At 16, Vishnu got bored idling at home after his plus one examinations and off he went on a trip with just Rs 2000 and a bag. He returned home after 46 days after travelling across 22 states.
"Where were you all these days?" Prithviraj's character famously asked Thilakan's character in the film 'Indian rupee.' Many people asked Vishnu the same question. With a Thilakan-style smile, Vishnu replied "I went on a solo tour since it was school vacation." Vishnu's Instagram photos smiled at the people who thought he had gone touring nearby attractions at Munnar or Wayanad.
He toured the 22 states mostly hitch-hiking and on many occasions accepting travel tickets from friends acquired during the tour.
Money doesn't count, desires do
Vishnu, a plus two student of Vivekodayam Higher Secondary Boys' School, is the son of Ranjan and Shafina of Chenthrappini Parambu, Thriprayar. The travel bug caught on Vishnu after he had ganged up with friends on bicycle trips when he was 15.
After that he started travelling alone. He safely toured Bangalore and Goa. A friend informed him of a Himalaya tour. So he went alone to Manali, managing to somehow convince his parents.
The idea of making a pan-India tour germinated while thinking of the ways to while away the time after the plus one examinations. Vishnu decided to follow the example of solo travellers who went around without much money in hand. He set off from home on 25th April with just Rs 2000/-, a bag and a phone. The first lap was the journey from Thrissur to Madurai in a train.
Getting canned, losing money
He carried those 2000 rupees just to help himself out in case he got stranded somewhere. A couple of days were spent in Madurai and Rameshwaram. He got caned by police-for the first time in his life-while sleeping on the platform at Rameshwaram railway station. He was asked to vacate the platform. When he got caned a second time, he ran away with his bag. He tried to get a ride on a truck to Andhra Pradesh from the market area of Madurai. After a couple of failed attempts, he got a 'lift' in one of them which was heading to Amaravathi. The truck staff bought Vishnu dosas when they realized that he was a penniless youngster with a crazy idea of touring India.
From Amaravathi, he did not get a direct transport to Hyderabad. So he hitched rides on bikes, trucks, and cars to get there. The target after that was Chhattisgarh.
Waylaid and robbed
The journey to Chhattisgarh was on a truck via Secunderabad. The truck-staff left him behind in the forest area around the Telangana-Chhattisgarh border at the middle of the night. He later realized that the area was notorious for a horde of transgender people with criminal backgrounds.
His worst fears came true and he was rounded up by a transgender gang. They frisked him and took the phone and the money from his purse. A younger member of the gang enquired how Vishnu had ended up there. They returned the phone when they were told that he was a cashless guy on an Indian tour. They offered to take him to Raipur where they were going. Left with no other choice, he went with them.
No water, no friends
From Raipur in Chhattisgarh, the next lap of the journey was to Odisha. Mustering the money he was left with, he took a train ticket to Odisha. It was a day without proper food and water. He survived on biscuits and water. Nobody was friendly. The train was full of people who smoked ganja openly and some others who picked up bloody fights. There were even people who got fascinated by the smart watch he was wearing because they had not seen anything like that before.
A truck-ride was the only recourse for travelling to West Bengal from Odisha. He got a ride in a truck which was carrying industrial waste. He was given food by the truck-staff.
He somehow reached Jharkhand from West Bengal. After a night's rest, he got a container truck going to Siliguri. Due to fatigue and hunger, he slept senselessly. When he woke up, he came to know that instead of Siliguri, he had reached some place in Bihar. That meant he was travelling in the opposite direction. He frantically waved at the vehicles on the national highway to get out of the tangle. A tourist bus stopped for him. It had college students heading to Siliguri. He accompanied them in their bus.
Two and a half hours atop a jeep
For travelling from Siliguri to Gangtok in Sikkim, an old acquaintance from Thrissur came to help. It was a migrant labourer from Gangtok working in Thrissur. He got a seat for Vishnu atop a share-taxi. He travelled for two hours on top of the vehicle. From there to the India-China border, Vishnu got a seat in another tourist bus in exchange of his offer to be the photographer of the college students travelling in it to Siliguri.
Thereafter, he introduced himself to a foreigner on the wayside. He was an American who had set forth on an Indian expedition inspired by the visuals of Indian places he had seen in some English film. Somewhat astounded by a penniless teenager on an Indian tour, the American bought Vishnu a train ticket to Assam in an AC compartment.
By this time, Vishnu's Instagram posts had become quite popular. Some of the Instagram followers there arranged for his travel from there to Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura.
Varanasi was the destination after that. One of the followers, impressed by Vishnu's passion, booked a flight ticket for him.
With the Aghoris
While in Varanasi, he spent some time with the Aghoris.
From there, his journeys to Madhya Pradesh and thence to Jaipur were on trucks.
He undertook some miscellaneous jobs for a hostel for two days for getting a place to rest and for food. While in Jaipur, he came across a Thalassery native who was on a bike tour. Vishnu went around in Rajasthan with him for four days. He also helped Vishnu with a train ticket to Gujarat.
There he met a Gujarati friend who had travelled with him the previous year on the Himalayan tour. Four days were spent with him. He also bought him a ticket to Pune. There too, old friends helped. They contributed for his journey to Mangalore.
Vishnu went to a friend from Thrissur who was in Mangalore for his studies. He gave Vishnu a place to stay. There Vishnu slept off all the accumulated fatigue of his journey. He had Pizza bought from the Rs 1500 he had earned working for the hostel. Thereafter he headed back to Thrissur.
On the 46th day, he was back in Thrissur. To those who asked him if he was not enervated, he replied "I am enervated only by the fact that I could not visit Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Perhaps I will visit these places next time."
Vishnu suffered sun-stroke and hands sustained burn injury. He had stomach pain after surviving for two days only on water.
When he left, he was 76 kg. When he returned, he was 72kg.
Sikkim. He felt as though he was in China.
Chhattisgarh. He can remember only starvation and misery.
What he carried in his bag
2 pairs of jeans, 2 pairs of trousers, 4 T-shirts, 1 jacket and a sleeping bag.