I first came across Akram Feroze’s story in the newspaper; and I was blown away! 6 months ago in October 2011, Akram left the comfort of his home, friends and an urban life to pursue his childhood dream of travelling throughout India and experiencing the villages, roads and people who make it. Combining it with his passion for theatre, he now travels from place to place on his bicycle and conducts street plays and theatre workshops for the locals, all in one big amazing Epic journey called – The Cycle Natak.
What inspires me about him is, that he is just one of us ‘normal’ young people except that he rejected a comfortable life to follow his childhood dreams of travelling, exploring and learning.
Read Akram’s amazing story yourself:-
What’s your story?
I am Feroze, Akram Feroze as I fondly call myself. Born and brought up in a town in Karimnagar district of Andhra Pradesh state, I dropped out from graduation in genetics, worked in a television channel as Program Director (Producer) for a year, but quit on ethical issues and then started a project which failed heartbreakingly, and started doing theatre as a director, playwright and actor.
Q. How did you get the idea of The Cycle Natak?
Coming from a small town and a middle class background, traveling for us is just a fantasy. And my grandparents were from villages, who would tell me the stories of hospitality in villages. I grew up fantasizing about it, it was a like a dream. And a deep desire to travel without budget, earn in between and move on, was all a fantasy. After a project which I started and put all my efforts but failed, people started questioning wasn’t I too young for such big dreams? I was frustrated, damn frustrated, the project failed and then people started doubting my passion. I just could not relate to the world which judges people on their success. And in that moment the idea, ‘let’s live out the fantasy’ came in.
I wanted to walk across villages, earn, learn and move, but on my father’s suggestion I took up cycle. And theatre was always my passion, something which connects my soul to my body, so I thought I will also live the fantasy of Natak Mandali (Moving theatre) which was common in India once upon a time. That’s why I wonder now – when this insect first came in my brain, I had no cycle and no natak, just to live a fantasy, a dream and once I started to move everything started to fall in place So more than Cycle Natak, I wanted to see the nation, experience and learn life, as it was in my fantasies.
Q. What was people’s reaction to your decision ?
There is no doubt, that a free travel culture in India is just at its beginning – I mean people who would just travel for years earning and living and moving ahead. So obviously you are going to get lots of natty catty stuff at you first attempt. People used to make fun of my fantasy; I used to be the butt of jokes. Sometime I could take it, sometimes I would go out and yell alone “that was limit”. My family wasn’t sure that I would be able to do it physically and mentally. I should seriously thank my family, to let me go. In Indian town society context, it was a huge decision. For a month, I am sure they might have been haunted by questions like “Where the hell your youngest kid disappeared”? That is a lot of pressure. I am happy that they are happier now seeing their kid living a dream!
Q. What preparations did you do before starting? How do you sustain yourself through this journey?
For preparations nothing, I had not cycled in my last 6 years before hitting the road. I bought a cycle a day before the journey and it was stolen. My friend helped me to get myself another. I never told this to my parents, as I didn’t want to scare them just before the journey. I always told myself, “Anyway you are giving up everything, let’s be all honest , be open hearted and the journey will teach you ,as you move on”. I started with 300 rupees, I wanted to experience the nation and I felt, a beggars life is the best way to do it. I earn, sometimes I worked as coolie, sometimes as labourer, sometime giving theatre trainings in schools and many times people gift me lot of stuffs, and that’s why I call my journey as “Dreamers Gift”.
Q. What challenges did you face in pursuing your dream? How did you overcome them?
First and foremost was taking up all the jokes on you, when people come up and tell, “Man, you cannot! Lets move on from it”’ it did cut through my heart but I didn’t want to move on, instead I told myself, these people will judge me anyway – even if I fail or succeed, so let’s better live for my dream. And then the physical challenges, as I told I had never cycled before, in the initial days I used to feel as if a knife is put through my thighs. And then the scariest – loneliness – now that is real tough especially for a person like me who loves people around me and is a very emotional person. I don’t know whom do I go and hug and say “Wow, I am doing this!”, or just cry catching a hand and letting them know I am scared and I miss my home. It is real tough. And the day I met with the accident, for a week I was emotional, I remember I told myself – it’s all over, there’s nothing important to life, let’s go back home- that was a tough period, but here I am, still on the road !
Q. Would you like to share any interesting anecdote/experience?
There are many, especially when people gift me from 30 rupees to socks, t-shirts, coconut water and many other things, you feel blessed and wonder what our nation stands for. And as I don’t carry much money, someone or the other in villages comes as an angel and invite me home. And like I had an accident in Andaman, I fell in valley, and went rolling 20 feet down, I was down and scared, I didn’t know what to do, I searched my phone, I called up an honest man I had met in my journey, who was 300 kms away from the accident but in 20 minutes I received a vehicle who shifted me to hospital and took care of me. There are too many, I can go on and on.
Q. How has your outlook towards the world/life changed after this journey?
You learn to respect yourself and others better. You know the value of helping a stranger, you know the value of food, you know the value of others’ pain and miseries and you know why we are still men and not machines. The world is as unique, with its share of good, bad, sad and happy stories. And good prevails over bad, happiness shadows sadness, it’s just that we are too focused on sad stories and wonder there is misery everywhere but it’s untrue.
Q. If you could describe your life philosophy in one line, what would it be?
“Dream It, Live It”
Q. What are your future plans?
Keep travelling, keep experiencing and keep learning, and share joy and knowledge through my theatre.
Q. Would you like to give a message to our readers?
Take a step forward for your dreams, even if you don’t know how… the journey for your dreams will teach you. Don’t waste much of the time on How and Why? And just put all passion, have a little madness and go on. Don’t worry about failure; people are going to judge you anyway around, so better start living our dreams
Akram continues to travel throughout India. The best way to keep updated with his journey is to follow him on his Facebook page. You can also write him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org He is a very very friendly guy :)
For more real life stories of people who are living their dreams, visit here.