How do you define bhaavyatra?
I think the best way is when you are connecting with your heart. ‘your heart knows today what your mind will understand tomorrow’ . Sometimes your heart has deep impulse to travel or to walk or go on a journey and you may not rationalize it or you may try to rationalize it but you don’t know so, I think bhaavyatra is as its name, which comes from your deepest bhaav and which makes you connect with your own self.
How did you get to know about the pilgrimages? The bhaavyatra?
I think yatras (journeys) have been part of our consciousness, part of our culture like from years and years, from millions of years. I think people like Shankar acharya to Buddha to you know aaa… so people have always went on pilgrimages so, pilgrimages come very naturally to us. If you ask anyone you know, even youngsters that what if you have all the money and all the resources, what will you do and the first thing they would say is travel. So I always wonder what stops them, is it money or is it yourself that stop them, so I think the yatra you don’t really learn from anyone, I think it’s deep longing which is there in all of us and either we accept it or we don’t and you know sometimes we try to go on a yatra in different ways, through our work, that’s also a journey of a different kind, not necessarily you are walking in your own place where you are. What I am trying to say that it comes very naturally to you, it’s a part of your consciousness, to take a pilgrimage.
When you started walking and started with these journeys, how amm.. I would say how did it evolve, the concept of bhaavyatra?
As I said walking come very naturally because when you are walking you are connected with the Earth so ek groundness feel hota hai when you are doing that and I never thought that I’ll be walking but, when I got the opportunity to walk with Jayesh bhae and the other group and we went on the Narmada pilgrimage, we went on the other small small pilgrimages, then I went ammm.. Gopal dada ke amm after his death, we went to his village, walked to his village from here (Gandhiashram) 120 kms for five days without money and without phone we walked. We realised whenever you walk you suddenly connect with the Earth and while connecting with the Earth you are connecting with the nature and when you are connecting with the nature, you are connecting with your own nature, you connect with your own self so I think that kind of have evolved as I walked recently when I walked to Spain so I walked around 800 kms in 40 days so it never felt tiring never felt like questioning. It just felt natural to do that. So, I think for me it is kind of evolving from one small journey to something like big.
Which is the year you started walking?
It’s difficult to say but my major transformation came once I came back from US. I was studying in US, media and journalism and once I came back then, I travelled all over India for one year with a camera so I was gifted a Camera with a smile card so you know somebody had randomly gifted and till today I don’t know who had given that and I took that camera and travelled all over India in buses trains, third class and in all possible ways so that was also a yatra of different kind but, not so much walking so, that started around 2004 and I think after that I have been going on different journeys.
So you must have lost the count of your yatras… ya ya it’s like whenever you get an opportunity you just go
Is it necessarily walking?
Not necessarily but I like walking nowadays so, this has been recent actually walking. Spain was one of the biggest one, before that I walked to Unjha (120kms), four days we walked, before that we walked to Narmada. So, I think Narmada was the first one with Jayesh bhae, Siddharth , that would be 2010.
Your last yatra?
Spain was the last one…june and july
Do you follow Gandhian philosophy?
I wouldn’t say philosophy, I like Gandhian spirit. Philosophy main kya hai hum usmain fas jaate hai, question answers main, ye truth hai ye galat hai usko analyse karne lagte hai you know….jab spirit main dekhte hai to wo bhaav main hum chale jaate hai. To bhaav ko hum lenge to usko samajhna easy ho jaata hai lekin philosophy ko lete hai toh usko samjhna mushkil hai kyunki usmain mann kaam karta hai, bhaav main dil kaam karta hai so I would say definitely Gandhian spirit, I am attracted towards it, I kind of like that but, that doesn’t constraints me, I like the spirit which moved Gandhi which was not of Gandhi and Gandhiji khud kehte the ki ye jo main baaten keh raha hun is as old as hills and rivers so you know I have not spoken it, these are the truth, maine nai banaye. So, what was the thing he was talking about, what was the spirit he was talking about so that moves me, that inspires me
What made you believe in that spirit?
I think believe se zayada hota hai, belief tab aata hai jab aap usko mehsoos karte hai you know, agar aap mehsoos nai karenge to belief aapka short term rehta hai. Main maan sakta hun ki main kisi ko aadar deta hun, if I respect someone wo bolega ki ye din hai to chalo believe kar liya aapne par aap usko andar se feel nai karenge to wo tikta nai hai. So, I think same with Vinobaji aur Gandhiji, I somehow resonated my own prakriti you know. To sahej ho gaya unke saath to mujhe lagta hai ki haan jo ye keh rahe hai I can relate with that, I can experience that, then it fell naturally you know to aap kuch acha nai karte hai to dukh hota hai, ye dharm hai, you know it’s a very natural process kisi ko aap hurt karoge to aapko bhi hurt hoga, agar fire hai usko aap touch karoge to aap jaloge, to uski anubhooti hoti hai, uska ehsaas hota hai. So, same way if you are doing any harm to others, if you are doing anything so you realise that, you see the immediate results of it. I think it’s same with the Gandhian thing, you feel that it’s the truth because it comes from an experience and then you can feel that experience.
