Cycling back to memory lane

From the albums

Cycling back to memory lane

It was a sultry summer morning of 1975 in Koramangala. The banners read, ‘We welcome the cycling bravehearts’. That was the time when we had the first South India cycling expedition, conducted by Nehru Yuvaka Kendra, which was on the lookout for a group of people to tour South India by cycle. 

My close buddies Shivaram, Subramani, Shrikant and myself, then studying in the 10th grade, were excited to cycle at the age of 15. We hailed from Madikeri, the ‘Scotland of India’. This photograph was taken at the start of the 1975 cycling tour.  We came across many hurdles — some steep roads, some slanting and some curvy. We found it hard to peddle in those times. On the first day, we traversed 160 km. We thought it would be impossible to finish this event but with fire in the belly, we continued our journey. Once we reached Neyveli, Tamil Nadu, we ran out of cash. Since mine was a new cycle, I travelled 40 km and encashed our traveller’s cheque before the banks closed.  Unlike today, we had no first-aid kits back then for the expedition and therefore, nature was the source of help.

 Neither did we have modernised air-pumping machines in case of deflated tyres nor did we have appropriate cycling wear like cycling shorts and head gear.

 Grabbing a pair of shorts and a vest, off we scooted for our cycling expedition. Today, after 41 years, standing at the age of 55, we realise the quick, changing times. Gear cycles from Decathlon have replaced our old Hercules cycles! To tell the world that ‘cycling has no age bar’ and to show our kids that there is a mechanism beyond the virtual world they are caught up to, we have started our cycling expedition now with a small distance and have reached 74 km. Our next target is a 100 km.  

That memory is still etched in my mind when the Government of India, Nehru Yuvaka Kendra, Kodagu felicitated us on having completed our cycling expedition and then hailed us as ‘The Cycling Bravehearts’. This was because back then it was a brave thing to do. Buying a cycle itself was a big thing then. 

While covering the whole of South India, there were many mishaps like one of them falling off, not having noticed a dog. We only stopped for some food and rest. The lush green Coonoor, the sulky summer of Chennai, the cool nights in Kerala — it was an all-time favourite experience. Splashing tiny little puddles on the way at each other, our zest had gone wild. There was just this cycle with 2 tyres and the necessary mechanism, a cycle with brakes. There was a flood creating chaos in one place, still we could manage to cross it, thanks to our fitness.

 We completed our higher education in Bengaluru and spent most of our days in Electronic City. Bengaluru that time was never like how it is today — no malls or cramping buildings and only green land. Believe it or not, there was a lush green lawn running steep like a mini hill where Forum Mall is today. Our usual hangout was Kanteerava Stadium where we practised sports. We used to dine a lot at Hotel Imperial and on MG Road. I remember this beautiful Bougainvillea garden on MG Road.  I am still in touch with my cycling pals except one. While Shivaram is working in AGORC as an accountant general, Subramani improvises  on tomato seeds and exports them to foreign countries. Shrikant owns a shop named ‘General Stores’.  I am currently working in State Bank of India, Virajpet after joining the Junior India Hockey camp and playing for India in the Tun Hussein Onn Cup.

 Sometimes when the 50s nudge a little, I rewind to those good old days. I cycle back to the past and wonder how the future would look like... 

(The author can be contacted on girisomanna50@gmail.com)

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