This Parisian is going on a peace walk from Mumbai to Kathmandu with a rescued sheep
On September 21, the International Day of Peace, Mumbai-based French expat Mathieu Francois will kickstart his 2,500 km peace walk to Kathmandu. His travel companions are an ewe that he rescued from a slaughterhouse and a toy sheep named Beluga.art and culture Updated: Sep 13, 2017 15:43 IST
A year ago, Mumbai-based Parisian Mathieu François (29) rescued an ewe (whose name he says he will reveal later) from a slaughterhouse in Deonar, Mumbai. He is now taking her on 2,500km road trip from Mumbai to Nepal where “she can live a peaceful life”. Interestingly, the journey will be a peace walk — titled The Shanti Walk — completed over a span of six months. The aim, he says, is to draw awareness about peace (it starts on the International Day of Peace, September 21) and animal rights.
“This walk is about a man and his sheep who have decided to walk across India and Nepal in search of shanti (peace). Can you imagine the destiny of this sheep that I am saving? Instead of certain death, she may enjoy the funniest and most incredible journey of her life. Can you also imagine the destiny of this French man who never thought he would find himself as a shepherd?” laughs Francois.
Last month, in the Sundarbans, Beluga and I took a little ferry down the Birdyadhari river and had the chance to meet someone special. A very warm and 'sunder' (beautiful) lady who has been the cook on board for 16 years. She tells us that her blend of masalas is the most famous in the mangroves. So here she is - Amrita Didi - a flavour of India... . . . #portrait #india
François (29) moved to India in 2013 as a corporate strategy associate for Saint-Gobain. A year later, he quit and started a non-profit called Art Culture Education to nurture children’s creativity and teach them photography. He is currently employed with a travel agency as a strategic advisor and start-up investor.
Francois is better known for his Instagram account which features images of another travelling sheep (albeit a toy) named Beluga. “It was given to me by a little girl who asked me to travel the world with her sheep,” he says. Francois and Beluga have been travelling for the last five years and have covered 15 countries till date. He also uses Beluga as a mascot and an educational tool.
The Shanti Walk is inspired by the journey undertaken by Francois’ father, Emile, who passed away earlier this year. “It was a devastating experience,” says Francois.
In 1971, Emile was a 31-year-old when he traversed across India and Nepal. “He used to tell me stories about Ellora, Sanchi, Khajuraho and Varanasi... sites that he visited. I have to see what he saw, hear what he heard, and feel what he felt,” says Francois.
The Shanti Walk will start from the caves of Elephanta (a mile away from the Arabian sea) and then traverse Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, before crossing over the border to reach Kathmandu via Annapurna. “It seems to me a respectful tribute to the most inspiring father I could have ever dreamt of,” says Francois.
On his journey, Francois is taking Beluga along as well. “Last month, I had the honour to meet and discuss with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama in Ladakh. I came for his blessings and left with the certainty that I was doing the right thing. I have a conviction that dogs, cats, goats, cows, tigers and rats are equal in rights to me. They all deserve to live and do not deserve to suffer.” Fun fact: Beluga has also been blessed by the Dalai Lama.
Francois aims to eventually make a movie and write a book on his momentous journey. While the journey is self-funded, he is looking for people to advise him on places to discover along the way, homes where he can stay for the night, as well as photographers/videographers who would want to join him on this journey.
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First Published: Sep 13, 2017 15:30 IST