It’s taken Aaftab Faridi, a 23-year-old from Delhi, 93 days across 12 states to cover 8,975 km on his bicycle. He has to do another 10,000 km to reach his goal, that of the Guinness record for the longest journey by bicycle in a single country held at the moment by Benjamin Woods of Australia.
Faridi, a political science student at Delhi University, is skipping his final-year exams to break the record and highlight his message of ‘Respect for Soldiers’. His family lives in East Delhi’s Shahdra locality and runs a garments factory.
“My family had dreams of me having a job and earning good money. But jobs are so less and people don’t get any scope to dream. I am skipping this year because I am attempting a world record,” says the cyclist who worked at a Decathalon sports store till he started his journey this August.
Faridi has tried his hand at various sports from 100 meters dash to 400 meters sprint, before he was suggested by his friends to take up cycling. “I was a state medalist within three months and qualified for the nationals in six months,” he says.
That’s when the reality of cycling hit him. “The cost of cycles range from between Rs 75,000 and Rs 8 lakh,” he says, pointing to his bicycle which costs Rs 1.2 lakh and was donated by Gaurav Wadhwa, a senior cyclist who runs a sports shop in East Delhi. ”There was no contract deal, no sponsorship. He just gave me a cycle and told me to ride,” says Faridi. He also managed to raise Rs 15,000 as donations via PayTm which helped him buy a sleeping bag, mattress and winter garments. He’s also secured a GPS device to keep track of his progress.
Till a few months back Faridi was content with this job, that of a T2 certified technician at Decathalon. But his dreams started taking flight when he met a woman who had cycled across all 29 states of India and was planning to cycle across the globe. Over the next two sleepless nights, Faridi says, he struggled between the choice of a college degree, a job and new his dream to cycle across India.
While initially he was gunning for the Santosh Holi’s record of 15,200 km solo on cycle, he now wants to cross the 30,000 mark in nine months of continuous cycling. “I want to travel not just for the love of cycling but to spread the message of courage and discipline in the youth of our country,” he says.
Faridi, who has so far covered 12 states mostly in the north and east, arrived in Tripura from Mizoram this week. From Agartala he will make his way to Silchar in Assam and then head south before riding up the west coast to finally reach Delhi. “I dream of cutting my birthday cake with my name in the Guinness Book of World Records on June 15, 2019 in Delhi,” Faridi says, oozing confidence.
Faridi who has now crossed the high mountain passes in the Himalayas like Khardung la and Rohtang claims nobody has ever cycled in these tracks with luggage without any support before. “But I have 40 kg of luggage on my bicycle. I want to set an example for boys like me who often raise their hands saying there is not enough support or resources.”
But it has clearly been a struggle, especially since he has no sponsor nor any help from the government. He got stuck in Ladakh’s Wari La. “I ran out of food. I could barely walk. My throat was aching due to dryness. I chewed and ate some grass and moved on,” he says. “Now I eat if someone gives me food. People are helping me by providing me food and beverages. Sometimes I also eat from the dustbin,” he says, adding how he has actually starved for 20 of the 93 days he’s been on the road. “But it’s okay. When something good is happening, some hard days are welcome.”