Ghatkopar (E), Mumbai

Don't make me a hero.

That's what Shailesh Pandey asked me to when I asked him to pose for a photograph. Eventually, he didn't pose, he was busy with phone calls and I was forced to click pictures of him as he kept speaking to people in different parts of the country as they kept calling him.

Shailesh Pandey is on a Royal Enfield Bullet right now, going across the country. While most Indians go around visiting temples, or relatives, Shailesh is visiting places associated with heroes from Indian History, especially heroes from the Independence struggle who are not known beyond the immediate geographical surroundings.

So why did he ask me to not make him a hero?

5,000kms since he started off from his hometown, Varanasi, Shailesh has met many travellers, many of them who have travelled more than him and met people who made his journey feel smaller than theirs.

I think, each journey has its own merit and is a very personal journey. Comparisons are not right. But Shailesh feels that his journey is attracting a lot of attention online, especially from a section that like to prefix and suffix Vande Mataram to each of Shailesh's tweets. Shailesh feels that he has been meeting real heroes enroute and he hardly compares.

So fair enough. Let's not make him a hero.

Let Shailesh go around discovering India that are absent from our textbooks. He feels that it only talks about the Congress part of the Independence struggle. But what else can we expect, it's the victors tale.

Shailesh has been discovering stories that are covered in the local state textbooks. Example: Rani Chennamma or Kittur, Kattabomman, etc. but these are stories people elsewhere have no clue about. Shailesh is discovering their stories on his bike and is using a blog and twitter to convey the stories to a large audience.

But the bigger question is about our sense of History. It's a subject in school that is given step motherly treatment. For many generations, it was the Amar Chitra Katha that gave us the better lessons in history not our textbooks. The present generation, gets a twisted form on television, if any. Maybe, that's the reason Shailesh's around the country trip is popular with a whole new generation. Like the school kids in Mumbai who welcomed him with a video put together with photographs Shailesh clicked on his road trip.

To those kids, who have never heard of a man go around on a bike just to dig out interesting stories is worthy of hero worship. They made you a hero, Shailesh.

Follow Shailesh Pandey's journey here:

Twitter: Shailesh K Pandey


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