MUSCAT: There is a smile on his face as he paces his yards on the roads. From metres to kilometres, from nation to another, Nitin Sonawane has been walking and cycling over the past seven years and his latest stop on his ‘global journey for peace and sustainability’ was the Sultanate of Oman.
The Indian man accomplished another milestone with Oman becoming his 50th nation either on foot or on a bicycle while carrying a message of India’s father of nation, Mahatma Gandhi. The journey in Oman saw him cover a total distance of 450km that began from Sohar on August 19.
His efforts were acknowledged by the Indian Ambassador, Amit Narang, during a meeting at the Indian Embassy on September 6.
Sonwane’s walk is an example of his dedication to spread Mahatma Gandhi’s message of non-violence and truth. It all began in 2016 for the 32-year-old who has since become known as a ‘peace walker’, travelling the world on foot and cycling.
He said: “The initial days I traversed the countries on a bicycle but then I felt that I covered the countries quickly. So I decided to walk with a message from Mahatma Gandhi, on whose principles I have great belief. My commitment to peace extends beyond humanity and it encompasses all living and nonliving things in the universe.
“My journey commenced on November 18, 2016 from Gandhi Sevagram Ashram in Wardha, India. From there, I cycled through India, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Hong Kong, the US, Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia, South Africa, Rwanda, Uganda, Sudan, Egypt, England, Ireland, Germany, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
“Subsequently, I walked from Tokyo to Hiroshima in Japan.”
Hailing from the small village of Rashin in the Indian state of Maharashtra, an engineer by profession, Sonawane gave up his career to find his true calling in spreading the messages of Gandhi and the Buddha.
“Gautama Buddha inspired me to go out of my comfort zone,” Sonawane said and said that walking is one of the most profound ways to connect with nature and ourselves.
“It’s a very powerful action and has made a big impact on my life mentally and physically. It helps to connect with lots of people on the way.”
Sonawane added: “Every moment of this journey has been a valuable learning experience. After my walk in Japan, I adopted a vegetarian lifestyle. My journey has been made possible through the support of people around the world, as I encounter amazing individuals daily who provide me with food and shelter. Thus far, I have walked 16,000kms and covered 25,000kms on my bicycle.”
He added: “In Oman, I embarked on the Gandhi Peace Walk from Sohar, covering a distance of 450km over 15 days to reach Sur. An Omani friend, Shihab Alansari, generously hosted me in Sohar and introduced me to the local culture. In Muscat, I was welcomed by the Acres and Pacers running and walking group, with whom I walked together. Along my journey, I encountered kind-hearted individuals who stopped their cars to offer me water, and some police officers even provided me with food.”
“The Indian community was a tremendous source of support, offering their homes for my stay. Sandeep Mohite from Muscat was instrumental in helping me find accommodations and connecting me with many people. At times, I spent nights on the beach, which was a beautiful experience.
“It was hot during the first week in Oman but I almost walked 35 to 40kms per day, mostly during the early mornings and evenings,” he said.
Amid the global focus on adopting advanced technologies as a solution to global challenges, Sonawane stressed the need for first changing the mindset of the people towards issues faced by mankind.
He said: “Focus on climate change and environment preservation is very important. We are witnessing new technologies, which are going to transform the world, but we must also end our greed for materialistic life. Gandhi preached against materialism more than 80 years back. I aim to spread the message of love, peace, and friendship. Also, I wish to highlight the importance of being sustainable and reducing carbon emissions.”
Summing up his trip in Oman, he said: “This journey is also about knowing diverse people around the world. ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, the ‘whole world is one family’, is a reality for me. I have made friends from every country I have travelled to. I come with nothing but leave with rich memories and new friends.”