Published: 02nd October 2021
Gandhi with Gen Z: This 30-yr-old engineer walked and cycled 37,000 kms across 46 countries to spread Gandhi's ideals
While on his journey, Nitin has walked 12,000 kms, cycled 2,500 kms and when we spoke to him, he was in Haryana, making his way towards Delhi's Raj Ghat
What would you do to seek the truth of life? Nitin Shrirang Sonawane went to 46 countries in four years and ten months and a few days to spread the message of non-violence, peace and spread Gandhi's ideals among young and old. And found his moment of enlightenment during his journey. The 30-year-old engineer has been walking or cycling across these countries and spreading Mahatma Gandhi's ideals in schools and colleges across the world. He is set to end his journey on October 2, 2021, at Raj Ghat, to commemorate Gandhi's 152nd birth anniversary.
But this is not the first time Nitin, a native of Rashin, a small village in Ahmednagar district in Maharashtra, left home. "I had done it the first time when I was 17 but I wasn't mature enough. I understood that and I came back," said Nitin. "I studied and became an engineer. I was also working at a company when one day I realised that I could predict my own future and I did not like it. I wanted to do something and I knew something will happen but wasn't sure what it would be. I had also been volunteering at the Maharashtra Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, Pune from 2015 and had joined the fight against caste discrimination and communal harmony in Maharashtra by creating awareness about peace, justice and equality," he added.
Gandhi, peace and 37,000 km
He did not start his journey alone though. When they left in 2016, they were a group of five, with even Nitin's friend as a part of it, but the crowd thinned out and by the time he left Cambodia, he was alone. "A major motive of the journey was to spread awareness about the ideals and teachings of Gandhiji. I wanted people, especially the younger generation to understand the ideals of peace and non-violence and they can in turn influence others. That way it can reach millions," he added.
Love is all you need?
Wherever he goes, Nitin approaches local people, teachers, Indian communities or even the Indian Embassies, who not only help him with his stay and travel but also often get him in touch with the colleges and schools where he can deliver talks to the students about peace and harmony. "Not just in schools or universities, I interact with people wherever I go and they have only shown me love. I have participated in protests in various countries including South Korea, where I was a part of the protest at the Navy Base. One day one of my fellow protestors had a fight with a Coast Guard. I went to try and stop them and then the next day I gave a rose to the guard and told him that he was a good person. To my utter surprise, he said that he wasn't. There was a sense of guilt. He then called me and wanted to take a selfie. I was moved by how a gesture of love can impact someone," he added.
Moment of truth
While on his journey, Nitin has walked 12,000 kms, cycled 25,000 kms and when we spoke to him, he was in Haryana, making his way towards Delhi's Raj Ghat. One of those extensive treks across South America, in Peru, Nitin had a realisation. "It felt like enlightenment. I understood that we have unlimited potential and underestimating ourselves or others is what is pulling us back. When it dawns upon you it changes your life. But it is too much for my brain to comprehend at once," he said.
Meeting the PM
Nitin wants to end his journey at Raj Ghat on October 2 and hopes to meet the Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the morning celebrations of Bapu's birth anniversary. "We are speaking to the PM's office and checking if that is possible. It not, we will go to Raj Ghat in the evening and end the journey," he said. He will have been on the road for a full 1780 days on that day.
Coming back to 'life'
As he comes back to India, Nitin has a few things planned. "Many people have supported me throughout the journey. From my visa to my travel to providing me food and shelter. I owe it to them to work for humanity. I want to work for climate change and sustainability once I am back. I want to work with seaweeds as alternate food for humans. We have a long coastline and this is the way forward," he added as he took off on his journey for the day.