What it Means to Walk Across India

Smiles disappear, conversations die out, huddles form and eyes widen with amazement, such is the welcome that i receive often. Welcome to my journal of personal experiences about what it means to walk across India, with as weird a face as mine, a bright orange ruck sack that weighs around 15 kilograms and a handful of questions about the river and its people to sate my curiosity.

Walking Across India, Copyrights: Ayan Sil
Walking Across India, Copyrights: Ayan Sil

At the very surface it appears to be a simple task, and that it is. Just go ahead and start walking like you would in your own neighbourhood. But then, why all this hullaballoo about it at all? Introduce pre-formed notions through experiences, society, religion, history and most of all films & media, it suddenly gets a little complicated. Lets start off with a little introduction for this section.

It is a turn by turn play of judgements by the walker and the onlooking stranger, more often than not simply to ensure safety and understanding. Why would i be walking through these villages? Am i there to meet someone, if not, what am i selling? Is this a religious pilgrimage? Am i from the government? Am i from the army or the police? Am i a terrorist? And im definitely from the CID if you were to listen to what most kids have to say!

The similarities in our lives, Image Copyrights: Siddharth Agarwal
The similarities in our lives, Copyrights: Siddharth Agarwal

An interesting set of questions if you read through it once, twice maybe, but if youre asked the same question every half kilometre, it starts to get on to your nerve. This sometimes makes me wish for deserted stretches of roads along the banks, kilometres without any interference in my silent conversations with the river. I always have to come back though, simply because the walk is about the river and its people both, incomplete without either.

Heavily interlinked, any actionon one does not go through without impact on the other. Seen and developed for ages, i do not claim to have complete knowledge of anything.Just everyday stories ofpeople that satisfies my curiosity, alittle understanding of how inter-dependencies work and where in the system should we intervene (if at all) to achieve a desired result.

Once youve been on the field, having gone through all the mentioned points and more, the answer to ‘What it Means to Walk Across India’ reverts to – it is a simple task, just go ahead and start walking like you would in your own neighbourhood.

Until next time, keep walking!



Moving Upstream is our homegrown project, a four-month walk along the Ganga from the sea to the source being undertaken by Siddharth Agarwal. He is accompanied by a team of researchers and and film-makers that is working to create a multifaceted experience revolving around the river. For more from the project visit:www.veditum.org/moving-upstream, andfollow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagramfor more frequent updates.

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