our rider Nitesh Square column about De Paix Yatra's experiences in DNA - Mumbai (After Hours) 17th November 2012, Page 6 (Photo credit: De Paix Yatra/Olympus OM-D)
"We want to travel more"
We landed home on Diwali night with 13 bags and lots of love. One of my Facebook friends wrote, “Welcome back on the same day when Lord Ram came back.” I replied with a smile.
Before we reached Vietnam, I heard about a book which was written by a friend I had met two years ago in India. That was the first and last time I ever met her. In 2012, I met a 19-year-old girl from Vietnam who traveled several countries on her own. Today her travel book is famous in Vietnam and she is considered a youth icon. I was unaware that she had mentioned me and her trip to Mumbai in her book, until I started getting several friend requests on Facebook from Vietnam with messages stating that they read about me in a book. I was so happy to see the success of my friend Chip Huyen’s work. She is planning to release the book in English soon and I am looking forward to buying it.
A well-wisher from Ho Chi Minh City sent me an email, saying that she will be coming to India next year and would like to meet. Her name is Tran Thi Kim Ngân aka Nancy, and she runs a belly dancing and Bollywood dance studio — Saigon Belly dance. When she came to know about our visit to Ho Chi Minh City she said, “You guys have to stay at my place and nowhere else.” I ended up doing my first studio shoot with belly dancers on Nancy’s request. Vietnam has its own charm — Ho Chi Minh City is like the Mumbai of Vietnam in its own way. If you go here, then do come back only after buying lots of local coffee.
There are several moments in our journey which I will never forget. Of course, the whole journey is unforgettable. But someone said it right, human wants are unlimited. We traveled around 12,000 kilometers in 90 days and we want to travel more. We want to meet more people who are working towards change and upliftment of the needy, who want to spread happiness and inspire people.
Now we are back to the ol’ drawing board. To design another road trip, Desi De Paix Yatra which starts on January 12 and will continue till February 12, 2013. We will travel around India to show people in the villages the stories we have captured.
Travel makes you wise, sets you free, opens your eyes and teaches you about new cultures. And to know more about what travel can do, you need to start traveling right away. Happy trails, until another time!
— with Nitesh N Nitesh.
Our rider Nitesh Square column about De Paix Yatra's experiences in DNA - Mumbai (After Hours) 10th November 2012, Page 10 (Photo credit: De Paix Yatra/Olympus OM-D)
"Eat, Love, Enjoy"
I just saw my first waterfall (Asia’s biggest) at Don Det, the 4,000 islands, spent the night by the river, made new friends and had a ball. Yes, that felt good after being on the road for more than 11,000 kilometers. We left for Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Sunday afternoon and after changing a few buses managed to reach our destination. I had the most amazing time of this journey, interacting with the kids on the border of Cambodia and Laos.
By the way, a special tip if you are a vegetarian. Please learn a few lines of the local languages before visiting Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Do also read about the currency exchange rates and denominations. We did struggle a little when it came to food. Surprisingly, Cambodia also deals in the US dollar. Almost any kind of transaction happens in dollars if you are a traveler. Even locals tend to deal in the same currency.
We were shopping at the Russian Market in Phnom Penh and read something about disabilities on the billboard of a shop. Curious, I ventured closer to read more about it. Luckily, the owner of the souvenir shop was there, Sam Oeurn Ourk. He started Ta Phohm Souvenir Shop, with a self-help team of women with disabilities, along with his wife Kong Chim in 1993. They sell silk products made by people who are physically challenged or poor. This wonderful couple tries to employ such people, who society tends to ignore on a daily basis. Sam's wife met with an accident when she was 12 and recently got an artificial leg. Till now, this couple has supported 50 families and takes care of food and accommodation of 12 disabled people who work with them. When I asked Sam why he didn’t employ non-disabled people, he smiled and replied, “If I do, then who will take care of people who are not able to keep up in our fast-running society.”
On our last day in Phnom Penh, we met Man Pally, Programmer Coordinator for Mith Samlanh (friends in English), a local organization started in 1994. They work with Cambodian street children, their families and the community to develop creative projects that allow children to become independent and productive members of the community. “Our aim is to facilitate the children’s social reintegration into their families, the public school system, the workplace, and their culture. So far, we have supported approximately 5,000 street kids,” says Man.
By the time you read this column we will be in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. We will be spending the last days of our De Paix Yatra in Vietnam and take a flight back to Mumbai on November 13. But do wait for my next column to read about farewell in Vietnam and stories of unsung heroes from Ho Chi Minh City.
— with Nitesh N Nitesh at Ho Chi Minh City.
"Cross culture with happiness"
I forgot to mention in my last column that we were not able to fly our bikes to Thailand because of rules and regulation. So, we are going to complete the rest of the journey by renting bikes and hitchhiking. We took a train from Bangkok to reach Chiang Mai. The Indian Railway could learn a lot from the Thailand’s trains.
This time we were hosted by a Dutch woman, who moved to Chiang Mai around two years ago. We were not able to go to Europe on our journey but the universe had planned something for us when it sent us to this side of the world. We are meeting locals and Europeans, who are into social work, without going to Europe. I also noticed several foreigners settling down here by putting up restaurants, renting bikes and what not.
