“If you want to see the real India, you must travel through its villages.” Many travellers who have visited India have said this earlier. Here in Kerala, a 28-year-old man, Shareef Chungathara, from Chungathara, Nilambur, is of this opinion as his main objective in life is to travel through the unsung routes. And that too to the remote villages in India. The travel freak, who began his expeditions around 2010 soon after he became financially independent following employment, has roamed throughout the country more than four times.
“I would like to be known as a traveller. To travel has always been there in my instincts. So when I got employed in Kochi in 2010, all I dreamt was to accumulate some money to travel round the country,” he said. Shareef’s initial journeys were in trains and buses. All his travels are less expensive as he stays in make-shift tents and chooses the cheapest mode of travel. “If I travel in train, I choose to sleep at the railway station. I don’t bother. Sometimes I travel in the attire of a monk. In such appearance you get great acceptance in the northern states. I have experienced it,” he chuckles.
Unlike many travellers who opt for highways, Shareef follows the unknown, less-travelled paths. “I often choose to travel through villages. I have no idea how many villages I have visited in India. I suggest all the aspiring travellers to travel round the country before you choose to travel the world as our country has a vast pool of varieties. You cannot complete reaching at its each corner in one life.”
Shareef shifted from trains and buses to bikes later, as he found it more convenient to him. Besides, the difficulty to get public transport in North Eastern states and desert areas in Rajasthan paved way for the change. “Nowadays I travel on bike. I have a bullet and I have completed the all-India travel four times on my bike. There are many advantages when you travel by bike. Cutting short of time is the most important among them. And of course you just need a backpack with food, water, clothing and a make-shift tent for my style of travel. I never go to hotels for stay, instead, I depend on tents.”
Each time he travels to villages, he tries to spend time to study their culture, history and lifestyle. “There are several villages I cannot forget. Longwa in Nagaland is one village. It shares border with Myanmar. It has a village chief and people cross the Myanmar border every now and then. Theirs is an entirely different system. There is another village in Karnataka called Mattur in which the natives follow a Vedic lifestyle. They deal with Sanskrit in their day-to-day life. But they are highly qualified. Each family will have at least one IT professional. Tourists from across the world visit this village to learn Sanskrit and Vedas. Turtuk is a village in Leh which is rich with its scenic beauty and hospitality,” he recollects.
‘History teaches us only what it feels safe’
A voracious reader, Shareef, also tries to figure out the facts which are not being taught by the history texts. “I speak to the natives and try to understand their past. I have some knowledge about a particular group of people and their history. But sometimes it will not tally with what they have to say. Then I realise that history teaches us only what it feels safe. Nowadays I post on social media on what I have observed and learnt. Sometimes they completely cancel the already-written and accepted history. This is interesting,” he said.
“Travel enriches a person immensely. You learn compassion and the art of sharing when you travel. You get to know how people live in other parts of the world. Each traveller becomes a socialist in the process, I guess,” Shareef said.
He is a commerce graduate and has worked in organisations like DHL courier services and Tanishq in Kochi, Delhi and Ludhiana.
“I have no plans as to my next destination. I never make plans. But I feel it would be nice if I can go to the North East states in October because it would be the festival season in most of the villages there.” Friends are pushing him to publish the collection of Facebook posts in which he has narrated his travel experiences. “Maybe, you can expect a book from me soon,” he smiled.