Akhil Bakshi suffers from a curious affliction: the perpetual itch to explore new places and connect distant lands and cultures. He is a perennial voyager in the archetypal sense of the term. Bakshi, a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and vice-president of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, had earlier led four major international expeditions, including Central Asia (1994) and Gondwanaland (2006) in which he drove 25,200 km from Indian Himalayas to Cape Agulhus, the southernmost tip of Africa, across 17 countries, to study earthquake geology and evolutionary history. This time round, he has embarked on a 35,000 km trans-America journey from the Arctic to the Antarctic which begins from Deadhorse Creek on the Arctic Ocean in Alaska and end at Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of South America. The One World expedition seeks to map out the terrain when the Earth was one geological mass three million years ago. Pangea broke up into Laurasia (comprising of Eurasia and North America) and Gondwanaland (Africa, South America, Antarctica, India and Australia).
Bakshi spoke to Manish Chand, Editor-in-Chief, India Writes (www.indiawrites.org) a day before he left on this epic voyage on his love of travel, the mission of his new expedition that seeks to provide new insights into climate change and his creative intent to harness this new journey to renew India’s links with Latin American countries.
(Excerpts from the interview)
Q) What is your primary inspiration behind the latest expedition from Arctic to Antarctic?
A) The pre-historic supercontinent of Pangea, when all the continents were joined together, symbolizes One World. The trans-America journey – from Arctic to Antarctic – covers North and Central America that later became part of the continent of Laurasia, and South that was a part of Gondwanaland. After completing the Gondwanaland Expedition in 2006, I set my mind on Pangea – and this route best represented that One World.
Q) Why have you chosen climate change as your overarching theme for the new expedition? What do you seek to achieve through this exercise?
A) Today, as the world becomes smaller and more interdependent, its problems also assume global proportions. Environment and climate change is one such contemporary challenge. During the course of the journey we will be meeting with climate change researchers to find out the measures various countries are taking to manage the problems (agriculture, health, urban living, etc) that will arise in the future from global warming. The information collected will be shared with the government of India
Q) How would you rate the success of your earlier expeditions like the one to Gondwanaland?
A) The talented Gondwanaland expedition scientists had a life-time opportunity to make first-hand observations in some of the world’s most vital natural history regions and exchange knowledge with scientists of 20 universities and research institutions. Whether their brief investigations will lead to any grand theories depends on their personal aspirations – and only time will tell. Nevertheless, the value of the fascinating exposure is bound to enrich their career. The journey led me to question the theory of human origin and migration.
The Azad Hind Expedition was successful in refreshing the national memory with the sacrifices made by the soldiers of the Indian National Army. When it entered India, from the border of Burma to the Red Fort in Delhi, it was greeted by a wave of humanity. Two members of the expedition, heroes of the INA – Captain Lakshmi Sehgal and Col Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon were awarded the Padma Vibhushan and Padma Bhushan. Stamps of Sehgal, Dhillon and Shahnawaz were released. INA Museum was established in Salemgarh Fort inside the Red Fort. The Delhi government also set up an INA exhibition at the Delhi Haat on Rohtak Road.
Hands Across the Borders, a mass contact programme to promote peace and development in South Asia, meet with massive and spontaneous public response in all South Asian countries. However, two days before expedition was to enter Pakistan, the Kargil conflict erupted!!
Q) Your new voyage takes you to distant lands in Latin America? How do you look at cultural connections between India and Latin America? How will a voyage like yours boost India’s Latin America diplomacy?
A) The great distance between India and Latin America, resulting from both geography and language, has inhibited strong cultural connections. But with global economic interdependence both regions are engaging with each other. The efforts of the governments need to be supplemented by citizens. Our endeavor will leave just a small mark. Post-expedition, writing and lecturing about our travels in these lands and sharing our adventures with the Indian public, particularly the youth, will, hopefully, create greater interest in the region and lead to more people-to-people contact.
Q) On a personal level, what were your most memorable moments in the past voyages? What inspires you to continue with these adventurous voyages? Personal discovery, promoting a cause….
A) To travel across our planet’s wildernesses, to experience the joys and distresses of adventure in unfrequented regions, to look at beautiful and varied scenes, to meet good-natured, peace-loving, progressive people, to appreciate the diversity of cultures and traditions, to joust with tribals and hear the sounds and rhythms of their majestic music, to tread on land pressed by the feet of famous explorers – and to reaffirm India’s ties with these distant lands – provide the inspiration. A born tramp, I have always had a wanderlust and a uriosity about our natural world.
- India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) is an emerging think tank and a media-publishing company focused on international affairs & the India Story. A venture of TGII Media Private Limited, a leading media, publishing and consultancy company, IWN has carved a niche for balanced and exhaustive reporting and analysis of international affairs. Eminent personalities, politicians, diplomats, authors, strategy gurus and news-makers have contributed to India Writes Network, as also “India and the World,” a magazine focused on global affairs. The Global Insights India (TGII) is the research arm of India Writes Network. To subscribe to India and the World, write to email@example.com
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