Day 7-8, July 21-22, 2017- Dharampuri to Bangalore
Distance cycled- 146 kilometres.
Duration – 14 hours (including Bangalore city travel to reach home)
Sunita has clocked more than 940 kilometres in 7 days and touched 3 states-Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. As she pedals the 148kilometres from Dharampuri to Bangalore she looks forward to the break at Bangalore- her cycle needs servicing,, her clothes and shoes and clothes need achange and her legs and body require the much needed rest. She started in high spirits at 5 am and had covered a good distance by 9:30am but after that the going got tough.Heat and winds posed a challenge and exhaustion took over. The trucks and the traffic on the road made it worse. Two accidents she had witnessed yesterday were fresh in her mind. The attitude of callousness of vehicle drivers towards cyclists and pedesterians bothered her .
“The four wheeler drivers need to be sensitive towards the pedesterians, cyclists and 2-wheeler riders. The road belongs to everybody and road safety is the responsibility of each one of us” is a concerned Sunitas message to all.
On the other hand Sunita is touched by the support she is receiving in the form of small gestures from people she is meeting for the first time and probably may never meet again- blessings, accompanying her for whatever distance they can, sponsoring her lunch, cheering her as she pedals along, taking selfies with her. As she reaches 30 kilometres short of Banglore her eyes expectantly search for Jen who has promised to meet her somewhere along the highway and accompany her as she enters the city.
Now the story will be told by none other but her sister Jen. We choose to call it the sisterly note……….
Jen and Jenny-the awesome twosome
21st July is the day I am supposed to see the person who inspires me the most, my brilliant sister –Jenny. It’s the 7th day of her cycle journey from Kanyakumari to Khardungla. As she reaches Bangalore she has already ridden over 900 kms, in the first 7 days of her expedition.
Even since she started talking about her solo cycling expedition, I have been having sleepless nights with random nerve wrecking thoughts. The entire family goes through such anxious phases, whenever she goes for any of the mountaineering expeditions. After 10 years of avalanche, crevasses, whiteouts, rock-fall, pitons, ice axe, ropes, crampons, summit camp, summering, mountain ghosts and what not stories, now it’s about Hybrid, paddling, gear, helmet, tube, tyres, stand. We have never heard of these words much at least from Jenny, but now these words have become household phrases with us. I admire her greatly for her many accomplishments since our primary school days. And, this time it is about “Save Environment” and to spread the word about the campaign very close to out heart- Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao.
I speak to her at least thrice (morning, afternoon and night) daily since the 15th of July, the day she embarked on this riding expedition. Every hour of the day I am worried about her. How is she doing? How much distance has she covered? Hope someone is not chasing her, and all is safe. What about her road safety? I know she is super strong, but if after cycling 100kms in the scorching heat she faints suddenly, who is going to look after her? The conversations that I have with her calm me down, when she assures me that she is safe, sound and healthy. This has becomes an everyday routine – worried to death- her call comes- I feel somewhat at ease.
She has been telling me about not getting enough sleep for the past 3 or 4 days. She finds accommodations mostly in colleges, schools, ashrams, where she interacts with the students, local crowd, and the media. After a long day on the roads riding through the sun and the rain, these sessions also demand considerable time and energy. Thereafter, she finally falls off to sleep well after midnight, only to resume the journey at the crack of dawn between 4 and 5 am. I am highly concerned about her sleep deprivation, and I don’t know how it is humanly possible for her to follow such a routine for more than a month. This can have potential impact on her long term health as well. Somehow I have convinced her to stay in Bangalore for a day in order to recuperate before her onward journey
Friday 4:PM, I am accompanied by Ankush Sharma and Tim Tim Sharma. Ankush is a very well known cyclist in Bangalore, national level swimmer and a very close friend of mine. His sister Timtim is also a runner, swimmer, and cyclist of international caliber and repute. Before we set out to meet my sister, Shraddha, a champion athlete and swimmer, also joined us Soon we were on our way. We crossed the city and were keenly looking out for a girl, clad in white cycling uniform, riding on the right shoulder of the road
Ankush spots her bike “ There she is’, he screams. First sight of my loving sister, her cycle parked and she is drinking water. We take a U-turn and before she could start paddling, we surprise her. I see her after a good time and it’s an emotional moment. She looks very tired and she has got new tan tattoos on her face and hands. We chit chat for sometime, as I desperately try to control my tears. I can’t cry even out of happiness and my sister cannot see tears in my eyes.
We measure her bag and for goodness sake, she is cycling with 10kgs of personal stuff. We need to sort the bag weight for her. Let’s not waste time here, and rather ride into the city of greens- Bangalore. Traffic takes a toll and we reach home around7:30PM. My plan to take her for a relaxing massage is gone for a toss.
Now, I just want her to rest and sleep, as the day has been exhausting for her. She is still answering phone calls, and we are supposed to meet some people around 9 pm. I win the argument with my father and managed to avoid the midnight program
Jenny passes out within 5 minutes after her dinner. I do not want to disturb her, since tomorrow would be another hectic day for her in the city of Bangalore.
22nd July, the day starts as we leave for Swami Vivekananda Kendra Vidyalaya situated on the outskirts of Bangalore, some 15 Kilo meters. from the Bannerghata National Park. The route from Koromongola to the school is scenic, and the morning air is cool and refreshing. We reach our destination at around 1 in the afternoon. One of the teachers welcome us into the school premises. The school is run by the central government in collaboration with the Ramkrishna Mission Trust. Sunita speaks to the students about her many expeditions in the mountains and the snowfields of the Himalayas. The teachers and the pupils listen to her stories in rapt attention. Thereafter, they give vent to their curiosity. They want to know so much – about mountaineering, adventure, expedition and a lot more. My sister explains everything to them in great details.
Mr Ray, a dear friend of mine, joins us around 1-30 pm. Mr Ray has travelled all the way from the other side of Bangalore. He is not used to excursions or exertions of any kind, but finds great inspiration in my sister. After the students leave for home, our kind host, the elderly woman who has dedicated her life to the cause of Vivekananda’s teachings, invites us to lunch. Lunch is indeed simple but delicious. Sunita and I join our host in serving the rice, daal and the vegetables. At the onset, we utter a short prayer. We enjoy the meal immensely. The food has been cooked with immense love and care, and served with great warmth and respect. A sense of peace and serenity pervades the environment, as we happily munch on our rice and pappads.
After lunch we plant a few saplings on the school grounds, take a few photographs and finally bid goodbye to our gracious host. The short time we spend here, far from the civilization is lovely and rewarding. Mr. Ray drops us back at the city, where we need attend a few more events.
Ankush is of immense help. He takes our cycle to the servicing center. . It takes good 4 hours to clean the cycle and adjust it as per the instructions of Sunita and Ankush. She still did not get a good pair of shoes, go-pro and garmin GPS.
We reach home by 9 PM. Ankush teaches a lot of important cycling stuff to Sunita. The day ends as she packs her bags for tomorrow’s ride from Bangalore -> Sira->Hiriyur.
Sunita says, “Live for others” (she was supposed to be resting today, but since many people were waiting for her and looking forward to meet her , she gave up on her rest day and instead kept a busy schedule and met everyone).
Special thanks to the “Omni Sangha” NGO for supporting this noble mission.