January 29, 2017 12:00:35 am
Last year, I travelled 15,000km across India on my Royal Enfield. But it wasn’t any ordinary trip. It took me 114 days to cover over 60 cities. Every city I visited, I stood with a message: “Give a hug, Get a free picture – travelling across India to spread happiness”.
It started two years ago, with two penniless journeys. In 2014, I travelled from Mumbai to New Delhi without cash or cards on me. In 2015, I travelled across Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam without money on me. The idea was to see three things. First, how do I feel when someone refuses to help me? Does it hurt my ego, do I feel insulted, do I get insecure or angry, what’s my tolerance level? Second, I wanted to see people’s reaction when I tell them, “I have no money”. Third, how much of a leap of faith do we put in strangers in today’s times?
In 2016, I thought I should pay back the help I had received — by promising a picture for a hug. I could see people were curious, they had their doubts. Is it a prank? Are we on TV? Which political party has sent you? Are you promoting TATA or Reliance or any other company? What is the deal here? Because no one gives anything for free!
I started from Mumbai and had more than 1,000 hugs in my kitty by the time I reached Chennai. The happiness journey was one month old. In Nandyal, Andhra Pradesh, a Maoist area, 10 policemen barged into my room at 1 am to ask me about my mysterious presence in the small town, with a printer and a motorcycle.
The people I met on this journey were priceless. Those experiences will always be with me. This year, I am doing a similar journey in the USA. I will travel from New York to California — over 12,000 km to spread happiness by collecting hugs and gifting pictures.
Nitesh Square is a traveller and a photographer.
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