#GoodNews: Kerala Tea Shop Couple’s Globe-Trot Hits 23 Countries
Kerala’s ‘tea-shop couple’ Vijayan and Mohana have ticked off 23 countries in less than 12 years.
Kerala’s ‘tea-shop couple’ Vijayan and Mohana have ticked off 23 countries in less than 12 years. (Photo Courtesy: The News Minute)

#GoodNews: Kerala Tea Shop Couple’s Globe-Trot Hits 23 Countries

Tell me if you want me to pawn your title deed and bring you the money, so you could travel too. Vijayan has found a simple solution for me to travel, just like him and his wife Mohana.

“Or else you could sell off the gold you wear. Why do you need gold – it is only good for your children to sell it off later,” he suggests.

He is 69, she is 67. By now the world knows their story as the couple who loves to travel with the savings from their humble tea shop in Kochi, and from loans taken. They have ticked off 23 countries in less than 12 years.

The two just got back from visiting Argentina, Peru and Brazil – a trip that had been a long-time dream.

The couple recently concluded a trip to Argentina, Peru and Brazil.
The couple recently concluded a trip to Argentina, Peru and Brazil.
(Photo Courtesy: The News Minute)
“Soman’s Tours said it’d cost Rs 8 lakh. When I said I didn’t have that much, they reduced the amount to Rs 5 lakh. I am still paying off the loans for the trip,” Vijayan says.

He is a favourite of travel agencies, they both are. The airlines like them too. Vijayan says they compete with each other to get the couple on board. This is no kind of boasting or exaggeration. Vijayan is a man who simply spells out things as they are, he doesn’t feel the need to be modest about it.

Twenty-seven-year-old Drew Binsky from the United States made a short video of their story when he was visiting Kochi. Vijayan is simply impressed by this young man who has covered 153 countries already and is going to visit 40 more to make it to the Guinness Book of Records. There is pride in his voice that comes from the mutual respect for a fellow traveller.

“He came to my tea shop, drank my tea and spoke of his travel. And he is only 27!” Vijayan and Mohana could not start so early. He tells me to calculate, 69 minus 12, so he was already in his 50s when he first began to travel.

“If you go for daily wage jobs and toil from 8 am to 5 pm, you get Rs 700 or 800, don’t you? I start at 5.30 am and go on till 7.30 pm, that’s over 12 hours. Shouldn’t I get at least a thousand rupees a day? Shouldn’t my wife get it? Shouldn’t my daughter and son-in-law who help us at the store get it,” Vijayan asks.

Of course, he should, and the Kochi folks in the neighbourhood would only be happy to give it to them. Even from far and across the world, people who hear their story want to make contributions to help them travel.

When Vijayan and Mohana wanted to visit America, celebrities, including Bollywood actors Amitabh Bachchan and Anupam Kher, had pooled in to raise Rs 3 lakh and send them off to New York. He still lists it as one of his favourites. Their two other favourite trips on the list are Switzerland and Paris.

“Because of the dancing and the snow, and because that was our honeymoon after our Sashtipoorthi Kalyanam,” he says, referring to a ceremony couples have when they turn 60, a wedding ceremony to celebrate the occasion.

“In our 20s when we got married, we couldn’t go anywhere. So we went in our 60s,” he says and asks Mohana to speak a few words.
The trip to New York was the couple’s favourite. 
The trip to New York was the couple’s favourite. 
(Photo Courtesy: The News Minute)

Mohana loved the rain in Peru, the waterfall in Argentina and the snow in Brazil. “Oh it is cold but we have our winter clothes. Sometimes the food won’t suit me. But I take chutney powder and pickles with me, so that works just fine,” Mohana says.

“You know how people love her smile? It is like Monalisa’s. That alone brings tips of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 from customers, those who just want to see her smile,” Vijayan says with a lot of love.

Recently, Chairman of Mahindra Group, Anand Mahindra, had tweeted that he wanted to fund their wedding anniversary and crowd-fund to make them travel somewhere they wished to go to.

“His man came around to the shop and asked for my appointment. They must’ve thought I was a big shot, asking for appointments! I said I am just a tea shop vendor. They asked if we’d like to go to Sweden. Why not, Sweden, Denmark and Norway – that’s the western end of the world, we could go there. Beyond that, we perhaps couldn’t, we are in that age, you know.” he says as if someone might have forgotten the little fact. And he is right.

With all the stories of their relentless travelling, and the way the couple is determined to travel, you forget that they are nearing their 70s.

It is mostly the two of them who go, but recently, they went to China with the whole family – two daughters, their husbands and three grandchildren.

“We went to the Forbidden City, to the Great Wall that we couldn’t climb, through the bullet train from Beijing to Shanghai, through a boating cruise and an aquarium under the sea,” he says almost poetically.

He doesn’t make long-term plans, he says, or decide what’s the next place to go to. “Nothing will happen if you make long-term plans. You just do it spontaneously. There would always be two tickets for me and her,” he says.

(This article was first published on The News Minute and has been republished with permission.)

(The Quint is now available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

Follow our Travel section for more stories.