Hey stubborn people! Your love always pulls us back to bring out something great every week. After the huge response from you guys on our previous stories, we are back once again with the story of 26 year old Shubham Dharmsktu.
Shubham Dharmsktu is a man of ultimate resolve, his resilience is unmatched and his fascination with ‘the knowledge’ unparalleled. This man in himself is a journey of thousands of miles from Cycling the entire Himalyan length to walking from Kashmir to Kanyakumari this man has achieved wonders once and again.
His love for nature is so deep that he dedicated his entire K2K journey to enlighten us towards the crazy amount of toxic plastic waste we created and are still creating. He is a real son of Mother Earth and what better day to tell his tale than World Environment Day.
His stubbornness has led him to fight every thing that got in his way from the blisters in his feet, to the sinus in his head. The absolute persistence is why today we are going to listen to his tale. His belief in himself is unbendable and yet as a person he is so adaptive. If this doesn’t make you go WOWWWWW!!!! Then we wonder what will?
So come let’s accompany Shubham on his journey from the NID boy to shubyatra. Beware of the moments where tears will roll down your eyes and those too where you will go in an absolute awe.
Himalayas to the ‘Corporate Conundrum’
Shubham Dharmsktu was born and brought up in Milam, Johar Valley, Uttarakhand where the Himalayas were my backyard, my home, my family. Also Shubham Dharmsktu had a merry childhood with loving parents and caring sibling.
Shubham Dharmsktu had a keen interest in the creative designing field and always wanted to pursue a career in this field but little did I know that one day this dream will become a shadow of my past. He was good at studies and always tried to work hard.
Shubham Dharmsktu prepared seriously for the design entrance examination and cleared it. Shubham Dharmsktu finally entered the land of my dreams, NID, Ahemdabad’s campus, as a student. I started off my college journey with great enthusiasm and kept myself enveloped in the college related activities.
Like every other student Shubham Dharmsktu also wanted to graduate with excellent grades, get a good job, get into ‘The Corporate World’ and eventually earn good money. Shubham Dharmsktu also thought like a 22 year old guy would think. Shubham Dharmsktu did this for a whole year but what happened after that is what made me what Shubham Dharmsktu is today.
The Missing Piece in the Puzzle
After the first year of college ended Shubham Dharmsktu started to feel a bit unhappy with the way my life was going forward. I used to question myself, “What is the purpose of me being here?”. Shubham Dharmsktu suffered this existential crisis for wells and yet I had no answer to a very quintessential question.
Shubham Dharmsktu thought everything was good, He was in a good college, his family was happy and Shubham Dharmsktu had great friends, basically everything was going perfect and still Shubham Dharmsktu felt as if something was missing. Shubham Dharmsktu started to think, “Do all of us need to stick to the ideal life the society has decided for us?”
The answer Shubham Dharmsktu found changed my life forever, Shubham Dharmsktu thought that there were people who were not living the life that society had formulated for us. They had an empathy for everyone and everyone loved them too. “Who are these people?”
These people are the legendary teachers, “Budha”, “Ram”, “Jesus”, “Mohammed” , they were loved by the whole world and they loved the world back too. They had attained some knowledge that we did not have. Now the question was “How can we attain that knowledge?”.
Travel Gives Us Life Experiences : Shubham Dharmsktu
Shubham Dharmsktu kept thinking about them for months, Shubham Dharmsktu always thought what was the secret behind these fabled people. One day it occurred to me that one thing that connected these all was “TRAVEL”. Budha left his kingdom to see what was going on in the world, Ram was in exile for 14 years in the forests, Jesus moved from land to land to spread love throughout mankind and Mohammed was the last prophet who was sent by god to travel the world, meet people and preach to them.
Shubham Dharmsktu thought that through their teachings we were being taught to go out and learn from the people out there. Shubham Dharmsktu found the missing piece to the Jigsaw Puzzle of my life and this was the piece that changed my life.
