The Global Desi, published by Pan Macmillan and written by Sandeep Bhutoria, author and art collector focuses on three topics very close to his heart food travel, literature, and social issues. Among several titles, his first book in English, The Safari, centres around wildlife preservation and tiger protection in India, while his first book in Hindi is a travelogue titled Aap Biti Jag Biti.
Through the Prabha Khaitan Foundation, he helps carry out various cultural activities with the aim of preserving and promoting India’s rich cultural heritage. Additionally, he is a social activist working in the field of welfare, international cultural cooperation, and the promotion and preservation of Indian arts. Excerpts from an interview:
What initially drew you towards exploring diverse cultures?
I have always had a penchant for travelling since my childhood and exploring new diverse cultures often provide the most worthwhile travel. I love discovering new cultures and interacting with different kinds of people and it also widens your perspective. These experiences and interactions have led me to write columns for different newspapers and my own blogs for over a decade,
Could you share some interesting anecdotes about your travels across the world?
The most abiding memory was from my maiden visit to Incheon, South Korea where I nearly starved.This was many years back, just before it became a destination for international conventions. Being a vegetarian, options are often quite limited in foreign shores, but in Incheon, it seemed as though the very concept of vegetarian food did not exist at that time. I survived on Korean rice and tomato puree for the entire duration of my stay. Another one is the chilling account of 9/11. I was there in New York on that ill-fated day and had watched in horror from my room as the planes flew into the twin towers. In fact, a day earlier, I had planned a visit to the North Tower in the morning with a few of my friends and UN officials, but postponed my plans when I got a call from the Indian Mission requesting I visit them. That was when I not only thanked God, but actually felt I had lived to tell the tale owing to divine intervention.
As a globetrotter could you comment on the future of travel, given the pandemic?
I travel a lot, almost on a weekly basis and I don’t remember having stayed in one place for such a long period. Though the world is starting to get back on its feet and things are slowly returning to normal, it will never be the same. There is so much uncertainty and so many protocols to follow especially for International travel. The second wave has hit us badly, and we are recovering only now, whether it will stay this way or we’ll experience another slump, no one knows. Travel restrictions will continue to shape in the months to come, airlines have gone into major losses, hotels cannot give you the same service anymore, but now that vaccination is out hopefully we will get there.
Could you give some suggestions on preserving our culture and heritage?
The younger generation must grasp the value and need for cultural and heritage preservation. While I always believe in the principle of being a global citizen, we also must learn ‘Apni Bhasha Apne Log’ My various organisations carry out various cultural activities with the aim of promoting India’s heritage. We work with folk artists across India and take these events overseas to showcase the essence of India. We also started a project which aims to popularize heritage among children nationwide by weaving it into formal and informal education through student activity.
Are you working on a new book?
I have a new book I am working on at the moment which is on my enriching experience during my visit to Oslo, Norway.