The motorcycle peace diaries

Feb 05, 2012, 11:21 IST | Yoshita Sengupta

Four individuals on two Royal Enfield bikes are set to take on a mother of all bike rides. They will travel for 65 days through India, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Greece, Italy, France and England to document unknown peace projects

In September last year, when 24 year-old documentary and art photographer Nitesh Square went to meet a friend who was halting in Sandakphu, the highest peak in West Bengal, while participating in the 110 km Himalayan Race, he joked with her. He told her he would travel to Cannes on a motorbike to attend the Cannes Film Festival.

However, he continued to ponder over the thought that night, until he finally decided to give it a shot. But the trip wasn't simply going to be about adventure. Square, who also offers photography services to NGOs and teaches underprivileged children, would ride for peace. He contacted his friend Parth Vasavada, a 25 year-old Ahmedabad-based co-founder and president of Yuva Unstoppable, an NGO that works with underprivileged children, to join him on the ride. Vasavada readily agreed.

Two others will join the duo -- Megha Rawat, a peace consultant with Delhi-based NGO STEP (Standing Together to Enable Peace) and Debi Dutta who will help them shoot a video project of the trip, as its presenter.

The 13,000 km journey, called De Paix Yatra, will begin on March 12. Since the date also happens to be when Mahatma Gandhi started the Dandi March, the two decided to culminate the trip in England, instead of France. According to the plan, the group will begin their trip in Mumbai and then travel via Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Greece, Italy and France to England. They will complete the trip on two Royal Enfield 500 cc bikes. "The idea is to discover and document unheard stories of people who work towards peace and have brought about and continue to bring about change," says Square.

The entire project will be documented on camera. "We will come out with a photobook which will contain our travelogue and the stories of people we meet along the way. Apart from that, we will install cameras on our bikes to film the entire journey. We will come out with a film and a mini series of the entire project. We hope to show the final product in a 'peace festival' that will be organised by STEP in September 2013 in Delhi," says Square. While the journey will be completed in 65 days, the expenses of the trip -- expected to be around Rs 15 lakh -- will be borne by sponsors. Vasavada claims that the response so far has been excellent, with people from the countries they pass through in the course of the ride requesting to join them. Nitesh adds, "Ali Azmat (member of Pakistani band Junoon) read a retweet about our trip. He loved the idea and has volunteered to ride with us within Pakistan with a group of riders."

According to Vasavada, the trip is a means to talk about the need for peace. "We want to connect one nation with another, not just through technology but also at the ground level. I go for peace programs and more often than not they show films on war to talk about peace. You can't always define peace by showing war. There have to be other ways in which people can talk about peace."
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