The modern Yogi, his bike and his ride for humanity.
COVID is continuously pouring itself into headlines and news. It’s 2021 and we are still living in its nightmare. We’ve accepted this existential crisis and learned to live with it. Many have mourned in this crisis, but many others have risen from the ashes, giving birth to new life.
I’m stepping out of the kitchen today, travelling back to India to bring you this story in which fragility and physical endurance work together seamlessly for the cause of humanity. This is a special story of one young man who has provided a service to thousands of silent refugees affected by humanitarian crises, fleeing from conflict zones neighbouring India.
Meet thirty-two-year-old Kiran Chukkapalli, the modern yogi from Andhra Pradesh, who left his entertainment career in Mumbai to establish the NGO ‘Think Peace’ in 2010. He has lit 230 villages with 11,000 solar lamps in the valley of Andhra Pradesh and is now embarking on a 10,000-km solo motorcycle ride for humanity. His mission is to share the stories of these refugees, utilising their problems to inspire actions.
As I sit to write this interview, there is this nostalgic feeling – the sound of running wells in the middle of lush paddy fields, the cool breeze of the Himalayan ranges and the dust of the highway carried to the foot of my apartment.
I call him a yogi because he has all the pathos of a disciplined life, greatly inspired by the life of freedom fighter Shri Alluri Sitaram Raju. Kiran was convinced from a young age that his hero’s self-motivation and belief in his cause was the key to reaching his goals. That comes with discipline; taking up service for humanity comes with those convictions. He was about fourteen when he started thinking like a yogi.
Most of his family was or is into politics or social work. So, making this choice was not difficult – only the timing was.
What shaped him to be the man he is today? It wasn’t a surprise to hear that his identity starts with him being an Indian. Being Indian encapsulates the core values of compassion, endurance and the spirit of its tradition that encompasses the journey of spirituality. Rightfully, that’s also the core of yogic identity, so, he commits to serve the people.
To Kiran, peace means to listen; it’s only when one listens that one can one looks beyond the differences, thus embracing and celebrating other lives. That is the fundamental requirement of a good life. With that thought process, ‘Think Peace’ was born.
According to him, poverty is beyond socio-economic barriers; poverty fractures all of society both physically and mentally. There are so many examples of this in India, and one is the tribal community. They are survivors of a dejected society. So, in the last decade, ‘Think Peace’ has worked with these communities in healthcare, education, sports and creating women entrepreneurship. Now, Kiran tells me the foundation would like to expand working to understand the refugees.
His first thought on embarking upon his motorbike journey was a mixture of excitement and pride. To him, the refugees are the real heroes, fighting against all odds while enduring physical, emotional and sexual abuse – yet they stand victorious. He says ‘victorious’ because they did not give in to those principles and beliefs, and that’s truly remarkable. This is what inspires him.
His main motive for going around India is for justice and equality for these refugees. Wherever he’s travelled across India, he’s been moved by poverty, especially when it couldn’t be overcome by suppression from the wealthy. It’s a basic human desire to have a ‘good’ (or simple) life, and that was inconsistent throughout. The refugees in India were once part of the Indian subcontinent; through Think Peace, he wants people to recognise this and give their due justice.
His entire journey has been remarkable; almost everyone he’s met has been inspirational. But the most remarkable story to be told of these refugees is the story of their spirit. Poverty, fear or violence – come what may, no one’s shattered their spirits. The refugee women are a symbol of strength and liberation. Kiran adds that it is truly commendable what these refugees go through daily, sometimes without food, but they are still there sharing their stories.
I ask Kiran if he is a ‘people person’ or their friend, and like a true yogi he says he is a man with no attachments. So, whether it’s people or work, Kiran is just a vehicle to be a mode of transport for those seeking a journey with him. He is just following his ‘Karma’ and ultimately, everything is temporary.
Kiran, the person wants to live happily and enjoy the process without the pressure of success. As for the humanitarian Kiran, he will soon launch Refugee Aid Project, an offshoot of Think Peace to serve the refugees in India, to improve their socio-economic conditions. He is positive that he will receive a lot of support, including from the Indian Government and human rights organisations from around the world. Right now, his main focus is on an action plan for 4 out of the 93 camps he has visited.
Kiran has spent some time in Australia, and he tells me excitedly he loves the energy of the Indian community here in Australia. It is not only encouraging but there is also a sense of community. With this, he welcomes us to accompany him on his journey for improving the lives of our refugee brothers and sisters.
His bike ride across India is not about him doing 10,000+ kilometres – it is about the ride for humanity, bringing justice to thousands of these silent refugees. Sometimes small opportunities lead to bigger acts of kindness, and that’s what life is all about: helping people achieve the dignified life they deserve to live.
As I write the last few lines of his interview, I cannot help but think about what he said about peace – listening – and how this yogi has opened his heart to listen to these vulnerable communities who flee their homes searching for a safe life. If it took one yogi to embark on this karmic journey to start a movement, think how ten thousand more modern yogi can do.
I cannot help myself, quoting author and motivational speaker Wayne Dyer: “How people treat you is their Karma; How you react is yours.”
By Nandita Chakraborty