“The only Zen you find on tops of mountains is the Zen you bring there.” “Although motorcycle riding is romantic, motorcycle...
Kashmir to Kanyakumari – Faisal Latif’s StoryNeeraj
“When you take the step towards your dreams you will be met with fears because you have never traveled this way before. As you go, you will discover that you had nothing to fear. Through overcoming your fears you give those that follow you hope that if they pursue their dreams, they will achieve their dreams.”
― E’yen A. Gardner, Detox 21: 21 day cleansing of the soul
At the Age of 19, When most teenagers are busy preparing for competitive exams and vying to get into top colleges, Faisal Latif is not only living his dream but he also enjoys the rare feat of having completed two enduring courses from Top Indian Mountaineering schools, Having cycled solo from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and currently planning a Walkathon from Mumbai to Delhi. He is a Mountaineering freak and loves admiring nature. I got to know about Faisal through a common friend and decided to catch up with him and find out his story.
So Faisal, Tell me something about yourself?
I am Born and brought up in Patna, Bihar. My date of birth is 7th September 1994. I did my schooling from St.Dominic Savio’s High School Patna till class 10th and from DAV Public School Patna till class 12th. Post that while most of my friends went on to join a professional college, I dropped one year just to fulfill my dream of traveling and adventure. Right now I am pursuing BA Hons. in Geography from Jamia Millia Islamia,New Delhi. My father works in the Indian Railways and my mother is a home maker and I have two elder sisters.
That is interesting, So you are studying geography, My personal favorite too.. I can somehow connect the dots why you have chosen this stream..
(He smiles) Yes of course, traveling, mountaineering and nature is what I love, so It was only natural for me to pursue Geography. I wanted to learn something that is not only aligned with my interests but will also help me get better in this field.
Tell me about how the Epic Kashmir to Kanyakumari cycle trip happened?
Honestly I never planned on the cycling trip. In fact I had not even cycled actively prior to this trip. It all happened in 2012 when post my class 12th, I decided to drop an year. I was preparing for the NDA (National Defense Academy) exams and simultaneously had took up courses at Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports (ABVIMAS) in September and Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling. At these Schools, I met some very interesting people from across India. While chatting with them, someone floated an idea of doing something of this sort. It was attempted by someone from the Army for a special cause earlier and it seemed like a very adventurous thing to do. It would not only help me test my physical strength but also my mental fitness. So I decided I will take this up as a challenge.
How much planning went into this?
This was pretty much an Ad-hoc decision. I had just completed the course at Darjeeling and was in Touch With Manan Bhai whom I had met in Manali At ABVIMAS. The main challenges were convincing my parents, arranging for a cycle and petty cash for the expenses during the trip. Manan bhai suggested we look for sponsors. He helped me connect with Firefox Bikes who give me a 25% discount on their Bike. It was a Firefox Viper which was about Rs. 20,000 but I had to pay only 14, 000. This money was sponsored by Manan bhai. All this while, I did not inform my parents as I thought it would be a better idea to make all arrangements and then inform them, in that case they would not say NO (he chuckles). So Once all the arrangements were made I informed my father. He laughed it off saying now I cannot stop you since you have already made all the arrangements.
Wow, That is interesting… So was there a Specific Message that you wanted to deliver through this expedition?
Some part of My expedition was sponsored by my parents. A major chunk was sponsored by Manan bhai, who runs a school in Hissar. He supported my mission on behalf of the school. The theme and message I carried was to Stay Strong and Stay healthy. It was also to inspire the younger children to lead a healthy Lifestyle and to refrain from harmful habits like Drinking and Smoking. The children I met at the schools were very enthusiastic to learn more about what I was doing. I used to advise them that to attempt something Like this you need to stay fit and healthy and so they would get the context.
That’s great, so tell us how your trip spanned out?
