'People stared at me as if I was an alien'

'People stared at me as if I was an alien'
When you combine determination with sheer grit, you get Radhika Rao. The 26-year-old has embarked on an ambitious solo bike ride across the country, covering all 29 capitals and five Union Territories. In the city as part of the tour recently, Radhika, who is a freelance photographer, spoke to Rajitha Menon about her journey and the story behind it.

How did you come up with the idea for a trip like this?

Two years ago, my sister and I planned to go on an all-India tour but that didn’t happen. The idea refused to leave my head though and this year I made up my mind to go ahead on my own, since my sister was busy. My father supported my decision though convincing my mother was a challenge.

What preparations did you do?

Initially, other riders thought I was insane to attempt something like this because I was so small. But when I insisted I was serious, they took me for some rides and taught me some tips and tricks. I gained weight and also learnt boxing and mechanics of the bike. Sponsorship was a problem so I opted for crowdfunding instead.

 And how was the experience?

I got great support from acquaintances, social media friends, my mother’s colleagues and people I met on the way. I connected with some riding clubs along the way and they presented me with medals to encourage me. I started in April and it was a continuous journey after that, even with a ten day stop in a Jaipur hospital when I got Dengue.

What was your daily schedule like?

My riding time was between 6 am to 6 pm. Since the maximum accidents happen during evening time I avoid travelling during that period. I ride up to 30 km per day; it’s been 25, 500 km till now.

Favourite city to ride through?

Sikkim — for the roads, the discipline and more.

The not-so-favourite?

In Kolkata, Patna and UP, there is no discipline on the roads. We never know what will come in the middle of the street — right from ducks, cows, dogs to even reckless humans. That makes for some hectic driving. Even when there is no road, you can manage to drive. But not when there is no discipline.

Any funny memories?

When I ride through the inner areas, especially in the Northeast, people stare at me as if I am some alien. When I try to ask them for directions, they will be so engrossed at gaping at my badges and bike that I usually have to ask twice or thrice for an answer. 

What has the journey taught you?

The journey has taught me to be patient. Life is not about money, it is about connecting with people. I talked to many youngsters in schools and colleges and encouraged them to follow their dreams.

One thing you make sure to try in every city you go?

I make sure I explore that city and find new facets to show people. I have a Facebook page called ‘Carefree Vagabond’ and I keep uploading videos there. It has a good number of followers and if I don’t upload something for some time, they themselves ask me ‘Where have you gone? What is happening around you?’. 
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