PETALING JAYA: An American tourist who claimed to have lost his belongings and who stayed in a homeless shelter in India for a whole month has left the country for his next destination, Malaysia.
Indian media outlets reported today that John Friesen, 32, who reportedly hails from Fullerton, a suburb of Los Angeles, had stayed at the night shelter near the Begumpet railway station in Hyderabad city since June 7.
He had taken staff there by surprise when he showed up at the gate at about midnight to ask for help, saying he had lost his passport, wallet and mobile phone.
The Times of India (TOI) reported today that the tourism department of Telangana state had arranged for a temporary passport for him on humanitarian grounds and facilitated his onward journey to Malaysia.
Details of his stay in Malaysia were not reported.
TOI quoted Friesen describing his time at the shelter as a “great experience”.
“I met a lot of different people, picked up a bit of Telugu and also learnt how to plate up some Indian food like upma (thick semolina porridge with seasoning),” he was quoted as saying on the eve of his departure.
The report said Friesen is now penning a book on patriarchy and feminism, and would like to return to India someday.
It also said the state authorities had offered him a free stay at a hotel to assist him, but he had politely declined.
The Deccan Chronicle today reported Friesen as telling inmates at the shelter that the place had turned out to be a home for him.
“Shelters are the best place to lodge for travellers. All of us are from different backgrounds but we bonded well. I learnt the culture and eating habits. I will miss this place,” he was quoted as saying.
According to a report by the paper on June 25, Friesen had stated he was studying Indian culture, and ventured out from the centre at about 9am every day to return by 10.30pm.
On June 8, The Hindu newspaper cited the shelter’s manager Syed Siddiqui as saying they had become convinced of his plight when he first came to seek for help.
“He was given a bed after he signed a form as there were no documents with him,” Syed said.
“He mingled with the people and was friendly. He even posed for photos,” added a youth occupying one of the 29 beds at the shelter.
“The only clothes he had with him was what he was wearing. He got up in the morning and washed his clothes. He even offered to clean or mop the floor,” the youth was quoted as saying.