New Delhi, 5 October:
Somen Debnath from Sunderbans in West Bengal, who is globetrotting on a bicycle to create awareness on HIV/AIDS, has reached Oman, his 81st country, after traversing 98,850 km in nine years. His mission, which he began in May 2004, is to visit all the 191 countries in 16 years, which he hopes to accomplish in 2020, after travelling 2,00,000 km.
To express gratitude to all those who have helped him in these 81 countries, he has invited all his supporters through an e-mail, for the inauguration of the “People House” (Manushergar) in Kolkata on the occasion of Durga Puja, on 10 October 2013.
“With the help of people I met during my journey, I built a house for the friends around the world who said they will come and visit me when I return to India,” he said. “I have enjoyed all people&’s hospitality, I was well-received and taken care of in every country, city or village I passed by. I am so impressed by every person and I am grateful and looking forward to welcome all my worldwide friends into the house that my global family helped to build. On the occasion of Durga Puja, which is one of the most important celebrations in India, and the most important in my side of the country, West Bengal, I am inviting all the families and friends to join us in a celebration and house opening. I will not be there, as my journey is only half way, but I will be happy to convey my message and good-wishes to all of you and to know that my dream is being fulfilled. My ambition is to build a Global Village,” he said.
The inspiration for his mission came when he read an article, “AIDS is Deadlier than Cancer,” at the age of 14. It was about a homeless person who was abandoned in front of a medical college in Calcutta, and left to die alone. It made a huge impact on him and afterwards he asked his teachers about AIDS/HIV but they could not give any answers.
During his travel, though he has met so far seven Presidents, 48 Prime Ministers, 160 different Ministers and Government officials in different countries, he has also faced several hurdles. In Afghanistan, he was captured and detained by the Taliban for 24 days, in Central Asia he was robbed six times, cycled through –35°C weather, was beaten by skinheads eight times, lived with wild animals like rhinoceros, elephants, cheetahs, pythons, etc.
He has also lived with Jarawa tribals in Andaman & Nicobar Islands for 20 days and with Innuits/Eskimos. In Europe, his three bicycles were stolen. He has crossed seven seas and three oceans, as well as the greatest mountains, Himalayas and Alps. Somen has also been honoured with Honorary Citizenship in Georgia.