Coinciding with 70 years of Independence from British rule, Olie Hunter Smart is currently chasing Gandhi’s shadow and walking the length of India, over 4,000km exploring and learning about the people, the country and its 400-year relationship with Britain.
Adventure Uncovered recently caught up with Oli and how the journey is taking a different look at the India-UK story.
One of the purposes of walking India is investigating the cultural connection and how it has evolved since 1947, sharing the stories of Indian, British and Anglo-Indian elders who experienced British rule before these memories are lost forever, as well as seeking the opinions of young Indian, British and Anglo-Indian’s on their multi-cultural history.
Olie’s motivation behind the solo expedition is “to travel slowly through the country to really get to know it and its people; how they live and how history has shaped who they are today. This adventure seemed like an obvious choice with 2017 being a significant anniversary, plus by walking it I am paying tribute to Gandhi who played such an important role securing Independence”.
“At its height, the British Empire ruled over 20% of the global population, covering almost 25% of the earth’s land mass. But we don’t like to talk about our colonial past, particularly all the gory detail of how we ruled. We exclude it from our school curriculums, almost burying the past as generations pass. Colonialism is an incredibly important part of not only our history, but that of many nations, and it’s something they look back in many instances with appreciation and even fondness.”
Securing Independence wasn’t easy for India. ‘Father of the Nation’ Mahatma Gandhi fought for freedom for a vast part of his lifetime until it was ultimately granted in 1947. Olie wants to find out more about the British Raj and what impact Partition and Independence has had on the people throughout the whole country. He wants to hear real stories from those that experienced one of the most significant events of the 20th Century.
“I began my journey in Turtuk, a small village in the Nubra Valley in Ladakh that sits on the Line of Control, the disputed border with Pakistan. It’s a peaceful place today, largely because of the heavy military presence throughout the area, though it has seen some conflicts over the years as it transitioned from one nation to another. But how was this area impacted by Independence back in 1947? Sonam Safel, a guest house owner in Diskit with whom I stayed told me that it didn’t have a great deal of impact as the British didn’t really spend any time in the Ladakh region so when they left, the area continued to operate as it always had done.”