We met Meghan Fortune from Washington DC who is changing lives at the grassroots level, nearly 25,000 kms from her home; because she believes that entire world is her home. Meghan works with the We Women foundation which has been dedicated to the empowerment of unrecognized refugee women from Myanmar. By providing educational and professional opportunities to women of Burma, she is trying to make a strong Myanmar for tomorrow. She believes that each woman refugee’s personal story may differ, but the reason for their fight is the same, to make Myanmar free from heavy social and political crisis.
It seems like we are carrying the blessings of the people, as we are reaching our destinations at the right time. We took a mini-bus from Chiang Mai and reached Vientiane during the Bun Nam (Water Festival) and the Boat Racing Festival. During the festival, people make donations and offerings in temples and in the evening, offer candles and flowers in the river. The celebration is on at every house with music, dance, food and drinks.
The first interview I had in Laos was with Stephanie Cohen, Country Director – AFESIP, Laos. AFESIP is a French non-governmental, non-partisan and non-religious organization. Beginning its activities at the grassroot level in Cambodia in 1996, AFESIP established missions in Vietnam and Thailand before opening its Laos contingent in 2006. They aim to contribute to the struggle against human trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation or slavery. Stephanie moved to Vientiane in 2006 from France. When asked about how easy it is for her to deal with families of victims, she said, “In few cases, families are aware about what their kids are doing. So in that scenario we try to make the families understand and help their kids to get good work instead.” While in Vientianne, I met a man from Pakistan. When I asked him how he ended up here, he said “I came here as a tourist, fell in love and then decided to settle down here, and got married.” He runs one of the best Indian food restaurants in town for the last eight years. By the time you read this, we will be in Pakse, South Laos and then off to Cambodia by Monday.
— with Nitesh N Nitesh.
Our rider Nitesh Square column about De Paix Yatra's experiences in DNA - Mumbai (After Hours) 27th October 2012, Page 4 (Photo credit: De Paix Yatra/Olympus OM-D)
And they speak like a poet…
We get our visa for Thailand in 30 seconds! Yes, it is true. As soon as we landed at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, we went straight to the fast track, visa-on-arrival desk and got ours in no time. We can
feel that we are in a different land, in a different culture but among people still. The first thing I noticed about Thailand is that the people speak like poets — in a sweet way. We were hosted by my Facebook friend Areena Narang, whom I have known for a few years but never met before.
The first challenge was language and second, food. But thanks to the voice translator application on my phone we were able to overcome the language barrier. We weren’t fluent but it was manageable. Our first night out was at The Iron Fairies in Sukhumvit area. Darkness, candles, live music — the best night out music space I have seen on our journey. Here, for the first time on the journey, I took photographs for myself with my trusted personal camera.
Khaosan Road is another tourist attraction which one should not miss. We took Samlor (Bangkok’s Tuk Tuk) and it was amazing — colorful and fun to travel in. I also noticed that it had a dustbin — that shows that people are concerned about keeping Bangkok clean. You will find several vegetarian restaurants here and also lots of people who can communicate with you in Hindi. But most of them are from Burma. Do have a meal at Taste of India before you leave Khaosan Road.
We visited an interesting place — Second Change Bangkok. SCB is situated in Klong Toei area — it is not like Mumbai’s Dharavi but it is called a slum area where lower middle-class people and labourers live. SCB gives a second chance to products which are discarded. They use their creativity and make the best of the waste, selling it to the residents at a very basic cost. A few products didn’t have a price tag, you could pay as you please, from your heart. They work on a simple idea — Recycle, Reuse, Renew. SCC is a not-for-profit organization, and the money they raise is utilized to educate the kids in the slum.
On Wednesday, we left for Chiang Mai, not knowing anyone there. But thanks to Couch Surfing, we found a host and also some local inspirational people to interview. In our 13,000 kms trip, this website has proved to be a great resource, helping us meet people from different backgrounds and walks of life. Do use it, if you are going to a strange land to experience the local culture. By the time you read this, we will be in the Northern part of Thailand. More soon.
Our rider Nitesh Square column about De Paix Yatra's experiences in DNA - Mumbai (After Hours) 20th October 2012, Page 10 (Photo credit: De Paix Yatra/Olympus OM-D)
‘Be humble to do noble’
Looks like things are happening for a reason. De Paix Yatra was meant to be in Bhutan. Now whenever I hear the word Bhutan, alag che (it’s different) comes to mind. Last Saturday (October 13) was the first wedding anniversary of the present king of Bhutan. Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Tarayana Foundation organised an art and children’s event for the same. As soon as we entered, the first thing we noticed was a cap collecting competition. Kids were asked to collect the caps of bottles which are used once. A smart way to reuse bottles which can go straight for recycling after their first use only. We were trying to find other interesting things and we heard the announcement of Bhutan’s Prime Minister Jigme Thinley arriving. Somehow I got a feeling that we were going to meet both the Prime Minister and Bhutan’s Princess Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuck. We requested Chime P Wangdi, Secretary General, Tarayana Foundation to introduce us to the Princess if possible. Soon after Princess Sonam smiled and walked towards me. The first thing she said was, “We are honoured to have you guys in Bhutan and you are doing an amazing journey”. I started briefing her about the journey and objective and she said to me “Be humble, to do noble. And you guys are doing the same. I can feel it.”
