Television

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The Great Escape... Indianised

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NEW DELHI: He is 45 years old. He has traveled to more than 50 countries. He loves to eat popcorn and misses his eight-year-old daughter. Meet William D Chalmers, founder of the Great Escape 2004, an annual travel-cum-adventure programme on television.

Chalmers was in Delhi last week with participants for the Great Escape 2004 competition - The Hunt for the Global Scavenger.

"The global scavenger hunt motto is `trusting strangers in strange lands'," Chalmers says. His scavangers are placed at such tactical junctions that it is eminent for the team members to talk to the locals, make friends and enjoy the experience of even searching out the scavengers.

"It's the challenge of a lifetime to see the world as very few people ever do and that too in 10 countries across four continents at one go. But at the same time, you'll be helping raise a million dollars for some great international humanitarian organizations," he says.

The Great Escape is one of the best real-life travel-adventure programmes on television. It explores the cultural legends and people and places and is the best place to have experiences. The annual event is meant to be a cultural immersion across 10 countries and four continents.

Independent-minded travelers take a quick lap around the globe, "learning about the world and their place in it."

The first phase of the adventure involved countries like Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Bangkok and India. The travel competition is also a prime time programme for the National Geographic Channel.

With 12 teams in all and two members in each team (there's no bar on a participant's age), selection does not depend entirely on fitness. Rather, as Chalmers points out, it depends on a would-be participant's travel experience and how enthusiastic one is to go out and explore.

The annual adventure lasts for three weeks (this year from 16 April to 9 May) and the first phase ended on 30 April in Delhi.

Making it unique is the precise way the hunt for the Global Scavenger goes. "The hunt is strictly for travelers and not for tourists. Its not a vacation, it's an adventure," says Chalmers.

The programme becomes interesting not only because of the fact that it is a reality show, but also because the teams go about unraveling the mysteries of Delhi, Agra and Rajasthan during their four-day stay in India.

While relaxing at the Maurya Sheraton hotel in Delhi, which played host to the Great Escape team last week, Chalmers expressed his appreciation at the way India was conducting its general elections and that too completely on electronic voting machines.

Taking a potshot at US politics, Chalmers opined that he hoped this time the Americans "get the right guys for elections in the US because the people are still suffering from the misdoings of hiring people from Florida (a reference to the unfair US polls when George Bush junior got elected President).

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