My cycling expedition lasted 37 days. I started on 2nd December 2012 from Srinagar in Kashmir and it ended on 7th January 2013 in KanyaKumari. While in the North India mostly Kashmir, Punjab, Delhi, Rajasthan, UP and Delhi the Climate was pleasant an therefore I used to stay in Gurudwaaras, Temples for free accommodation and food. That ways I kept the cost of the trip down. Also since It was only Winters, I did not have the problems of Taking bath daily. (he smirks) As I approached Madhya Pradesh, the climate was getting warmer. And usually as I was cycling along the Highways, I would stay at cheap accommodations available at Dhabas.
Reasons why I did that was, because this trip was an adventurous one and I wanted to keep that spirit alive. Second, Getting into the city usually required another 5-10 kms of detour which would only add to the fatigue. Staying in Dhabas meant getting up in the morning and one is already on the highway and on course for the bright day of cycling ahead.
In total I covered 11 states AP, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu including the ones mentioned above.
What was the learning on this trip?
As I Said Earlier, I had no experience of endurance Cycling. And the fact that I covered ~4000 Kms in 37 days meant cycling 100 kms a day everyday on the trot. This had a physical toll on my body. The only reason I was able to sustain it was because of the Training and months of trekking I did When At ABVIMAS and HMI. But more than physical it was a mental toll that I had to sustain.
I remember days of riding alone with no one to talk to, no one to have dinner with etc.. There was nobody to help usually on long and lonely highways in case I come across any problem. It got very frustrating initially but I learned to manage the loneliness. It was a learning that One can be one’s best companion. Peace and Solitude helps one realize what he/she really wants after all. This all has helped me shape myself as a stronger person.
Now I do not fear to venture into uncharted territories. I take life as it comes and have sort of become Fearless 🙂
That is Wonderful, So tell me something about the banner you had on your cycle for this trip?
He laughs… Initially in lieu of the Message I was trying to spread: STAY STRONG and STAY FIT, I had decided to have Popeye the Sailor as a mascot. However my father suggested Chhota Bheem, Which is very popular among Children in India these Days. Since the mission of the expedition was also to create awareness among kids to refrain from harmful healthy habits and to stay strong, Chhota Bheem seemed to fit right in. The Bike Expedition was also named as Himsagar, since it was a trip from Himalayas to Hind Mahasagar (aka Indian ocean)
Also an interesting thing happened when I was in Hyderabad. My story was published by the Local newspaper Eenadu alongwith my phone number. This was seen by the creators of Chhota Bheem Green Gold Animations. They took my address and they delivered Goodies including T-Shirt, Calendar and other stuff at my home address in Patna. It was very special of them to do that.
How did the trip go finally, How did you conclude it.?
Post reaching Kanyakumari, I spent a couple of days there before heading to Bangalore. From Bangalore I shipped my cycle back to Patna and Myself headed to Delhi and from there to Patna. I must say it was one of the best experiences of my life and I will remember it for the rest of my life. This journey taught me so many things that has helped me learn and grow.
What are future Plans?
I am currently pursuing my graduation, post which I intend to join the Indian Army. I am interested in serving my country at the same time the training schedules and the adventures provided in Army excite me a lot. I also intend to be a full time mountaineer and want to scale all Eight thousander peaks one day. Also I want to start my own Adventure company in the Long term.
In June (during my summer vacations) I am planning to do a Walkathon from Mumbai to Delhi. I’m sure it is going to be exciting. And a Friend will be joining this time so I’m looking forward to it. Interesting thing is Milind Soman successfully attempted this at the Age of 46 from Delhi to Mumbai so I’m sure We can do it as well..
What are your other interests?
I really love Quizzing and Debating. I keep myself abreast of Current affairs, trivia and absolutely love taking part in quiz events. I also love watching Man vs Wild and want to experience something of that sort.. he signs off feeling with excitement!
Kashmir to Kanyakumari – Faisal Latif’s story is an inspiring one for all youngsters to go out experience the Nature, wild, mountain and to learn to live on your own fearlessly. Getting children out in the nature for hikes is a practice followed by parents in the West. This helps children become more independent, less mollycoddled and teaches them practical lifehacks into staying out in the open.
Follow your dreams. I am not saying it’s going to be easy, but I am saying it’s going to be worth it. – Moffat Machingura
I wished Faisal success in his future endeavors and promised to meet him whenever I’m in Delhi Next!