We were about to leave when the PM walked towards us. Princess Sonam introduced him and he said “Wonderful work.” He was in a hurry so Parth requested him to give a 30-second message on camera about ‘Gross National Happiness’. He smiled as he walked away and came back to us 15 minutes later and said “You have earned my 30 seconds as you are doing good work.” We were so thrilled at that moment.
We went to Paro from Thimphu. One of the best places I have ever seen. the Tourism Council of Bhutan arranged for our stay in a 300-year-old village house so we could experience the countryside. Our host Om, receives more than 100 guests every day who come to see her house. It’s the only house in Paro left to give a rural experience of Bhutan. She was an amazing host and fed us like her own kids. So, we left Bhutan with an unexpected incredible experience.
By the way, we have to skip Myanmar. The Embassy of Myanmar informed us that entering their country by land is not allowed. You can just fly in and out. There are several restricted area within Myanmar where biking is not possible. We reached Kolkata on our bikes yesterday and by the time you will read this article we will be in our flight to Bangkok. Stay tuned to know what happens with us in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
— with Parth Vasavada and Nitesh N Nitesh.
Our rider Nitesh Square column about De Paix Yatra's experiences in DNA - Mumbai (After Hours) 13th October 2012, Page 5 (Photo credit: De Paix Yatra/Olympus OM-D)
"Happiness is here"
Tuesday, we entered the land of compassion, love and humbles. There is only one big check post gate between India and Bhutan at the border in Phuntsholing. I was able to feel the amazing positive vibes of Bhutan as soon as I entered. We got our tourist visas in just 30 minutes as well as permits to ride our bikes in Bhutan. Since both are valid only for seven days, you have to go to the capital, Thimphu to extend them. Opposite the immigration office building is a small restaurant with the best chole bhatura I have ever had. What makes the food delicious is its pureness. You will not find half water in your litre of milk. You will not find the use of bad oil for preparing food. In fact, just a day before reaching Bhutan we heard that Bhutan is going to be the first 100 per cent organic nation in the world.
On our way to Thimphu we had to stop at Gedu, a small village 50 kilometres from Phuntsholing border, because of rains and fog. We didn’t know anyone in Gedu and we were told that there no hotels. We had dinner at a small restaurant and made friends with the owners, who helped us find a guest house. A truly amazing place, we paid just 600 Ngultrum (equal to 600 Indian rupees) for thebest hotel room on the trip so far. Next morning, I saw my life’s best sunrise and though it was cold outside, I could not resist taking pictures. We set out finally at noon, reaching Thimphu by nightfall.
In the meanwhile I wrote to the Tourism Council of Bhutan via Twitter and Facebook and tried our luck to find some inspiring people through them. In a few hours we had a response and they arranged some meetings for us — one at the Tarayana Foundation and the other with the Bhutan Youth Development Fund.
Tarayana Foundation works to help enhance the lives of individuals and communities of Bhutan.“We work from the heart for a happy and prosperous Bhutan. And when you work with compassion and integrity, you will always get success,” says Chime P. Wangdi, Secretary General, Tarayana Foundation. Simply Bhutan — a project of Bhutan Youth Development Fund — has created the experiences of a village house. This will help to maintain the real, cultural Bhutan. One can experience the feel of a village house without going out to rural areas.
A nation of humble and compassionate people, Bhutan believes in collective and community work rather than just individual progress. More will always be less to describe Bhutan. In order to feel and experience it in a true way you have to visit here.
Our rider Nitesh Square column about De Paix Yatra's experiences in DNA - Mumbai (After Hours) 6th October 2012, Page 5 (Photo credit: De Paix Yatra/Olympus OM-D)
"Dream to do something, not to be something…"
‘Indian vehicles banned in Nepal’, ‘500 Indian vehicles stopped at border’, these were the kinds of headlines we were reading in the newspaper on day two of our Nepal visit. It was not an official government ban but the ban was called by one of the Communist Party of N
epal (Maoist). On Friday (September 28), we were stopped by the check post police about 65 kms away from Butwal, where we were supposed to stay before heading to Kathmandu. The officers asked us return to India by the nearest border which was 20 kms away and after several requests we were still not allowed to go ahead. He informed us that a few vehicles had been set on fire during the day. Some Indian trucks were waiting at the check post for the Nepali police to escort them till they crossed the danger zone. We waited for a couple of hours and finally they allowed us to ride with them. After two hours we reached Butwal and were in Kathmandu the following evening.
We visited the Handicap International (HI), Kathmandu, which is headquartered in France. Since 2000 they have been active in Nepal, supporting the Nepalese physical rehabilitation service. We met four interesting people — Laurence Degreef from Belgium has been working with HI since June 2011, a Nepali, Nishee Adhikari who has been there for two and a half years , Zoltan Mihok from Serbia who joined them a month back and Sangay Amina Bomzan who is from Kathmandu who has been around since HI started in Nepal. When we asked Zoltan, why Nepal, he said, “I selected the work, not the nation.” I was stumped — this man is so dedicated, he can go anywhere and work for the betterment of society.
