The Telegraph
Thursday , June 27 , 2013
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Discovery of India foot by foot

When adventure junkie Sachin Kumar pondered over the choices before him, he chose to walk rather than work in a bank cubicle.

The 28-year-old’s indefatigable wanderlust brought him to Calcutta from hometown Chandigarh — on foot in 38 days after logging a leg-crushing 1,700km (approximately). That’s just one milestone crossed because he will be walking the “four corners” of India to spread green awareness, which he proudly wears on his Tee: “Save Environment Save Earth to Save Life”.

Walking five minutes under the cruel north Indian sun in May is enough to give a horse a heart attack. Travel advisories warned of heat stroke and discouraged outdoor activities when the Celsius touched 45 degrees and more this summer.

Such advisories are not for somebody who had in 2008 crossed the Indrahar Pass at McLeodgunj in Himachal in 14 hours instead of the three days that “average trekkers” take.

The lean and lanky walker recounted the miles between his Chandigarh Sector 46D address and a friend’s home in Howrah, where he stretched his tired limbs to prepare and plan for the second leg of his long and arduous journey.

He set off on May 15 lugging a rucksack packed with bare essentials, a new laptop, a video camera and a GPS device. He reached Calcutta at 5.30pm on June 21, a week before his target of 45 days.

The GPS guides him on leafy state roads because he avoids the treeless highways as a strategy to dodge the summer sun. Another tactic is to make most of the morning cool and walk as many miles as possible before the afternoon siesta.

“I would walk from 5am to noon, take rest for an hour at a dhaba and then continue in the afternoon. I try to reach a gurudwara or a temple by evening to stay for the night,” said the former Axis Bank employee who had put in his papers before the journey.

“I stay at gurudwaras or temples where they offer free food and lodging because I am travelling with limited funds. I eat at roadside Punjabi dhabas where I get a discount… Chandigarh connection, you know. Sometimes the dhaba owners waive the bill,” he said.

The low-budget backpacker on a mission aims to complete his trip in eight months. “My first big destination was Calcutta. From here I will walk down to Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram, move north to a small village in Gujarat and finally Chandigarh.”

But his itinerary solely depends on money. “I cannot continue without sponsors. I have spent Rs 35,000 from my pocket for this leg. I bought a laptop, a video camera to record my campaign and GPS device to record the time and distance I travelled.”

He caught a train to Chandigarh on Wednesday to approach sponsors. “If I get a sponsor, I will complete the rest of my trip,” he said.

The rock climbing and mountaineering enthusiast said the longest stretch of his journey has been from Burdwan town to Bandel. “I walked 70km in 16 hours without taking a break to reach a gurudwara in Bandel,” he said.

The reason being sparse roadside hotels or charitable homes offering him food and stay in Bengal. Sometimes he would forego the afternoon rest to reach his next destination on time.

Throughout his journey after entering Bengal from Jharkhand, Sachin was in touch with friends Partha Mukherjee and Kaushik Chakraborty. “We guided him over the phone, telling him the best route to Calcutta,” said Partha of Baksara.

He reported his arrival here at North Port police station before heading for Dalhousie Square.

Along the way through seven states he had campaigned for environment awareness and national unity, without trying to be preachy. His slogans said it all: ‘Save Environment Save Earth to Save Life’ and ‘Hindustan Ek Hai, Kyunki Har Hindustani Ek Hai’.

“I noticed large swathes of barren land where trees have been felled to make space for roads. Nobody has bothered to replant trees there. In a village called Dera Salimpur in Haryana, I saw a water pipe without a tap. Gallons of water were being wasted. I told the villagers to fix a tap. I was told they did it after I left. I noticed that a lot of water is being wasted in Calcutta, too,” he said.