So before you go for these journeys, do you prepare yourself mentally?
Ammm… lot of times I just have faith, wo kehte hai na ki ‘jump in, the net would appear’ so, you need to have faith, need to have ammmm… what does it means to you in the end because if the yatra is for external purpose then hum thak jaate hai but agar wo hamre khud ke liye hai, if it inspires us if you can resonate with yourself then I think…amm so I don’t really prepare in terms of mentally or anything par haan once I know I am going after 2 months then you know you are constantly preparing yourself for that but otherwise I am just being open to it ki whenever It comes you just go. Abi recently two days back I came from Kutch so I was in Bombay and I was supposed to go from Bombay to Pune and then maybe go on a walking pilgrimage or something and uske pehle Jayesh bhae ka phone aaya ki Madhu Kutch aa jao, so over night we took a bus and came to Ahemdabad and Ahemdabad jaise hi bus se utra waha se doosri gaadi pakad kar I went to Kutch. So, what I am trying to say that you have to be open to the possibility, agar hum fix ho jaate hai ki hamara pilgrimage hai mujhe yahan jana hai to phir mind kaam karta hai and somehow when you are open to this then nature helps you to prepare for it.
Why this path?
I dont know, I mean you can never ask birds why they want to fly or fishes why they want to swim. I think it’s very natural and I sometimes think for others that why not this path you know and you know kayi baar bolte hai ki….for others, log hume paagal samajhte hai and hum doosro ko paagal, I mean in that sense you think ki itna sahej hai, it’s so natural because when you are walking all that you are carrying is yours you know there is nothing else you don’t possess anything, hum ismain reh jaate hai ki ye gar mera hai ye zameen meri hai but when you do that you realise ki puri shrishti aapki hai, the whole world belongs to you, yet you are also just a pilgrim in this time, for whatever time you are here you have to let go of that so I think it helps you connect with yourself and that’s why I do this.
Will you be able to define peace? What is peace for you?
Peace for me is the breathe of your heart so, when your heart is breathing I think that’s where peace lies. Do you experience that when you are walking? It could be walking, it could be on any pilgrimage, could be any yatra you know, there are friends of mine, ek hai Atul, from last five years he has been travelling all over the world apna bag pack lekar. He has travelled more than 15-16 countries, not just walking but you know travelling. So I think for me, walking I have not made that a fixed thing but I like walking. I like it because usmain ek sahejta ke saath logon ke saath judte ho as compared trains wagera main. But, usmain bhi sahaj ho, usmain bhi aisa nai ki I have to only walk, whatever comes naturally accept that. And then the peace comes in? Yes, then the peace comes in, as I said, when your heart is breathing, when does your heart breathe, when it’s alive and when is it alive, when you listen to it and you know when you listen to it….ki jo kuch bhi kahe wo, it might say stay and you say, it says walk and you walk so….when you listen to your heart deeply then I think the peace happens naturally.
Any challenges that you faced during your journey?
Ithink most of the challenges are always yours, internally, bahar ka India main it’s very easy actually, itne generous hai log so I don’t think there is any external challenge as such apart from weather and ammmmm… So, I think challenges are internal, what makes you walk every day, you sometimes question, sometimes when you walk you realise ki why are you doing this and you see the whole world going on the other direction and you are walking and yet you feel very fortunate that you are able to walk, you are able to take this time. So, I think mann ka hai na jo ye challenege wo sabse bada challenge hota hai, wo aapko samjhane ki koshish karta hai ki kya kar rahe ho abhi to time hai, you can make money, you can do something, you can make career, you can make name and all of that and you can easily do that you know, so, what is this, sthir banao apne aap ko. To bahar ke challenges kam hote hai once you start doing this and you have to have faith for that. Faith rahega to aage challenges kum ho jaate hai, thode bohat aate hai ki kaha rahenge, kaise khana milega, milege ki nai milega lekin, har dum milta hai so, if you trust nature, the nature takes care of you
So maybe for the first time there were more challenges?
