Freedom Seat: Riding From India To Germany On A Tandem With Strangers

In 2019, Naresh Kumar cycled over 8,500km through 13 countries on a tandem, inviting strangers to join him along the way with the goal of raising awareness and funds to combat human trafficking. Documenting his 74 days on the road, Freedom Seat is a film full of human stories with an incredibly important message. Here, we chat to Naresh about the challenges he faced along the way, and how today’s current situation is affecting the world’s most vulnerable.

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“Filming the ride was not part of the original plan! I knew that I’d spend plenty of long sections riding solo without company, and I was mindful of how much stuff I was carrying on the bike.

When I did have passengers on the bike with me, I tried to shoot what I could with their consent, but most were camera-shy and would hold themselves back once they saw me getting ready to record.

Once I reached Europe, my good friend (and director) Linus met me in Austria along with his friend and we were able to shoot some additional footage”.

The release of Freedom Seat is made even more poignant during the Coronavirus pandemic, which has put the world’s vulnerable people in even more danger.

“The global pandemic has exposed millions to the risk of trafficking, especially in developing countries. Covid-19 has made vulnerable people even more vulnerable. Loss of livelihood due to forced shutdowns has made many people desperate for survival. This makes it perfect for perpetrators to prey on vulnerable people, especially women and children.

Children are at a heightened risk of exploitation, especially since school closures have not only precluded many from access to education but also from a main source of shelter and nourishment. In some countries, because of the pandemic, more children are forced on to the streets in search of food and income, heightening their risk of infection and exploitation.”

For Naresh, the most important takeaway from watching Freedom Seat is an awareness of how our actions can directly impact the causes of trafficking.

“Human trafficking is the result of the failure of our societies and economies to protect the most vulnerable and enforce rights under national laws. It is critical that viewers are mindful of their consumption and ensure that the products and services they use are sustainably made, both socially and environmentally.”

The release of this film doesn’t mark the end of Naresh’s Freedom Seat campaign, as he has plans for a similar ride across the US, pending pandemic restrictions, which he hopes to start towards the end of 2021.

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