New Delhi: Ankit, a 32-year-old former journalist from Jaipur, has set out on a cycle mission to transform India’s villages into ecologically sustainable villages and create self-sustainable communities. For nearly four years (or 1,500 days), he has covered half the country—cycling across 15 states in North, West, South, and Central India, and eight Union Territories
In the last five years, the 32-year-old former journalist has been able to transform around 30 villages in Central, South, and parts of North India into self-sustainable ecological villages, along with teaching the village community sustainable living and means of earning through sustainable and eco-friendly means. Ankit has taught communities to build sustainable and long-lasting mud houses, houses made from plastic waste, organic farming, dry toilets, rainwater harvesting, making utensils using coconut shells and wooden sticks, wood carving, wooden chopping boards, amongst many other such things.
Recently, Ankit has built a self-sustaining village in Krishnagiri in Tamil Nadu near Bangalore and has been instrumental in teaching the village community different sorts of arts, crafts, organic farming, and building natural mud houses. Ankit and the villagers have named their village “Innisfree farm”.
Ankit told The Sunday Guardian, “I started organic farming and building mud houses using organic materials like locally available red mud and brown mud, jaggery, honey and egg yolk, an ancient tribal technique of house building. The homes enable cost-efficient thermal insulation, natural malleability while reducing their carbon footprint. All this I have learnt during my journey and experiences with tribals and ancient wisdom of our country.”
In the same village, Ankit has also taught the village community to build mud sofas using plastic waste and recycling techniques. “This technique was also used to build mud houses where bottle bricks were designed using plastic bottles stuffed with packet wrappers, which resembled traditional bricks. Alcohol bottles collected from nearby rivers and Hogenakkal waterfalls were used in the construction. Natural termite repellents were created by combining water with holistic herbs like neem leaves, kadukai seeds, green chillies, garlic, turmeric, and lime.” Ankit told this newspaper.
In the last five years, Ankit has visited 15 states and eight Union Territories and all this on his humble bicycle. Through his journey, he has touched the lives of thousands of people from across the country where he stayed in villages and engaged himself with the village community, learning and teaching them about his experiences. Ankit stays with the local community where he learns about their culture, their food habits, and their way of living.
Ankit had set out on his mission on 27 August 2017 with a target to achieve a world record of being the only man in the world to have covered the whole of India on a cycle in the shortest possible time, but 150 days later, he gave up on his pursuit to achieve this world record and decided to embark on a different journey of touching the lives of millions of people he comes across every day on the streets while he is pedalling across the length and breadth of the country.
“Back in 2017, I started my cycle journey in the pursuit of achieving a goal for myself, but during the journey, I met many people, stayed with and spoke to different communities, learned about their life, their skills and soon this pursuit transformed into my passion to change rural India into a sustainable India. The things I learn from one community I impart that knowledge to the other community, this way I work towards building sustainable and self-sustaining village communities.” Ankit said.
Ankit further says that he chose to take on a cycle and see India because he feels that this is what will bring him closer to the real people of India and would help him penetrate deeper into the villages in India.
Ankit has named his humble bicycle “Hawa Mahal”.
Within the next two years, he believes he will complete his entire journey through India. Ankit is currently in a village near Bengaluru and is planning to move towards Central India in the coming days. After covering states like Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, he aims to move towards Eastern Indian states like Odisha, Bihar and West Bengal and further into North Indian states in the coming two years.