The First Pedal
One summer night in 2014 at 2:00 Am in the morning, Shubham Dharmsktu was sitting in college room. There was a party going on and everybody was enjoying it except me . Shubham Dharmsktu was sitting on bed thinking that Shubham Dharmsktu now know the answer and then why am I stuck yet? Shubham Dharmsktu decided to take my bicycle, took my bag and a pair of clothing and just left.
When Shubham Dharmsktu came on the highway, something came into his mind and Shubham Dharmsktu said “Let’s ride south.” Shubham Dharmsktu started journey with obliviousness and went on with the flow. He never was a man with six pack abs and remarkable stamina, what He had was just the will to explore and learn.
Shubham Dharmsktu cycled through 6 states and one union territory, riding for more than 3200 Kms. Also Shubham Dharmsktu decided to not to take hotels and because Shubham Dharmsktu wanted to meet people and see the different cultures through their roots. He slept in mandirs, masjids, in stranger’s houses, in petrol pumps and even on the roadside. Shubham Dharmsktu ate in gurudwaras, temples and tasted the food Shubham Dharmsktu had never tasted before. Shubham Dharmsktu met thousands of beautiful people from kids to elders, there were no boundaries, everyone had something unique and Shubham Dharmsktu learnt so much from them.
Learned New Lessons From Every Moment : Shubham Dharmsktu
On the 58th day of continuous cycling and amazing experiences on the way, Shubham Dharmsktu reached the southernmost point in India, KanyaKumari. Shubham Dharmsktu was a completely changed man, Shubham Dharmsktu had learnt so much more in those 58 days then what Shubham Dharmsktu had learnt in the rest of life.
When Shubham Dharmsktu returned to college, Shubham Dharmsktu was so excited and I thought that I had got what was missing in my life. Also Shubham Dharmsktu used to meet people and everyone said that Shubham Dharmsktu was a changed person and Shubham Dharmsktu felt that too.
Shubham Dharmsktu thought that this was it! Also Shubham Dharmsktu got what Shubham Dharmsktu wanted to get but little did Shubham Dharmsktu know that it was not the end but the beginning of something Shubham Dharmsktu never experienced …
Himalayas : My Childhood Love
After a few months of working again in the monotonous life, Shubham Dharmsktu again started to feel the itch for gaining the knowledge I had gained a few months ago. Shubham Dharmsktu again started to feel the discontent towards life and the wanderlust in me started to kick.
He wanted to choose a difficult journey this time, or perhaps the most difficult one so that I can learn from those who spend their lives living in those conditions because the want for knowledge grew stronger and stronger everyday.
I was poring over the world map and I saw, “The Great Himalayas”, growing up in Uttarakhand, I was raised in the lap of the Himalayas and always had a desire to explore every inch of it.
I knew that I was taking on a big challenge and anything can go wrong, The terrain is tranquil and yet unforgiving, one can even die riding in such terrains. He knew that in life or death situations only high quality equipment can save life and they cost a lot!
I made getting sponsorship my priority as I knew this is not going to be easy. In India sponsorships are scarce and even if you fortunately bag a few the costs will still be very high.
Hardwork Paid Off : Shubham Dharmsktu
Shubham Dharmsktu contacted more than 400 companies, emailed them, made exclusive presentations for each one of them and fortunately my hard work bore fruit and I was able to get sponsorship from a few companies.
With everything, I needed. Shubham Dharmsktu was ready to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. But one thing that I lacked was physical training, to ride in such harsh terrains one need s to have great strength but I spent so much time running behind sponsorships that I had no time to train at all.
All I had was fire in my belly and an iron will. And that, according to me, is more than enough. I started my journey on 20th April, 2015 from Wakro, the easternmost village of Arunachal Pradesh.
For the first 10 days my feet were crying out in pain due to the lack of training. I even had times when I was not even able to stand upright.
I tried to remain undeterred but difficulties were there. For the first two weeks, Shubham Dharmsktu used to stay at mandirs and gurudwaras. There Shubham Dharmsktu learnt to lead a simple life, He used to cook, He used to do cleaning, sometimes stood at the gate as a guard and used to offer water to those who passed by.