Sona Kothi in Kathmandu Valley is home to a temple much older than Pashupatinath — Bhringeshwar Mahadev. This temple was destroyed in the 1890 earthquake, and nobody gave any attention to this historical heritage of Nepal. We met Ramchandra Maharjan, a man who rolled up his sleeves to save the heritage of his village, city and country. When we asked why are you doing this? He replied, “Why shouldn’t I do this?” His passion to do something for his own community has inspired him to take this mission ahead. We also met Anuradha Koiralaji, who has devoted her entire life in serving the society and saving girls from human trafficking. In the last 20 years, her organisation, Maiti Nepal, has saved more than 25,000 girls from human traffickers and has given meaningful life to them providing care, education, employment. Before you leave Kathmandu, do not forget to visit Thamal — a fun place full of lights, shopping, food, drink and tourists. Make sure to have the Nepali thali at Weizen — a small bakery, restaurant and bar in Thamel.
Our rider Nitesh Square column about De Paix Yatra's experiences in DNA - Mumbai (After Hours) 29th September 2012, Page 5 (Photo credit: De Paix Yatra/Olympus OM-D)
"Himalaya's own land..."
Days on new route, days of new challenges, days filled with new surprises have begun. The first city of our new route was Haridwar — one of the seven holiest places to Hindus. Known for its famous ghat — Har
Ki Pauri (steps of God Hara or Shiva). There is something about all the holy places; you feel different. You detach yourself from the outer world and are just in the very moment at that particular holy place. The same happened with me and Parth. We saw around 5,000 people on Sunday evening for the prayer (aarti).
The next day we left for Nepal — Himalaya’s own land. We decided to spend a night at Mahendranagar, a border town on the Nepali side of the border. But the journey to Mahendranagar was not so easy. We had to pass Banbasa, the last village on the Indian side before entering. We had a car with us carrying our luggage but the river dam bridge right before the border is closed from 2 to 6 pm for cars to
enter and exit.
We didn’t want to go back or wait there for 4 hours so we tried to find a way out. We told the check post police officers about De Paix Yatra. He smiled, said to pay the entry fees for the car and go. This is not the first time we have experienced an act of kindness on our journey. It is in our human DNA to
be kind always but in the journey of winning in life we hardly remember this simple fact.
At the Banbasa border customs office we experienced another act of compassion. The officers chatted with us for more than an hour and gave us tips on the Do’s and Don’ts for Nepal. “You are our citizens; we do not want to face any kind of difficulties in Nepal. We would like you to respect the nation and culture,” said Mr Tiwari, senior officer at the Border Custom office. By the way, before leaving India, do not forget to have the famous Aloo chaat which is right outside the office in Banbasa.
We stayed the night at Mahendranagar and left for Nepalgunj at noon the next day. No doubt it is the land of Himalayas but we had to cross Bardia National Park in the evening. It feels like a long drive on Marine Drive in Mumbai, the only difference being that it continues for a couple of hours without any road lights through the forest! For us this was one of the most silent trips between cities.
The following day we went to meet people at Saathi where we met three incredible women who have been standing against domestic violence and working for the upliftment of Nepali women for the last 20 years. “Selfless service is the only religion,” says Saraswati Sharma. By the time you read this column, we will be in Kathmandu. With October 2 around the corner, stay tuned for some more amazing stories!
Our rider Nitesh Square column about De Paix Yatra's experiences in DNA - Mumbai (After Hours) 14th September 2012, Page 4 (Photo credit: De Paix Yatra/Olympus OM-D)
"Taste on the journey"
In a different zone and full of positivity after we received blessings from His Holiness Dalai Lama, we wanted to stay longer in Dharamshala. But we have a journey to finish and had to leave for our next destination — to Ludhiana, a new addition to our route. I would suggest that you not leave Dharamshala without trying the Cheese Tomato Lasagne — one of the best vegetarian dishes I’ve had recently.
We were on the border of Dharmashala when my trusty bike broke down. There was no garage around, so I just sat on the bike as it moved forward on its own thanks to the slope. After 15 minutes, we managed to find a garage and decided to break for lunch. Unable to find any vegetarian food out, we explained to a roadside restaurant owner about De Paix Yatra and he happily cooked up something vegetarian for us to relish.
On the opposite side of the road I saw a man running a food joint by the name Fouji Dhaba. I couldn’t contain my curiosity and had to know more. He introduced himself as Omkar Singh, 53 years who joined the Indian army when he was 21 and served the nation for 18 years. But in 1992 he realised that war is not a solution for peace - but inspirational stories and talks are. He left the army and started ‘Fouji Dhaba’ and now he shares his inspirational stories with those who stop by.
When we were two hours away from Ludhiana, we decided to stop by Jalandhar, were we didn’t really know anyone. Luckily, I checked my phone and realised that my friend, actor Seep Taneja is in Jalandhar. Though I had never met her, I decided on this journey it seemed fitting to meet with her as we were discovering how open this world is to random and new guests. I just causally asked Seep, if we can stay her place and she happily agreed. It’s wonderful to say that through our journey we have been constantly welcomed as part of family by strangers.
The next day Seep introduced us with Gaurav Bhalla, who lives 30 kilometers away from Jalandhar in a city call Phagwara. People call him Green boy. “I was always passionate about cycling and I come up with the cycle marathon in 2012 with about 6,000 participants. Our aim was to spread awareness on saving the environment and go green in our daily life.” Today Gaurav, roams around in his city only on cycle, has painted his cycle green and tries to wear t-shirts with go green quotes. “What we see and read, we act in our life in the same way. I am from a well-to-do family so people wondered why do use a cycle as a mode of transport. But this campaign is working - it has made two big industrialists in my city leave their cars and use bicycles whenever possible,” adds Gaurav.
