A crusade of two brothers
By LB THAPA FOR THE ROAMING POST
We are quite familiar with some doctors and their philanthropic activities. However, the story about a doctor in this article is quite different. This doctor has chosen a unique way to spread awareness about HIV/AIDS in the world. In his effort he was not alone. He was assisted by his own brother, an active environmental activist.
Yes, I am talking about Dr. Amrit Baral, a 29-year old
medical doctor who chose to paddle around the world to spread the message about HIV/AIDS. And his younger brother Ajit Baral, a 27-year old environmental activist, joined his hands in the mission. Fired by the spirit of doing something meaningful in life, the two brothers mounted on their mountain bikes and began the journey which was fraught with uncertainties and difficulties of all kinds.
“There are many people in the world who are misinformed about the HIV/AIDS. They think that suffering from HIV/AIDS is the end of the world. My mission of world cycling tour was to remove all kinds of misinformation and rumors related to HIV/AIDS. I want to let them know that there are many diseases which are more dangerous than HIV/AIDS. On my way to world cycle tour, I realized that many people became surprised when I said that a quite normal life can be lived with HIV/AIDS. The
people with whom I talked took my words seriously because I was a medical doctor. Otherwise they would be more skeptical,” said Dr. Amrit Baral.
Ajit Baral is involved in various environmental related activities in Nepal. This is a fact that there are very few people around us who are actually worried about environment. As a result the quality of environment is being degraded day by day. It is good to know that a young environmentalist, Ajit Baral, has shown more commitment to protect environment. If there are some more committed youths like Ajit Baral, this world can be a better place to live in.
“My love for flora and fauna was an early affair. When I was merely a primary level student, I would bring some exotic plants to my garden and plant them. I would fence the garden properly and take care of my plants more than anything in my life” said Ajit Baral with a broad smile on his face.
Duo brothers had no previous, long distance cycling experience. Their muscles did not have enough strength to paddle around the world. It was possible that they could easily tear their muscles apart within a few days or may be hours of rigorous cycling. The risk was always there.
“Being a medical doctor, I was aware of muscles damage because we did not have previous cycling practice. Definitely our muscles did not have enough strength for long distance paddling. Hence, in order to protect our muscles we decided to cover less distance in the beginning and taking enough rest to repair the damaged cells” said Dr.Amrit Baral.
After necessary preparation, the duo brothers received blessings from their parents and well wishes from their friends. Now they were ready to begin their journey. They paddled all the way from Pokhara and reached Kathmandu. They spent one day in Kathmandu to replenish the lost energy. From Kathmandu the cyclist brothers headed to Birganj. They did some shopping in Birgaj and headed to Raxual, Indo-Nepal boarder. They paddled across the Raxual boarder and reached Sitamadi, Bihar, India. They feasted their eyes on endless lush green wheat fields. Paddling along the huge wheat fields was a unique
experience for them. Unfortunately, their happiness was cut short. A group of people appeared from nowhere and robbed the duo brothers. They snatched their cameras, cash and bags. Within a minute the duo brothers were standing on the highway like beggars. They narrated their story with the people there, but no one commiserated with them.
“It was really a very bad experience for us. The incident was enough to reduce our courage and enthusiasm to low. We were not prepared to face a situation like this. We were not aware of such things could happen with the cyclists. Anyway we had learnt a bitter lesson of life. We stood there for a long time, expecting some help but we got no help at all.
Eventually, we managed to place our bicycles on the roof of a bus and headed to New Delhi. In New Delhi we wanted to visit Nepali embassy and asking for some financial help. So we could continue our mission. However, upon reaching New Delhi based Nepali embassy, our dream of getting any financial help shattered into pieces. Nepali embassy in New Delhi flatly refused to provide us any financial help. This was the second time when our zeal was at the lowest ebb; but we were adamant and not ready to give in cheaply. We had no money to continue our mission. Hence, we asked our parents in Nepal to send some money to continue our journey” revealed Dr. Amrit Baral.
Talking with this scribe Ajit Baral said: “I was not surprised at the poor show of Nepali embassy in India. But, yes, my elder brother Dr.Amrit Baral received a shock at the cold response from the Nepali embassy. I know the embassy will always have enough money to spend on lavish party, but they will not have any money to help the people who are out for genuine cause. We left Nepali embassy in utter dismay and hopelessness. We shook off the past and determined to move on. From New Delhi we were on the way to Agra. While paddling through the national highway, we happened to meet with a French backpacker. We had a friendly talk with him. He was a very kind hearted man. When he came to know about our plight, he purchased clothes, bags and medicines for us. His benevolence act made us speechless. The French man was no less than a god for us”.
The duo brothers reached Agra. The first thing they did in Agra was to visit Taj Mahal, the monument of eternal love. After spending one day paddling around the Agra city, they continued their journey for Gwalior. After a long, tedious journey they arrived in Gwalior. They had one day rest in Gwalior then continued paddling to Kochi, Kerala. From Kochi they went to Trivandrum, where they stayed at Swami Shivananda’s Ashram. Swami Shivananda appreciated their work and immediately provided some financial help. They also received ten thousand rupees from the Latin Arch Bishop, Trivandrum. Srikanta a friend of Dr.Amrit Baral had arranged five days stay in Hotel Safari in Trivandrum.
