Travel

This explorer travelled to Kashmir to Kanyakumari...by foot

Footloose Snapshots from the journey

Footloose Snapshots from the journey  

Young explorer Shubham Dharmsktu walks from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, ignoring foot blisters and swarms of flies, hoping to shed light on the country’s waste management scenario

 

With a backpack, a pair of clothes and meagre money, 26-year-old Shubham Dharmsktu set out to travel from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, on foot on November 5, 2018.

A deep voice, fast breath and warm words... conversations with Shubham happen on-the-go. “I wanted to set out on an adventure, and what better than walking?” asks Shubham from Milam, Johar Valley, Uttarakhand, who adds that he belongs everywhere. He is enroute to Anand from Ahmedabad in Gujarat at the time of writing this.

While an average Indian walks less than 5,000 steps a day, Shubham has covered the distance between Srinagar and Rajasthan in 50 days, “I walk 40-50 kilometres a day and hope to find shelter for the night,” says the man, who has slept in the oddest of places, including petrol bunks and police stations.

Be it cycling in the Himalayas, a distance of nearly 6,000 kilometres bookended by Arunachal and the Vale of Kashmir, or plans of kayaking from Kanyakumari to Bengal, nothing necessarily requires extensive hours in the gym, or six-pack abs, says Shubham. “All you have to do is learn the basics and set your mind to it.”

The NID, Ahmedabad graduate, who has no prior experience in walking long distances, talks about exchanging the corporate lifestyle for a chance to explore India’s diversity. Shubham lights up when he talks about strangers who host him. Recollecting an incident in South Kashmir, thought to be an unwelcoming place, he speaks of two men who invited him over to stay the night.

Footloose Snapshots from the journey

Footloose Snapshots from the journey  

“I was told not to stay overnight in South Kashmir, and here I was, heading to a stranger’s home,” says Shubham, adding that “it turned out to be a memorable stay with some amazing people.”

Obstacles galore

The journey, however, has been challenging. “I have slept on thin thermocol in the temples of Kashmir, had blistered feet and struggled with parting from welcoming hosts, uncertain if we’ll ever meet again,” says the TEDx speaker, who depends on gurudwara langars and temples for his meals.

Footloose Snapshots from the journey

Footloose Snapshots from the journey  

The lack of money also makes the travel challenging. “The only luxury I gave myself was spending on a good pair of walking shoes. I’ve come across a lot of kind people on social media who pay for hotel rooms when I have no other place to stay. With the money I have, all I can afford is a banana for the day, nothing more, and that has made me adapt to a very sustainable, on-the-go lifestyle,” says Shubham, who recently landed a sponsorship from GAIL India.

On his journey through a thousand streets across North India, Shubham has made a conscious effort to highlight the amount of garbage, especially plastic, that litters them. A dingy corner in the street, colourful yet dirty, is an everyday sight on Shubham’s social media handle, ‘Shubyatra’.

“Every time I walk across a pile of waste, discarded irresponsibly, I make it a point to post about it,” he says.

Ecological fiasco

Talking about living a sustainable lifestyle, Shubham reveals the five essentials he always carries with him, “My phone, GoPro, power bank, a pair of clothes and lots of socks!” He additionally restrains from buying/using any food and beverage article that comes with plastic packaging and opts for locally-grown produce and home-served meals instead.

“The biggest problem is that people assume plastic that is advertised as recyclable will actually be recycled when they mindlessly discard it as waste,” says Shubham. Out of the plastic generated, only 9-10% is recycled and the rest will block our topsoil for the next 450 years, he adds.

Discussing the extravagant Indian weddings that he has witnessed on his journey so far, Shubham explains how most guests don’t even taste 70% of the food served. “The waste generated during weddings, not only in terms of plastic, but also food, is humongous and it’s important to start discussing these issues.”

Footloose Shubham’s picture of waste generated at a wedding

Footloose Shubham’s picture of waste generated at a wedding  

“The top polluted cities in the world belong to our country and that drives me to contribute towards a greener tomorrow and ask other people to, as well!” says Shubham, as he stops to photograph another pile of garbage.

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2020 2:52:47 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/song-of-the-open-road/article26069820.ece

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