Over the last few years, where the followers of my page have bestowed a lot of love upon me, I have also faced criticism and discouragement. But I have never received as much abuse and hatred as I did on my last post on Facebook. I was abused on the content of the post as well as on what was seen as my motive behind it. Some people even said that I was spreading hatred against religions, especially Islam. A person shared my previous post on her timeline and wrote, “I think the time is right for us to have a Third World War.” I guess that either they are new to my page or they have forgotten my previous work.
I am a cyclist photographer. I have travelled 45,000 kilometres through 43 countries. I have been on the road for almost four years now. My travels have made me realise that the world is much bigger than I thought it was, not only in terms of distances and a great variety of landscapes, but also in terms of diversity of cultures, religions, languages, and belief systems.
As I discovered the world with my own eyes, I felt a strong need to record photographic evidence and keep a journal. Now I own a catalogue of over 150,000 pictures from my bicycle travels, a bunch of daily journals in the form of handwritten notebooks and electronic files, hours of audio recordings, and countless video clips.
It is much easier for me to create posts with wow-factor photographs that require little write-up and bring ‘easy likes’ on social media or write posts which people can consume like fast-food. I have been also told how it makes business sense to not publish everything so I can later monetise it in the form of a published book. But I feel that there is more to the world than traditional ideas of making money and that there is a genuine desire in people to learn about the world. And so I spend a tremendous amount of time to write posts that showcase something previously little known and don’t hold back any information.
Writing is a very painful process for me. I have spent more time writing than riding the bicycle. Most of the articles and photo essays that you read on my page take me days or weeks to write and publish as I try to select the best pictures, listen to my audio recordings, select passages from the Urdu journal that I write every day, translate them into English, read books, do online research, before I even start to write anything.
I publish everything on Facebook and on my website, where I don’t run ads to keep the content clean. I could make money by selling articles to other website and then only sharing the links with you, but I don’t lest I lose the self-imposed strict editorial policy.
Over the years, the frequency of my posts has decreased, but the effort increased manifold, which is also reflected by the increase in the numbers of words. The posts have evolved from ‘daily reports from the road’ to detailed documents of cultures, traditions, religions, and people. They give meaning to my travels. This isn’t a personal adventure anymore, it is a quest for truth. In aloneness I look what is deep inside me, in the company of others, I listen to their stories, and in the wilderness, I come in conversation with the universe. I write about everything that I cannot shake off from my mind. Writing is a way for me to understand the world. Stephan King said, “writing is refined thinking.”
And then I share this with you. I believe it is the responsibility of a traveller to report so others can develop a greater understanding of the planet. I try to do this as faithfully as possible.
I have published thousands of pictures and stories about people from different backgrounds, but never before have I faced so much negativity and received so much unabashed criticism for me personally. I had to delete/hide some comments because the language used in them was too obscene. Those who are criticising me should also read the post I did about someone embracing Islam in Mexico.
Over the years, I have come to learn that humility is a precondition for learning. First, you must submit yourself, only then you can take a journey into the unknown. Travelling around the world can teach you nothing if you have a mind where nothing can enter.
As a cyclist on the road for so long, I have found myself in vulnerable situations countless times, and every time, I received help from people who were different from my own. Their acts of compassion taught me that unconditional love and respect for others should be at the core of our being. It has taught me to look at the world with eyes that seek to understand and not judge. My purpose, and indeed that of this page is to facilitate the reader’s familiarity with the world.
What if I told you that there is a world out there where—the sky lies beneath the mountains—stars float in the lake—a raven carries the moon in its long beak when returning to its nest—a giant hand rises out of the desert—people dressed like birds dance as if they are hunting— a nomad invites a stranger in his yurt on a cold night—or a woman asks a stranger on a bicycle to marry her niece? Would you believe me? Would you join me on this journey?
I cannot promise that you will like everything I share on this page, but I promise that whatever I show will be true. After that, it is up to you to draw your own conclusion.
If you are in, you will get to see the world as I see it. But, if you believe I deserve hate, for sharing something you disagree with, then you are welcome to abuse me. The world is a playground for this cycling dervish. He will accept your hate with as much gratitude as love!