Driving cross-country to raise COVID-19 awareness

Members of ‘Road Ashram’ with founder of YouthNet, Hekani Jakhalu Kense posing in front of their custom crafted car in Kohima. (Morung Photo)
Members of ‘Road Ashram’ with founder of YouthNet, Hekani Jakhalu Kense posing in front of their custom crafted car in Kohima. (Morung Photo)

Vishü Rita Krocha 
Kohima | October 29 

The COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped Neha Chaturvedi, Siddhartha Dutta and Ahmer Siddique from stepping out of their comfort zones to travel across India. 

As a matter of fact, it is the pandemic that has fuelled more energy and passion into their travel even as they make a personally crafted vehicle their home for close to 2 months so they can help the cause of those affected by the pandemic.

“People assume that I must be the wife or sister. It does not bother me but it’s an interesting perspective that I observed through these travels. It’s like I don’t have an identity,” Neha Chaturvedi, the lone female member of the ‘Road Ashram’ campaign said while throwing an insight into her experiences.

She, along with Siddhartha Dutta and Ahmer Siddique are traversing through India to raise awareness and money to help people facing difficulties because of the pandemic. During an interaction with media persons at ‘Made in Nagaland Centre,’ Kohima on October 29, Chaturvedi revealed that she had only met Siddhartha Dutta and Ahmer Siddique a day before the trip started from Delhi. She said they have been thorough gentlemen and caring while on the road. People they met on the way, she further added, have been very generous. The trio will be covering 33 States and UTs covering 22,000 Kilometers in 54 days. They have so far covered 9 states, with 21 more waiting. 

Chaturvedi observed that everywhere else there were very few women out in the streets. But as they touched the North East, she said, “suddenly, all the shops are handled by women and it’s an amazing thing.” “Women in the region are much freer”, she put across. She also remarked that “it is amazing to see more women at the helm of things.” Chaturvedi recalled that she often heard people say Nagaland is not safe. But being here herself, she added “it is beautiful.”

Chaturvedi is a creative collaborator, community maker and a person who works with a trans-disciplinary international community.

Siddhartha Dutta said that although the travel can be physically tiring, “the warmth of the people is mind-blowing.” “They have gone out of their way to help us, and we are able to make a lot of connections and friends along the way. They have been very generous.” Siddhartha is an adventurer who lives in Mumbai and works in the non-profit sector as a fundraiser.

For Ahmer Siddique, ‘Road Ashram’ is a lifetime experience. He was especially taken in by the warmth and diversity of the North East. “We get support from random people”, he expressed. On the donation drive for people affected by the pandemic, he informed that people can directly donate online through the website - www.roadashram.in. “Let us not forget what is going on, people are suffering,” he said. 

Ahmer is an avid reader, a ‘status quo questioner’ in his words, and works in the non-profit sector helping NGO’s expand their reach.