August 2nd, 2017
This a story is that of a narrative that began months ago and will continue to unfold over the next two years, over 80,000km and engulfing more than 20 countries. A story of diverse people and projects around the world working in radically different ways to bring a positive change, towards peace, sustainable living and community well-being.
A journey of two young individuals, Prashant and Ben, from two opposite sides of the world whose camaraderie and shared vision have taken them away from their homes, work and families to explore the notion of the world as one family. This series will cover the stories of Ben and Prashant and their projects, as encountered through the course of Vasudhaiva Ride. The Logical Indian will be hosting stories from the Vasudhaiva Ride as they happen. Join the journey, follow the stories and explore the meaning of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.
Prashant Kumar : Upcycling design expert, installation artist, animal welfare activist
I was comfortable in my life. I had everything a person could want: a good apartment, my design firm, my favourite places to take my dog, Buddy. But I knew I was done with the city. I could see how the commercial hustle was getting in the way of what mattered to me: working for social change, following my curious nature and living a truly adventurous life.
Now I live on the road, jugaad, sleeping under trucks and wondering where I’ll be the next night. We’ve covered 11,000km and 10 Indian states. Soon we’ll leave this country. I don’t know how or when exactly I’ll come back.
It is 2016. Global climate change is changing the face of the world. Syria is burning. Multiple terrorist attacks in France turn the nation into a security state.
Ben Reid-Howells : Educator, trainer, wilderness guide, musician
While I was a student in university in Eastern Turtle Island (aka. Canada), I realized that the path of academia was taking me further away from the on-the-ground issues in the world around me. I was working in social activism. I decided not to do work for masters and planned to head west, doing projects as I went, living, working, learning until I would make my way back home some years later and understand how to best be of service in my community.
I had been living and volunteering at United World College, 50km outside of Pune. I had been there for five months, working as a kayak guide, developing their experiential education programs and doing training sessions with students. I had bought a motorcycle the first month I moved to India. I used to ride into Pune all the time looking for the young, engaged scene: I was looking for artists, activists, and most of all, friends.
Police mace indigenous land defenders at the Dakota Access pipeline demonstrations. Food crisis throws Venezuela into mass violence. Water shortages spark communal violence in rural India.
Prashant : We were hosting a Khoj International art workshop. We were a team of friends, volunteers and artists from all over the world working together to bring a new art scene to the city. I was one of the organisers and residency artists doing my up cycling work. One day this guy shows up, wet and cold on his motorbike. He had ridden in from Mulshi Valley, 50km away in the Western Ghats. No one seemed to know who he was. So I welcomed him in.
Ben : I got caught in the rain that day, riding in. By the time I reached I was shivering, barely able to move my fingers. I went to an artist workshop my friend Zuri had told me about. I explored the old art deco building full of abstract art, strong social messages and everywhere the signs of passionate, alternative young artists: full of people I was looking for. Suddenly the doors opened to a big hall, and they poured out: artists every colour of the rainbow, smiling, discussing, creating. One of them gave me a huge smile and asked who I was. This is how I met Prashant Kumar.
Prashant : Ben and I became friends. Nine months later it was his birthday. We were at my apartment. We played music late into the night and talked. What are you doing in 2017, Ben asked me. I told him my thoughts of shifting back to Bihar. He said he was going to ride to Scotland, and wanted to engage with radically different lifestyles and explore positive work on the way. We spoke about the state of the world: the growing narratives of terrorism, borders closing and people living more and more separated lives. I told him of an old Sanskrit phrase: Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam—the whole world is one family.
And somehow we both knew then, at that moment, that this was going to happen. The Vasudhaiva Ride was born.
The Vasudhaiva Ride
In the months that followed we would meet up regularly, to discuss and plan. We called out for help and friends offered their ideas, time and skills. It quickly emerged that this would be a project-driven journey, working with artists, activists, teachers and more to inspired people following the journey. In those months it all started coming together. We didn’t have money, but we had our skills and passionate friends who helped us out. A 12 month journey turned into 18 months, then two years: a journey to explore an alternative narrative, to bring people stories of hope, a sense that peace is possible, and we need to work for it.
In May 2017, we left our jobs completely and moved in together to prepare for the ride: developing the concept, preparing logistics and of course, explaining this to our families.
Prashant : I know my family is supporting me in this, but I also know they don’t fully understand. My mum doesn’t know how far the UK is. She keeps asking why I don’t come back after 2 or 3 months only.
Ben : I had my last visit home in that time. I remember the dinner I had with my family before leaving. I didn’t know what to say, so we just made small talk. Finally my sister brought it up: I was going away, and no one knew if we would see each other again. It was a hard meal.
In Prashant’s apartment, we covered the walls in maps, we watched global news every night: getting a sense of the world. Prashant was set to travel to France then, leaving India for the first time. On that night in June we launched the ride in Pune, he learnt his visa had been denied on no solid grounds to speak of. All of this motivated us even more in our planning. This ride had to be an exploration of all this. What does freedom of movement mean in today’s world? How are global politics and media affecting our sense of global unity, or fueling divisive ideologies?
We were already running low on money in those months, then demonetization happened across India. Again and again, we were confronted by reality. What about the visas? What about our careers? What about Buddy, Prashant’s charismatic rescue-dog? What about the money?? And one by one, we started working on all of it: friends offered to help us research; Prashant built a sidecar for Buddy on his bike; we started raising funds; and the first projects began to emerge.
More than 80,000km, 20 countries and 2 years on the road.The vision was strong. The means were coming together. hopeFollow the The Vasudhaiva Ride to catch stroies of organisations from around the world, which are towards a just and sustainable future. Find the inspiration you need to keep going in your life and work. We believe that the world is one family and we have already started building the community.
With #MySocialResponsibility, we aim to bring you more inspiring stories of individuals and organisations across the globe. If you also know about any changemakers, share their story at [email protected] and we'll spread the word.
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