The penniless traveller and his tales: North Indians completely wrong about TN, not knowing Tamil is not a hurdle, people warm and friendly
He was just another MBA student with a start-up but he wanted to do more, something adventurous, exciting and inspiring. The idea to embark on a penniless journey across the country first came to 28-year-old Ansh Mishra when he was travelling in Amritsar. While having a meal at a dhaba on the highway, he noticed a young family at the next table and when they got in their car to leave the driver crashed into a stationary lorry parked on the side.
"It was the car driver's fault but he started to yell at and abuse the lorry driver. But the lorry driver didn't say a word, he remained calm and then picked up the food on the table and said you get this food on your plate because we transport the vegetables, the car you drive, we transport the material, the water you drink also we are the ones who transport it but people always abuse us this way," Mishra recalled. It was at this point that Mishra realised how important lorry drivers are to the country and decided to do a documentary on their lives.
Miles to go: Mishra has travelled ten states and two union territories
"They spend so much time away from their families and have to undertake such difficult journeys. I also read recently that the rate of AIDS among truck drivers is one of the highest in the country. They suffer so much for us and nobody has even cared to notice, So I decided to document their lives and then I thought about how it would be to travel the country simply relying on people's humanity," Mishra explained. So he decided to travel across the country to meet truck drivers and he decided to do the travel, absolutely penniless, to show that some humanity is still left in the world. Not a single rupee for accommodation or travel or even food. If in case, nobody offers him food, Mishra decided he would depend on temples, churches, mosques and gurudwaras for food.
Mishra explained. So he decided to travel across the country to meet truck drivers and he decided to do the travel, absolutely penniless, to show that some humanity is still left in the world.
"I decided to not take any public transport and only depend on lifts given by strangers or truck drivers. I decided to not even request for food, I just tell people my story and of they offer to give me food then I accept but I never ask voluntarily. When I'm on the bike with someone, if they venture out to ask me questions, then I tell them my story and at the end of it if they offer to buy me food, I accept or I just thank them for the ride," the lone traveller said.
Mishra set out on this adventure on February 3 of this month, today is his 145th day, he has travelled ten states and 2 union territories and has 100 stories to tell, some bitter but mostly sweet tales. Rajasthan, Mishra said was the best state he had travelled in, "It is the safest place for both men and women and people are also very nice here,". But this was also the place he went hungry for the longest time- 40 hours and the longest time he's waited to catch a ride is eight hours, " I spent eight hours on the highway, that was pretty tough."
Warm reception: Mishra with his hosts at Kochi
Mishra has slept on highways, stations platforms and in places of worship but he has also been offered accommodation by strangers. He regularly updates his Facebook page to let his friends know where he is. "As word got out about my travel, more and more people have started following my page and so when they know I'm in their city they offer me their homes or if they know friends in other cities they recommend me."
Mishra has slept on highways, stations platforms and places of worship. He's been offered accommodation by strangers. He regularly updates his Facebook page to let friends know where he is.
But how does one set off one such a journey with out even an ounce of fear, well if not for him then atleast his family? How did he convince them? "Well, obviously they weren't kicked about the idea. I live with my mum and my brother and my dad is stationed in Kashmir as he is in the army. My mum wasn't pleased at all and all my relatives tried to talk me out of it but eventually they agreed and have supported me since,"Mishra explained. He said his mother calls him every single day and as often as possible to find out how he is doing.
And about work? Mishra has his own start-up that his brother handles, the 28-year old has sworn off all work related mails and calls. "This is the longest break I've taken But I have the support of my brother and colleagues, so it's okay,"he added.
With his frequent updates on Facebook calls, how does he manage to keep his phone charged and recharged? "I have a Jio sim, so the net is free and calls I usually make on WhatsApp, my initial recharge was done by my brother and one other time, a stranger offered to recharge my phone. For battery charge, I have a power bank and I depend on shops, stations to charge it,"he added.
I have a Jio sim, so the net is free and calls I usually make on WhatsApp, my initial recharge was done by my brother and one other time, a stranger offered to recharge my phone. For battery charge, I have a power bank and I depend on shops, stations to charge it
Presently, he is in Chennai, a city that his North Indian friends constantly warned him about, "My friends in the North said people here are not nice and I can't survive if I don't know Tamil. I would like to tell all of them they could not be more wrong, people here are lovely and kind. Even if you don't know Tamil, nobody minds it at all, it is extremely wrong to assume something you have no proof about. Even if they don't know Hindi, they try with whatever few words they do know, or they talk in English or I try to converse with a few Tamil words. That's how the world works," he said.
What Mishra wants people to know is that there is a lot of good in the world, we just have to make the attempt to actually speak to people to find it. He also wants people to know that one should never stop dreaming, "People keep saying they wish they could go here and there but they have no money to do so, I want them to know that if I could travel without money they can to. Money will not bring you happiness or experience, so we should stop relying on it so much, "Mishra said.
Mishra will be setting off to Bangalore, then Hyderabad, then Kolkata and then the North East, so if you happen to hear him knock on your door, make sure to open it!