Kavya Saxena aka the CrazyFeetKavya has ditched city life to pursue 180 days of solo trip over-landing in India. For her, travelling is like a book of stories, the more you read it, the more the characters start rubbing on you.
Kavya Saxena hails from Rajasthan but moved to Delhi when she was in 9th grade. She completed her MBA from Chennai, after which she was campus-picked for Indian Oil. She kept working for 9 years but then realized that the public sector job wasn’t her thing. ” I was in a full-time job with India’s topmost Fortune 500. But, I would find myself catching a train every Friday night, exploring different areas, and returning back early Monday morning. I would record songs, sounds, crafts in non-descript villages. I have travelled solo every weekend without a break since then.”
The beginning of the Quest!
In 2009 when Kavya Saxena was working for Indian Oil she used to travel to small cities for work, and she would enjoy it. During these journeys, she would get down randomly and would travel all the way to Jodhpur exploring the villages, and different regions. She got used to it and started travelling every weekend. This little adventure hobby became her routine, and she didn’t stop. ” I would even travel during Diwali, and Holi and my parents were like what is wrong with this girl. She is earning and going to all these villages ” she said.
After quitting her job she did multiple projects for National Museum, Amazon, and etc. Meanwhile, in 2014, she got involved with motorsports and got a license. It was going smoothly, but then the lockdown happened, and then she decided to explore Rural India solo and started her journey of being ‘Kavya On Quest’
” I think in lockdown things changed for me. While everybody was talking about slow living, I thought what is it that binds me with rural India. Why am I not there? Why am I not exploring? and that’s when I got the Idea for Kavya on Quest. I decided to experience it first hand while exploring slowly before anything else.” For Kavya, travelling is a continuous learning experience, and she believes it’s the most dynamic school one can get admitted to. ” You know what is the best part about this school? It doesn’t have an age bar or gender specification. Anyone can travel solo :D”
Even though ‘Kavya on Quest’ is a collaboration with Mahindra, this whole project is funded by Kavya herself. She chose art, and craft to be the over-arching language of this project, and started exploring the 6 untapped regions of Eastern India. ” Kavya on Quest is a 6-month Overlanding solo journey. It’s a self-designed project. It’s the slowest form of travel, giving me enough time to explore every place I am visiting. I have travelled to most interior regions. Now if you will ask me why I chose to explore rural India particularly, then it is because people talk about incredible India like anything. But no one wants to visit these places. People have many misconceptions about them being dirty, unsafe, and whatnot. But 80% of our country is rural, and I want people to know that If a girl can travel solo, then anybody can do it. “, she said
A major part of Kavya on Quest revolves around exploring the rich handmade heritage of ancient Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, and Nagaland. Her journey started off with Bengal when it was time for the Durga Puja. ” I think eastern India has the most magical heritage that we see in India because it has many tribes. These tribes are all different. There are proper tribal belts, that have been living there for centuries. There is no written history about them. No one has recorded their tradition and culture. No one knows why a textile is like this, why metal was done like that. So, it’s more important, and interesting to know about these regions.”, said Kavya Saxena.
Talking enthusiastically about her initial experiences Kavya Saxena said, “Arunachal is all about hidden stories and historical events. For example, there are local people working on finding the missing planes that crashed during World War II, and there are 45 such missing planes, and the search is still on. The US world war committee backs these projects. I still wonder if I wasn’t there, it would have been impossible to know about any such thing.”
Narrating another unique incident from her journey she mentioned, ” When I was in ‘Tizit, which is a small village in Nagaland, I was a part of their annual fishing community day. It is a ritual during which the villagers inject a liquid into the fruits, and throw them in their local rivers. The liquid inside the fruits makes the fishes go dizzy, and the whole village then jumps into the river for fishing. They hunt, cook, and have a proper community fish meal near the banks of these rivers. I was lucky to have seen it with my own eyes. It was one fishy meal 😀 “, she laughed.