Next week we head out of India. Keep reading to discover some international inspirational stories.
— with Seep Taneja and Nitesh N Nitesh.
Our rider Nitesh Square column about De Paix Yatra's experiences in DNA - Mumbai (After Hours) 7th September 2012, Page 4 (Photo credit: Katie C H Lie & De Paix Yatra/Olympus OM-D)
Birthday on the road…
On the eve of my birthday we left for Chandigarh from New Delhi. This was the first time we decided to ride after sunset. It was midnight when we crossed Haryana state toll center and my birthday
had begun. I decided to do something different on this day, by celebrating it with a 65-year-old man who runs a tea shop on the side of road, just ahead of the toll center. When I asked, why he is open at night, he smiled and said, “Son, I would like to serve people in the night so they can be fresh and drive safely.”
Finally, after several bike breakdowns, we reached Chandigarh at 3 am on Saturday. We were hosted by Rahul Gulati, who is a Couch Surfer. Couch Surfing is a cultural exchange and travellers website were people host and meet travellers. The unique part and rule is that you cannot charge the people you are hosting — they are guests. We slept for five hours and woke up to the smell of amazing Punjabi food. Soon after we left to meet Pramod Sharma, the founder of YuvSatta — who was busy in meetings for his upcoming peace festival but still took time out for us. He has been building peace activities for many years and started organising the International Peace Festivals in Chandigarh six years ago. “We started with two countries, India and Pakistan and this year we will have around 500 participants from 50 countries,” Sharma said.
At 3 pm we left for Dharamshala, which was a last-minute decision when we came to know His Holiness Dalai Lama was there for three days. We were not sure if we would have the opportunity to meet him, but we had faith that we would get his blessings. Somehow we managed to get press cards and on the second day of his teaching, September 5, we attended his meeting. We wanted to get his blessing on the Jay Jagat flag, which was gifted to us by our friends — Jayesh Patel and Madhusudan Agrawal in Ahmedabad. The flag was gifted to Jayesh by Pancho Ramos Stierle, a peace maker and peace activist in United States of America. Pancho’s peace building activities came to notice when he started meditation on the street and was arrested by local police for the same. We were also honoured to receive a personal email from Pancho with his best wishes for De Paix Yatra.
We were only allowed to shoot silently without disturbing the teachings, standing to the side of the passage from where HH Dalia Lama passes. He saw Parth smiling with the flag in his hand and stopped. Parth quickly told him about De Paix Yatra in two lines and His Holiness just said “Keep doing it…keep moving it…keep doing it…” and gave blessings to the flag with few lines in Tibetan as a prayer. This was the best moment of our peace journey so far.
— with Nitesh N Nitesh, Pancho Ramos Stierle, Katie Lin and Parth Vasavada.
Our rider Nitesh Square column about De Paix Yatra's experiences in DNA - Mumbai (After Hours) 1st September 2012, Page 5 (Photo credit: De Paix Yatra/Olympus OM-D)
“Humanity without boundaries”
In Jaipur we came across a truely inspirational story. Since 1975, Jaipur Foot at the Bhagwan Mhaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti (BMVSS) provides free artificial limbs and knees to around 15 lakh people. Al
ong with that they also provide free calipers, crutches, ambulatory aids like wheelchairs, hand-paddled tricycles and help them to set up their business or find jobs. The center is open 24/7 and patients can walk in even if their pockets are empty. BMVSS takes care of their stay and food till they receive their limbs/knees on the same day or next day at the latest. “It does matter who you are, from which part of India or world you are, you will be treated equally,” says Dr DR Mehta — Founder and Chief Patron of BMVS.
Next morning we left for New Delhi, but the planned five-hour journey took us 10 hours. We met some of these interesting people on the way making the trip truely worth it. Ganesh cycles 10 km everyday from his village to cut grass from the side of the roads to feed goats. When asked why he doing this, he replied, “I love animals and my family owns few goats. We do not get good grass near our house so I cycle every day and get grass for them.”
Soon after we arrived at a friend, Nikki Kapoor ’s place. She runs a bed and breakfast but lately has been spreading awareness about water conversation and saving. The next day, I met Sajid Hasan who used to sell insurance policies to families and corporates but now builds permanent insurance for low-income families in Jafrabad, Delhi! In 2011 he left his corporate job and joined Teach For India. He joined hands with Babul Uloom Madrasa and started the no-fees Babul Uloom Public School for low-income families in the Madrasa’s premises. “It was not easy for us to gather kids. We went from door to door and requested them to register their kids in the school. We have 150 kids from Nursery to 3rd grade at the school now,” says Sajid.
We all complain about poverty, improper education system but not many of us try to find an alternative. Sajid’s life changed over a discussion on same topic and he decided to leave his handsome job and devote his time for wellbeing of poor people. “It’s been more than a year since my father has spoken to me — he is angry with me but I know one day he will understand,” adds Hasan.
By the time you will read this column we will be in Dharamshala. My maiden visit to the city of His Holiness Dalia Lama and the centre of the Tibetan exile world in India.
— with Nitesh N Nitesh.