“We were very happy after arriving in Trivandrum. We were among the good people and all of them wanted to help us at their most. Throughout our cycling tour, we were passing through several good and bad experiences. Gradually we started understanding the essence of life that good and bad things are the part of life. They are there to teach us one more lesson of life”.
Their next destination was Maldives. Upon reaching Maldives, both of the cyclist brothers got arrested as they had landed in Maldives without a visa. After 10 hours of detention, they were released with 30 days visa. “A Nepali resident in Maldives whom people fondly call Bhusal Dai came to their rescue. “Without his help, it would be difficult for us to tour across Maldives,” said Ajit Baral.
In Sri Lanka Ajit Baral felt hurt when he saw the beaches were largely polluted. He collected some local youths and began beach-cleaning campaign. The group did collect heaps of plastic bags and other filths from the beach and burnt the garbage. He also interacted with the local people and asked them to spread general awareness among the people who pollute the beach at large. He did also organize a similar type of anti plastic campaign in Laos and Cambodia. Due to longtime working experience with Dirghayu Nepal, an NGO in Nepal, it was easy for Ajit to motivate people to work for environment.
In Myanmar there was one thing which impressed the duo brothers. “We had never seen a person with such a novel idea of benevolence. The rich man had actually sold out all his property and embraced Buddhism. The money he got after selling his property was used to purchase a huge land in Thanlyin, where he established a Buddhist meditation village. He named it Thabarwa Center in Thanlyin near Yangon. The entire village is a Buddhist meditation center. Many foreigners and local people arrive here in search of peace and happiness. No money is charged for food and shelter. Everything is absolutely free of cost. However, some donation can be made at the time of departure. The expenditure of the village is met by public donation alone. We two brothers also lived here for 18 days. Being a medical doctor, I conducted free medical checkup camps for the visitors. We two brothers also encouraged the people in the village to clean the entire meditation area and the nearby locality” added Dr. Amrit Baral.
The Baral brothers did also meet the Nepali community in Myanmar who has still preserved Nepali culture and tradition by observing Nepali festivals and other rituals. “We want to give special thanks to one Nepali gentleman who was locally known as Chaite Dai. He helped us as long as we stayed in Myanmar. He was one kind of leading personality in Myanmar,” said Dr. Amrit Baral.
The duo cyclists paddled all the way from Incheon, Daejeon and Ganganam district and headed to Busan, South Korea. They arrived in South Korea from Japan. “Korean foods, fast internet connection and friendly behavior of the local people were remarkable indeed. The most special thing that attracted our attention in Korea was the unique blend of Korean economic development and rich culture thriving together. Korea has set an example before the world that technology and tradition can go together. Unlike Nepali embassy in New Delhi, Nepal embassy, Non-Resident Nepali Association, and the Kaski Nepal Society and some Nepali individuals did help us in South Korea,” said Dr. Amrit.
Without doubt, touring 16 countries and covering over 18,000 miles is not everybody’s cup of tea. Believe it or not but the truth has it that such mammoth task was undertaken by the two brothers, who had no previous cycling experience. To do this one must have nerves of steel.
“First of all let me tell this that we were not regular cyclists. We just bought the mountain bikes a week ago of our tour. Before the tour, we had never cycled out of our town…forget the world tour. We were also not aware of difficulties associated with the cycling. However, there was a fire of doing something good within us. After much thinking, we resorted to cycling, because cycling is the best way to meet the people on the ground and we were right! As we started paddling, we met all kinds of people that helped growing our confidence. It was this confidence that pushed us to paddle across India, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and United States of America.” revealed Dr. Amrit Baral.
“One of the toughest journey was in USA” said Dr. Amrit and continued. “We started our longest trip from Santa Rosa, a city in Northern California. We paddled across Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and Illinois. Despite several difficulties eventually we completed 4,226 miles journey and reached New York. The highways in Nevada were extremely hot. Sometimes the temperature would reach as high as 102 degrees. In the meantime we were greeted by some nasty hailstorms in the mountains of Colorado”.
Dr. Amrit Baral and his younger brother Ajit Baral must be appreciated for their heroic efforts of spreading general awareness about HIV/AIDS and informing the people about degrading environment. The stigma of HIV/AIDS is so scary in many countries that the HIV/AIDS patients live as if they are suffering from a deadly contagious disease. The society does also treat them like untouchables. The Baral brothers’ present feat of success has set an exemplary work before many people.
Note: All photos were provided by Dr.Amrit Baral.
About the Blogger
LB Thapa is a travel blogger from Nepal. He is also an author and journalist. His books have been published by Nirala Publications, New Delhi, India and Himalayan Maphouse, Kathmandu, Nepal. His books are available on www.amazon.com
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