After that he crossed forests and beautiful landscapes all resting in the tranquil lap of the great Himalayas. In Arunachal, I once stumbled upon a river that I had to cross. If I choose not to cross the river , I would have had to go for a 200 Km ride round the river’s length which was not possible and I had to cross it.
Though the water was shallow but the speed of flowing was so fast the walking with the cycle was out of the question. I accidentally saw a bulldozer and waved at it and you won’t believe I crossed the river sitting in the robotic arm of the bulldozer.
Northern India feels Like Heaven , Infact It Is : Shubham Dharmsktu
After travelling through the beautiful states of Assam and Arunachal, I reached the “Happiest place on Earth” Bhutan. I have learnt so much from the people of the country and always admire the kindness they have for everyone.
When I reached Bhutan, the immigration officer with whom I discussed and then he let me into the country. He was so sweet that he showed me around the place and even bargained with the hotel guy for me. He used to come every morning to ensure that I was having a good time.
I met new people every day and all of them had something to teach me and I grew with every new experience. The locals in Bhutan inspired me to go to the Tiger’s Nest.
It’s a long and arduous hike to the top. I decided that my cycle had took me everywhere and now I can’t leave it down there .
So I carried my cycle on my shoulders to the top. It was a serene landscape, and it was worth all the effort. I decided to ride the way down and this was my brush with death.
While riding downhill, I fell flat on my face more than 20 times, barely missing my vital parts. I was so sure one of those falls was going to be fatal, that I even made a video saying, even if I don’t make it out alive, it would still have been a cool death.
I crossed the happiest land on the planet to enter Sikkim. The richness of culture in such a small area struck me and I met so many people at different places in Sikkim and got inspired with the simplicity they have.
It Was Never Going To Be Easy : Shubham Dharmsktu
Through Sikkim, I came to Nepal . As I was about to reach Nepal, I came to know that Nepal was hit by a tremendous earthquake that had made all life go haywire. My family and friends asked me to abandon the adventure and come back.
I knew I wasn’t going to get a second chance. After pondering over it for 2 days, I decided to continue. But not before volunteering in the village of Melamchi, where I worked with NGOs and schools for 3 weeks, trying to help the affected people.
In this span we built 20 temporary shelters. We built them with basic material like tin shades and iron rods. We taught the techniques to the villagers so they can also handle this situation.
After this saddening but enlightening experience, I reached my home land UttaraKhand. I breathed enough of the pious air of my mother land because now my journey was going from Uttarakhand which was 100M above the sea level to Khardungla which is 5339 M above sea level.
Everyday I was going higher and higher, there was no downhill after Uttarakhand and I was carrying 40Kg wait in the backpack with film equipment and other important equipment. I was slowed down by the hills but the thought of giving up didn’t even cross my mind.
Also right from childhood, I had a sinus problem, which didn’t let me breathe as normally as you do. So it was extremely difficult for me to ride in the high passes, where the oxygen level is lower than at sea level.
I reached Manali- Leh highway, which is about 3000M above the sea level. The oxygen level was so low that I couldn’t breathe and fainted on the spot. A cycling team which was passing through the same route rescued me and took me to a hospital in Keylong.
I was admitted and after 3 days when I came back to normal the doctor told me not to go further because it could have been fatal! . I ran away from the hospital to continue the journey!
It started to become colder and colder, and at one instance I almost got drifted by the ice cold water and could have died but what to say when you almost die everyday.
I kept pushing myself, even I used to have blackouts several times in a day and yet I pedaled day in day out. I reached Ladakh , the dream place for all travellers. Then I left for Khardung La pass which is one of the highest motorable roads in the world.
My heart didn’t want to stop there so I went on to go towards Kargil. When I reached Kargil, I started to dance with joy, I started to scream Jule!!!(pronounced Joo-lay, a word meaning ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘please’ and ‘thanks’ in ladakhi ).