Kavya Saxena has been travelling solo since 2009 and believes it’s a lot of fun. But, one needs to keep their eyes open too. Talking about one of the most memorable incidents in Arunachal, she said, ” A tribal man had once even attacked me. He came running with an iron rod and banged my car with it. That was scary. Later on, I found out that the man was drunk, and was looking for something he had lost. When he saw my car, he assumed I had stolen his property. The tribal lady who was accompanying me that day explained the whole situation to me after talking to him. It was scary TBH :D”. After this incident, another tribal man gifted her a traditional knife Khukri for her safety, but fortunately, she never got a chance to use it after the said incident.
Well, a lot of people believe that communication and language are some of the biggest challenges a traveller faces while travelling to tribal and rural areas. But it was quite shocking to know Kavya doesn’t see it as a hurdle. ” I don’t think language is ever a problem. Every tribe has its own language. All you have to do is smile at them, and be polite. Trust me they do pickup words, they do try to speak. Smiling has always worked for me.” she smiled.
But she definitely agrees that a solo journey to such places comes with many challenges. ” You have network issues, the google map doesn’t always work, and you end up standing in the middle of nowhere. Time management is another thing. You should not miss out on stories because you wasted time clicking the pictures, or vice versa. There has to be a balance. Also, be real with the villagers, because their intuitions are really powerful, they know when you are being fake, and when it is genuine. But most importantly being alone, and fighting with your demons is the biggest task one faces. Sometimes it becomes very overwhelming. You need to have a lot of inner strength, and patience to survive solo travelling.” she said.
The solo travelling blues can be risky, and demotivating. Kavya Saxena suggests one should be in touch with their loved ones and should keep sharing their feelings with them. It will help you get rid of negative thoughts. Also, avoid going out when it’s dark, and be careful.
Talking about food, Kavya believes that Odisha is a foodie paradise. ” There are hundreds of dishes that are made with Chenna, which resembles paneer. They also use pumpkin flowers, different forest flowers, and cook meals with them, and the taste is amazing. But sometimes food can be a big challenge. The rural and tribal people eat everything. I have seen them eating rats, snakes, Caterpillar, and whatnot. Though you do get rice, and edible leaves, but that can cause issues too.. so solo travelling can be challenging if you are picky about food. But in the end, you will find something edible :D”, she mentioned.
Another major chunk of Kavya on Quest reflects Tribal India, and Kavya has explored different tribal belts in the eastern part of the country. When she was in Bastar, Chhattisgarh, which is one of the biggest tribal belts in India, she came across many centuries-old rituals including child sacrifice!
” It is considered pretty normal in these tribes. I have seen one recently in one of the tribal melas. It was overwhelming. I got really worked up seeing that. But it is something that is considered as a part of their lifestyle. Chhattisgarh is pretty wild and rustic. But not all tribes are like that. If you are talking about Cultural tribes then I would say Arunachal is the area where one can study some rich culture. There are 26 unique tribes. Each of them wears, communicates, and lives differently. However, the unique thing about them is that they all speak Hindi. They decided that they will keep Hindi as a common language. In the entire North East, Arunachal is the only state where every tribe speaks Hindi. It’s mind-blowing, and came as a big surprise to me also!” She said.
When Kavya was planning how she will showcase these stories, she decided to pick Textile, and Handicrafts for Odisha. “A lot is happening in Odisha in terms of handicrafts, metal, and bamboo crafts. In old times the artisans used to make metal fishes weighing 1-2 Kg which would float on the water. It was a sort of entertainment for the kings, and the queens back then. This art is called “Pital Macch”, and it has rarely been documented. I am very proud that I went to this village, and witnessed it with many other such unique things in Odisha. It’s indeed a crafts hub.”, she added.
When we hear such stories, and details, the very first thing that comes to our mind is that ‘oh, these people do not get enough appreciation, and so when I asked Kavya the same she said, they don’t even need it. They are doing well, and it doesn’t matter to them.
