It is perhaps impossible to be melancholic while on a bicycle and that explains why Raj Phanden is a happy camper.
The 37-year-old Ayurvedic doctor from Bhuna village in Fatahbad district of Haryana has set out on a cycle expedition to spread the green message. His cycle sports a board that reads ‘Wheels for Green’.
Environmental degradation due to global warming and erosion and decline of natural resources disturb him. “I had this strong urge to do something to reverse the trend,” Dr Phanden told The Hindu.
He lost his father to cancer and his wife, also a doctor, died in a road accident after a few years. “I realised that everybody in this world is alone and without wasting any more time, I transformed my clinic into a charity organisation before setting out on this expedition,” he says.
With a target to cover around 2 lakh km in the next 10 years, he started at Bhuna on September 5 last and has so far pedalled around 10,000 km covering 16 States like Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Andhra Pradesh in India, including a stretch of 1,500 km in Sri Lanka.
His cycle is equipped with a bag which has a tool kit containing four pairs of clothes, electronic gadgets like GPS navigation device, a camera and a laptop, a yoga mat, a small tent and a projector.
The projector is used in stopover workshops in schools and colleges and in villages to educate people. “Children and students are my target group,” he says. He has so far visited more than 300 educational institutions and interacted with young learners.
“I don’t talk about big things. I tell them to avoid use of plastic and polythene, plant a sapling whenever and wherever possible and practise energy conservation. I insist that women using vegetables in kitchen should not throw away the seeds. They should collect them in a bowl and sprinkle in an open area so they can germinate and grow into trees,” he says.
Dr Phanden also organises cycle rallies even if there are only a few cycling enthusiasts around, to promote this eco-friendly mode of transport and takes part in sapling-plantation programmes arranged by organisations like Lion’s Club, Bharat Vikas Parishat and Navodaya institutions. “I have planted some 15,000 saplings at different places,” he says.
Climate fluctuation is a challenge which he is getting accustomed to. From here, he is headed to Kolkata, from where he would go to Bangladesh and then reach the seven-sister States in northeast India. “I want to meet at least 2 crore people and even if one per cent of them get influenced, my journey will be worth the pain I am taking,” he says.