SINGAPORE: Buoyed by the success of his over 7,500-km 103-day cycling expedition from India to Singapore, an Indian cyclist is planning his next venture in November in key countries in Southeast Asia and Australia to spread environmental awareness. Ashish Jerry Chowdhury25, from an army family in Budania village in Rajasthan’s Jhunjhunu district, is on a mission to spread environmental awareness, specifically discouraging the use of plastic by speaking to students in schools and educational institutions in the countries he visits.
Chowdhury, a Bachelor of Education, estimates that every year Indian cyclists do about 10-15 expeditions to do good for the environment and the planet.
He will embark on the next expedition during the school holidays in November. He will fly to Bangkok to venture into the Indo-Chinese states of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
He will then fly to Taiwan, followed by cycling expeditions to the Philippines and Australia, all of which will involve expensive flights but Chowdhury is confident of sponsorship support in the form of crowdfunding.
Chowdhury’s first campaign was supported by pan-India NGO Akhil Bharatiya Marwari Mahela Samelan.
Son of an Army JCO, Chaudhary told PTI that he is learning the culture, lifestyle and traditions of the people he meets during his expedition for a book to be published in 2027, while also taking notes along the way.
“A book is a must,” Chowdhury said of sharing his learnings and experiences on cycling expeditions.
The cyclist flew from Imphal to Bangkok for his Southeast Asian expedition and stayed at Buddhist temples where he tried Thai food for the first time, which was difficult for Chowdhury as he is a vegetarian, having to choose between bread and milk.
The cyclist faces the challenge of sleeping on the beach under a tent, which is part of his 40kg luggage. During his journey, he had to repair and operate his folding bicycle which was a gift from the 52-year-old Canadian. Todd Tyrtlewho has cycled in India in recent years
His visa to enter Malaysia was initially refused but he reapplied. Once he crossed the Thai border, his travel and stay in Malaysia became much easier as he was accommodated by the Sikh community in Gurdwaras as well as South Indians and Indian restaurants scattered across the peninsula. Malaysia has an Indian community of over 2 million.
In Singapore, Chowdhury was hosted by the Indian community which gave him a deep appreciation of the Indian diaspora. He also made a short trip to the Indonesian island of Batam, a tourist resort where authorities issue visas on arrival. On October 16 last year, Chowdhury started his India-Singapore journey from the Dwarkadhish temple in Dwarka, Gujarat.
He cycled from New Delhi to Jhunjhunu, a two-way trip of 600 km, followed by 785 km from New Delhi to Jaisalmer and 3,500 km from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, from where he picked up some Tamil words.
The expedition gave him a better understanding of life’s challenges, as Chowdhury witnessed the destruction of the environment with his family, in the days when the effects of climate change were being braved in Jhunjhunu.
Surrounded by sand dunes with no water source, he and his family had to collect rainwater and endure temperatures as low as 50°C in summer and -5°C in winter.
Even the 202-hectare forest near her village, where she, her sister and an army-retired grandfather used to go to practice, has become a garbage field.
“I can see that Singapore has taken the first step towards sustainable development,” he said, impressed by the clean and green environment in the city-state where special cycling paths have been built for citizens.
His concern for India’s environment deepened four years ago when he was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in literature at Delhi University. “Delhi was very polluted then.”
He then decided that he would go on a solo bicycle expedition to encourage a car-light society.
Chowdhury elaborated on his experiences in Singapore, particularly meeting Indian community leaders as well as the Rotary Club, Siddha Peeth Sri Lakshminarayan Mandir, Vivekananda Seva SanghLittle India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association, Bijhar Singapore and Bhojpuri Society Singapore.
He shared his first expedition experience with local Indian school students. Back home, Chowdhury is already working with the Jhunjhunu cycling group which has a growing following, including girls
The cycling expedition is a lifelong learning experience, he added.