The Indian Express - New Delhi - City - Page 6 | 27th August 2012
Finding Peace in the Fast Lane - written by Prajakta Hebbar
(Photo credit: De Paix Yatra/Olympus OM-D)
When Parth Vasavada was seven, he told his father that he wanted to be a cricketer, just like Sachin Tendulkar. At 16, after watching Hindi film Lakshya, he decided to join the Indian army. But it was not until he started going to college, in his hometown Ahmedabad, that he realised what he actually wanted to do. Vasavada wanted to bring about a change. And after working with several NGOs in the city, he joined hands with Mumbai-based freelance photographer Nitesh Square and together, they came up with the idea of De Paix Yatra (the peace yatra), a motorcycle journey from India to England.
In 90 days, Square and Vasavada have decided to cover 15,000 kilometres across 10 countries, and document their experiences. They are shooting and filming their experiences extensively, which will be made into a documentary film and a coffee-table book. “Everyone keeps mouthing lines like ‘India is the youngest nation’ and how India’s youth is ‘useless’. I feel that we are not useless, it’s just that we are not put to better use,” says Vasavada, 24. The duo, who started their journey on August 12 in Mumbai, have just arrived in the Capital from Jaipur, via Surat, Udaipur and Ajmer.
By taking different routes and meeting new people, they want to find out “the stories of change” in various parts of the world. “We have already met so many inspiring people in the last few days that we don’t know what more to expect,” exclaims Square. Vasavada chimes in with a laugh, “We met Savio in Mumbai who runs an orphanage with around 40 slum children, all by himself, sustained only by his salary of Rs 11,000 per month. When we asked him about the organisers or the managers of the orphanage, he said, ‘you are looking at them’!”
One of the interesting things is that De Paix Yatrais going to be completely vegetarian. Nitesh, a vegetarian, doesn’t mind much, but Vasavada, on the other hand, is a self-confessed carnivore and is struggling a bit. But he’s happy as long as PETA India is on board.
Through the Yatra, the duo plans to travel on their Classic 500 Royal Enfield motorbikes and stay over with friends and acquaintances. “We knew some people in some cities already, but we have received tremendous support from strangers all over the world through Facebook, Twitter and our website,” says Square. They will be travelling through India, Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Greece, Italy and France to finally reach the UK. “We would have had such trouble getting the visas and other papers in place, but for the support extended by the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Youth Affairs,” says Square. They have other organisations such as ASSOCHAM, United Nations Volunteers, Indo British Trade Council, US Consulate General and the Chishty Foundation extending their support.
The two plan to showcase their documentary in over 100 Indian villages in January 2013. “We have shortlisted the villages that don’t have any access to TV or the Internet. We are planning to show them these inspiring stories and hope it makes a difference,” concludes Vasavada.
— with Parth Vasavada and Nitesh N Nitesh in New Delhi, Delhi.
The Pioneer - New Delhi - Page 13 | 27th August 2012
The tough get going
The duo of PARTH VASAVADA and NITESH SQUARE have set out to conquer eight countries on their Royal Enfields. They gather inspiring stories on the way alongwith the dust and miles. Ektaa Malik rides along
Remember Easy Rider, the 1969 American road movie? The pan shot of the two riders, wind in their hair, tinted sunglasses and their mean machines. The long hair, marijuana, and community living added to the charm. It reflected the then prevalent hippie culture. It was the flower power generation after all. It inspired a fan following that took to the great American outdoor. Maybe the travels of Nitesh Square and Parth Vasavada might not have the same effect as the cult classic, but they will be definitely remembered for the stories that they gather on the way. The young duo have set on a bike ride that will encompass eight countries. “We will cross over to Bhutan and Nepal from Delhi, then come back to Amritsar and go to Pakistan. Then Iran, Turkey and then Greece. A ferry ride will get us to Italy, and then France. Another ferry ride, and we will reach London”, shared Nitesh. The duo was on their way to Agra.
“This plan was hatched last September, when I was at the Sandakphu the highest peak in West Bengal. I was planning to visit the Cannes film festival, so I thought why not bike all the way to Paris. And I was a journalist, so I would meet people on the way, talk to them, and document the whole thing. I met up with Parth, who has a background of working with the youth, and here we are,” shared Nitesh who also doubles up as a photographer and film maker.
They call their ride the De Paix Yatra, which kickstarted on International youth day, 12th August. The pair uses Royal Enfield 500cc, Classic. A support car follows them with their luggage.
“Lot of people ask us about our plans for the journey, but honestly, there are no plans. The rain doesn’t help, but we keep going. We don’t stay in hotels. We call up relatively unknown people, friends of friends, and we ask them to host us for a night. That ways we really know if the atithi devo bhavo concept is still practiced in India,” added Parth.
And are people welcoming enough? “Yes they are kind enough. And we have had some instances which in retrospect are very funny. While we were leaving Ajmer for Jaipur, I called a lady who runs an art academy. I had met her at a wedding four years back. She readily agreed to host us, and made room for us in the faculty guest rooms on the premises. Then at eleven thirty we were asked to leave by the guards. We were shocked. We called up the woman and she also asked us to leave. So we left and downstairs there was the lady , standing with some policemen. She then explained that where we were made to stay, the very same floor also had the girls hostel. The girls had thought that we were breaking in. They called the police. We then left the place and spent the night in a dharamshala,” shared Parth. They once also accidentally rode into a shamshan ghat.
