Somen Debnath comes from the largest Tiger reserve forest in India called Sunderbans, West Bengal. He is away from home for the last nine years, since 27th May 2004. He was 20 then and had just graduated with a degree in Zoology and an additional degree in Fine Arts. He left home on a bicycle. For the first two years he pedaled across the length and breadth of his own country India and then started his odyssey to travel all over the world with only $17.
When Somen Debnath was 14 years old, he read an article about AIDS being a deadlier disease than cancer. It was about a homeless person suffering from AIDS, who lay down in front of the hospital in Kolkata, abandoned by his village and was left to die alone. This impacted him to dedicate his life to spreading awareness about this destructive disease. What started out as an effort to educate his village of Basanti in Sunderbans of India has now become a world- wide campaign, having already covered 81 countries.
He has so far visited 24 countries in Asia, 10 countries in Middle East, 42 countries in Europe and 4 countries in North Africa. He is presently in Sudan. He now plans to cover 36 countries in Africa., Somen Debnath has been received by 17 Presidents, 49 Prime Minister,160 different Ministers and 79 Ambassadors of India.
His time from 2015 to 2017 will be dedicated to South Pole, South and North America. In 2018 he plans to pedal to Canada, Russia, Siberia, Mongolia and China. In 2019 he will go to Korea, Japan, Philippines, New Zealand and Australia. Somen will pedal to Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Bangladesh in 2020 and then cycle back to India on 27th May 2020 to complete his 16 years bicycle odyssey, arguably the longest bicycle journey.
Somen’s goal is to pedal 200,000 km and cover 191 countries till 2020 and reach out to 20 million people. Apart from spreading awareness of HIV/AIDS, Somen also talks of Indian Culture, yoga and carries the message of peace. In all these countries he visited he has met students in schools and universities to communicate his message. During his travels he has had the opportunity to share his experience and knowledge in Davos the World Economic Forum and in Oxford University, which Somen humbly admits is a great achievement for him.
Somen has had some terrible experiences during his travels. In Afghanistan he was kidnapped by armed militants of the Taliban and kept captive for 24 days. He was blind folded, tied up to a chair and beaten up badly. He then survived by cooking Indian curry for them and proving that he was not a spy but only an adventurist with a peaceful mission. He narrowly escaped a bomb blast in Iraq. His bicycle was stolen in Bulgaria, Poland and Germany and was also mugged in other countries.
Despite all the misgivings he smiles to say that he has made good friends in all these countries he has visited. He takes pride in saying that he is giving 16 years of his life to the world aiming to share the happiness.
His dream is to build a ‘Global Village’ after 2020 when he is back home in India. His plan is to build a complex of houses on an area of eight hectares to provide visitors from around the world with an opportunity to live and interact with each other. It will be a self-sustaining and self-sufficient venture where guests will have the opportunity to cultivate their own crops and fruits on a 4-hectare farm. If you want to be part of his dream you can fulfill it by meeting him in Khartoum. He will be here for a week or so. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and his mobile number is +249999126405