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A Spanish tourist Manuel Rodriguez had planned to spend a week at Bokotial in Assam but stayed for seven months due to the lockdown . The Spanish man Manuel Arribas Rodriguez initially wanted just a week to be spent in the village when he pedalled into the Assamese village on Valentine's Day earlier this year.
He ended up staying more than seven months at the village in eastern Assam's Sivasagar district. On September 22nd, everyone from Bokotial turned up at Simaluguri, the nearest railway station to bid an emotional farewell to Mr. Rodriguez who boarded the train to New Delhi.
"It was heartbreaking to let Manuel bopai (son) go. But I feel happy for his parents who will get to see their biological son after so many months," said Dipeswar Chutia, the headman of the village of 10 Assamese households as reported by The Hindu.
The 41-year-old Spaniard who worked at a hotel in Spain for 10 years had planned to cover most Asian countries on his bicycle. Last year, he flew to Tokyo and cycled around Japan before reaching the India-Myanmar border on January 27 via South Korea and the Southeast Asian countries.
Biswajit Barbaruah recalls meeting him at a youth festival in a college about 14 km away from his village. They conversed in broken English and he invited him to his village as he was interested in the local culture. He turned up on February 14 after touring other parts of the state.
During his extended holiday, Mr. Rodriguez stayed with the Barbaruahs. He helped them with the chores, learnt paddy farming and took part in community fishing and other village activities. Apart from this, he also taught the children of the village to play the guitar and speak Spanish apart from forming a bicycle and exercising club.
"The lockdown happened as Manuel da (elder brother) was preparing to leave. We informed the local authorities, who tested his health and got in touch with the Spanish Embassy," Mr. Barbaruah said.
The assistant tourist information officer Madhab Das said that they helped him to get his visa extended. It was the least that they could do for a foreigner who was stranded under such unpredictable circumstances.
Mr. Rodriguez said that his visit to Bokotial on Valentine's Day could have been predestined. "I fell in love with the village. I can never forget the hospitality of the people, the kind I have never experienced anywhere else," he said.
He is hopeful to return to the village again after COVID-19 no longer remains a threat and there's no risk involved in travelling.
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