The duo meets people on the way and documents the many inspiring stories that they encounter. “In Mumbai there is a 32 year old man, who runs a small orphanage in the slums. He once found a three day old girl wrapped in plastic, on a train station. He brought her home. Now he has forty kids living with him, and they all survive on the monthly salary of the young man, which is of Rs11,000,” elaborated the duo.
After finishing the journey the pair will travel to 100 villages and two tier cities in India and showcase their works to the people. “Our journey is not about just traveling, having fun and clicking pictures. We want to bring the inspiring stories from the world, and share them with the youngsters. As it is we lack leaders, such human stories will go a long way to help on that front,” concluded Parth.
— with Nitesh N Nitesh and Parth Vasavada.
Our rider Nitesh Square's column about De Paix Yatra's experiences in DNA - Mumbai (After Hours) 25th August 2012, Page 5 (Photo credit: De Paix Yatra/Olympus OM-D)
"Roads of kindness and compassion"
Like many others, who hardly bother about what is happening outside their houses, I too was indifferent to other people’s problems for a long time. On my way to Udaipur and Ajmer, two incidents too
k place which helped me understand rural India better. On my way to Udaipur on Sunday, I saw a man in the middle of the highway. People were just looking at him and passing by. I stopped my bike and helped him move to the divider realising that he was drunk, but he started forward and was on the road again. I tried to signal the vehicles to take the diversion and tried to get him to shift off the road. Instead, he turned aggressive and abused me, so I left. The next day, I gave a lift to a stranger till the hotel where he worked and he invited me to share a meal with him. He told me how he travels everyday to the hotel from his village and how he depends on lifts as he cannot afford a bike. He prays every time when someone gives him a lift and invites them to dine with him. At both places, I did what I could to help, but only one place was appreciative of my actions. I took a moment to think of the families who live in this manner and how their lives are.
Soon after, we reached Ajmer Sharif Dargah on Eid. We were hosted by the Chishty Foundation and Syed Salman Chishty — of the 27th family generation of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishty. We stayed at Chishty Manzil, which shares a wall with the Dargah, a great way to spend my second visit here and at Ajmer. From our room, I could feel the amazing positive vibes from the non-stop Qawwali (which only stops during the namaz). Though not religious, I am a great believer of positive energies. On Tuesday, I presented my first namaz ever, allowing the energy and vibes of this pure place to seep in as I also presented a holy chadar. The fear of taking this long journey seemed to vanish, it could have been the magic of Dargah or my inner will. The pure feeling and the love of the residents at Chishty Manzil, made us stay two nights instead of one. On Wednesday, we left for Jaipur after accepting a flag to offer in the shrine of Maulana Rumi in Konya, Turkey and spread the message of Sufism and peace. Though I do not understand the words of Sufi songs, the music takes me to a new plane of peace.
— with Syed Salman Chishty, Parth Vasavada and Nitesh N Nitesh at Ajmer Sharif.
DNA Jaipur - After Hours - Page 4 | 24th August 2012
— with Parth Vasavada and Nitesh N Nitesh.
Jaipur City | Page 4 | The Times of India | 22nd August 2012 - written by Shoeb Khan
Motorists on world tour halt in Ajmer
Two twenty-something youths, with a view to promote world peace, are on a motorbike journey from Iddia i to London, which began on August 12 from Mumbai on the International Youth day. The two brave hearts are Nitesh Square, a freelance photo journalist and peacemaker, and P
arth Vasavada, a social entrepreneur and an avid cyclist, both hail from Ahmedabad. Their mission is to zip through eight countries and 50 cities in a span of 64 days.
The made their first stop in Ajmer on Tuesday, to seek the blessings of the sufi saint. The Chishty Foundation (http://chishtyfoundation.org/) gave them a flag to offer in the shrine of Maulana Rumi in Koyna, Turkey.
They call it the De Paix Yatra project or ‘The Peace Yatra’ and aim to connect with over 600 people, promote peace and find out stories of change from different parts of the world. They will honour the revolutionists and peacemakers at different destinations along the way and spread the message of oneness, love, justice, global peace and youth empowerment. And will also disseminate the teachings of Swami Vivekanand and Mahatma Gandhi.
“Ajmer was always on our itinerary. Khwaja Gharib Nawaz has spread peace and harmony in the entire region and introduced people to a new way of life,” said Square.
The duo will traverse 13,000kms through India, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Greece, Italy, France and England. Throughout the journey they will organize peace talks, kindness shows, free hugs campaigns, music shows and exhibitions and support various social campaigns. “Getting permission to ride in these countries was a next to impossible task had ministry of youth affairs not helped with the visas,” said Parth.
The two boys are very excited about their first trip to Pakistan. Here they will be welcomed by the band Junoon’s Ali Azmat in Lahore. Here they will be joined by a Lahorebased biker group that will accompany them till the Iran border.
— with Parth Vasavada and Nitesh N Nitesh at Ajmer Sharif.
Our rider Nitesh Square's column about De Paix Yatra's experiences in DNA - Mumbai (After Hours) 18th August 2012, Page 4
‘Let the road bring peace for you…’
I didn’t own a bike till this year and never rode one for more than 130 km at a stretch. On August 12, I left for a 13,000 km journey — De Paix Yatra — on a brand new Royal Enfield to discover some unsung heroes along the way from India to England. De Paix Yatra is a motorbike peace trip from Mumbai to London to honour the revolutionaries and peacemakers of eight nations who have devoted their lives to bringing the change for the better. Meeting those with a vision along the routes and learning their stories is the only mission of this life-altering journey.
