“Real people, Real travel” is a City &I series about everyday travellers from various fields, including business, entertainment, science and education. We want to know the WHY behind their WHAT and get an exclusive look into the many sustainable travel hats they wear.
Our first guest Mohan Narayanaswamy is the Founder of Travel Scope, a tour operator handling foreign travellers from worldwide to India. When the uncertainty of 2020 began to unfold, Mohan covered almost 500 km on his bicycle in 12 days through some of the most beautiful, undulating and desolate countrysides of Rajasthan.
In this travelogue, he speaks about small experiences like pit stops at most scenic spots for refreshments and picnic lunches, solitude, conservation and sustainable practices, discovered stunning habitats, saw some of the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets, & went on night drives.
“Jaan hai to Jehaan hai”. This Indian expression could not be more relevant for the times we live, as we experience something, like never before, during this 2nd wave of Covid-19. This also emphasizes what important role health and sanitization plays in our day to day lives across the world.
When I was researching factual information to write this blog, I learnt that 7th April is observed as “World Health Day” by WHO. Each year on 7th April, WHO celebrates this day to create awareness on a specific segment of health, be it physical health, mental health or even the health of our planet.
So how to schedule fitness into our daily routine and lead a healthy life.?? I would say by observing every day as “Health Day”. There cannot be anything more important than dedicating a part of your day to health and fitness.
Let us reflect on something as simple as washing and sanitizing our hands. It has been an integral part of our daily lives for centuries. Yet, we have to be reminded of it, particularly now, for fear of contracting the virus. Similarly, fitness should not be a temporary tool to overcome health issues. It has to become a daily ritual in our lives.
How do we do that?? Take up a physical activity that you like. You could start with something as easy as walking. A 45-minute brisk walk is a good energy booster. You could also use this time to listen to podcasts, motivational videos or simply some music of your choice. Scheduling a fitness activity as part of your daily routine also helps regulate your thoughts, become creative and plan your day better.
One of the activities that I personally love is cycling. Do you remember that moment when you learnt to cycle? It was such a feeling of triumph balancing that handle and pedalling without falling. Those moments are still vivid in my memory.
Growing up in the 70’s, not everyone could afford to buy a cycle. So I used to rent bikes. In those days, it costed 50 Paisa to 1 Rupee an hour. But as time passes, our priorities in life change. Like all of us, I, too, grew beyond the bicycle.
Back in 2010, I got an opportunity to curate a bicycling holiday in Rajasthan for a group of elderly Australian nationals. Though I had no experience handling a cycling journey, I jumped into it with a “never say no” attitude. We created a fantastic itinerary featuring some unexplored destinations, such as Karauli, Ramathra, Bundi, Shahpura, Deogarh, Devigarh.
Cycling is one of the best ways to see a country and get up close with locals and experience their culture. Riding through the amazing landscape, on country roads that are so isolated that you don’t encounter anyone for miles. It’s just you, your cycle and the silence of our vast countryside. The experience is indescribable. We stayed in some of the most beautiful properties. Some of these were exclusive to us as they had just the exact number of rooms needed for our group size. So these became private havens for a few days before we moved onto the next destination.
We tasted some of the most delicious cuisine made up of dishes that we can never order out of a restaurant menu, as these have been guarded for generations by the host families as part of their traditional kitchens. One of the unique features of the trip was to meet an amazing array of people, from natives of the region to nobles who had returned to their roots as custodians of their heritage.
Along the way, we experienced Wildlife Safaris, visited villages, interacted with locals, played cricket with children, learnt about local farming methods, took a cooking class, rode a train through the Aravallis, drove in vintage cars, witnessed Rajasthan’s folk culture, crossed a river on camelbacks. There was hardly anything touristy about these experiences. As we covered almost 500 Km on our bicycles in 12 days, we rode through some of the most beautiful, undulating and desolate countrysides of Rajasthan. Our pit stops included the most scenic spots for refreshments and picnic lunches.
Bicycling has come back into my life ever since and is a passion for me. In addition to Yoga & Running during the week, I enjoy long bike rides over the weekends. It also helps me keep fit. Winters particularly are an excellent time for longer rides. I always prefer going early in the morning when there is practically no traffic and the roads are less noisy. It enables me to enjoy my solitude.
I also used the time created by this pandemic and embarked upon biking journeys through Rajasthan to discover new destinations and newer routes. In addition to cycling, I experienced several other activities such as Off-roading in 4×4 Jeeps, hikes, encounters with local tribes and communities, looking for indigenous wildlife, interacting with people who have championed a cause for conservation and sustainable practices, discovered stunning habitats, saw some of the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets, & went on night drives.
The sad part is that my explorations have come to a halt due to the 2nd wave of the pandemic. Even more sad is the fact that we are losing so many of our people to this virus.
This is a time of global calamity. Under these circumstances, it has become necessary for everyone to practice Covid appropriate behaviour. Because until everyone is safe, the world is not safe. Remember the expression “Jaan hai to Jehaan Hai”.
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Travel moves Mohan, literally; movies, music and art inspire him. As an effortless linguist, he is a curious seeker constantly opening his horizons to different geographies, cultures and people.