It was not a mere trip Ivan Nigli had undertaken. He had distinct direction and goal. He had been cherishing from childhood a trip to experience the Indian cultural diversity and his dream was to reach all places with the message of peace. Nigli shared his long-cherished dream with his wife, Ruby. She readily became his partner for the venture. No more looking back. They both set out for the far off places. The 73 day long trip took them through forests, rivers, fields, deserts and a variety of scenes and scenery and cultures and people of all sorts. He covered about 300 kilometers daily and 23156 kilometres in total.
Though originally from Kerala, they were re-located to Bangalore. Belonging to the family of translator of the king of Triruvithamkoor, Kayamkulam, Ivan was an Anglo-Indian nominated MLA of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly. Sixty Two year old Ivan, instead of leading a retired life, has invested his time in adventures and acquiring knowledge through risky and intrepid country-wide tours with an equally daring Ruby.
Peace on Wheels
Ivan couple started the venturesome trip from Vidhana Soudha on January 2 this year in the presence of Transport Minister, Ramalinga and his well-wishers. The perilous trip started in his Ford vehicle with the words “Peace on Wheels” inscribed on it. His first destination was Hampi, the world famous memorial in Karnataka. After visiting the historical places and memorials, he went to Goa via Dharwar. He continued his dream trip to Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. From Vijayawada to Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Odisa, West Bengal, Assam and other North Eastern States and Bihar. They visited Varanasi in Utter Pradesh and entered Utterakhand to go to Haryana. Travelling through the fertile farm lands, the couple reached the golden temple at Amritsar. On return from Jammu, they travelled to Rajasthan and Gujarat. They were reminded of Gandhiji in Ahemedabad and Porbander. They returned to Karnataka via Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. When they returned to Bangalore covering 23156 km, what remained in their memory was the total India, the diverse people they met including the villagers and the interactions with them and the rich experience they gained. They cannot forget the hospitality, love and the treats they received from everywhere particularly from the people of Northeast.
They distributed handouts containing the words ‘Peace on Wheels’, Bharat Darshan to promote Universal Peace. The main content of the leaflet reads: ‘India is a beautiful country where we can find peace and tranquility. We are honoured and respected throughout the world for our cultural and traditional value. Many great saints and sages lived in our country and we are respected for our moral values. We are peace loving people and we will strive for peace in our country and also in the world.
‘We are one family as a whole nation……. All of us should commit ourselves to protect the environment, Ecology, National resources and strive towards control of climate change and global warming which would be a greater gift to the coming generation. We must inculcate moral values and good thoughts to our younger generation. We should condemn the violence and terrorism in our country and also throughout the world. May the peace be with all of us so that our country and the universe will progress.’
The adventurous and uncommon journey gave the couple unforgettable and memorable exposure, experience and practical knowledge. The couple felt fortunate to have a glimpse of the physical body of Saint Francis Xavier in Goa. Only once in ten years, the body is exposed to the public. Ivan and Ruby considered lucky to have been able to view the saint’s body as it was still kept for the public. They said it was a coincidence and a rare occasion. They had to stand in queue for four hours to get at the body of the saint. They spent a considerable time there in prayer and meditation.
When the Ivan couple reached Both Gaya, the Maha Bodhi Temple and the Buddha Vihar, a peace rally was being held. Under the Bodhi tree where Buddha was sitting for meditation had no leaves. Devotees were waiting to snatch the leaves as and when they fall to the ground. Ivan and Ruby sat down under the great tree longing and praying for a leaf to hold close to their hearts for memory. As if a quick reply to their desire, a breeze shook the leaves and one of them through the corridor between the earth and the sky fell right on the lap of Ruby. A unique and strange incident and encounter, indeed, they said.
What they looked for in Gujarat was the utterances of Gandhiji’s non-violence which is beyond the news filled with racial and ethnic considerations. From Ahmedabad they reached Mahatma Gandhi’s birth place and Porbander, his house of birth, only to see the people observing a silence which both of them felt had a lot of meaning.
Ivan and Ruby got riveted in the scenic beauty of Nainital but they moved on and suddenly they had shock of their lives. They saw armed people including a granny standing either sides of the road on way the national Jim Corbet national park. This was a unique scene, indeed! The fascinating site drew both close to them. They were standing against wooden posts in the ripe corn fields. When the visiting strangers sought the reason for it, the answer was all the more amusing. Though they have large chunk of fields and cultivation, the children have their own jobs. If all go for jobs, the granny is all alone at home. It is during this time the monkeys have a field day feasting on the corns. The gun is to face them. Even as she finished saying, she released the trigger. A monkey began yowling and whining in pain. The granny in her old age, proved her prowess, grit and guts astonished both of them.
