Two young men hope that their tour of 28 UNESCO Heritage sites in India will help preserve her past
It certainly makes for an interesting travelogue when two Indian youngsters who have lived the good life and visited exotic places around the world decide to rough it out for three months, travelling in rickety old buses to tourist spots across India. But Aniketh MJ and Sulesh Kumar — both 24, from Bengaluru — have also turned their adventure into an attempt at raising awareness about 28 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India. As they travel, Aniketh and Sulesh will assess these heritage sites and pass on their findings to UNESCO. (UNESCO has recognised this effort by placing a note about it on its website.) In addition, the duo is working on a guidebook to aid others keen on visiting these sites.
It was Aniketh's visit to Hampi, sometime ago, that sparked this challenging assignment. He was appalled by his discovery that tourists had to use a makeshift toilet near the Tungabhadra river. As the monsoon was at its peak and the river was in spate, using the toilet was not easy. Aniketh believes that pointing out these facts will help improve support infrastructure at these sites. Sulesh was motivated to go on this journey for a slightly different reason. Having spent most of his life in the Middle-East, he wanted to connect with India and its traditions, some of which are enshrined in these sites.
Blogging about it
Only a week into the tour — named “From Tigers To Tombs” — the two youngsters have realised that India can't be painted with one brush. The coexistence of deep contrasts is a leitmotif. In their blog (www.fromtigerstotombs.wordpress.com), they write about a temple they visited in Gangaikondacholapuram: “Set in the midst of thatched hut villages, this temple must have once been the royal attraction to the Chola kingdom that spread far and wide. The poverty that exists outside the temple is totally hidden once you enter the gigantic gateway.”
While the journey so far has confirmed popular notions of India, it has also thrown up surprises. For instance, they were not prepared for the sophisticated air-conditioned public bus that took them to Mahabalipuram. Neither had they expected to find many people sharing their enthusiasm for these sites. While looking for information about Ooty's mountain railway station, they placed a photo of the same on their Facebook page. This post invited a wealth of facts. Similarly, a post about Thanjavur led to a flood of information about hotels and social infrastructure in the city.
In the days to come, these youngsters expect their ambitious project to be sustained by the support of well-wishers both known and unknown. On a tight budget, they rely on friends and relatives around the country for accommodation. A few of these supporters have even promised to go with them on certain legs of the tour. For Aniketh and Sulesh — who are trying to draw more attention to these sites — this is a minor victory.