Ya ya, physical hota hai because you never walked before to phir ye lagta hai ki how much can you walk and aise hi shaam hone lagti hai. So, the last time when we walked to Ujha, there was me, Swara, Pratyush and Trupti and remember that there were two girs to chinta lagi rehti thi ki ghar milna chahiye, the sisters are there so at least they can stay you know, hum boys jo hai wo kahin bhi so jaenge so….those challenges specially when you are walking with girls and women you want to take care and khane kha, kayi baar bhook lagti thi to hum logon ki paas paise nai the, mujhe lagta tha ki chaye pina hai, so these small thing, but, I think these small things make you humble, you realise that can you also ask others, if you are feeling any challenges, yaani it make you humble to take help of interconnectedness. Abhi koi challenge aata hai to hum kete hai ki main sambhal lunga, main kar lunga you know we feel very independent but I say ki we should be interdependent. Agar hum koi challenges hai to how can we the humility to ask.
Is money an important part of this yatra?
Not for the yatra I would say. Sometimes it could restrict you but, but sometimes aaa..seeing it as a salt to the food ki zaroori to hai but…. and you can say for yourself you cannot generalise it because people have walked without money for thousands of years, those are actually the monks, you know the pilgrims who have really walked. But in today’s time I think amm.. not to be so staunch also ki that I would not carry money or I will carry money, it’s a good experiment I would say so that’s why we call it experiments rather than you know aamm…..like a fixed criteria that ki paise ke saath nai karna, nahi walk karte hai paise ke saath to ek trust banta hai and paise rakhte hai to lagta hai ki haan I can take care of myself so, I think money plays in that role. So, I went to Spain and Spain main it was important like staying in different places, you have to pay for that, you have to pay for food although there were other pilgrims also who were walking without money so, I think without money it helps you strengthen your faith, it definitely helps in that. But, I would suggest ki, you have to ask yourself you know are in the beginning then jana chahiye without money because it helps you surrender but, if money is there then find a way to honour that, laxmi ki tarah usko use kare naaki usko hold karke rakhe
So, it’s the way you use it?
Yea, but in the beginning I would highly recommend ki go without it. Because money main wo possession aa jata hai but, when you try doing that then you ask ask others then it makes you humble, make you interconncted with others. Kayi baar log puchte hai aap to kama sakte ho, ekbaar mujhe yaad hai ki main waha par gaya, chaye wale ke paas and do log the saath hum logon ne kuch khaya nai tha and ek puff ki laari thi to uske paas gaya maine bola bhaiya hum log aise yatra pe nikle hai , humare paas paise nai hai to kya aap hume puff khilaoge and he dindn’t say anything and amm… mujhe 10 minute tak usmain wait karaya, pehle baaki customers ko diya, and I was standing over there and I suddenly felt like this humiliation. It felt like ki you know, ek embarrassment hua and all these emotions came in right, I mean you could easily pay and all that, that was also an exercise for me, that was the first time I was asking so phir jab usne baad main banaya and he took that puff and he gave it to me like this (hand action) and he didn’t even look at me and then this whole emotion kind of came in, aise ki kya karun, ego bola ki just throw it right now, you are not even hungry right now, itni bhook bhi nai lagi thi it was more like an exercise, mujhe laga ki baaki logon ke lie le jaata hun. Then I took that, I took it, accepted it and looked at him and said ‘Thank you’ and I remember, my whole ego kind of melted and then he smiled after that and baad main hum log gaye wahan pe and chota sa kuch kaam kiya wahan ki safayi ki, so you know contribution kiya so you realise ki not necessarily you can contribute by money, you can contribute by your presence, you can contribute may be by doing some small things around that place so that is very important that, you always have to be in a place of contributuion. Toh kayi baar hum paise s karte hai to transaction ho jaata hai, aapne diya maine diya chalo hamara kaam khatam but, when you don’t have money then you realise ke there so many other ways to contribute. That connects you with people, with yourself, then you look at other ways of connecting.
What about the comforts?
Mil jaate hai, Indian main to ghar mil jaate hai sab jagah and ammm… mandir hai, ghar hai, people just are so generous yahan par, people open their hearts ammm… but I think you have to be preapred, wo hume sikhate hai anukoolta , jo hum kehte hai. Ki jo bhi hume mile hum unke saath anukool ho jaye to phir life main bhi hum anukool ho jaate hai so you know, kayi baar hume chaddar mila to chaddhar main so gaye , kayi baar gadde mile to gadde pe so gaye so, you to be very open to that and not have any desire and hence you overcome desires also and it makes you very grateful. A biggest lesson I think walking se jo milta hai wo hai gratitude, you are constantly grateful for whatever you are receiving. So, I think comfort is good but, you cannot really expect that kyunki expect karoge phir nai milega to suffer karoge. Sometimes there have been moments jab hum log temple main soye the, ashram main soya. Kayi baar bahar soye so all that stuff.
