Cycling Around The World: Somen Debnath

©Jonathan Porter/Presseye.com - Press Eye Ltd -Northern Ireland - 16th November 2010. Indian Somen Debnath arrives in Belfast as part of of his pledge to cycle to 191 countries by 2020 to raise awareness of AIDS. Mr Debnath left east India in 2004 and has visited 33 countries already. Last month the 28-year-old spent 24 days being held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan after they thought he was a spy traveling through the war-torn country. He persuaded his captors to release him after he started cooking for them and they realised he wasn't a spy. Somen Debnath pictured near the Indian Community Centre in north Belfast.

The statistics and the breadth of ambition are daunting to say the very least. 14 year journey which started in 2004. 154,800 km on bike. Traveled through 150 countries. Currently biking in the United States. On his way to Canada through the West Coast. Raising awareness about HIV and AIDS among rural people in India. 

I spoke with Somen Debnath, a cyclist who has broken many an endurance record with his stupendous journey to cover 190 countries one kilometer at a time, reaching his goal of 200,000 km in 14 years. 

I asked him about how this passion started. “When I was 14 years old, a man who lived close to my village died of AIDS. The West Bengal AIDS prevention society carried newspaper articles which pointed out that AIDS could be deadlier than cancer.” This information about the potentially deadly disease stayed with him, as did the circumstances of growing up in a village in Bengal. “About 80 km. from Kolkata, I grew up in the village of Basanti,” while adding, “which is in the middle of the Sundarbans region, where we have mangrove forests and the largest tiger reserve in India.  have always been inspired by Swami Vivekananda’s teachings directed towards Then, I read Bimal Mukherjee’s book – Du Chakay Duniya where he describes using a bicycle to travel the world for eleven years. His trip started in 1926. Reading this book made a deep impression on me, since I had always wanted to see and experience many places in India and all over the world too. I was raised in the forests. From there, it was my desire that has taken me to so many places across the world.”

When I ask him about the condition of his bike, he told me that this was the eighth bike that he is using. This bike was gifted to him by Indian-Americans living in Texas, and with that he reached California. From here, he planned to go to Portland in Oregon and onto Seattle in Washington. From there, it would be northwards to Canada, the North Pole and then through Siberian Russia. He commenced this journey in May of 2014 and hopes to end it in India in December of 2020 after a journey of 16 years. 

When asked to name his most interesting experiences, he said that traveling through Bangladesh, being captured by the Taliban for 24 days and seeing wild animals like rhinos, cheetahs and lions wandering around in the African grasslands were unforgettable. He also said that his trip elicited a lot of curiosity among people all over, with kindness and empathy coming next, helping him tide over to the next part of the trip. 

“Indians all over and Indian-Americans have been very kind to me, welcoming me with open arms. Everyone can help me through monetary donations and by keeping track of my trip by going to my website at https://www.somen2020world.com/

Pedal up and pedal down. One kilometer at a time; 200, 000 km in 16 years. What passion!

Nirupama Vaidhyanathan is the Managing editor of India Currents magazine.

You May Like This

We Are Home: IMPACT’s Essay Contest for South Asian American DREAMers

IMPACT launched the “We Are Home” essay contest to raise awareness and highlight the many obstacles that 250,000+ South Asian DREAMers face including: const

Prime Minister Modi Set to Visit USA for Quad Leaders’ Summit

Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi would be participating, along with Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan, and Pre

With Just Days to Go, Gubernatorial Recall Election Questions Linger

Ballots for Tuesday, Sept. 14’s vote on whether or not to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom were mailed out to registered voters weeks ago, and are already

Sign-up and join our newsletter today!

* indicates required