Happiness! How and where can we find it please?!
“It’s just inside yourself,” explains Somen Debnath, who was born in the village of Basanti, located in Sundarbans, West Bengal, India.
Right after getting a bachelor’s degree in Zoology from the University of Calcutta, Somen began his ‘Around the World Bicycle Tour for spreading HIV/AIDS Awareness and Presenting Indian Culture’.
The bicycle tour, which began in 2004 and is due to run until 2020, will witness Somen cycling 200,000km across 191 countries and meeting nearly 20 million people.
“I am giving 16 years of my life to the world; my main aim is to share the happiness I felt in my family’s home with the world and to tell them that happiness is very near them,” adds Somen, who has already visited 73 countries.
Very simple things can help man to overcome his tiredness, anxiety and stress, things that make him unhappy.
“I am trying to help overcome these things. Sometimes I cook some Indian food for the people I meet and that also makes them happy,” explains Somen, whose cookery skills proved to be of inestimable value when he was captured by Taliban while pedalling through Afghanistan.
“They held me for 24 days. They kept beating me up to start with, but then they got me to clean their homes. When I began to cook them Indian food, they liked it,” he recalls.
It seems that the cooking was a turning point in this tough situation, as they released him soon after that.
“I think they realised that I had a mission to accomplish and so they let me go,” Somen recalls, admitting that there have been some other unhappy moments on his journey too.
“Two of my bicycles have been stolen, while I have been robbed six times and beaten up several times by people who don’t like my dark skin.”
But, despite all his trials, Somen is still smiling and full of enthusiasm to visit more places and meet more people.
“I often visit schools, where I give lectures and spread awareness about HIV,” he adds, stressing that he considers HIV to be a social problem, not a disease, that needs to be cured by awareness.
In Egypt, Somen has begun his mission by donating blood. “I want to tell people around the world to stop fighting and to use their blood to save the lives of others,” he stresses.
For him Egypt is a cultural treasure, an indispensable part of his journey.
But didn’t he perhaps hesitate to come to Egypt at this time of political tension?
“I don’t watch TV or follow the media. My only media are the people I meet. What is interesting for me is that I’ve found Egyptians to be very similar to Indians,” he explains.
Somen, who sells the kilometres he pedals to the people he meets to finance his journey, also aims to use the money for building what he calls the ‘Global Village’.
“The Global Village [to be built in his hometown in India] will consist of 25 houses built on 20 acres of land. It will be located far from the city, close to nature. We will create our own village in a traditional way, with straw and mud houses. This will be simple living with high thinking,” he says enthusiastically.
“The Global Garden – in the middle of the village – will be a sacred place. I am collecting a handful of soil from every country I visit to send to the Global Village. That means 191 handfuls of soil. This is my personal contribution to a united world, where love, peace and happiness will reign.”