Dubai: – On a mission to spread a message of peace and awareness about HIV/Aids, a young Indian man has travelled on a bicycle for nine years, covering a distance of 87,500 kilometres across 66 countries and he is not in a mood to stop yet.
Currently in Dubai, as part of his Middle East leg of the world tour, Somen Debnath hopes to mingle with different communities here in the next two weeks before he embarks on his UAE tour en route to other GCC countries.
“I try to meet as many people as possible and try to create awareness about Aids as well as spread the message of peace. I feel if I can influence even one person out of thousands to work for peace, my mission is accomplished,” said the traveller, who is from the remote village of Basanti, near the Sundarbans in the Indian state of West Bengal.
A zoology graduate from the University of Calcutta, Debnath began his journey in 2004 at the age of 20 and hasn’t gone back home since.
“Like most Indian parents, my father wasn’t too keen on the idea, he was obviously concerned about my safety and future but my mother managed to convince him and what began as a short three-month tour across seven northeastern states of India turned into a countrywide tour and I never looked back after that,” said Debnath, explaining how the journey began.
The oldest of three brothers, Debnath is constantly in touch with his extended family, but the young globetrotter insists he does not miss them much and neither does he have plans to meet them soon.
“One has to be very clear about the goals in life and love what you do. This is something I wanted to do when I was 14 years of age when I got to know about the plight of Aids-afflicted people. The more I travel, the more I get convinced about my mission,” added the activist, who insists this is the best way he can contribute positively to the world.
He claims that he has a message of love for everyone, irrespective of caste, creed, race or religion.
“There is so much to learn from people and there is so much that I can share with people that I gained through my experience. It is a beautiful experience, there is so much diversity in humanity and every culture is unique. If we all come closer and understand each other, we can easily bring harmony in this world,” said the trained social worker, who is in the process of writing a three-volume book based on his experience.
Debnath’s world tour was flagged off by the then Indian Minister of External Affairs, Pranab Mukherjee, who is currently the President of India, and so far on his tour he has met 104 ministers and 64 heads of states from 78 countries.
“I try to convey my message about peace and health whenever I meet people in high places because they have control over large populations. In my experience so far I have had dinners with ministers as well as street-dwellers and I like to make way to people’s hearts through sharing food,” added Debnath, who claims to be a good cook.
In fact, Debnath made international headlines after he escaped from the clutches of the Taliban by feeding them an Indian curry. The militants had kidnapped him during his tour to Afghanistan.
Debnath will continue his journey on July 17, visiting other Middle Eastern countries on his way to Africa, North America and the North Pole.
At 80 kilometres per day, Debnath expects to cover 12,000 kilometres every year to complete his 200,000 kilometre journey across 191 countries around the globe before he heads back home in 2020.
He collects a pound of earth from every country he visits and sends it home, which he hopes to use to build a global village of peace near his village.
He hopes to inspire more youth to choose his path and garner support from communities to fund his mission.