Somen Debnath, a 36-year- old man hailing from Sundarbans, a mangrove area near Kolkata in India is setting a true example of cour- age and perseverance by breaking barriers and conquering his dream of educating people from across the globe about HIV and AIDS. The catch here is – he is doing so by travelling the world on a bicycle. Yes, you read that right!

“At the age of 14, I came across an article where there was a quota- tion, ‘AIDS is deadlier than Cancer’, and like any other child I went to my school teacher and asked what it meant. She couldn’t explain what HIV and AIDS was which is why I promised to learn about it and ex- plain it to himself and others”.

He then started his quest to edu- cate himself on it. Once he got out of school, he went to the Regional Aids Control Society of Bengal and from there got a special training and learnt all about the sensitive topic.

He began his journey on May 27, 2004 and went to the North-East India to make the people aware about this deadly disease. Somen was fascinated by the teachings of Swami Vivekananda and it’s his ideas that inspired Somen to wit- ness and explore the vast diversity and culture of India. He also got acquainted to Bimal Mukherjee, the first Indian globe trotter who has travelled the entire world on a bicycle from the year 1926 to 1937. Somen was highly inspired by his travels that lasted 11 years. So, he pledged to followed his footsteps and began his voyage.

Talking about his travels that com- menced in the year 2004, Somen said, “From 2004 to the mid of 2006, I travelled almost everywhere in India. I covered all the states and the union territories. I was able to travel across 24 countries in Asia till 2009. From 2009-2012, I visited 45 countries in Europe, and then trav- elled to Greenland for 3 months. From 2012-2015, I travelled in Africa and the Middle-East. In 2016, I came to South America; I began from Brazil and covered even the South Pole and Antarctica. In mid of 2017, I came to the Caribbean and I finished almost 8 countries over there and headed to Panama in 2018, from there to Mexico and then America”.

“From 2018-2019, I am travelling all 8 countries across Central America. From last 10 months, I was in United States of America where I travelled 33 states and the eastern part of Canada”, he added.

Currently in Vancouver, British Columbia, he plans to travel to Alaska next. From there in September 2019, he will be head- ing towards Japan, Russia, Siberia, Mongolia, China, Korea, New Zealand, Australia, Sri-Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar and finally reaching India.

“I am expecting to be back by 2020, which will after completing a travel to 119 countries. I am also writing a book along to document my travel highlights”, said Somen.

When asked about his future plans, Debnath revealed that he dreams to build a global village in India where people from all across the world would be welcomed to live and contribute. “We will have ecological village, orphan- age, old-age home, social infrastructure etc. to sup- port the community and people who are HIV and AIDS positive.

Debnath says that every city he goes to, he tries to visit dif- ferent schools, social organisa- tions etc. that are living with people affected with HIV and AIDS to provide them with some guid- ance, courage and also generating social awareness.

Most of you by now must be think- ing that how does he manage his expenses for all the traveling? No, he isn’t spending tons of money for it. His travels are majorly sponsored by the Indian community and the Indian Embassy supports him with visa, passport work, local govern- ment meetings, Indian community meetings abroad, and local press meetings along with other support for his future travels.

He signed off by saying that ups and downs are a part of any work, but to keep your standstill, one must have faith. “I think I have enough faith in my people, nature, god who has always inspired me and kept me going”.

Navjeet Nijjhar