Age no limit for this 'cycle man'

Wait till you meet Cycle champion Nagaraj. He can ride his bicycle with folded hands, vertically sleep on the same while the cycle moves with ease and can lift a hairpin placed in a cup with his eyelids. These are few of the tricks performed by none other than a septuagenarian, raising the eyebrows of many.

J Nagaraj, a resident of Rajendra Nagar in Kesare in Mysore city was a carpenter, before taking to acrobats on bicycle. There is an interesting story behind his foray into the field of this daredevilry.

Way back in 1961, when Nagaraj was a 22-year-old youth, developed interest in acrobats while he was watching acrobats performed on a bicycle by Rajamani of Tamil Nadu, near Town Hall here. After watching the show, Nagaraj developed liking towards the skill and wanted to learn it. After a few days came another, Murugesh who camped for five days in Rajendranagar, the locality where Nagaraj was residing. Murugesh too performed acrobats on bicycle earning the applause of the people. Nagaraj who had already given a thought to practice the art, decided to join Murugesh. Soon, Nagaraj met Murugesh and confided in him and thus began the learning process. It was not a fruitful journey.

“Though I was with Murugesh for two years, he didn’t have time to teach me the art. I was forced to observe his performances, to practice the art on my own. I decided to severe ties with him and left for Mysore,” recollected Nagaraj.

It was a blessing in disguise for Nagaraj, who never looked back since then. He began to practice the art on his own on the streets of Mysore, while earning a measly income. Gradually, he mastered the skill in a year and there was an increase in the income. Ostensibly, ‘Acrobat on bicycle’ became the only source of living for Nagaraj. Apart from Mysore, he has toured several states, pedalling his bicycle. He has performed at Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan to mention a few.

Ask him about the response, he humbly recalls Maharashtrians. The people in that state have respect for artistes, he asserted, expressing his anguish towards Mysoreans, for not even taking note of the talent he posessed.

On his acrobats, he can still bend the bicycle in almost all possible manners and perform the stunts. One of such stunts which can be quite a hair raising one, is placing the rear wheel on a cup and also the mouth of the bottle, and move the bicycle around, pushing the front wheel from the hand, albeit slowly.

He is the sole breadwinner for his family of wife, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren. He lost his son in a mishap. The incident had an effect on Nagaraj, who had stayed away from this act for a while.

Age counts

For Nagaraj, now age is the factor which has made him perform only at select occasions. He accompanies orchestra troupes, besides performing at schools and colleges.

Last wish

However, his last wish is to perform a stunt atop Chamundi Hills. Vertically sleeping on the bicycle, he wants to alight from the hills starting from the temple of Goddess Chamundeshwari. Will authorities concerned help me, in atleast doing a bit to Mysore city, he asked.

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