Monday, July 20, 2015

The Road Beckons....

Thomas Chacko, a retired senior company executive, is embarking on a 30,000 km trip, through 40 countries, in his Elite i20 car. Earlier, he had completed an all-India trip in a Nano car

By Shevlin Sebastian

Photos: Thomas Chacko at the Cochin Port just before shipping his car to Istanbul; a giant redwood tree in Califronia 

Every morning, Thomas Chacko, 65, heads for the fitness centre at the Yacht Club in Kochi. He runs one-and-a-half kms on the treadmill, about three km on an eliptical trainer and does a stint at the rowing machine. This is followed by exercise on a stationary cycle, lifting of weights and body twists. Thomas ends the 45-minute session by hooking his feet to a stirrup and pulling himself up a few times.

Thomas has a need to be fit. Within a few days, he is embarking on a tour of 40 countries in Europe, USA, Singapore, Malaysia, Laos and Vietnam. “I wanted to do a tour of all six continents, but, because of a paucity of funds, I am confining myself to three,” he says, with a trace of regret in his voice. His mode of transport: the Hyundai Elite i20.

In fact, some days ago, Thomas had the car shipped to Istanbul. He will be driving from the Turkish capital towards Europe. Some of the countries he will be passing through, include Greece, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland, and Monaco. Thereafter, the car will be shipped from Rotterdam to New York.

In the US, Thomas will be travelling from the east to the west coast. “I am planning to visit the Grand Canyon as well as the giant redwood forests in California,” says Thomas. “In fact, there is a forest near San Francisco, where you can drive through some of the trees because they are so massive. I want to capture some video footage.” The total distance that will be covered is 30,000 kms spread over five months.

Even as he is driving through several countries, Thomas has to keep track of the different traffic rules. “In Germany, the headlights have to be switched on at all times,” he says. “In France, you have to keep reflective jackets inside the car. So, if there is a puncture, you have to wear the jacket before stepping out.”

But it is unlikely that Thomas will step out unless there is an emergency. One reason is that these modern cars have superb ergonomically designed seats. “You get good lumbar support,” says Thomas. “These seats are made for people to sit in them for long hours.”

Another reason is that Thomas loves driving. “I am most relaxed when I am behind the wheel of a car,” he says.

According to his pre-planned schedule, Thomas will set out every day at 6 a.m. He will travel non-stop till 2 p.m. Thereafter, he will to do some sightseeing. And since he has signed a deal with a travel web site, which has 15 lakh followers, Thomas will be filing a 400 word report every day, of the places he has seen, along with photos and video clips.

In most of the places, he will be staying at bed and breakfast hotels. “The standard is high, because it is in Europe,” says Thomas. “I have selected places where I can park the car.” The tariff is around Rs 5000 a day.

On different sections, Thomas will be accompanied by his wife Geetha, a school teacher, son Rahul, nephew Ashley Koshie, and his younger brother, Abraham Chacko, former Executive Director of the Federal Bank.

Incidentally, this is Thomas' second trip. He hit the headlines in July, 2012, when he completed a 26,500-km journey in a Nano car to all the state capitals, as well as the Union Territories. He also travelled through more than a hundred towns and cities, as well as the Khardung La, which, at 18,380 ft, is the highest motorable road in the world.

All this is a far cry from his former career as a company secretary and interim chief executive of Harrisons Malayalam Limited. Apart from that, he is a stellar author.

He has published a novel called 'Without a City Wall'. It is a first-person story of a young Englishman, James Badby and describes incidents in England, Malta, Flanders, Florence, Venice, Maldives, Malabar, Cochin, and the fabled capital of the Vijayanagar Empire during the 16th century.

Thomas has also co-authored and published a 200-page coffee-table book, 'Forest Gold - The story of South Indian Tea'. In 2013, Thomas had written a book on his Nano trip called 'Atop the World'.

Thomas also has his own publishing company, Panthera Imprint Pvt Ltd. ( ), for which he has ghost-written and edited books.

A frank Thomas says that he has had a busier life after retirement. “You must live life in a way that there is something to look forward to, the next day,” he says. “I don't want to be a couch potato. Otherwise, you will age before your time. My trip is a message to other retired persons that age is all in the mind. You are as old as you want to be.”

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)

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