Cyclist from India pedals peace at local stop on world tour

Published 1:15 am Wednesday, February 7, 2018

by Sabrina Simms

NATCHEZ — Cathedral middle school and high school students witnessed Tuesday the simplistic lifestyle of a world traveler who has little to no money and relies wholly on the generosity of others.

Students heard a presentation from Nitin Sonawane, a 26-year-old man from India who is traveling the world on a bicycle on a world peace tour in honor of what would be the 150th birthday of the late Indian civil activist Mahatma Gandhi.

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Sonawane said he came to Natchez from Jackson on the Natchez Trace Parkway, where he pitched a tent on the side of the road for a place to sleep.Sonawane began his tour two years ago in India.  From there he traveled to China, Thailand, Cambodia and Japan. He took a boat from Japan to San Francisco and took a bus from there to New York. Now he rides a bicycle from city to city.

“I start every morning early and then I ride 40 to 50 miles a day,” Sonawane said. “And then I stop someplace and ask people ‘Can I put my tent in front of your house?’ After four or five tries I get someone who will offer me a stay, and after five minutes talking, they invite me to their home.”

Sonawane said he is making the journey around the world with few funds. Sonawane said he stays with people to understand their culture and their speech. Occasionally, he said he stays in churches.

Cathedral junior Colby Passman said Sonawane’s testimony proves no limits exist to what a person can achieve.

“There isn’t a limitation to what you can do. I love riding bikes, too,” Passman said. “Seeing this and the sacrifices he’s made proves that anything is possible.”

Sonawane said his message to the world is how people can practice non-violence and reach world peace.

“Through non-violence we can bring justice and equality. social equality, political equality, economy equality, and society equality,” Sonawayne said.

He said for 5,000 years India lived under a caste system, in which society was broken into Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Shudra and Dalits, the untouchable social classes, with the Brahmin being the highest class of priests and scholars.

Sonawane was a member of the untouchables, who were not allowed to attend high school or gain any higher education.

“We don’t have the right to education, we don’t have the right to earn money, we don’t have any rights … we just have enough for survival. That’s it,” Sonawayne said.

He was the first in his family to finish high school and attended college through a recent reservation act and worked as a telecommunications engineer.

After six months, Sonawane said he left this career in search of something more and joined a Gandhian organization whose end goal is to change the caste system. Then he decided to travel the world, spreading Gandhian teachings as he went.

Sonawane said he will continue traveling through Texas to Mexico. He will end his tour in Pakistan next year, in time for Gandhi’s birthday on Oct. 2.

He said that no one has reacted violently to him over the last two years, and his interactions with the people on his journey depict the peace that most of humanity desires.