“Being a teacher is a lifelong way of ensuring that you remain a student.” A self-effacing Avirat quotes British philosopher Disraeli while describing himself. A teacher, an offbeat traveller, a motivational speaker; he has shunned the dogmatic rules of life and has never shied away from newer, exciting domains.
Standing ovation and accolades for his TEDx talks and over a dozen published travelogues are only a few of his grandeur accomplishments. With his confidence, creativity, and passion, he has inspired thousands of students, parents & teachers, trekked to the Everest Base Camp, penned over 400 poems, and travelled places searching for untold stories.
Read this candid interview of Avirat with Storiyaan to unearth the resolute spirit and aura he embodies.
Questions and answers
You have been a motivational speaker and have been an inspiration for 1000s of students. What was the driving factor that made you realize your efficiency to inspire others?
As I started my teaching career at the tender age of twenty with students who were not much younger than me, seeing them getting inspired by my words and taking them seriously, also motivated me. I realized that I somehow appeal to people’s hearts, and they respond. So, motivational speaking chose me, and I was drawn to it.
What sparked your love for traveling across the world, and has it ever acted as a source for your inspiration?
A chance trip to Kaziranga, Assam, turned out to be the turning point in my life. Since then, I travel a lot, mostly to jungles & mountains; interact with people who sustain themselves in impoverished conditions, yet willing to share their meals and homes, with a smile. These humble stories have always inspired me and I also share them with my audience back home.
From a student of commerce, today you are a TEDx speaker. Did you ever feel intimidated, and how have you recovered from them?
My first TEDx talk was held in Thane. I was very excited and nervous as I am aware that this stage is shared by some of the world’s best speakers. But I never felt intimidated on this journey as I was comfortable on stage since my school days, thanks to my parents and teachers.
Often, people cannot maintain their passions in life along with the professions. But you have created spaces in your life for all of those and handle them very efficiently. How have you managed to create this coexistence in your life?
I never stopped considering myself a student, be it teaching, nature photography, or public speaking. I still believe that my journey has just begun, and I always ensure that I live up to my name Avirat which means perpetual, the continuous, unstoppable.
You have led ten first-timers to the Everest Base Camp. Could you elaborate a bit on that, and what do you find the most satisfying about it?
It was a challenge, but it only fuelled my motivation. Apart from our group’s resolve, we met so many inspiring people along the way. There was a cancer survivor with her daughter, a sixty-year-old mother who trekked with her son to motivate him, a 23-month-old trekking piggyback with his doctor dad, and many such unforgettable memories. People were always willing to help each other, which is the most satisfying thing in this immersive experience.
What would be your message to new trekkers who are not very confident about themselves?
Anybody can start trekking at any age as long as you have the determination and will. Able-bodied or not, you can still be trek ready if you have reasonably strong breathing capacity with regular cardiovascular training. Start with easier treks like Tikona or Duke’s Nose near Lonavla, and Everest Base Camp won’t be too far for you!
Reaching the Everest Base Camp might have been a challenge for you. Could you tell any one of the incidents there that have changed your outlook about something?
Yes, the experience of trekking to the base camp was a huge challenge as we required immense training and exercise for ensuring fitness. One incident that was extremely emotional and changed me in some way was watching fifty-year-olds thank me for bringing their dream to reality as they never expected to climb to the base camp at 5360m above sea level!
As the world has turned digital due to the ongoing pandemic, it has been a real struggle for establishing a natural student-teacher interaction. Have you ever faced such difficulties as a teacher, and what are the ways you take up for an easy interaction?
We miss the energy of the students, which inspires us to encourage them further. Still, despite challenges, we ensure that we keep the online classes engaging with interactive PPTs, informative videos, motivational songs, etc. The students have also found our innovative edutainment approach very satisfying.
In one of your posts on social media, you have mentioned how every day before starting the trek, the whole group chanted the 'Gayatri mantra'. Do you personally believe in the power of prayers, and how has it helped you?
I am a spiritual person, not religious in the typical sense of the term. I do believe in the power of nature, blessings, and good deeds. My love and respect for my parents form the idea of religion for me.
I also follow the ideals of notable men like Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Dr. Ambedkar, and Dr. Kalam, to name a few.
You have inspired your 12-year-old daughter to skydive from 14000 feet. It must have been a moment of anxiety for you as a father. How do you manage the duality in your role towards her as a father and an instructor?
Yes, the skydiving was both a thrilling and anxious experience. She did it on her own, with no pressure from my side. Me skydiving before her was enough to drive away from her fears. I am a teacher myself, and so I trusted the other instructors with my child. I had complete faith in them as well as her.
As the second wave of the Corona Virus hits, people lose their regained hope and are getting demotivated. What message would you like to give them in this distressing time?
I hope everyone is taking necessary precautions and staying indoors unless extremely necessary. My message to everyone is to avoid reading an overwhelming amount of negative or depressing news or videos. Be grateful for each living moment because today is a gift. That’s why it’s called present. We should keep our spirits high and remember that this too shall pass.
a. Your favourite book – Jungle Lore by Jim Corbett.
b. Your happy place – Forests & Mountains.
c. Travelling to you is – Connecting with Nature.
d. A person you look up to – My Cousin, Sanjay Gawande, a self-made millionaire.
e. Music or Photography – Depends on my mood. But if I must choose one- Photographing while my favourite music plays either in my head.