‘Slept in the car, bathed at petrol bunks’: Meet India’s first ‘van family’, on a 100-day all-India tour

Like other kids his age, four-year-old Abijosh may not be able to conquer all the capitals of Indian states.

But he has already done something his peers may not do in a lifetime: visit 28 Indian states and 4 union territories.

Abijosh – along with his parents, Ashok B and Prabha Ashok – embarked on a tour across India in January and has already crossed the country. All this, within 100 days, in a new car that has covered more than 15,000 kilometers and thus lives up to the description they give themselves: ‘India’s first van family.’

“Basically, we did this: eat, travel, sleep, repeat,” Ashok laughs during their recent pit stop in Chennai, after which they plan to cover Puducherry, Rameshwaram and Kanyakumari. “Despite all the different challenges, it was life-changing.”

Ashok, a manager at a paint department in Tirupur, has been dreaming of this trip across India for over a year, but the logistics were much harder than he thought. “When I shared my intention with my wife, a housewife, she was also wild. Convincing my parents was the hardest part, especially since we have a four year old traveling with us! It was only after we promised that we would call every day and share our location that we got their permission,” he recalls.

Ashok B, Prabha Ashok and Abijosh, in Chennai, on their tour across India

Ashok B, Prabha Ashok and Abijosh, in Chennai, on their tour across India | Photo credit: JOTHI RAMALINGAM B

He initially planned to travel in his old Maruti Zen, but fearing mechanical complications, he invested in a new car (a Maruti Eeco Star) and set aside two lakhs for the trip. In the first week of January, the three embarked on the journey in the car that contains all the essentials, including a bed, fan, light and torches, and a tent, in case the location they are in allows space. Armed with a 15-gallon water pitcher and a stove and cylinder for cooking, the family not only experienced the different cultures the states had to offer, but also led ordinary lives, including sleeping in the car, bathing in gasoline beds, and eat at dhabas along the road.

Along the way, they captured every important aspect of their journey on their GoPro, to ensure that their 20+k+ YouTube channel subscribers (Prabhas View) could experience their journey as well. “There were difficulties,” admits Prabha, who balanced the camera work and looked after the child as Ashok drove, “but it’s all about adapting to different environments.” Her favorite experiences include spending time in the Thar Desert, where the family slept under the stars, and in Kashmir, where they first saw snow.

In addition to experiencing the cultures of different Indian states, this family trip also has a purpose: to promote and save agriculture. “We want to make people aware of the importance of agriculture in our society.”

The family started in Tamil Nadu, went to Kerala and Karnataka before moving north. In a frenzy to move from one state to another, have they missed the routine? “Here too there was a routine”, he emphasizes, “we had to do our daily activities, without the convenience and luxury that a house offers us.” In cold regions, the family would opt for a late start due to the poor lighting outside, but in other places they would finish 200 kilometers before 10 a.m. While their morning breakfast was usually in a hotel or dhaba, they took an hour break in the afternoon to cook, both for lunch and dinner. “In these few months we’ve bathed in petrol bedded toilets, small streams and even a farm pump set! When you embark on such a journey, you learn to adapt and you do not always have to demand luxuries such as a fan and air conditioning.”

He’s not only talking about himself and his wife, but also his four-year-old child, whom they plan to homeschool soon. “In this 100-day journey he has already seen and learned so much. Why go to school when there is the world to learn from?”

SOURCE : www.thehindu.com

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