Jonathan Legg on travelling through India for Road Less Travelled to meet witches and polyandrous tribes
When traveller and TV show host Jonathan Legg decided to come to India to film his show Road Less Travelled, it was entirely out of curiosity. “Many travellers I’d met in other countries told me that India was a life-changing destination, but not an easy place, and there would be challenges. It was all true, but we knew as a team that no other destination would provide as many stories as India. For a new production looking for gripping content this was the most enticing destination, to begin with,” begins the 40-something American, who has in the past worked in Hollywood as actor and writer on films like Godzilla: Final Wars (2004), Siren: Blood Curse (2008) and Vanished (2013).
Off the beaten path
The show, a 13-episode series, has everything from Legg discovering the ancient Om Banna temple in Rajasthan to meeting Shillong’s matrilineal tribe and studying their ways. “It was our show’s executive producer Sashi De, who is originally from Kolkata, who came up with the idea of exploring India. My experiences have been so different here. I found a witch living in the middle of a leopard infested jungle. After the cameras went away, she brought us into her black magic room. There were things in there that had strange energy. I’m not a superstitious guy, but it left an impression. Deeper into Arunachal Pradesh I met polyandrous tribes which were something new to me. These experiences have all helped me come to the belief that the relationships we think are normal are a result of societal conditioning.”
All these collective experiences only reaffirmed his belief that India takes the cake when it comes to spiritual dedication. “India is one of the few places on the globe where you can meet people who gave up literally every material possession to walk a transcendental path,” he avers. But the journey was by no means easy. “In terms of the show, there were things that did not go to plan. For instance, we were looking for an Aghori baba to film, but none of them wanted to be on camera. Finding content in these cases was tough. But we got a lot of other experiences that we were able to document,” he says. Furthermore, he adds, “The biggest limiting belief of aspiring travellers is that the world is a hostile place. There will be danger. They won't be able to figure things out. They will be helpless out of their element. You realize after a couple weeks on the road that this is completely irrational. You will figure things out. You are quite capable of surviving inside organised society. Most people are good at heart — they want to help you and connect with you. And India is a great place to learn these lessons.”
When he is not filming or surfing in California’s sunny beaches with friends, Legg likes to document his experiences on his blog. That apart, he is currently working on a few travel shows online. “I’m also curating a festival in an old Roman ruin in Serbia, which I cannot talk about much because it is a surprise,” informs us.
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