In April, when 44-year-old Ambika Krishna lay in a hospital bed in Chennai, her knee torn, her ability to walk destroyed, she was wondering about her mission, one that landed her in the hospital. She kept going back to her decision of riding a bike throughout India in honour of the country’s soldiers in jeopardy. It had only been four days since she had kicked off her journey from Kochi, her hometown in Kerala, when a reckless car driver overtook her Royal Enfield Bullet from the right and turned left without an indicator. Krishna had to immediately brake, spinning the bike out of control, and lay on the road with an 80 percent ligament tear in her left knee.
“I was very depressed for days,” she says. “Doctors told me I will need to get a surgery and rest for six months,” adds Krishna, who had planned to visit the All India Radio (AIR) FM Rainbow stations in 17 states and travel 25,000 km in approximately 47 days.
Her rescue came in the form of a doctor who recommended ayurvedic treatment. She was asked to rest for three weeks and that the tear would self-heal if she did not exert herself at all. Krishna complied, and on May 9, exactly 22 days after her accident, she was off again on her journey, on the way to the Bangalore station.
The idea of this journey is a tribute to Indian soldiers and their widows. At 19, Krishna lost her husband, employed in the Air Force, in an accident, one year after their wedding and three months after the birth of their daughter. “I wanted to prove to naysayers that women can do anything, and just because she is alone, she isn’t incapable,” says Krishna, who was in Delhi this week and still suffers pain in her left knee. A kneecap is necessary besides getting off on the right side of her bike now.
After her husband’s death, Krishna began working as an accountant. In 2009 she began moonlighting as a radio jockey with AIR FM Rainbow 107.5 in Kochi, doing one-hour programmes every day. In 2015, she turned to jockeying full time and also pursued an interest in photography, shooting location stills and poster shots for Malayalam movies. “Radios and soldiers are very closely connected, because they always have a transistor or radio with them. I was inspired by AIR’s Sandesh to Soldiers programme to start my bike-across-India mission, where soldiers in service got letters from family and friends,” she says.
Krishna starts her journey every day at 5 am and rides continuously for seven to eight hours. She rests in a patchwork of government guesthouses and AIR-facilitated accommodations in each state, and says that she’s been warmly received wherever she’s been.
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