A group of bikers from Kerala has apologised to Bhutan for the thoughtless behaviour of another tourist who had climbed atop a sacred structure in the country.
Vishnu Sathya and his friends were then in north Sikkim, in the middle of their biking trip that began from Kerala some days ago. There were six of them when they started, three more bikers from Kannur joined them in Sikkim. They were all heading to Bhutan when they heard the news of an Indian tourist causing some trouble there. The tourist â another biker â had climbed atop a sacred structure in Dochula, causing offence to the Bhutanese. He was taken in for questioning by the Royal Bhutan Police and later released.
The Dochula Pass has 108 memorial chortens (stupas) built in honour of the Bhutanese soldiers who were killed in the December 2003 battle against Assamese insurgents form India. It appears that the insensitive tourist had climbed one of the stupas and posed for a photo.
This bit of news worried Vishnu and his eight biker friends. âWe felt that we would not be welcome there. We were also bikers, after all. And after that incident, they brought in some restrictions. We couldnât get our permits individually. We had to get it through a travel agency. We also had to have a local guide with us,â Vishnu says.
They wanted it to be immediately known that they were up to no trouble, that they would not be disrespectful to another countryâs culture.
âOur plan was to stick the words âSorry, Bhutanâ on our bikes. But the Bhutanese people were so nice we didnât need to do that. They were trying to tell us indirectly about what happened and why they were worried, and we assured them that there was nothing to worry. The people were more sad than angry. And we wanted to show them we respect their sacred structures. So at a Buddha point in Thimphu (not the same one that the other tourist had climbed), we stood with placards saying, âSorry, Bhutanâ. This made the local people there very happy. We got a lot of appreciation, from the police, from a Bhutanese paper, and soon the news spread wide,â Vishnu says.
One of the placards they held out read: âYou are our neighbour. We are a friendly country. And it is our duty and responsibility to respect your heritage and faith and keep it from being tainted. Sorry Bhutan.â
One of their friends back home in Kerala â Pranav Vishwanath â put the news on a few traveller groups, and the Bhutanese present in one of the groups appreciated the gesture very much, Vishnu says. âIt is for them, the message. We are telling them to not generalise that all tourists would be so discourteous,â he adds.
The bikers from Kerala who went with the peace message are Vishnu, Sumith Mohanan, Umesh Amballur, Jithin Xavier, Vaishak NV, Anup Sundaresan, Ashley Jose, Midhun Manohar and Melvin Nerona. They are all professionals â a designer, a businessman, a tax consultant and so on â and frequent travellers. They are on the next leg of their trip in North East India.