Covering Konark and Puri in Odisa they reached Kolkata. They were taken aback seeing the simple life style of the ordinary people in such a great city. India’s other face was seen in people living under the bridge, on the road side, living in the huts amidst heap of dirt and people were surviving on the fish they were catching and eating after frying them in the fire then and there. Both of them felt the life line river of Ganga flowing through the heart of Varanasi is a river of sorrow. Ganges is defiled with pollution and filth. However, they are witness to the same water of the Ganges as a powerful sign of faith of the people (to wash away their sins).
It was exclusively the journeys of both Ivan and Ruby. For this reason, they did not even take driver with them. Both of them were taking their turns in driving. They took shelter and slept wherever they reached for the nights. Whatever was available at the place they reached at night was their food. It was an occasion as well for them to taste the regional food items at various places. The enthusiasm of the first journey is in them, they propose to continue more of such journeys. Ivan said they wish to cover more areas and with the company and support of more people.
Ivan Nigli, chairman of Anglo-Indian Unity Centre, reached Bangalore 40 years ago. He had his struggles of life. He himself had made mention of such experiences at some occasions. Son of Henry Nigli and Tessy Nigli, Ivan has received awards and was conferred accolades for his achievements, deeds and efforts of helping those in need and social work among others. He began his career in Bangalore as an employee of a shutter manufacturing unit at Rajajinagar. Much later, he started his own business of making liquid blue in the brand name of Ruby Blue. When he was progressing on that he diverted his activities in social works and humanitarian projects. At that time, Congress gave him a ticket to contest K R Puram municipal council seat but lost it. Later, he was nominated to the council by the elected body. Soon the K R Puram council was merged with the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike).
The then chief minister Dharam Singh nominated Ivan Nigli to the Legislative Assembly. He worked as a general secretary of Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee’s minority wing. Since he was busy with political activities, he sold his Ruby Blue to another company.
Ruby Nigli (52) from Karunagappalli in Kerala is attached to an insurance agency. The Ivan couple has two sons. They are engineers and one of them runs a school at K R Puram. At present they reside at Udayanagar, Bangalore.
During their journey through Indian states, they distributed 30,000 copies of handbills with the message of peace printed both in English and Hindi. He spent about three lakh rupees. Both of them stayed in accommodations within Rs 1000 and at a few places, they were given free stay. They went through areas of Naxals and militants without many hurdles.
The couple had firsthand knowledge of many of the things they had studied and heard years ago. They had seen to their fullest satisfaction the remnants of history in several places of import including Padmnabhapuram, Salt fields of Thoothukudi, beauty of pink city (Jaipur), Madura, the capital of Pandya kings, Konark, Puri, Tajmahal, Vrindavan, the damages of Jalianwalabagh walls, the mines particularly the strength of the countries iron-steel factories and the list goes on and on and never ends here. They never get tired of narrating all what they had seen and experienced.
The couple was impressed by the people from Canada, USA and other countries spending months together at Gandhinagar in Gujarat seeking peace especially in the triple storied building where the statues of Balaji, Srikrishna and Jina are kept. They seemed to have admitted they never get this type of relaxation elsewhere. They felt in their quest for the modern India, they could not find all that they expected and looked for. Even the so called developed Gujarat, the condition of roads is deplorable. At least four times he had to change the tyres of his car. The condition of even important roads in semi urban and in rural areas is the same in most of the states.
Even after two decades, people still sleep under the bridges and by the road sides in Kolkata as she had seen, said Ruby. The Ganges has not changed a bit or improved in any way on the question of cleanliness. How much peace they have brought about is immaterial, but this message of peace on wheels has at least strengthened their bond and relationship. May be for the first time they spent time together and shared each other’s views. The pictures they had taken in different parts of the country are available on their Facebook. In fact, it was available live each day as they moved from place to place. Ivan and Ruby have enough stuff for a travelogue only of the seven sisters (now eight including Sikhim) of the northeast. They may think of bringing out a book itself for the benefit of those not so daring like them and for the sake of those having less guts. Let their tribe increase in the line of spreading peace around them if not on wheels. It is true and applicable to these exemplary couple as the Latin words say – “Veni, vidi, vici” “I came; I saw; I conquered”. (In this contest, they have come, they have seen and they have conquered).