101.36 My longest ride – A memorable journey

101.36October 2, 2014 – a red-letter day in my life. Well it was a normal holiday as usual but for me it was different as I was attempting my longest ride ever (attempting – Yes that is the word we use at Toastmasters before anyone gives his prepared speech). The previous best was 68.77 kms return and this time I was aiming at 80 kms return. I had marked the location on the map (Google maps – what would I have done without you?) and was scheduled to turn back from the junction where you turn right for Kalyan on the Eastern Express Highway
Preparations: The previous Sunday I slept through so missed on the ride to Thane but my companion Rony warned me to do some riding so on Monday morning went all alone to Afghan Church in Colaba and returned via Eastern Freeway. Tuesday was an aimless short ride, something that I too was ashamed of but in hindsight that helped too. Wednesday had the usual BKS Iyengar yoga. On Wednesday evening, I was preparing myself mentally and nutritionally for the ride. Being a diabetic, I was devoid of sugar and the instant energy boost it would give me but my sister, a qualified nutritionist and weight loss expert, advised me to carry diluted juice. Had a 200 ml Tropicana Grape Juice without any added sugar which I diluted with 500 ml of water. I also had a 1 litre bottle refrigerated during the night to which I added salt to bring in some electrolytes. My bag was stuffed with a spare napkin and two white handkerchiefs to be used under the helmet to protect my head from the heat. Also had a handful of nuts ie Almonds, walnuts and prunes in a plastic bag. These days we are so used to being digital and so had the battery back up and cable with me just to ensure that the phone didn’t run dry. Slept early around 2200 the previous night.
Motivation: This was an essential component. Before I went to bed the previous night, I messaged a couple of my close friends in the US, my sister and my yoga teacher just so that I knew I was accountable and couldn’t chicken out. Of course had made a big noise about it at home. They all encouraged me and their words of encouragement made it impossible for me to then back out.
The Big Day: I was up at 0359 with the alarm and was ready by 0500. I had a banana in the morning and along with that had my usual coffee. Left at 0530 from home and reached the meeting spot at King’s Circle where Rony was to arrive. He was doing the distance and was going all the way to Igatpuri which is 128 kms one way. At 0530 the weather was very pleasant and the traffic wasn’t too bad. Just that there were no lights on the roads in patches which made it difficult. So a word of caution for fellow cyclists (beginners like me) please ensure you have proper lighting not just on the rear of the bicycle but also on the front handle. And make sure they are ON.
Couple of water halts and we were in Thane easily and continued to Bhiwandi and ended up at Kalyan junction where Rony had some snacks while I had my apple and banana with the water. Bought water from there. Hydration is a must so keep adequate water in your bag. Of course the heavier the bag, the more difficult it gets to pedal. Rony goaded me to add 10 more kms to the distance so that I could overcome the 100 kms return milestone. The what if scenarios came to the mind of the doubting Thomas. But then it was pleasant so decided to give it a shot. Did it and turned back while Rony proceeded on his way to Igatpuri.
Alone and I was trying to gather all motivation mentally to keep me going. Quite a few times the thought of giving up came to my mind but the messages of the previous night made me think, how could I face them with a DNF (Did not finish). And most importantly what would Kavya think if I gave up when I am always telling her “Never give up” Went on. When up the slope, I would hear my Yoga Teacher telling me “Exhale! Exhale in the pose” (as she does during yoga) Then I could hear Kavya’s voice telling me “Come on Papa you can do it”. Imaginary yes but had a telling effect. Made it past Bhiwandi to Thane and it was getting hotter. The sun was all guns blazing at me and for a person used to the air conditioner, it was living hell. Found a coconut juice vendor on the service road in Thane which was shaded too. Had one there and asked him to pour another into the bottle. Also bought a couple of bananas of which one I finished there.
Next stop I took was on the service road from Airoli junction to Vikhroli. Bio break cum hydration break so it was input and output 🙂 Very few trees honestly and it was getting tougher. Started singing Manna Dey’s “Tujhko chalna hoga, tujhko chalna hoga“. Gosh I sure need a lot of motivation.
Halted at Amar Mahal junction under a tree then moved on for the next halt under Bhakti Park bridge. I was now in extra familiar territory. Thought of giving up thinking that now I am almost home, can take a cab. Plus my muscles around the knees were getting cramped. Lowered the gear substantially to continue at ease. Turned at Sion Hospital and made it home. First thing I did was check the distance before entering the lift. It was 101.36 so yes I did make it.
Entered home at 1220 tired surely but elated. Screamed to all as I entered home. Kavya wasn’t there but shared with her later on. Posted on Social media, SMSed & Whatsapped people too. Post the shower and lunch, slept like a log for 3 hours. Thighs paining, butt busted but all in all it was worth it all. If you can dream it you can do it. And if you just push the envelope slightly more, success is yours.

