LIFE

Walking across the country

Arun Kumar Rudra ... on a long walk.

Arun Kumar Rudra ... on a long walk.  

``India is so many things.'' And Arun Kumar Rudra knows it well. ``Better than many Ministers in our nation.'' Mr. Rudra has been walking across the country on foot since May 7, 2001.

Before venturing out, he was a documentary filmmaker in Bengal. He made 17 short films, 13 of them on Adivasis. Then he felt like seeing the country he belonged to, close up. ``More than just visiting, I wanted to spread the messages of peace and love. There is a lot of tension across the country and I thought of adding some purpose to my visit.''

Armed with a luggage consisting of a sleeping bag, a jacket, a raincoat that could protect him from `even ice' and some dresses, Mr. Rudra set off. Interestingly, he did not carry a camera with him. But he documents all his visits, complete with entries made by the officer at the local police station.

His initial itinerary was to cross the border near Pakistan and move on to the Middle East. However, entry was denied at the border and he had to retract. He tried the other end of the country and entered Bangladesh and Myanmar.

He carries with him an authorisation from the All India Insurance Employees Association, which is sponsoring his venture. And he makes it a point to visit the local media and insurance officials during his stopovers. He keeps a record of the news that has appeared about him in print. ``I have sent a full book back to Kolkata. The one I have with me right now is the third one.''

Mr. Rudra's routine begins at 5 a.m. and he walks till noon. After the break, he resumes walking till evening. ``Covering about 45 km a day.''

Mr. Rudra claims to know about 10 languages. ``Still in many parts of South India, I found it really hard to communicate. Most often, I managed to get through using sign languages.''

He was in Kochi last week. He has since left the city and is heading south. ``I plan to leave Kerala by October 30 and will go to Kanyakumari. From there, I shall proceed to Chennai and take a ship to Thailand.''

Mr. Rudra is 57 years old now. ``I will walk for another ten years. Then, I might sit down and write a book on my experiences.'' There are many, from meeting terrorists in northeast, gamblers in Gujarat and the unassuming Chief Minister of Pondicherry.

By Anand Haridas

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