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Bicyclist Sharma Travels the Globe to Highlight World Peace, Ecology

Indian bicyclist Abhishek Kumar Sharma attended the Ganesh Leela show in Stafford on December 8, 2017

Indian bicyclist Abhishek Kumar Sharma attended the Ganesh Leela show in Stafford on December 8, 2017

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: He has been doing it for the past three years when he heeded the fervent Swachh Bharat call of Prime Minister Narender Modi to clean up India and got the inspiration to become an activist for cleanliness. Barely 26, and doing research on municipal solid waste management, he decided not to defend his doctoral thesis (at APS University in Rewa, Madhya Pradesh) and instead hit the road on a bicycle to educate the public and bring awareness to the wasteful blight in the country.

Sharma holding the bike that has served him over thousands of miles across the world.

Sharma holding the bike that has served him over thousands of miles across the world.

Abhishek Kumar Sharma, 29, has been totally immersed in this work ever since and hasn’t looked back. He left his hometown of Fatehgarh, Uttar Pradesh, northwest of Kanpur on November 10, 2014 and hit road on a bicycle, traveling 28,000 km all over India for 13 months, visiting 415 districts in 25 states and gave lectures in many universities about cleanliness and how to handle waste. “My message was ‘saaf, safai’ (clean, cleaniness) about the basic importance of hygiene in our lives,” said Sharma during an interview with this reporter during a stopover in Houston in early December.

That trip – which concluded in March 2016 – earned him a lot of renown and an interview with the veteran Bollywood movie star Amitabh Bachchan and a meeting with PM Modi himself, who offered him a commendation which gave him access to free lodging at government run Dak Bungalows. He did it all with a donated bike, without sponsors, credit cards or other financial support.

Abhishek Kumar Sharma with his bicycle in New York

Abhishek Kumar Sharma with his bicycle in New York

“The mentality of people (in India) has to change and they have to be motivated,” said Sharma, who is well-built for a cyclist (“the cycle weighs 46 pounds,” he quips). Wherever he went, he organized a team of volunteer students to build awareness campaigns.

At the end of his India tour, Sharma became more ambitious and embarked on a world tour on his bicycle, leaving India on March 28, 2016 on a flight (courtesy of Air India for extra baggage) to Teheran, Iran. He had about Rs. 30,000 ($460) donated by some people for the ticket and lot of adventurous spirit. There, he met the Indian community which helped him go by train to Istanbul, Turkey, where the real biking voyage started. Since then, he has visited 40 countries and is now on his sixth phase lasting 15 months from Canada to Argentina.

With an Indian and local flag on his bike along with signs in English and the local language, a tent, sleeping bag and food, Sharma has logged over 60,000 km and says he has never felt worried or afraid of people. His bike ride is a reminder of another Bengali Indian who rode through the Bayou City about 12 years ago and that there is the lure of adventure and the unknown that propels young men to take on this odyssey fearlessly.

As with that young man, Sharma feels indebted to the Indian communities in the places he has visited, especially in the US where the Asian American Hotel Owners Association has taken him under his wing to provide free accommodations wherever he goes. He was in town for a few days, resting up before he continued westward to El Paso and just recently noted on his website that he had now passed Taos, New Mexico. His westward trek will take him to San Diego in 45 days, from where he will enter Mexico and go south all the way to South America.

His seventh phase will start in Cape Town, South Africa from where he will go to Kenya. From there, a flight will take him to Adelaide, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Japan, Korea and China. He plans to be back in India by November 2020.

To follow Sharma’s adventures or to donate to his cause, visit his web page www.abhishekkumarsharma.com/ and his Facebook page abhishekonbicycle or Instagram at @abhishekonwheels.

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