Inspired by Gandhian ideals, Brazilian pedals to see real India

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In January, Brazilian Silvio Da Silva Duarte who is enamoured of Gandhian thoughts was sitting on a beach when he got a brainwave and decided to search for "real India."

On Tuesday, Silvio (59) landed in Pune on bicycle. He has been on a solo bicycle tour covering 18 states and 10,622 kilometres in almost three months.

Silvio served the fire brigade in Joacaba city of Brazil as commanding sergeant for 20 years, after which he took up the job of a professor of history and philosophy.

"India is a unique destination for Brazilians, more so because of our interest in Gandhi and because of its diverse culture. I had never been to India and always wanted to feel its culture. I decided to do it on bicycle because I could get closer to people," said Silvio.

He researched on internet about roads, terrains, places to visit. Then he planned the route with his only Indian contact, Yohan Billimoria, whom he met when he visited Brazil.

"I decided to move through Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Orissa...," said Silvio.

The journey on his GTI Careera bicycle with 27 gears, disc brakes and air suspension began on June 27 from Navi Mumbai.

Three Brazilian companies including a radio station sponsored him. The radio station became his media partner relaying news of his travel. It uploaded photos and videos of his travel on a website created for the tour. He bore his food and lodging expenses.

There was a hiccup. He knows only Portuguese. "When you are alone, you find a way. It began with gestures and signs. Gradually, I picked up English salutations and words," he said.

Silvio said he found Indians more honest than his own countrymen. "There are several instances where shopkeepers ran after him to return his change of Rs 3 and Rs 4," he said.

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