In today’s Times of India, there is story titled Bicycle diaries of a green bio-grad. It tells the story of a Anil Kumar M, a microbiology student from Bangalore. He is travelling on a bicycle from Bangalore to Wagha border and back, a journey of 8000 km, to meet young people and raise their environmental awareness.
He started from Bangalore on January 9, 2011 and after 22 days and 2750 Kms, reached Delhi. On the way, he spoke to 15,000 school students and gave them the message about environment.
Please read the original story on the link above. Hats of to Anil Kumar.
While I was reading this, I mentally travelled back to the year 1979. I was 19, in my 2nd year in IIT and had been cycling on the campus for 2 years. I learnt cycling when I was in 6th grade, but hardly ever had a chance to use a bicycle in the busy streets of Mumbai. However, on the beautiful IIT Campus, a bicycle was the only mechanized transport available.
I don’t remember how the whole idea came up. As far as I can remember, I generated the idea and talked others into it. So four of us, Me, Dattaprasanna Marathe, my friend from school days and now my brother in law, Chandrashekhar Shende and Sunil Joshi made up our collective minds to cycle to Goa, a distance of approximately 600 km.
We had no experience of long distance cycling. I was the most experienced of the lot having cycled up to Panvel, about 40 km away and back. And none of us had ever repaired a punctured tyre. We didn’t know what to expect on such a journey. And probably because of that, we were very confident about doing it.
Getting permission from home was a little difficult. I must admit that my parents were a little concerned about the whole idea. However, they finally allowed me to go. In everyone’s homes, the story was more or less the same. Our parents were a little reluctant, but finally bowed to our wishes, as parents always do when the kids are adamant. I can tell you from my own experience as a parent.
The younger generation will find it very difficult to believe, but of the four of us only one household, I think it was Joshi’s, had a phone. And STD was very expensive. We agreed to phone once in every two days. Even that we couldn’t do, because in many places where we stayed, we couldn’t find a public phone.
We had planned to cover the distance in about six days. We had a road map of the route, and knew the distances, and that was about all. We had no clue about the actual route, the ups and downs on the route etc. We had a backpack each with minimal clothing, a bed sheet and a shawl, some eats and very little cash. And that’s about it. We believed in travelling light.
I had written a very detailed log of the tour with information about all halts, every ruppee spent and details of what we ate and drank, but it’s now lost. I remember the places where we took night halts.
We started on an afternoon in April 1979 from the IIT campus. Our target for that day was Karnala, about 50 Kms. We stayed the night in a forest rest house.
Day 2 was the longest distance we covered. We cycled about 127 Kms to Mahad and stayed in a lodge. The lodge was so bad and expensive, that we vowed never to stay in a lodge again. We would keep that promise.
Day 3, we reached all the way to Chiplun. That was a tough day. The distance was about 90 Km, but there was a lot of up and down. We went up the Kashedi Ghat and came down, then went up the Baste Ghat and came down the Parshuram ghat to enter Chiplun. We stayed for free in the office of a political party and went for dinner to Barve’s Khanaval. That was the best food we had in last three days. We liked it so much that we decided to have lunch in the same place tomorrow and then start afterwards.
So next day, day 4, we started around 2 PM after lunch and a nap and could reach Sangameshwar. Some armed robbery had taken place there on the earlier day and the town was very tense. We reached late in the evening and couldn’t find any place to stay. So we stayed in the police station courtyard and slept under the open sky.
Day 5, our destination was Rajapur. That day again had a lot of ups and downs. That was the only day when we had to cycle after dark. We reached Rajapur around 8.30. Stayed the night in the government rest house. Luxury. We had a hot water bath and had mattresses to sleep on.
Day 6, we stayed at Kudal. On reaching there and having food, we decided to see a movie. So went to a theatre to see the last show. The movie was Heeralal Pannalal. In all these places, we became instant curiosities becuase of our attire and our cycles. A crowd would gather around us asking us questions. We became kind of celebrities. So in the movie interval, we were the centre of attraction. Even the projectionist came to meet us. We asked him permission to sleep in the theatre!. . He was ready, but said that he can give us a better place. He took us to the government hospital and we spent the night there!
Day 7, we started early and reached Mhapusa and stayed at Mahendra Kenkre’s house. We were very warmly welcomed and had a great time. We stayed in Goa for 5 days and returned by bus, with our cycles on the bus top.
We were doing all this in summer. It was hot. So we generally cycled between 8 to 11 in the mornings and 3 to 7 in the evenings. For the afternoon, we would find a shady tree, a river bank or some such place and swim, play cards, make friends with locals or sleep. We drank litres and litres of “Goti Soda” and ate at all kinds of places. Our safest bet in food was always a ST Depot canteen with its Vada Pav and Shira.
All in all, a great time. As far as I am concerned, It was a great learning experience. It showed me that I am capable of surviving anywhere and on anything and also capable of doing what I really wanted to do, even of others, including my elders, thought it was too difficult or risky.