On 30th July, my journey of 6000 Kms , 105 days , 3 countries, lakhs of memories and millions of lessons learnt came to an end. At the age of 22, I had seen the Himalayas inch by inch and interacted with the amazing people who live in the serenity of the Himalayas.
This experience made me someone I dreamt to become, I learnt so much at every step and found the purpose of my being.
Do you think that this was my final frontier and I stopped here ? Then maybe you are wrong…
Travelliving: Living on the Go
After completing my journey in the lap of the great himalayas, I realised that the experience and magic I felt should be shared with others also. I wanted to let the world feel how I felt when I breathed the magical airs of the most extreme terrains of India.
This experience can not be done sitting in an A.C. car with a driver driving it and you just sitting in the back. To experience nature, one needs to set feet on the ground. So I wanted to promote ‘sustainable tourism’ rather than the ‘reckless commercial tourism’ we often do, without evening thinking of the damages we are bringing to nature.
This idea just got stuck in my mind and after I graduated from NID, I was all ready to set foot in the tourism industry and change the way we think about tourism. I started Travelliving with this idea in 2016.
I worked day in and day out to get fundings and establish the company. Gradually we started to get recognised and we began to conduct tours at a good pace. We did hiking tours, cycling tours through the regions of India that were never heard of.
People also appreciated the idea and in less than two years we had conducted more than 300 tours with thousands of tourists. Each and every tour with us brought something new in the lives of those who experienced the real face of nature.
We became a big company, we opened an office in Delhi and we were growing bigger and bigger everyday. Everyday we did something new towards the final goal.
I managed the company as a CEO and I became very busy with the company. In the last one year with my company, I didn’t even leave the company office for even a day and this started to make me feel the itch for knowledge again.
One thing that kept popping in my head was “If I don’t live my product then how am I going to bring new ideas into it” basically if I do not travel then how am I going to bring new ideas for the company.
Also those who funded the company started to influence the way we worked, they wanted us to shift towards ‘commercial tourism’. Commercial tourism was the exact opposite of my vision for the company and the thought of going against the basic fundamentals of the company felt unsubstantial to me.
After pondering for months, when things started going beyond my level of toleration, I resigned and left the company. The name of the company was changed and I broke all links to it.
Traveliving was like my child and giving it up was never easy but sometimes you need to value your fundamentals more than you value your emotions.
Shubyatra: The New Journey
After leaving Travelliving, I was back to the inquisitive Shubham with whom the whole journey had started. I again began to think about the problems in the villages situated in the extremities of India. The way the people living in that area survive and lead their lives is something that always stuck in my mind.
I wanted to explore that and find more and more about the inhabitants of the inhabitable because nobody knows about them. Also I wanted to create video content about their problems and needs. I wanted to make sure that these people get heard by the whole world.
I was living in Mumbai, after leaving Delhi and that’s where the seeds of shubyatra were sown. Also I wanted to make films and documentaries about these people, so I started with the idea .
The main issue was that even, I don’t know about where these hidden places were because nobody knew about them and to find out there was only one way “to experience India inch by inch”.
That’s where the thought of doing a journey throughout India came in my mind. I had already cycled the himalayan length so this time I wanted to pick something even bigger…
When I reached the NCR, I realised why the cities had one of the most polluted air in the world. I started with breathing the most pure oxygen in the Himalayas and came down to breathing the most polluted air with almost no oxygen. Here I tried to promote sustainability the most.
I started to have blisters in my feet, but my resolve to reach out to every Indian and tell them how bad we are treating our environment. Our shopping bags are killing nature and yet we just overlook such adverse effects.
I generally started to walk 40-50 Kms a day. During my life at “Travelliving” I used to walk almost nothing compared to what I was doing in those days. Also I started to increase the number of sessions in all cities I crossed to spread the word more and more.
Gradually walking day in day out, sleeping in temples on thermocol sheets, I reached the royal Rajasthan. Here the hosts were so welcoming, that sometimes it felt bad to leave because of the uncertainty of meeting them again.