” I think they are happy in their lives. For example, in Bengal, the government has been pretty supportive of the art they do. There are many schemes. If you go towards Assam, the economy is tilted more towards weaving, and again it is well supported. In the northeast belt, the economy is more dependent on Agriculture, so the craft is a secondary thing over there. But in the case of Chhattisgarh, the people rely on the forest completely, and the craft happens only for religious purposes. So, for some states, the craft is a major source of income, while for some it isn’t. They are not dependent on urban people. They don’t need your appreciation but I would really like everybody to visit them, talk about them so that they get more visibility and so better roads, and better infrastructure can come to them”, she said.
Being on such a spontaneous journey Kavya has learned many lessons. ” I have learned a lot about consistency from Rural India. I think it has changed my perspective about taking risks because unless you don’t go ahead, you’ll never know what lies ahead. Thirdly, it’s adaptability. I am not picky, and choosy anymore. I have started blending with people more. Now I have a huge sense of respect for nature. We talk about big terms like sustainability, but for us, sustainability is restricted to just using a few products, and our lifestyle is not sustainable at all. But when you come to rural India you get to know what exactly sustainability is!”
Kavya is on this journey for the last 6 months, and the feeling of knowing, and unfolding new stories is something that keeps her going. ” My inspirations are the untapped stories, and if I have a one-way ticket to visit 3 different countries, I will choose India anyway, because we have such amazing untapped stories, that are waiting for us to come.”, she smiled.
As Kavya Saxena has explored a lot of villages, and a big chunk of Rural India, we asked her for her recommendations about the 3 areas that a person must explore. ” The first one would be Siang-Pasighat belt of Arunachal. It is breathtaking, has clear rivers, gorgeous views, and warm people. Secondly, I would highly recommend the Koraput belt in Southern Odisha. It is rich in terms of nature. People still do traditional weaving. They take out the natural dye from trees, leaves, and other natural things. The third one is definitely the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh, and trust me it is a magical Pandora box that will open to you! Also, if you are planning to visit Chhattisgarh, pack your bags during March, because it’s their season for Tribal Melas, and it’s the highlight.”, she said.
Kavya Saxena is one of the few solo women travellers in India and has felt that India is very safe for women travellers even for solo ones. ” I think we should pass on this message that our country is safe for solo travellers too. But also, taking risks can be dangerous, and so I don’t venture out after 6 or 7 pm. ” Talking about finding stay in rural areas she said,” Usually I end up staying with them, or they offer me a proper place. It’s totally word of mouth mainly through artisans I am visiting.”, she said.
I was quite surprised when Kavya mentioned how the local people even draw maps of their region to help her. “People are extremely helpful. I asked them to draw a hand map in the regional language, and they did it happily. It did help me a lot, and the local people were also able to guide me more easily. It’s my local map to track the most interior parts of many regions.”, she said
If you are scrolling through Kavya’s profile you will come across multiple reels, and posts about textiles, and handicrafts. Her love for them is real, and it stems from her childhood. When she was a kid, her dolls would wear block-printed outfits, and she is a sucker for handmade crafts. “Handmade attracts me so much. I have seen handmade throughout my life. The designs have cultural elements in them. For example in block printing, the artisans do not imagine the design, and it consists of real elements. It reflects their surrounding. It can be birds, a flower, or a temple that was there for thousands of years. So, when you understand handmade, you also start understanding the culture, and history of a particular place. It is the best thing about handmade India.”, she said.
For Kavya, Rural India is a hidden gem. Be it food, art, lifestyle, architecture, and anything, everything is so rich and deep in there. ” It’s a world of content waiting for us to come and explore. It has amazing stories that are unimaginable. It can satisfy the interests of every yawner. Every content creator should come, and explore these places.”, she added.
Well, this conversation changed our Bucket List, and we can’t wait to explore the rural side of our country. What do you think? Tell us in the comment section below. Also, follow Kavya Saxena on Instagram to watch her journey of ‘ Kavya on Quest’ here.