Sievituo Chevy a.k.a Yakuza Solo is travelling the world on a bamboo bike he made himself. His mission is to spread the word of Nagaland and human kindness. Reading this you went – NagaWhat?? That’s a legit question. It’s one of the smallest states in India (Kohima is the capital), somewhere between Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Nagaland abounds in falcons and, you guessed it, bamboo. Christian missionaries are responsible for Nagas giving up on animism, which is, ironically, so totally back now. Oh well.
I was lucky to have Chevy as my guest, here in the city of Brooklyn, for a few days. What a delight. I was, particularly, following his journey through the Balkans, because the Balkans, you know, that’s my Nagaland. A site of an Asiatic backpacker with dreadlocks on a bamboo bike, somewhere in a distant Serbian village, is nothing short of ludicrous. Chevy speaks smiles though, and, everyone gets those.
Admittedly, I wanted to check out that bike up close. I’m a total sucker for bamboo bikes. Bikes&Humans sells them, I have one and, talk about ‘em all the time. The cycling subculture is as diverse and beautiful as Brooklyn but I’d go with bamboo biking any day. So old school and so cutting edge. You can make one yourself. Each is unique. Bamboo is never killed when harvested. Naturally dampens vibration. So pure and authentic. Bamboo has a soul.
This wasn’t Chevy’s first visit to NYC yet, as he noted, it was his first time visiting as his changed self, after so many months of travelling. I asked what changed and he just looked wistfully somewhere beyond me and said – I listen to people much more nowadays. Chevy is an urban monk, romantic Naga Hillian hipster. Living in NYC changed me. I’ve grown thick skin. I’ve learned self-reliance. I’ve accustomed to the ways of the city. Gradually, I became a New Yorker, though, I was still, quite inevitably, Serbian (whatever that meant). Chevy came, enchanted with Serbia and Serbians, having a hundred beautiful stories to tell. And, he listened to my stories, as well. It has been a long time I’ve spent a couple of days with another human being in NYC involved in non-lucrative activities. A time focused on the experience not on the end result. Humans pour l’humans. Bamboo pour l’ bamboo.
After his first day of exploration we met in the evening and, I asked him how his day was. He said he saw a father standing with two screaming kids on the street. One of them was cursing. The father looked at Chevy, shrugging his shoulders and explaining – I don’t want them to curse but I don’t want them to stop talking either, whatever they talk about. I’d rather have them grow up having a voice. Chevy then told me – He’s right for letting them speak; growing up, I was never allowed to speak among adults. And, I’ve lost my voice. It’s an Asian thing.
That was Chevy’s story after spending a day in NYC. It was a story about humans, recognition and, wisdom. What you seek is seeking you, no? Chevy has a rare gift of showing up for humans in an authentic way. He’s a natural like that. He has a wide smile and raw charisma. Old school, almost knightly, gestures and, boyish lightness of being. A talented story teller with integrity. He reminded me how lonely I am in NY and I reminded him not to be afraid to want what he desires (as Zizek has famously put it). Bamboo creates genuine connections. It can even melt sarcasm.
While his trip is funded by generous patrons, Chevy also supports a community organization in Kohima, Project 72h, which promotes recycling through street art and other innovative actions. He will, eventually, go back to Nagaland and, kick start a small production of bamboo bikes.
Kate of Bikes&Humans: What cycling means for you?
Chevy Solo: Everyone knows that cycling is very healthy and it keeps you in good shape. Besides that, you get to experience the outside world and bring like-minded people together and create this beautiful energy. Like how I met you, and many other cyclists around the world.
Kate of Bikes&Humans: What inspired you to build your own bike?
Chevy Solo: People and places inspired me so much so that I can travel the world on a snail pace and write more stories of different souls I meet on my way.
Kate of Bikes&Humans: What are 3 things everyone should know about Nagaland?
Chevy Solo: 1. We are Nagas. 2. We are proud to have rich culture and tradition. 3. You must visit Nagaland to know the remaining facts.
Kate of Bikes&Humans: What are your best and worst moments travelling around the world?
Chevy Solo: The best moments are when people share their food and space with me regardless of our differences. Being on the road all the time, I have some bad days, but nothing more than that. Maybe losing my bike would be the worst moment.
Kate of Bikes&Humans: How did your trip change you?
Chevy Solo: After traveling to thousands of towns, hundreds of cities, dozens of countries and couple of continents, I am kinda aware of this world now and how awesome people are everywhere. Personally, this trip didn’t change me, but it changed my circumstances. I used to be good in giving excuses, now I always look forward to bringing a solution even if it takes time. In short, I am more positive than before. And it definitely makes me humbler.
Kate of Bikes&Humans: Why bamboo?
Chevy Solo: Because it is available in Nagaland. Some of the strongest bamboo species are from Nagaland. And it’s eco-friendly, innovative, unique, beautiful and anyone can build his/ her own bamboo bike.