In Kerala, the word ‘Sancharam’ now has a new connotation _ Santhosh George Kulangara. For years, Santhosh is Keralites’ window to the world; a man who shows them the nook and corner of the globe. Now he is gearing up for a tour to the outer space. A chat with the globe-trotter.
Q. Sitting with the 'yathra' man, it is better to ask how many times did you go around the world than to ask how many countries have you visited? Are there more places left to see?
I have been around the world 20 times yet there are a lot of places left to see in each of the countries already visited. I do my travelling slotting two to three days for every destination. This would make around eight episodes, it is important to keep the audience engaged.
My journeys, would normally be more time consuming than that of a routine traveller, more so because I have to collect maximum amount of information available from each place I have been to and code them into meaningful programmes for the audience.
I visit the same places again and again and each time there is something new, for example, New York, every time I go back, New York shows off a new facet of her’s to me. I don’t mean the tall buildings of modernity but the history of this country.
Q. Which are the places that attracted you the most during such trips? Where would you like to return to?
China and US are the two countries I visited the maximum number of times. Of this China has a history two times that of India's. A travel from the east to west of China, a country home to 60 tribes, will take you across surprising demographic varieties. The people at the one end where China meets Kazakhstan and the other where they border North Korea are anything but alike.
China has continued to surprise me with its overwhelming wealth of deep culture spanning back to times unimaginably far from today. The terracotta army of Xián may convince you this is the ultimate site of Chinese history while more journeys will make you wonder how many such sites of authentic and deep seated culture must be asleep in this land of mystery.
Q. How much data do you record in a day?
I record on a non-compressed format and that may run into something well around 40 GB for a single day.
The modern traveller is eager to capture his stories in his camera, you too travel with a camera. Are there journeys away and without a camera for company?
I mostly see the places I have visited when I at the editing table. As a traveller my aim is to recreate the experience of the journey for the viewer and that is what I strive for. A man who is driving cannot enjoy the countryside, same is my case.
I do go on journeys without my camera. Such trips are mostly official trips. But I should say my travel becomes complete only when I am travelling with my camera.
Q. What are your observations about the Indian and foreign travellers?
Indians mostly holiday with family or friends. Among these a good number go only for the purpose of getting high on alcohol. Foreigners at the same time may add research, cycling or historical explorations in their holiday plans.
Q. When can we expect you to go to space on a holiday?
The company which was running this ambitious project, Virgin Galactic, had to slow the process following an aircraft accident last year. The accident meant the entire process had to be redone from scratch including building a new aircraft.
Training programmes are being conducted three or four times a year, the recent one being at Necker Islands, the private island owned by the Chairman of the Virgin company. I haven't met another Indian at the training sessions, making it a possibility that I am the sole space tourist from India. The 30-member team includes several big names from the international scenario.
Q. How would you respond to the trolls on the internet? You have actually landed with the PM on some of those?
Friends do convey when an interesting troll is doing the rounds, but I should say I am happy that I become a supporting medium for someone’s creative thought. And after all despite all the mixed effects of social media, no one really choses a name for no reason.
(Translated by Jyothisha V J)