I left Agumbe for Sringeri, but with a longer detour via Theerthahalli. To look for a man who make travellers like me look like kids out for a joyride in Disneyland.
My search was for Sheshadri Dixit, a priest, who cycled all across India, Nepal and Bhutan from June 1979 to May 31, 1981 covering over 55,000 kilometers (34,000 miles).
It was not easy finding him – he seems to be more famous outside his own town. Eventually though an auto rickshaw driver figured who I was looking for, and directed me to his temple and residence next door. A little away from town on the Sringeri road.
Disappointment awaited as he was away, and it took nearly an hour for his wife and daughter, Poornashree, to figure someone was waiting. But after that they narrated Mr. Dixit’s story as if he himself was speaking.
Mr. Dixit set out with only his bicycle (still on display at home) to explore the country and to pledge support to the radical Hindu organization, RSS.
With no maps, GPS, mobile or even a watch, he traveled with a rough idea of how roads are connected. With only some essentials like his credentials, clothes, a cycle puncture repair kit, some tools and very little money.
Wherever he went, strangers would provide with food and stay after he introduced himself. Language was never a barrier in developing friendships.
With no other way to record evidence of his travels, he got local officials and politicians to certify in writing that he was there. You can see a heavy file of these letters at his place.
Some of the letters collected by Mr. Dixit
Some certificates went missing during adventurous moments. Like one issued by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Why? He was abducted by members of the dreaded gang of woman dacoit Phoolan Devi near Khajuraho who mistook him for an undercover cop looking for them. But once they realized their folly, he was treated well before being set free.
His travels eventually covered Theerthahalli, North Karnataka, Maharastra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Nepal, Bhutan, West Bengal, Assam, Nagaland, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kanyakumari, Kerala and then back again to Karnataka!
On his return he was feted was local officials and residents. Shortly thereafter, he married and has a 16 year old daughter. And they all travel together now, but using more comfortable means of transport.
Want to talk to Mr. Dixit? Call him on +91.8181.227833
Some pictures collected by Mr. Dixit during his journeys
Ajay Jain is currently on the Great Arabian Sea Drive, starting from Delhi and following the coastline all the way from Gujarat down to Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Follow all updates on:
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