With the purpose being to discover people who believe in selfless service, we wanted to flag off our trip in a unique way. In association with the Beyond Smile Foundation, we organised a free dental check-up camp for 60 orphan kids of Dreamz Home and took their blessings before riding off on the journey of peace. Humbled by the compassion of the kids and their teachers, we knew that this was just the beginning and we were about to meet hundreds of incredible people as we went forth.
It took us six hours to reach Surat after meeting heavy rains and traffic. On Monday, August 13, we visited the cancer ward of the New Civil Hospital, organised by Synergy Foundation and Lions Cancer Centre Trust, Gujarat. It is Asia’s only hospital which gives free treatment to cancer patients. We interacted with the patients and distributed free music CDs (gifted by Universal Music Group) to them in an attempt to encourage music therapy. The next day we visited Navrachana School, Sama in Vadodara. In India, most school buildings remain empty after school hours. But 10 years ago, this school decided to utilise their building to run a unique model. After the morning session, which kids from the privileged section of society attend, the same campus becomes a learning ground for BPL kids. They are provided the same uniform and same education techniques free of cost. The school also provides free lunch to kids and we had the privilege of tasting the food. When asked, one of the teachers said, “Here I teach with my heart and not just my brain. The kind of satisfaction I get from imparting knowledge is unmatched.” If each school in India starts this model, every child would have the chance to change their life via education — imagine where India’s tomorrow would be. The roads are limitless, youth power is limitless!
The columnist is on a peace mission along with friend Parth Vasvada. The duo will ride across eight countries in 65 days. Every week they will share their travel tales with us
— with Parth Vasavada and Nitesh N Nitesh.
DNA After hours (Mumbai): 13th August, 2012 | Page 6
— with Priya Darshini, Aditi Singh Sharma and Daniel Tyler Pohnke.
Youth Incorporated Magazine - August 2012
Youth Incorporated Magazine - August 2012
Our pre flag off event...
The Asian Age: Issue: 13th August, 2012
— with Daniel Tyler Pohnke, Sujal Shah, Max ZT, Tehrin Shaikh, Priya Darshini, Parth Vasavada and Aditi Singh Sharma at The Blue Frog.
SCREEN magazine | August 2012
On a winning streak
A short film contest called 'Peace Shorts' was organised by De Paix Yatra and clun Shamiana at Blue Frog in Mumbai. Luke Kenny and Pia Trivedi were present to watch these films, along with a stunning Nauheed Cyrusi and Ira Dubey, who announced the winners of the night.
— with Nauheed Cyrusi, Cyrus Dastur and Trivedi Pia.
Mid-Day: Issue: 10th August, 2012
An article on our "Peace Shorts" and winners
Two motorcyclist to ride from India to London for peace
Varsha Naik | DNA newspaper (After Hours Page 1) | 23rd July 2012
Hindustan Times (Mumbai edition) | Page 11 | 17th June 2012
Peace on wheels - written by Suprateek Chatterjee
— with Parth Vasavada and Nitesh N Nitesh.
Sandesh Newspaper | Ardha Saptahik | 30th May 2012
Surat: Gujarat Guardian, Page 11 | 14th August 2012
Surat: Gujarat Samachar, Page 2 | 14th August 2012
Surat: Gujarat Mitra, Page 14 | 14th August 2012
Surat: Jansanasar, Page 1 | 14th August 2012
Surat: Samna, Page 12 | 14th August 2012
Surat: Sandesh, Page 12 | 14th August 2012
Surat: Satyam Times
ગુજરાતી ‘શાંતિદૂત’ની મુંબઈથી લંડન સફર
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine. April 29th, 2012.
She Magazine | Canada | 6th June, 2012
By: Frances Du
Parth Vasavada is no stranger to spearheading social initiatives. As the co-founder of the Youth Recruitment Program and the President of YUVA Unstoppable (YUVA stands for Youth United in Visionary Action) he knows what it takes to connect youth with meaningful projects, but this year he plans to inspire them through De Paix Yatra, (De Paix means “peace” in French) his new project which will allow them to travel and see firsthand how local people are making small but meaningful contributions in society. By being part of this social movement, Vasavada is hoping that students will be able to see how anyone–not just the rich and famous–can be a leader of social change.
Inspired by the phrase vasudhaiv kutumbkum (“the whole world is one single family”) taken from Hindu philosophy, this year Vasvada is embarking on a two month long bike ride across Europe and South Asia to promote social change and world peace. The ride will begin in India and travel to underdeveloped nations in order to find and collect stories and opinions from local people whose voices are seldom heard. He is hoping that this rare face-to-face time in a social media world will ignite people’s need to not only become more socially aware of the plight of others across the globe, but become part of the solution as well.
The De Paix promoters will also partner up with universities in all of these various countries in order to hold local debates about youth empowerment and global peace. Other events include street dances and concerts. To make sure their peace mission will sustain and carry on in the future, De Paix Yatra will also enlist local youth volunteers to commemorate this event by painting a mural expressing their hopes and desires for a harmonious future.
Filmmakers will document the ambitious bike ride spanning over two continents.
The Ride for Peace will take place from August 12th to October 15th 2012. It will coincide with International Youth Day, International Peace Day and International nonviolence Day.