KOCHI: Arun Garg has no idea it is October now. For a while now, the time has been a fluid concept for him — days and months barely matter anymore. Every day has been the same — roads that bend or run straight, many faces in the crowd, conversations made and more. “I have understood that Mondays or Fridays don’t matter. When you pull away from the world as you know it, time is a concept and only that,” he says.
Arun has been on the road for six months now, walking, not keeping track of time. The 23-year-old Punjab native has travelled from Jammu and Kashmir to Thiruvananthapuram now. But he doesn’t plan to stop there. He is headed to Kanyakumari to finish the walk he started in May.
“I wanted to travel after I left college. People said it takes money to travel. I said I will walk if I have to,” quips Arun. “I wanted to explore, know things and my country. When I started to research, I understood that a lot of people walk great distances,” says Arun. And thus the journey started. Although the plan was to start in 2020, the pandemic played buzzkill and he could only start after the second wave.
Having walked through 13 states, Arun says the journey has changed him. “I have become very open. Initially, I was very shy,” says Arun. The only challenge, he says, was the weather. “One day, I would be under the scorching heat in Delhi at 45 degrees, and the next day, I would be walking in the rain in another terrain,” says Arun. Since he mostly found lodging in temples and roadsides, this was exceptionally hard, says the youngster.
Travelling during a pandemic had its cons. “Many places are closed and sometimes people aren’t that welcoming. But I got help from many people. The world is one big open space,” says Arun. However, Arun never walks after nightfall. On average, he covered around 30 kilometres daily on foot, with breaks in between. There are many perks to walking, he says. “The journey helped me slow things down and I got a lot of time to think. By travelling on foot, I got to connect with more people. You wave and smile and that makes an instant connection,” says Arun.
Having arrived in Kerala, Arun says that he has fallen in love with the people of the state. “They have made things very easy for me. I have fallen in love with kulukki sarbath and porotta. I haven’t paid for a single meal since I arrived here,” he quips.
Six months of travel has made Arun see humanity differently. “Humans everywhere are the same — we have needs but everyone wants to be happy and safe,” says Arun who is gearing up for his mountaineering course at Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling.