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Vijayan and his wife Mohana during his visit to Dubai in January 2018. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Kochi: Keralites are all over the world, but this man was different. It took so little to travel the world, he showed everyone, globe-trotting with his wife, across continents, all from the meagre earnings from the couple’s tea shop in Kochi.

K.R. Vijayan, 71, who made his journeys with his wife Mohana around the world as newsworthy as the couple made their tea a magnet for many in Kochi, died on Friday, following a heart attack.

The two had been a wonder for millions, travelling international as they did with earnings from their modest business, touching as many as 26 countries since 2007 until COVID-19 interfered with their routine.

The twosome appeared to have been waiting for the pandemic blues to lift, to launch into another jaunt, and did just that, traveling to Russia last month. That, sadly, turned out to be Vijayan’s last, with the amazing tea seller going on his final journey on Friday.

In the early years of their travel, Vijayan and Mohana funded their journeys from their earnings from their Sree Balaji Coffee House in Kochi, which also served banana fritters, hot dosas and, of course, tea.

Over time, their journeys appeared to overtake the popularity of their snacks and hot cuppas, and towards the end the couple could enjoy trips that were funded by a travel agency which could in turn use their celebrity status.

The popular narrative is that the couple kept aside Rs 300 every day from their earnings to fund their international trips, but given their love for travel it is quite possible that they set aside some more. Still, some extra was required and the couple would take a loan and repay it from earnings when they returned. Much later, there were no worries about funding a trip when the sponsorship opportunity came along.

Vijayan has been on record that he was bitten by the travel bug early in life, when he traveled with his dad from the time he was 12, and then traveling on his own as a grown up to popular destinations in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, like Munnar, Thekkady and Kanyakumari.

The couple endeared themselves for their warm and friendly nature as much as for their common love for travel and togetherness in their business and travel ventures. Along the way, the couple also authored a book, ‘Chaaya Vittu Vijayanteyum Mohanayudeyum Loka Sancharangal’ (the global tours of Vijayan and Mohana by selling tea). The book underlines the couple’s message that it is possible to take time off work and fulfil one’s dreams of traveling, even if one’s earnings are modest.

Mohana loved Switzerland and Paris most from the more than two dozen countries where she traveled with her spouse, while Vijayan once commented that “there is nothing as sweet as traveling the world accompanied by the woman I love”.

For a change, on their trip to Russia which turned out to be their last one together, the couple was accompanied by their two daughters and their families.

Many more destinations were on the couple’s tour plans for the future.

Which, unfortunately were not to be. The hour for Vijayan’s eternal journey arrived on Friday. This one was unscheduled.