From a bicycle to a space flight, Kerala's own globetrotter to take the giant leap

Coincidences are rare during Santhosh George Kulangara's journeys. He does his homework well and plans before he embarks on a visit. But his start to the space journey was pure happenstance.

Globetrotter Santhosh George Kulangara is the pride of Malayalis anywhere in the world. What could be the reason behind the success of his shows despite the lack of magical visuals? Maybe they are based on his experiences travelling the world. Maybe he has been introducing new ideas to the Malayali. Because the man from Kottayam's Marangattupilly has been there and done that. There are very few like Santhosh who spend so much time in vehicles but still he likes to say that he is not an auto enthusiast.

Starting from a bicycle
"The vehicles that I am using now are quite old. Which means I haven't bought a new vehicle for a long time. All the vehicles that I own are lying in the garage. Even if I try to sell them, they won't fetch much; hence I am maintaining them. All of them are in running condition," he said.

"My first vehicle was a bicycle. It was meant for the use of my father's press. When I was studying in class 9, he allowed me to use it. An Italian moped -- Avanti Garelli -- that I got when I was doing my pre-degree was my second vehicle. Designed like a bicycle, it had a 50cc engine. I used to push it around without taking it out on the roads."

"The third was a Lamby scooter. I used to go to the college on it. There was a Jeep in the family, but it was a Maruti Omni that I bought on my own for the first time. The Omni was around even during my wedding. Though I repainted it and redid the interior, it continued with its diehard habit of playing truant when the engine is cranked. I was left red faced on several occasions during my visits to my wife's house when it refused to start. After some time, I bought a Maruti 800 and a Maruti Zen. Later, SUVs became part of my garage. They included Toyota Qualis, Ssangyong Rexton and Lexus LX," he said.

“The Toyota Qualis is still in mint condition. It provides good ride comfort. I also have a rare SUV -- Hyundai Terracan -- in my fleet. I love large SUVs; the comfort they provide is the main reason for this preference. I plan my projects during my journeys; hold meetings, and I keep in touch with people. I get a lot of time especially during business trips. Often, I take naps during journeys. If you want to utilise this time well, you need a comfortable and safe SUV. I see a vehicle as my office. For self-drive, I prefer Rexton. Effortless drive is the hallmark of the Rexton. My driver will be with me whenever I am taking the Lexus LX out. I grew from small vehicles to large ones.”

First train journey
"My family loved travelling. My father presented us a tour offer when I was studying in class 5. It was a trip to Ernakulam. It was a big thing then because we had never seen Ernakulam before. We took a bus to the Vaikom road station at Appanchira. From there Ernakulam is a half-an-hour train journey. There was no platform then. We were worried about how to get into the train given the little time it would be stopping there. The train arrived. My father literally threw all of us into the train. That’s how we three siblings, father and mother travelled to Ernakulam by train," he said.

“It was a coincidence during a train journey that opened the door to the space trip. It was during one of those train journeys in London that I happened to read a newspaper left over by someone about the space journey. I had to contact Virgin Galactic several times to confirm my seat.”

First flight
“My first flight was not related to my passion. Then, the newsprint required for my father's press used to arrive at Bombay port. Once, an agent called to say that newsprint had become wet and someone should come to inspect it and separate newsprint that could still be used. I had just completed my graduation then. Since I used to help out with press work, I knew about such things. So, my father handed over the mission to me and provided me flight tickets. That's how I flew for the first time from the old Navy airport in Kochi.

"I am preparing to become one of the passengers of the private spaceflight of Virgin Galactic. Unity 22 has already conducted its first spaceflight successfully, with Virgin Galactic's founder Richard Branson being one of the passengers. I am travelling not only for myself but for all Malayalis."

How does he find time for his travels across the world, business trips, the Safari channel, and preparations for the space trip?

“One needs to develop a system on our own to do all such things. If you follow other models, one may not be able to effectively utilise time. For eg., I need just four hours to edit an episode of ‘Sancharam’ (his visual travelogue). That is because of my familiarity with those places. If I approach other editors, they might take more time. So, to finish the work fast, I do it myself. And things that others can do faster than me would be given to them. This is how the functions are streamlined,” he said.

“I don't follow the style of working only from the office. A video can be edited at home too. During a journey, several things can be planned. I travel only for five days in a month for ‘Sancharam’ shoot. On other days, I will be in my office. I have never felt like Sunday is a holiday.”

Message to Fast Track readers
“We should aim for the moon. Our children have small ambitions. I get this feeling when I read the comments to my videos. They are interested in the trivial things in the video. They don't try to understand the viewpoint or the depth of the subject. Even when I am presenting a serious topic in 'Sanjariyude dairykurippukal', I might crack a joke and it seems like they enjoy only that. Above jokes, we need to reach a bigger goal. We need to contribute something worthy to the world before we leave here.”

“How many people who had lived 100 or 200 years ago are remembered today? Very few, like Marthanda Varma, Pazhassi Raja, Kunjali Marakkar, Perumthachan, etc. Why don't we remember other people who had lived during that time? They become immortal because of their extraordinary or adventurous deeds. We too should be able to do something that the future generation feels worthy of remembering of us.”

“Kayamkulam Kochunni is the best example before us that even a good thief can leave his mark in the world. Whatever be your field of work, we should aim to be someone the world will remember. It should not be accidental; one needs to work for it.”

Land Rover
Land Rover is the automotive partner of Virgin Galactic's space tourism project. Land Rover vehicles will be used to transport space passengers for trials and flights. Range Rover has launched an Astronaut edition. Space travellers who belong to the Virgin Galactic and its astronaut community could own one. There are several unique aspects to its interior, including astronaut edition badge and Virgin Galactic's 'DNA of Flight' logo on the front console drawer made of carbon fibre. Several elements of the spaceship will be part of the interior. It also gets zero gravity blue paint inspired by the depth and intensity of the night sky. It will be powered by a plug-in hybrid 404 hp engine.

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