Long working hours and no savings may come in way of our dream to travel across the world. But none of these could stop this 69-year-old tea seller and his wife from Kerala, who have visited over 23 countries including France, Egypt and Singapore.
Vijayan, 69, and his wife Mohana have been running Shree Balaji tea stall in Kochi for the last three decades. The tea stall has been their only source of income with which they fund their dreams.
Their day starts even before the dawn. The couple has not hired any help from outside and run the stall with some of their family members.
“The tea here is amazing. They also serve snacks at affordable rates.Walking into the tea stall one finds a world map hanging on the wall besides from clocks from various countries,” says Rohit Menon, a resident of Kochi and a frequent visitor to the stall, which sees a footfall of over 300 people a day.
Their small kiosk is decorated with the souvenirs they collect during these visits.
Vijayan’s father was also a tea seller. His dream to tour the world was sown since his childhood days.
“I visited Kanyakumari and Sabarimala temple with my father when I was a child. I loved travelling since then.” he says
Vijayan spent his childhood in Cherthala, a small town in Alappuzha.
“My dream at that time was to visit Ernakulam.” And when he arrived at Ernakulam, he was awestruck by the beauty of the town. That was the first of many tours to follow that would cross the boundaries of nation and continent.
And Mohana who married Vijayan 45 years ago, has been a steadfast companion.
“She has always been supportive and has been the source of my energy.”
Mohana had not even stepped out of Ernakulam before their marriage. She says some people complain that they have not been able to visit due to financial constraints. “Either you can hold on to money or follow your dreams, we chose the latter”, she says.
Among all the places they have visited, Mohana loved Paris the most, while Vijayan’s favourite is Switzerland.
As the name of their tea stall suggests, both of them are huge devotees of Lord Balaji and have visited the Tirupati temple in Andhra Pradesh over 170 times.
The couple’s life of travels has been made into a documentary titled “The Invisible Wings”, directed by Hari M Mohanan, which won Filmfare Award for Best Short Film Non-Fiction in 2018.
Recently, famous travel-blogger Drew Binsky also flew down to Kochi to cover their inspiring story. The couple’s last such tour was in 2018 to Brazil and Argentina. Age has not taken a toll on their passion for travelling but Mohana says that they have to repay some of the loans before their next trip. “Some people have even offered to sponsor our trip,” she says.
So which is the next destination?
“Scandinavian countries,” says Vijayan .