Okay, so what is that driving force that keeps you going, that you know you have to complete this journey?
(long pause) I think its….each day is like, torch light ki tarah hai. Agar hum ye socho ke mujhe ye ke hazar kilometre poora karna hai to wo external ho jata hai, phir wahan mind kaam karta hai phir logic aa jata hai. Aga mujhe lagta hai ki next kadam chalna hai, that makes it much more easier so, I think the motivation is ki where am I right now, how am I growing, what does it means to me in this moment and then take that next step, and take that next step. So, for me it has never been like you know this is the end of the result, mujhe ye walk karna hai, ye hazar kilometre walk karna hai and to be open ke agar kal mann karta hai, mann nai dil kehta hai ki this is not right for you aur there are some other things you need to take care of you stop that and honour that. So, the yatra should complete in your every step you know, next step liya and waha complete ho jaana chahiye and then the next one is the next step , so each step is a yatra in itself so, once you start looking at that then you start honouring each step and that motivates you. The moment we have an external goal ki mujhe isko khatam karna hai then mujhe lagta hai ki wo thora limitation ho jaata hai but, for others It might work, it’s very subjective you know people need that goal to put that but, for me it has been different you know so I respect and I honour, kyunki iska koi right and wrong nai hai cause yatra dil se nikalti hai. For me if each step is completing my journey then, it’s worth it
What would be some of your distinct learnings?
The gratitude I think is the biggest learning. Second is that amm.. you can live with so less so satisfaction jo hai I think wo bohat sikhati hai ki aapke paas kuchnai bhi rahe to aap poorna hai, you don’t need anything else to complete you. In spain I was carrying a bag pack and amm I just had two pair of clothes, one or two bananas and apples you know and that’s it and you know then we just walked and anything extra would feel heavy cause you to walk with it. So, that you have to be very careful so be satisfied with anything and everything you have. Third, being vulnerable, open to vulnerability and seeing that it’s good to be vulnerable, it’s good to be loved and to be heard. Pyaar karne se bohat darte hai aur kyun darte hai kyunki, aaj main kisi ko pyaar karunga to wo mujhe chor ke chala jaega but yatra main to everyday you are loving and everyday they are leaving you because you meet people and you have to gove everything you have, you cannot hold back and you give everything and you trust that next morning they would go away so you know it’s a very interesting experience and that makes you realise that to hold is not to love, kisi to possess kar lenge to wo pyaar nai hoga, every moment you are loving and you are letting go, so I think that’s what the learning is, to love without holding back and to love to let go.
Have you noticed any change in yourself? Like what you were before the yatra and what you are right now.
I feel more centred, I think amm..I feel more present, ek rush nai hai kahin pahuchne ki. Aaj main walk karke aa raha tha ghar se yahan par and I was questioning ki what am I doing you know and then dimag aise kaam karta hai ki make it as a project, you know moved by love what we are trying to do and they are so many ways to scale it up and do other things, then this thought came which you asked ki is that what action am I doing, is it completing in itself and if that’s right then I think I am on the right path. Agar main ek chota kaam karta hun and if I don’t expect ki aage kisi ke liye aaa… what I am trying to say is every small act of kindness is complete in itself so I am not trying to achieve anything, there is no trying to change the world or make an organisation or do this ke bahar jaakar mujhe aisa result milega. So, how can I make my moment to moment, each act as a complete so tomorrow if I immediately die also should feel like that it was full, kuch adhoora nai reh gaya so that I have been learning from the yatra.
The impact that you have on you, you think it has changed people around you or the environment around you?
