Mad for a cause

Jun 03, 2014, 08:32 IST | Ruchika Kher

Two IIT Kharagpur students, Siddharth Agarwal and Ujjawal Chauhan, have undertaken a cycling expedition from Kolkata to Mumbai in 30 days to raise funds for different causes and to witness the lives of people in India’s unseen terrain. They call it the Madness Project; fittingly so, since they will cover 2,500 km

Two people, two cycles, 30 days, and 2,500 km. These are not just numbers but a fascinating feat that IIT Kharagpur students, Siddharth Agarwal and Ujjawal Chauhan are raring to accomplish under their initiative, titled The Madness Project. Under this, the duo will cycle through cities, towns and villages to gauge the lifestyles of people living there and help out as much as possible, in turn, raising funds for different causes.

Siddharth Agarwal and Ujjwal Chauhan during their journey

Start to finish
The duo who began their journey on May 27 from Kolkata, will reach Mumbai on June 30. En route, they will touch Sambalpur, Raipur, Nagpur, Amravati, Aurangabad, Pune and Lonavla, among other places.

During their 30-day journey, the boys will touch many cities, towns and villages

They will be blogging about their journey regularly, and will be promoting their campaign via social media. They will also be drawing attention to the work that NGOs Rang De and Child Rights and You (CRY)are doing.

Strong winds near Kolaghat forced the duo to stop and wait
Strong winds near Kolaghat forced the duo to stop and wait

“Ujjawal (22) and I have been thinking of pushing our limits in terms of body and mind, and so we decided to take this trip. Initially, we had planned it only as a 500 km journey but it just translated into a 2,500 km one, as we began to push the envelope,” says Agarwal, who had taken a stop at Kharagpur when we spoke to him.

Map/Vijay Pednekar

Local talk
The 23-year-old reveals that during their route they will stop at several locations to speak to locals, understand their problems and try and give them suggestions or advice on the same.

Ujjawal Chauhan
Ujjawal Chauhan

“We will also measure the extent of the work done by Rang De (a lending platform that seeks to fight poverty in India by providing collateral free micro-loans to the underserved population at low interest rates) in certain areas to see if the finance has actually helped them realise their dreams,” shares Agarwal, who has been born and brought up in Kolkata.

Siddharth Agarwal
Siddharth Agarwal

The enterprising youngsters are also looking at raising funds for charity through public contributions. Their first target was R50,000, and they have generated Rs 31,500 already.

“We are trying to promote our initiative through social media so that we can achieve our monetary target and even surpass it,” hopes Agarwal.

Trying times
However, a journey like this can be physically and mentally exhausting. Agarwal gives us an example, “When we started our journey from Kolkata, we had heavy rainfall for company; still, we went ahead and cycled our way. However, closer to Kolaghat, we experienced strong head winds which made it impossible to go ahead; So, we had to stop and wait for the weather to ease out.” The duo plans to cover somewhere between 60 km to 120 km by cycling six to seven hours every day.
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“We are extremely proud of Siddharth and Ujjawal for undertaking this adventure. Siddharth has been associated with us for nearly three years now as an intern, a social investor, and a campaigner. It is heartening to see young people engage with tough social issues, and to do so in a manner that requires tenacity, empathy, and ingenuity.”
— Smita Ram, co-founder and managing trustee, NGO Rang De

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