Guwahati: At a session on “The Art of Storytelling and Walking” in Royal Global University on Tuesday, two times Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Paul Salopek said, “Walking tears down the wall, walking bursts the bubble.” The 57-year-old journalist is on an extraordinary journey of almost 35,000 km on foot, since 2013.
Started from the historical site where the world’s oldest human fossil was found in Ethiopia, Salopek’s brainchild, ‘Out of Eden Walk’ is retracing the paths our ancestors took. In his experiment with slow journalism, he is collecting stories of varied issues — from climate change to technological innovation, and mass migration to cultural survival — Salopek is giving voice to the people who inhabit them every day.
Regarding why he choose to travel on foot and not by car or a cycle, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist said, when we walk, we are “switched on”. We are constantly interacting either with the nature or the people around, which helps in finding the surprise element otherwise could have been missed, he said, adding that, “Body movement is intrinsic to storytelling”.
Salopek reached India last year, and treaded into Northeast couple of weeks back with his India walking partner and prominent journalist Priyanka Borpujari. Having covered the region on foot, the duo spoke about their journey so far and the unexpected yet everyday elements which we miss out on.
Borpujari, in a presentation called ‘The Sweat We Buy’ brought to light the everyday people, including house helps, delivery boys, conservancy workers and other, who enable us to live our lives the way we do.
The duo, recalled niceties and apprehensions they faced during their walk so far. Saying that very recently, they were denied a space for halt in a temple, but were sheltered in a madrassa, and served an appetizing meal.
Out of Eden Walk is symbolic as Salopek’s this voyage across the globe imitates the migration our ancestors underwent to discover the world.
Initially speculated to be a completed by 2020, it is now likely that the transcontinental odyssey will take another four to five years. Salopek said, a grand party with all his walk partners from across the world, followed by an emblematic final trip to the last shore line discovered by our ancestors would probably be the best way to put an end to this remarkable journey.
The journalist has already travelled across Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, Turkey, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan. Currently in India, he will reach the borders of Myanmar by the end of the month.
Born in Barstow, California, Paul was raised in central Mexico. A scientist by qualification, journalism happened to the aspiring field biologist by chance. In 1985 when his motorcycle broke in Roswell, New Mexico and he took a police-reporting job at the local newspaper to earn repair money, and since then, there has been no looking back. He has reported globally for the Chicago Tribune, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, National Geographic Magazine and many other publications.
He won the Pulitzer in 1998 for Explanatory Reporting for two articles profiling the Human Genome Diversity Project and again in 2001, for International Reporting for work covering Africa.