Oman


Cycling globally for social cause


cycle odyssey: The ambitious cycle journey has covered 81 countries and 98,950 kilometres so far. Photo — Times of Oman

Muscat: Globetrotter Somen Debnath is on a ride of his life. This 30-year-old from a remote village in India, called Basanti in South 24 Parganas district in West Bengal, is aiming to cycle around the world.

The ambitious journey covering 191 countries and 200,000 kilometres, is aimed at spreading awareness about HIV/Aids and also to showcase the Indian culture all over the world.

Debnath started out from his home province in Basanti on May 27, 2004 and has already peddled his way through 81 countries. Currently, he is in Muscat. "I am doing this for the world," Debnath told the Times of Oman on Sunday, having changed six bicycles and covering 98,950km so far.

Three of his cycles got stolen in Bulgaria, Poland and Germany. "Though I peddle alone, I never feel lonely as I make friends with so many people on the road. They come up to me and talk to me, invite me to their homes and try to learn various things and issues from me while I, too, learn a lot from them," he said smilingly.

"At times, it is very hot and road conditions are bad. My cycle tyres burst a couple of times and yet my journey goes on despite all these troubles," he added. Debnath has been here in Oman since September 10.

He started his journey right after earning a bachelor's degree in Zoology from the University of Calcutta in 2004. "I will be giving 16 years of my life to the world. My main aim is to share the happiness," added Debnath.

Narrating an experience he called unforgettable, he said while cycling through Herat in Afghanistan, he was captured by the Taleban, who believed him to be a spy. "I spent three weeks there as a hostage, kept in total isolation and unable to understand the commands of my captors," he said. At the same time, he said that he can never forget the hospitality of the Inuit and the kind gesture of an old farmer in Bangladesh who came to his rescue after he collapsed in the scorching heat. "All these memories will remain very close to my heart," he said.

Speaking to the Times of Oman, he also said he was inspired from the age of 14 after he read an article titled 'Aids is Deadlier than Cancer'.

"It was about a homeless person who was lying in front of the Medical College of Calcutta, India, abandoned by his villagers and left to die alone. As a consequence, two years later, I decided to get speciality training at the West Bengal State Aids Control Society (WBSACS) and began an awareness campaign about the deadly disease starting by educating my own teachers.

The untiring cyclist said he plans to build 25 houses on 20 acres of land in a remote part of his native area where inhabitants would adopt the motto of "simple living but high thinking" as it's a way of life.

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