“I’ve learnt the formula to success is sheer faith– all you need to do is believe that impossible is possible.”

“As a child I was never good at academics– I’d bounce between C’s and E’s and was constantly bullied for it. So, I focused on the one thing I was good at– sports. But during a game, I suffered a knee injury that ended all hopes of a footballing career. While recovering, my doctor advised me to cycle regularly– I fell in love with the outdoors as I started to cycle.

Over time, I got fascinated with the idea of long-distance cycle touring. So after my 10th, I decided to cycle from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. I sold my mobile, borrowed from friends, and took Rs. 1500 from mom– I had Rs.4500 for the entire trip. My parents initially didn’t know of my plan– I told them I was part of a cycling group.

It took 24 days. I was just 16; throughout my journey, I wept, I screamed and slept on footpaths. I even got mugged when two well-built men approached me with a knife and asked for my wallet. I gave it to them and left unharmed. Throughout, my father's patent line was, ‘Ghar aaja chup chap!’

But it was an experience of a lifetime. When I finally returned home, I realised that I learnt more during those 24 days than I had in my 12 years of schooling. I learnt to talk to people, cook my own food, manage my finances and take pivotal decisions. I returned home more confident and more seasoned.

So after 12th, while my friends were preparing for their careers, I had no goal– I took a gap year and toured South-East Asia on my bicycle. For a whole year, I travelled through 10 countries. By then I knew that I valued the 5-minute bliss I got from a sunset more than scoring a 10/10.

Sadly I had to cut my journey short when I got injured in an accident in Vietnam. I came back home and had all the time in the world to think about my next step– that’s when I decided to opt out of a formal education. I wanted to try everything that came my way. To sustain, I did odd jobs– from being a tour guide to a salesperson, I did it all. I wrote, shot photographs, edited videos, chopped vegetables and sold sports equipment.

I had clarity for the first time– I wanted a simple life where I had enough to eat and meet new people every day. Initially, my parents weren’t supportive. Their reaction was natural– I was doing something that was unorthodox, but I was just so happy. It took time, but once they saw that I was taking care of myself– they came around.

I even managed to save a good amount and during the lockdown I moved to the Himalayas– it’s the first place I felt I could settle in. So here I am today, unlearning, writing, creating, bonding, but most importantly… living. I know that I’ll never have that fancy house, fancy car or any of those material things, but I’m free and I have happiness; isn’t that what this is all about?”

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