Around the country on a bike

Radhika Rao in Ladakh   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Radhika Rao is tired. In the last seven months, the freelance photographer from Chennai has braved cold rain, harsh sun, chilly Himalayan air and dengue fever, as she rode her Bajaj Avenger across 29 state capitals and five union territories in a journey that has covered more than 22,000 km. She reached Thiruvananthapuram late in the evening on November 3.

“Having rode through all the other states of India, I can say that Kerala is the most difficult to traverse as the roads are always crowded and there are many with poor driving sense,”says Radhika. For the 26-year-old, this trip has been two years in the making. She had initially wished it to go on an unplanned tour with her sister Poornima. “We wanted to explore India by buses and trains. But due to several reasons we haven’t been able to do it. Then at some point, I felt I should do something and came up with this idea to ride across the nation to make a photo documentary of all the states and union territories,” she says.

Radhika began her journey from her home town Chennai, on April 8. Taking the east coast route, she passed Kolkata and from there to the North East. “The first month was gruelling as it was summer and day-time temperatures were soaring. It became better after I hit the hills as it was cooler and the air much more fresh,” she says. Though there were warnings of insurgency and unrest, the ride through the seven sisters was largely smooth. After that she went north via Patna, crossing Uttar Pradesh to Haryana, Punjab and then to Jammu and Kashmir. Coming down from there she touched Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and finally reached Delhi. Then she rode down through the west and centre of the country to reach Kerala.

Radhika Rao

Radhika Rao   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Meeting people from various cultures, with different views on life and the challenge of being one among them, Radhika says, has been the best part of her trip. “I am a photographer. So, in the course of capturing life in the places I passed through, I met a lot of people and could emotionally connect with many of them,”she adds. Regardless of their differences, love and friendship is something she received wherever she went. Radhika feels that if you are nice to people, regardless of where they come from, they will be nice to you too.

The only bad experiences she had on the road was a minor road accident in Kolkata and her tryst with dengue fever in Jaipur. “Dengue almost derailed me. I was hospitalised and bedridden for a week. But I was determined to finish the tour. So I told the doctor about it. He asked me to take rest for two weeks and rebuild my strength before I resume the journey,”she adds.

Although it was a journey for photography, she couldn’t carry all her equipment. Radhika says, “After packing all the essentials, my bag pack was really heavy and I couldn’t afford to carry more than one lens with the camera. So I only carried a standard zoom lens that could be used for a variety of photographs.”

In the end, even though there was the pleasure of freedom, seeing new places and befriending strangers, Radhika reminds you that it wasn’t easy at all. She adds, “People who know me all say that I am enjoying the trip. Yes, that is true. But I would like them to know that there was a lot of effort behind that. It was often hard to wake up in the morning itself. Riding continuously for so many days is hard work and on an average I used to cover 250 km per day.”

Radhika plans to reach Chennai by November 19.


Sikkim comes first in the list of states she enjoyed the most for roads, road discipline, culture and natural beauty. Jammu and Kashmir comes a close second followed by Meghalaya. As a photographer, she says, nothing beats Ladakh and it’s unique landscape. Out of the gigabytes she has managed to capture, a select few will be displayed in an exhibition that she will be conducting at Chennai.

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Printable version | May 4, 2021 1:58:56 PM |

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