We all dream of a life without strife but Naresh Kumar has got on his bike to do his bit for a better world. Team Y talks to the cyclist on a mission to kill ‘em with kindness, and all by the seat of his pants.
Imagine a world in which all living beings live in peace; one where equality and love for one another prevail over everything else.
It’s a dream that should ideally become reality, for, as they say, we’re all mere mortals waiting to pass on the baton to future generations.
But as the pressures of society mount and violence is all around us, some people believe there needs to be a change in our outlook in how we approach each other.
Enter Naresh Kumar – a 36-year-old Indian-born IT engineer hailing from the humble state of Tamil Nadu and now living in the US – who is pedalling his way, literally, to spread the words of love, peace and equality among all living beings.
Hit modus operandi is quite simple yet ever-so-taxing: pack a bag with all the essentials – food, a few clothes, water, shoes, a basic repair kit; and head out on a cycling adventure through various countries to spread his views and show everyone through his social media channels the goodness that exists within humanity.
Having started pedalling from his hometown in Tamil Nadu, he then made his way up to Mumbai before hopping onto a flight and making his way to the Sultanate, from where he intends to head to the UAE, Iran, and a handful of other European countries before he hits his destination: Hamburg, Germany.
An epic 8,000km journey through two continents and all with one question: ‘where is the kindness?’ In an exclusive interview conducted over the course of a whole evening, we get close to Naresh to understand more about his motives.
The name of his mission is ‘Freedom Seat’. He talks in an ever-so-calm voice without showing an ounce of exhaustion from the 50km-odd journey he has already completed on his tandem bike (which goes by the name ‘Kindness’).
He says: “This is a mission that’s intended to showcase to all the lovely people the message of peace, kindness, love, and finally, educating them on ending slavery.
“Now, ‘how I do that?’ is the question many people ask me.
“The answer is simple: I use a tandem bike and I pedal through places. That means I’m pedalling through places with a spare seat. It’s something that catches the eye of the people who see me.
“This causes intrigue in their minds, and before you know it, they’ll hop on and pedal along with me to help me push my bike and the heavy bags on it forwards.
“And before you know it, you’ll realise that whether you’re from India, Oman or any European country, all the people have one common instinct in them: one to help me.
“That shows us all that there’s a lot of love in the hearts of everyone; it just needs an outlet such as this to help us showcase it.”
This isn’t his first journey either. Earlier, he rode across New Zealand, picking up a total of 140 strangers to ride pillion with him, and in the process raised more than US$55,000 (RO21,175); all to raise awareness and raise money to end child trafficking.
He has also conducted a similar ride, named: ‘Indian Pacific Wheel Ride’ – a solo, single-stage, unsupported, 5,500km-long cycling expedition from Fremantle, Perth and finally to the Opera House in Sydney, Australia.
The change of location (to the GCC) and language isn’t hampering his efforts, though.
Naresh has never had a problem interacting with people, and proudly tells us how everyone is ready to use sign language to understand each other.
“Language is a mere barrier that can be broken down by signs – that’s how we all interacted at the beginning of time. Even people who don’t know sign language will somehow manage to interact with me through actions.
“This also shows the trusting nature of people. Pedalling alongside me is one thing, giving up control of the steering up in the front is another.
As a passenger, all you can do is pedal forward and leave me at the helm of the cycle. “And that’s one message I have for all the people: ‘There’s goodness in everyone. You just must look a bit deep inside you. This is also the reason why we all need to take a stand against slavery.
“For instance, what a co-passenger feels on my bike is probably what someone who is exploited feels. They will not have any control of their lives – it’s up to the people who govern things around them that have the last say.
“And human beings must not live like this. No one deserves this,” he says.
Naresh tells us that human exploitation isn’t a relic from the past anymore and that it is more prevalent today – we just should look around us.
He’s right, as we learn from statistics published by the United Nations, that nearly 40 million people are bound by slavery around the world.
Naresh’s mission doesn’t end with simply pedalling through countries, though. He makes new friends – some as young as two and others as old as 80.
While in Oman, and just a little way down the road to Sohar, Naresh experienced his first Middle-Eastern rains.
But help arrived in the form of an elderly gentleman who not only offered him assistance in gathering his bike but also gave him the keys to his fishing cabin on the beach.
He says: “When I saw an elderly gentlemen man driving, I asked him if I could pitch my tent along the shore.
“Instead he opens the door to his tiny shelter house along the beach, and says that I can rest there for the night. He then asks me to lock the door and leave the key in a secret location that he points to before leaving.”
He then tells us: “Faith in humanity restored. If this isn’t what I intend to show the world through my journey, I don’t know what is.” You can track Naresh Kumar by visiting his website at www.freedomseat.org/whereiskindness. His mission is funded
by several private entities.