In Rajasthan, I saw the two almost opposite poles of life in two nights, one night I was staying with a Royal Family and on the other I was sleeping in a petrol pump. I got to learn the way the people of Rajasthan dealt with the aridness of the region.
I wanted to see every facet and collect more and more stories every day and that’s why living with families was the best part of the day. The food they cooked with love felt way more tastier than those fancy food chains.
After bidding farewell to Rajasthan, I came to the state where it all had started Gujarat. When I looked at the college campus, the image of the curious shubham who was sitting in the corner of the room thinking about leaving the college at 2:00 Am in the morning flashed before my eyes and I recalled every moment that I had lived since then.
At my college, NID Ahmedabad, I took the longest break of the expedition to heal the blisters that I had incurred in the 2000km+ walk till that point. I met thousands of people and gave a lot of talks.
Also this was the time when GAIL (Gas Authority of India Limited) stepped in to help me and sponsored me for the rest of my journey. Their goal was also to promote more sustainable fuels, and the motive of the journey just sat in conformation with theirs.
I started the next leg of the journey on 23rd January 2019, with a whole new energy and enthusiasm. Also i was now going towards the city of dreams ‘Mumbai’ with a dream of spreading the message of sustainable lifestyle.
In Mumbai, only I did 30-40 talks and events including a 20 Km ‘Green Walk’ which was joined by ministers, the police commissioner and many more. I felt as if my efforts were nwo boring fruit.
Also I felt like living in the city lights of Mumbai, but the journey must go on. I again started to walk, I was almost March and the sun had started to shine with immense heat. I had to adapt to a new climate almost every week and this was not at all a piece of cake.
While crossing Andhra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, I started to have small boils on my skin, there was no way to cool down. These boils were really painful and I had to drench myself with water again and again just to avoid the pain due to these.
Now every step I walked was bringing me closer and closer to the end of the journey. I had reached Tamil Nadu and was giving talks there in every city. On 8 th May, I finally reached
Kanyakumari, the moment of keeping the foot in the southernmost land of India was so emotional that I almost got tears in my eyes.
After 5000kms, 180 days , 56 blisters , 9 states and 3 union territories , I was here in Kanyakumari, looking at the beautiful sun rising from the Indian Ocean.
In that moment, every second I spent walking just flashed like a movie before my eyes. The serene Kashmir, to the extravagant Rajasthan and then to tranquil beaches of Tamil Nadu, From -5 degree celsius that almost froze me to 45 degree celsius which caused me burns on the skin, everything just felt more and more amazing.
I had done it!! And even I don’t know how.
The magic of diversity in our country filled me with a new energy and I felt as if I was reborn.
A Message to the Free Souls
I am not a philosopher but there are some things that I have learnt about in these years of travelling. I have seen a restlessness in all of us. We want to become great overnight which is rather impossible. We need to have patience.
Look at your goals as seeds. When you sow a seed do you expect it to give you fruits the next day…. Obviously NO!. We wait, we water the seed, we give the seed care that it needs. It goes from a dormant seed to a timid plant and then to fruit bearing tree.
The same goes with goals: you give them everything they need and then one day, you will accomplish everything you wanted to.
One more thing that we have realised out of this pandemic, that nature is the supreme. We should live in harmony with it and what we rather do? we destroy it!
The destruction we have brought till date is irrevocable but now it’s the time to Stop ! And change our habits because it is neither petrol nor plastic, it’s our habits that wreck havoc on our environment.
A Message to the Free Souls
So guys this was the story of a 27 year old explorer from Uttarakhand who has devoted his life to travel. The way he cares for the environment and fellow beings is something we should also bear in our hearts.
We use ‘iron will’ to show the willpower of a person, but Shubham has got a ‘diamond will with a golden heart’ and we all should take home the lessons his story teaches us.
We will be back next week with another story of amazing will and determination to bring about a change in the world. Till then hang in there and
Stay passionate, Stay Stubborn