I think once the presence changes, it definitely affects the people around you because in the end they are all mirrors of your own self. Jo bhi hamare aas paas ho raha hai mujhe kayi baar aise lagta hai ki bahar isliye ho raha hai kyunki wo hamare andar ko hi reflect kar raha hai, agar bahar ashanti hai to aapke mann main ashanti hai and it sounds very sometimes crazy kyunki kayi baar aisa lagta hai ki bahar to bohat kuch hai aur main andar itna shaant hun then we need to look within ourselves ki mere andar kahan disharmony hai. So when you do these kind of journeys it definitely helps you connect with yourself and when you connect with yourself, you connect deeply with others around you. In beginning it’s difficult for them to see it because you change so much, you come back and your loved ones, they are still there, they have not gone with you, you have changed but they have not changed so, alot of times people find it very difficult to adjust in that environment and that’s very regular. When I spoke to camino pilgrims they would come back and they would find it very difficult to come back in the families because nobody would understand that they have changed in someways. Kya hota hai ki aapke jo closest friends and families hai they are trying to protect you, so in that protection they are trying to hold you and in the holding you have gone through like you know you have learnt to fly and now somebody is trying to hold you with all the good wishes then also it gets little discomforting. But, I think in the overtime when they see that if the genuine change has happened and if you are able to translate that change in a positive amm I would say instrument or an outlet, if you can give it a shape or something, agar positively usko aap transform kar sakte hai kisi activity ke through tab to wo pyaar hai, tab wo ek genuine change hai. Do (two) tareeke se aap usko treat kar sakte hai, either you can suppress it or you can transform it and apply it in daily lives. Once you are able to transform it then I think your loved ones or near ones will be able to join you in that.
Would you like to motivate people to take up these journeys?
I wouldn’t say I would like to motivate, what I am currently learning is, pehle hota tha ki mere ye jo MAM movie hai it was media for change, phir laga nai yaar kisko change karenge kya change karenge so you know it became media for social change phir laga ki nai social change bhi incomplete hai then it became media for transformation, for social transformation and it is media for inner transformation. So, I think we need to motivate just by walking our path authentically without a slightest intention that I need to change anyone and I think when we do that then the genuine change happens but, even in my best of intention if I am trying to change someone I feel it’s a violence. Meri samajh ke anusar acha hai, aapko ye karna chahiye lekin, wo meri samajh hai and agar main aapko push karunga ya aapko inspire bhi karunga to theek nai hai. To aapko apni samajh ke anusaar aapko apna maarg dekhna hai and wo aap tabhi dekh paenge jab aap meri aankhon main you see that I am walking my path genuinely and authentically, then you will be automatically inspired.
I think it’s for every walk of life….. every walk of life, that’s I say ki each act we do is a pilgrimage, sometime you need to walk to see that, like you are interviewing everyone, it’s a pilgrimage, you came all the way from Baroda just for this half an hour so it is a pilgrimage. So, pilgrimage drishti main hai hamari, hamare nazariya main hai ki if you want that every walk becomes a pilgrimage or a walk from my home to here becomes a pilgrimage or it becomes like a you know kaam pe jaa rahe hai. To agar main soch and nazariya badalte hai to every journey can become sacred.
The most difficult and a most satisfying moment that you would like to share…
Difficult is leaving your family I think, I have a three year old, I remember when I come back, you could see that she is missing, so how do you honour that, how do you honour your families and people around you and how do you honour your inner calling so, I think it’s always a challenge
Satisfying is that, just feeling immensely grateful to god that you have given me opportunity to do this, kahan milta hai ye opportunity, aaj paise bhi ho jaate hai, pehle hota that na ki papa log bolte hai i pehle paise kamalo phir jo karna hai karo, wo kabhi nai hota hai. So, I think to even to have this thought, I think it’s a grace of god, to think like this, to be able to do this and to have friends who are supporting this who are walking with you, their own path. You could have chosen like 10 different things but you chose this bhaavyatra as your subject then that means, you become my noble friend and I think that is more satisfying, to see this journey each one of us is taking in our own ways, why you need to take this you know, so, you by choosing this subject and honouring this gives me satisfaction that I am not alone in this path, that we all are together towards light or towards in this journey.
Anything about the Spain yatra?
Ohhh …it was beautiful, I liked it because there was nobody from India, so every person I would meet would be very aaa… how could be more present to it, so, nobody knew me and I was like a clean slate. It was a very interesting experience, kayi baar hamare images ban jaate hai right, particular hum khood ki apni image bana lete hai but, when I was there, it’s you are meeting everybody in that moment, in you authenticity, in your complete self so, I think that was nice doing that. It was a beautiful place, the terrain, the mountains, was walking in the rains, in the summer, in the heat, i think walking with the nature, it was beautiful. Seeing other pilgrims who are like. 6 lakhs pilgrims who walk whole year so I think….. and hai ek nasha hai ek surror hai, lag jaati hai na to you always think…ek gana tha na meera ka ki’kaisi bhakti rahi hogi meera ki, kabir ko, you know ki ek junnon sa bana gaya tha, wo bhakti’, to I always pray ki aisi bhakti, aisi lagan laga do and wo lag jaati hai na to phir mann kaam nai karta, you know ‘once a pilgrim always a pilgrim’. All you can ask god it to give you that grace, that bhakti.