How A Tea-Seller From Kerala Travelled The World With His Wife

Mohana & Vijayan
Mohana & VijayanFacebook

You can’t go to Kashi after all the chores of your life are done. Or you can’t wait for the River Ganges to dry up to cross it. No matter how much you try, you cannot stop the waves of the sea. They will keep coming one after the other. Both are impossible. The only possible thing is to just go and reach the other side. We have to reach the other side. That should be the only motive. That’s how I travel.

When he was a child, he would steal food grains from his kitchen, sell it and run away to see new places. Today, he takes banks loans to travel and then works relentlessly upon his return to pay it back. Meet 66-year-old KR Vijayan, a tea seller for the last 40 years in Kochi, who has managed to tour India extensively as well as 16 other countries with his wife. His tea stall has been the couple’s only source of income, but that has never stopped him from doing what he really wants to. Vijayan finds his strength in his wife and travel partner, Mohana, who before their married life had not even stepped out of Ernakulam. Together, they have gone to Madras, Delhi, Kanyakumari, Haridwar, Bangalore, Egypt, Jordan, London, Paris, Switzerland, Venice, Singapore and Malaysia, to name a few places on this globetrotting couples list.

“I want to see the world. This is my desire, my only desire. Everyone makes fun of me. You are crazy, they say. Yes, I am crazy. Everybody has his own craziness,” says Vijayan in Invisible Wings, a short documentary directed by Hari Mohanan that beautifully captures the tea-seller’s journey and philosophy.

Image Source: Invisible Wings

Mohanan had read about Vijayan in the newspapers but wasn’t truly inspired by their journey until he met him in person, in 2013. He asked him about the next destination and was amazed at the answer he received. Mohanan tells Homegrown, “Vijayan said we will go to Argentina in 2020. A 65-year-old man making a tea in a small tea shop saying this to me. And by 2020 he will be 72. This answer shook me. This was the initial trigger for making the film.” He spent three months with the couple understanding their lifestyle and hearing their stories before he started making the film. He realised that whatever media reports had said about them so far was only just a small peek into their lives. “Vijayan and Mohana’s story is not just about their travel. People should know and understand their philosophy, belief and the way they see life. Their story can inspire everyone to dare to dream. Ultimately they all can find their Invisible Wings,” he says.

The film not only captures the life and travels of Vijayan and Mohana through breathtaking visuals but also creates a strong emotional grip through Vijayan’s powerful narration. The camera also pans over many of his souvenirs collected from different foreign lands. “His strategy for saving and spending money is fairly simple. They save INR 300 a day for their tickets and try restricting themselves to 10 dollars or less on picking up some tiny souvenirs from the places they visit,” reports Business Insider. They refrain from spending anywhere else.

The couple continues to fuel their wanderlust and are already planning their next dream destination, the United States, for which they are having trouble getting a loan given their age, but Vijayan is certain something will pull through.

He explains how he is often made fun of and asked about what he has gained. Vijayan narrates, “They say had I invested this money in land or property, it would have been beneficial for my future. All the places that I have been to, and seen and all the knowledge I have gained is my possession. I will take them on with me when I pass on. Those are the feelings I cherish. You would not understand, nor can I explain them to you. We should travel with a free mind. That is when life gets fulfilled.”

Watch the film here, and get inspired by the tea-seller who found his wings to travel the world.

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