KOCHI: After many years of hard work, people tend to look forward to retirement. They want to spend their remaining years relaxing. But for Fr Prasant Palakkappillil, a Catholic priest who retired as the principal of Sacred Heart College, Thevara, relaxation is the last thing on his mind, even after 24 years of teaching. Instead, he decided to take the adventurous route out — starting a 22,000 km solo journey across the country on a bike, to discover trust, greenery and peace.
“I did discover trust among my countrymen,” said Fr Prasant, who started his trip on August 10 from the college. “Wherever I went, people greeted me with great enthusiasm,” he said. However, Fr Prasant was saddened by the waste management problem weighing down the country. “Plastic waste marred the scenic beauty of the landscape,” he said.
Fr Prasant, 57, completed the tour on his trusted 13-year-old bike in four months and returned to his dear college on Friday. According to him, each day was a different experience. He covered all states and Union Territories except Mizoram and Jharkhand.
He said the journey was not to prove that he is fearless. “I wanted to learn more about my country and enjoy my retirement,” said the priest. “Apart from the waste problem, the plight of our farmers also troubled me. They are the backbone of our country, but I watched their backs being broken by debts and unfriendly policies,” he said.
While passing through Odisha, he met with an accident. “I was riding on the highway and fell asleep. The bike lost balance and fell on me. But I didn’t suffer any major injuries,” he added. The state of roads in Bihar and other north-eastern states was saddening, he says. “I must say, from what I have seen, Kerala is much ahead in those parameters compared to other states. The strife and unrest in Kashmir and the poverty in Bihar pained me. I got to see hutments in Bihar!,” beamed the principal.
On some days, he used to cover 200 km. On other days, it would go up to 400 km. He stayed in Catholic churches or houses of former students or relatives. “Food wasn’t a problem for me since I am used to having one meal daily,” said Fr Prasant, who was given a rousing welcome by his former students on the college campus upon his return. The priest is planning another trip soon if all goes well.