Making travel more interesting through cycle ride

Making travel more interesting through cycle ride

For Yash Agarwal, an information technology student, a recent visit from Odisha capital Bhubaneswar, where he is currently based, to the nearby temple town of Puri, a popular tourist destination, was an unforgettable one.

He made the trip not by a car, a bus or train, usual and regular mode of transportation between the two places, but on a bicycle! The 19-year-old was a part of a unique event christened as “Travelling Tales” which was organised by Bakul Foundation, a Bhubaneswar-based non-governmental organisation(NGO).

The exercise was aimed at promoting cycling and reading habits among people, particularly college-going youth who are  slowly moving away from both, thanks to the current era of motor-cycles, mopeds and scooters as well as internet and 24-hour non-stop TV shows. 

The two habits are extremely essential for the youth because they are considered healthy activities for growth of both body and mind.

“It is well known that the youth now have almost forgotten the charm and benefit of bicycle riding as engine-driven two wheelers have become their principal mode of movement. Similarly, at this age of internet and 24x7 TV, reading habits have almost become a thing of the past for many young people. 

The principal aim behind the progra­mme was to generate awareness and interest among the youth about both the activities,” said Sujit Mahapatra of Bakul, who had accompanied Yash and four others in this interesting six-hour cycle trip. Yash, who studies in an engineering college, had travelled to Puri twice before but by train. This was the first time he visited the temple town by road on a bicycle. “It was certainly a memorable experience,” the young student, who originally hails from neighbouring Chhattisgarh, said. 

Agrees Mahapatra: “The trip was definitely exciting. One can say it was an experience of a lifetime. All of us came back with a lot of positive energy.”Significantly, when the foundation floated the idea of the unique event, the response was overwhelming not only from the youth but also from many elderly and middle-aged people.

“When we invited response for the event on the social media networks, we were surprised by the interest shown not only by the youth but also by many elderly persons. At least 30 middle-aged individuals expressed their keenness to take part in the programme”, Mahapatra said.

Despite the huge interest expressed by many, the organisers reduced the number of participants to six-- Mahapatra from Bakul, another person from a Bhuba­neswar-based book store, which had lent its support to the event, three students, including Yash and one city-based budding lady artist. The participants’ number had to be cut down to single digit primarily because of non-availability of bicycles.

“The number would have been much more but for the non-availability of bicycles. Nowadays hardly people own a cycle. We made an attempt to get some on hire but could not,” Mahapatra said. 

The launching of the programme was not a smooth one as all the six participants were in doubt whether they can cover the entire 60 km stretch and reach their final destination. In fact, some of them were mentally prepared to abandon the trip midway and return to Bhubaneswar by bus. But finally they made it. “It was a sense of great achievement when we arrived in Puri,” said Yash. 

As a part of the programme, the group after arriving in the temple town attended a small book exhibition organised by a Puri-based NGO which had also joined hands to make the event a success. The six returned to Bhubaneswar the same day. The return journey, however, was not by cycle but in a passenger bus. “After pedalling 60 km we had no energy to ride back to Bhuba­neswar,” Yash and Mahapatra remarked .

More trips planned

The success of the event has prompted Bakul to organise similar cycle trips more frequently-- once in a month. But the distance will be reduced. More importantly, apart from the book exhibition at the end of the trip, there will be book reading sessions during the journey.

“The programme will include reading sessions involving the local educated youth in small places we will pass through during our trip,” said Mahapatra. Bakul would also be trying to resolve the problem of non-availability of bicycles that had created a major hurdle during the inaugural trip.

There has already been a positive impact of the event. If Bakul activists are to be believed, a few city-based technical colleges have shown interest to encourage cycling among their students. A couple of institutions, in fact, are already contemplating providing a few bicycles to their hostels so that students can use them inside the campus.

“It is definitely an encouraging development. When students see a cycle at least a few of them will certainly like to pedal it. Now youth love to go to gyms where one of the exercises is cycling.

They must realise that it is better to cycle in natural environment rather doing within the four walls of a room,” observed Mahapatra who insisted that cycling continues to be a passion with him and he does it whenever possible. 

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