The Matrix, adventure & charity
name is Alexander Souri. But that could have been anything else, yet he would
have remained a charming moiety of a conversation. When he talks India, he walks
past the Taj Mahal, excludes the Royal Train and counts out the Himalayas. Instead,
he looks at the sand dunes of the Thar desert and offers an experience of a lifetime.
His name is Alexander
Souri. But that could have been anything else, yet he would have remained a charming
moiety of a conversation. When he talks India, he walks past the Taj Mahal, excludes
the Royal Train and counts out the Himalayas. Instead, he looks at the sand dunes
of the Thar desert and offers an experience of a lifetime.
month, Souri, founder and executive director of Relief Riders International (RRI),
is picking up 15 riders from various countries who, for 15 days, would toggle
between being messiahs and wayfarers in the Thar desert of Rajasthan. All on the
backs of handsome horses. The team of humanitarian adventurers would begin their
journey from New Delhi and kick dust in five remote villages of Rajasthan. During
this sojourn not only would they discover India in all its pristine beauty, but
more importantly, deliver food, goats, medical supplies, and based on individual
skills assist the medical crew that would treat thousands of villagers along the
For $ 4,800 per person, excluding airfare, this
trip would neither be about mud-sodden boots, gippy tummies nor about bushes as
toilets. There would be cooks in tow and when the nights would get frosty in the
tents there would be hot showers too. The riders wouldn't hurry or hustle either,
they would travel at a comfortable pace for roughly five hours a day, stopping
thrice for meals and entertainment on way - there would be traditional dance in
Kochor, drumming in Pachar, and sumptuous food all along. The group would visit
old forts and remote villages and spend four nights in ancient forts and havelis.
Since it is all being done in style, the horses could not have been ordinary.
They too neigh about their royal lineage for they come from the imperial stable
of Dundlod. Kunwar Raghuvenvra Singh Dundlod, who lives in splendor in his 350-year
old manor, is lending his special breed of warrior horses. The horses bred in
the desert climate have an extraordinary fifth gait - the revaal - that helps
the rider travel long distances at a trot without posting.
the Relief Rider crew would be a support vehicle carrying two medics and a doctor.
Indian Red Cross personnel, who have developed the first HIV education program
in the region, will distribute educational information and hold discussions in
all the villages. Several camels will carry food supplies for the drought-affected
villages and the goats would go to those who need them the most for ongoing sustenance.
For Souri, horses and riding have been childhood comrades.
Barely 8, he first put his foot in the saddle in Sherwood. "That was my way
of not missing my parents," he says. But there's more to him. This New-York
born son of an Indian father and a French mother, has worked on the special effects
of The Matrix and X-men, directed documentaries and industrial films in China,
and participated in Cannes, Venice, Sundance and Italian film festivals. He has
piloted a single engine plane across the Atlantic, not just once, actually too
This innovative trip takes cue from the life of
Joseph Campbell, whom Souri calls "my hero". "The desire to do
this came from a time of re-assessing my life. I'd lost my father, which sent
me off on my own journey. Those of us who travel have known the great gift of
experiencing new places, encountering new people, and seeing the world in new
ways. This time we will bring to those places we visit gifts that really matter,"
In his book, The Hero with Thousand Faces,
Campbell, Souri's hero, talks about a single pattern of heroic journeys and asserts
that all cultures share this essential pattern in their heroic myths. But for
Souri, this journey is not merely an avowal of the pattern of heroic journeys,
it is more about repaying heaven for its blessings.
for Indo Asian News Service and its worldwide subscribers, October 2004