In September this year, when Raj Phaden (37), an Ayurveda practitioner from Hisar in Haryana, left his home on a bicycle to spread awareness on the need to save the environment, he didn’t know he would manage to plant as many as 2,500 trees within a couple of months.
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A fitness fanatic himself, Phaden took help from acquaintances and good samaritans en route for shelter on his journey, in which he has now covered Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Chandigarh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Mumbai. Over 2,000 tress have been planted by Phaden on his way, while he continues telling children he meets at every stop to plant some more.
Currently on a break from his 12-year practice, Phaden believes that educating people on saving the environment is the need of the hour. Cycling from one state to the other, the primary listeners to his message include school teachers, children and residents of small villages he passes on the way.
“During my practice, I came across many individuals, a majority of them in their twenties, to be suffering from some of the most incurable illnesses. I also lost my father and one of my closest friends to a fatal health disorder. Each of these incidents dawned upon me the need to practice a healthier life and also preserve nature, the fall of which is the root of all malfunctions,” he said.
After years of deliberations, Phaden finally made up his mind to take this journey through which he believes he could contribute to the society in some way. “Cycling lifts up the essential reason of why I am promoting the cause. A cycle also attracts kids and lures their parents in to believing that what I am doing is no one-time thing. It also informs the kids on being more active and come out in the open than remain confined to their household games,” he added.
“I ask them to plant a tree each on their birth anniversaries as a return gift to the nature. Reducing the generation of waste, staying away from plastic and curbing deforestation remain some of my other messages. The present condition of the environment is a slow poison which each one of us is facing,” he added.
However, his journey has been more a bed of thorns than roses, he recalled. With limited resources, no financial aid and absolutely no guarantee of finding any place to stay, Phaden is prepared to take the Bengaluru route to Sri Lanka and at least cover major parts of the world in the next eight-ten years on his cycle.
“Nothing has been easy… people have asked me if I undertake a journey of this regard will it help bring any change, to which I have replied that it can at least initiate a change,” he added. Having lost at least 10 kg by making sure he sticks to a ‘healthy’ diet, he added, “Even if 1 per cent of the crores of people who I meet on the way understand the reason of my endeavour, I will have achieved something,” he added.