Meet Seetha and Srinivasa Rao, the Hyderabad couple who just can’t idle at home!

Seetha and Srinivasa Rao have released a photobook, 'Birds Beautiful', and a travelogue, 'Vishwa Vihaaram', chronicling their travels.

ByAjay Tomar

Published Nov 28, 2022 | 9:54 AMUpdatedDec 31, 2022 | 6:20 PM

Seetha Khambhampati and Srinivasa Rao Somanchi have travelled to the interiors of India as well as to at least 12 countries, one of their passions along with photography.

At a time when their peers sit back home playing with grandchildren and nursing age-related issues, this Hyderabad couple packs their bags to lands unseen and people unmet.

For Seetha Khambhampati, 70, and her 81-year-old husband Srinivasa Rao Somanchi, age is no barrier but a limitation one puts in his or her mind, a dictum attributed to the legendary American athlete, Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

One must item in the retired professors’ travel bags is the camera. The result of carrying the camera was launched in book forms, Birds Beautiful and Vishwa Vihaaram, on Saturday, 26 November.

While they co-authored the first book, a collection of birds caught on camera, Vishwa Vihaaram was the world seen through Seetha’s eyes.

“Our interest in travelling developed around 40 years ago. Wherever my wife and I travel, we click pictures of nature and places,” Rao told South First.

They dedicated the book to their daughter Padma, who had passed away three years ago.


Pacific Ocean picture taken by Seetha Khambhampati and Srinivasa Rao Somanchi

The Pacific Ocean. (Seetha Khambhampati and Srinivasa Rao Somanchi)

Besides the hinterlands of India, the couple has visited 12 countries that include South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, the US, Italy, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.

“During the first Covid-19 lockdown, they had planned for a bird safari. They did not care about the pandemic. All they wanted was to travel,” the couple’s granddaughter Himaja told South First.

“They rang up the travel agent to see if they could make an exception because after that month the particular bird they wanted to watch would have migrated. But they could not go and had to wait for a year,” she added.

Seetha is trying to lead by example. “I travel not only because I love it but I also wanted to inspire the people in my state as they are bad travellers,” she chuckled.

Also read: What does it feel like to travel on the Vande Bharat Express?

The snow-capped wonder

Khardung La pass in Ladakh.

Khardungla Pass in Ladakh. (Seetha Khambhampati and Srinivasa Rao Somanchi)

Though they have travelled extensively, the Himalayas have a special place in their hearts.

“The wide range of Himalayas has a lot to offer. It is very beautiful and home to many birds. It is my favourite place. Every year, we decide on a place and go to the Himalayas two to three times a year,” Seetha, a former professor of Zoology at Andhra Balika Junior College, said.

(from left to right) Aranya Krishna (Travelogue writer), T Srinivasa Reddy (FRPS, President, AP State Akademi Award of Photography), Srinivasa Rao Somanchi, K Srinivs (Editor, Andhra Jyoti), Seetha Khambhampati, N Venugopal, Professor VS Prasad (former Director NAAC) and C Vanaja (Journalist 7 Filmmaker) at the book launch on 26 November, 2022 in Hyderabad.

(From left to right) Aranya Krishna (travelogue writer), T Srinivasa Reddy (FRPS, President, AP State Akademi Award of Photography), Srinivasa Rao Somanchi, K Srinivas (Editor, Andhra Jyoti), Seetha Khambhampati, N Venugopal, Professor VS Prasad (former Director NAAC) and C Vanaja (Journalist 7 Filmmaker) launching Vishwa Vihaaram on 26 November 2022 in Hyderabad. (Ajay Tomar/South First)

In May this year, the couple visited Sattal, the picturesque land of seven unconnected freshwater lakes, in Uttarakhand.

In her 341-page travelogue, Seetha has narrated her travel experience.

“I have compiled my published and unpublished articles in the book. It’s about the places my husband and I had visited, the people we met, wildlife and birds. But it is only 10 percent of what I have written during my life,” Seetha said with a broad smile.

Biology to Ornithology

Rao was the principal and a professor of Botany at the CKM Arts and Science College in Warangal.

Indian Skimmers in Chambal River picture taken by Seetha Khambhampati and Srinivasa Rao Somanchi.

Indian skimmers in the River Chambal. (Seetha Khambhampati and Srinivasa Rao Somanchi)

“He began a photography club in the college in 1974. Initially, he  used photography to record social movements like the Gadchiroli tribal resistance and the 1977 cyclone,” his long-time journalist-friend N Venugopal told South First.

After retirement, the couple shifted to Hyderabad from Warangal.

Rao, who was also the vice-president of Warangal Film Society for 25 years, has won several state and national photography awards.

Birds Beautiful by Seetha Khambhampati and Srinivasa Rao Somanchi.

Birds Beautiful by Seetha Khambhampati and Srinivasa Rao Somanchi. (Ajay Tomar/South First)

The couple’s photobook comprises details such as the common as well as the scientific names of birds along with the location. A mention of the technical aspects of camera exposure, too, has been provided.

“The 260-page book has a collection of more than 200 amazing photos,” A Giridhar, the graphic designer who designed the book, told South First.

From pictures in Thattekkad in Kerala to Chopta in Uttarakhand, from Sangthi valley in Arunachal Pradesh to Nalsarovar in Gujarat, the book took four months to take the final shape.


T Srinivas Reddy, the first Indian photographer to be selected as a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society in the United Kingdom and President of Andhra Pradesh Akademi of Photography, assisted the couple in selecting the pictures. In the preface, he describes a photo of two owls suggesting as if they are posing obligingly to the ‘master photographers’.

“They extensively researched and collected materials for the books for nine months,” Himaja recalled.

A wooden sculpture made by Srinivasa Rao Somanchi. (Supplied)

A sculpture by Srinivasa Rao Somanchi. (Supplied)

Varied interests

The couple’s interest extends beyond travel and photography.

Seetha is an active swimmer and participates in the competitions. She has won three gold medals and a silver at the 2019 Telangana Master’s Swimming Association in the above 60 category. In October this year, she secured the top slot in four events in the above 70 age category.

Meanwhile, Rao is fond of cacti and sculpting.

The couple believes that people should not confine themselves to their homes but venture out to the world.