In 2016, four friends – Brahmesh Puttannaiah (42), Bharath Devanathan (42), Rohit Prasad (42), and Harish Garg (44), (three software engineers and one yoga instructor/fashion designer) set on an incredible journey for 78 days across 20 countries. Their trip started in June from London and ended in September in Bengaluru.
“When we were planning the trip, there was a lot of unrest in Syria. Heart-wrenching images of children trying to cross the border, to escape this conflict, surfaced on the internet. This got us thinking, and to do our bit for the world we decided to raise funds among friends and families for the campaign ‘Save The Children’, while we also took the trip of a lifetime,” says Brahmesh, a software engineer working for a Bengaluru-based company.
They say this journey of 25,000 km, through different continents, taught them that people across the world are the same – all one.
When Brahmesh who was earlier working with a UK-based company, decided to move back to India, he casually pinged his friends with a google map screenshot from London to Bengaluru. On the message, he asked, “Were you guys serious about the plan?”
Without any second thoughts, the others agreed they were serious.
Bharath Devanathan, the Senior Vice President at Bounce, who was part of the trip says, “The plan to do a cross country road trip had been on our minds for a long time. We would discuss it every year when we would get together. Once we confirmed, Brahmesh did most of the route planning.”
The initial planning started with speaking to their respective families and ensuring everyone was okay with it. While Brahmesh’s wife and daughter took a flight back to India, he charted out a route map, figured out the visas and travel papers required for crossing borders by road.
Brahmesh’s wife Sheethal says that she always expected her husband to travel back to India by car someday, because he would talk about this plan every time he met with his friends.
She says, “When he first told me about the plan I was worried because we were going back to India after many years. We had to set up our home, enroll my daughter into school etc. But, I was equally excited for him. Initially, I was part of their plan too but with my little daughter it would have been hard, so I decided to fly back.”
Within a few months, once they had all the documentation and necessary paperwork, the four friends met in the UK, took Brahmesh’s car – an SUV, along with essentials such as readymade food, spare tyres and repair tools, and ferried their car into Western Europe.
From here their journey continued on road. Brahmesh says that the plan was to keep going East.
“Through Europe, we crossed cities and villages which were not popular tourist destinations, especially towards the borders. But, the people were curious about us, welcoming, and full of love. With the help of google translate, we communicated what we had to and the rest was understood with our expressions and sign language. Some helped us with the route, some gave us food, and some just wanted to have a conversation with us about our purpose.” says Harish.
A few weeks into the journey when the four were in Slovenia they met a Russian family of three. Apart from offering them timely help with the route, the family insisted they contact them when they reached Moscow.
Rohit says, “We did as they requested, and to our surprise, we were invited to their home for a meal.
The mother, who was 65 years old, cooked us an amazing meal and even shared fresh produce from their garden which included cucumbers and berries. We did not know these people, but they treated us like family.”
Incidents that restored their faith in humanity
Being on the road for more than two months made the four learn a lot about themselves. It taught them how to be patient and to view the world as one because they received unconditional love from people everywhere.
At the Russia-Kazakhstan border, when their car faced issues, the four did not know how to reach the nearest repair shop, the same family helped them over the phone and connected them with a mechanic who helped them get back on the road.
Another heartwarming incident the four would never forget was from Troitsk, the border of Russia into Kazakhstan.
“In a small cafe where we stopped for coffee, there was a waitress who could not understand us. Though we managed to place an order by pointing out what we needed on the menu, she was still curious about what we were doing and who we were. After seeing our car parked outside, and noticing the campaign sticker, she immediately visited our website, understood our purpose, and donated around $100. We were so touched by her motive, it did not seem like she would earn too much money from working at that cafe, yet she wanted to help someone in need,” says Harish.
This incident not only restored faith in humanity but also helped the four understand that people are willing to be kind no matter where they were.
A few days later when they were driving on a highway in Kazakhstan, they were being followed by one car who was trying to get their attention. Initially, they were cautious about stopping for him but received a message on their social media page – London-To-Bangalore – from the person who was following them.
“He was a localite who got curious after seeing our car and wanted to have coffee with us to know more. We agreed, followed him to the nearest cafe where he treated us to coffee, food, and warm conversations. This incident made us more trusting towards others,” says Bharath.
They also met a Chinese family who helped them fix a flat tyre and visited a family-run convenience store in a remote town in China that offered them free drinks and ice cream.
“The people here were not aware of how Indians looked. They were so excited to see us, the children looked at us in awe, and they were so loving towards us – strangers,” says Brahmesh.
When they finally crossed a small bridge from Myanmar into India, they saw vendors selling Chai and hot samosas, immediately the four felt a rush of familiarity and jumped in joy.
“The feeling was indescribable. Our entire journey was successful with help from strangers who were genuine and supportive. What we realised that day was all of us enter this Earth as kind and loving souls but it is the education, political system, religion, and caste that influences hate,” says Bharath.
Having completed 25,000 km in 78 days, their trip ended at Toit, a popular restaurant in Bengaluru where their families and friends were waiting for them to throw a welcome home party.
Sheethal says, “As their car drove in, all of us started cheering for them and I was ecstatic that they had made it home safely.”