My P3 at Toastmasters finally – The Relationship Cycle

MyHercules ACT 110 Project 3 Speech was kind of jinxed as it took me quite some time to write down and then when I was due to give it, I had to call it off as had to travel outside town. Finally on September 5, 2014, I gave it as a Test Speaker at a corporate club, Recall. Thanks to all who made this possible. I finally got the monkey off my back. Here is the transcript of my speech.

The Relationship Cycle

In 1976, a 9-year-old boy accompanied by his father was out to buy his first bicycle! There it stood in the corner, a BSA resplendent in maroon beckoning him as he was all set to spread his wings and fly. His eyes gleamed as he was only too eager to escape from the clutches of his sister’s hand-me-down bicycle. That child is slightly overgrown now as you can see but his love for the bicycle remains unchanged.

Contest Chair, fellow toastmasters and guests, join me on my two-wheeled excursions.

I continued to cycle in and around the building. 2 years down, started cycling to school with Mom’s stern warnings about the traffic. The short distances gradually increased but the maximum I rode was 6 kms away to Siddhivinayak temple. For 7 years, this bicycle remained an inseparable part of mine till someone stole it from Dadar. I was devastated as I cried my way to the Police Station. Alas it was never found. At the end of the academic year, I begged my parents for a new bicycle and bought the same maroon BSA. This cycle was with me till the second year of Engineering when 2 more wheels got added and I began driving in 1986.

Driving a car is indeed different from riding a bicycle. I buried my love for the 2 wheels somewhere deep in my heart for 27 years. Finally on March 29, 2013, after a lot of deliberation, I bought a shining blue Hercules. Like the new-found possession in 1976, I started cycling the very next morning. Mom being Mom continued to warn me every morning. What started as an exercise, soon became fun as I rekindled an old flame. I got hooked to Mapmyride on the phone which measured the distance covered with the speed. It posted the stats to Twitter and Facebook so I could brag about it to all my connections. More importantly, it made me accountable as friends questioned if they didn’t see such posts. This added to the pressure.

Having pedalled for over a year all alone, I mustered the courage to cycle with a group. I was shy and always thought others were fast riders but this group was headed to see the flamingos in Sewree, my backyard. This was transformational. Made so many new friends and began learning. I learnt that my low-speed was because I was riding in the wrong gear for the whole year!

Social media got people to support my passion for cycling. It was now time for me, the cyclist to give back to society. On May 25, 2014, for the first time I cycled for a cause to support the Multiple Sclerosis Society of India. About 50 cyclists from across Mumbai rode in maroon T-shirts. Some of the patients travelled in vehicles and one of them was so enthusiastic that he let his young son pedal with us all the way to Haji Ali and back. It culminated with two senior neurologists explaining to us about the disorder. I decided then I would organise a ride on World Parkinson’s day in April 2015 to highlight the cause of my Dad and others suffering from Parkinson’s.

Now that I have told you about my cycling journeys, let me also tell you about my first love, food! I always relished the local breakfast be it the fresh karela juice at Yeoor Hills, the delectable Mushroom and cheese Omelette at Mondegar or the freshly baked Mawa cakes with Brun paav at the century old B Merwans, Grant Road. Along with food, I also discovered the grandeur of Colaba’s Afghan Church, the greenery of Aarey Milk Colony and the steep hills of Yeoor in Thane to cite some spots.

In conclusion, don’t let your childhood passions be buried somewhere in the corners of your mind. Get out and take the first step – Rent a cycle from the neighbourhood cycle shop. Cycling is the new Golf for networking. Join a group if you can but remember you are not participating in a race but just for fun. Don’t forget to invest in a proper helmet to protect your head and a pair of decent gloves to avoid blisters. Pedal for a cause and I am sure you will be pedalling for life.

The video recording of my speech is here. Sorry but taken on the phone.

Back to cycling after a long hiatus

cyclistJuly 7, 2013 – Exactly a month and two days after I fractured my wrist, I rode the bicycle again. It felt so good. Rony Bill, a well-wisher on Facebook and a cycling enthusiast did mention that I should go slow and steady since I am getting back from an injury so I started off slowly in the morning. Went past 5 gardens not knowing which way to go and near St. Joseph’s saw another cyclist. We got talking as we pedaled past Hanuman Temple in Wadala. He was from Matunga only and was a short distance cyclist so pedaled for some time with him. Then he decided he was done so he carried on. I went on via Tilak Bridge on to Tulsi Pipe road and all the way to Mahalakshmi and from there to Byculla. Rode yet again on the long flyover connecting Byculla to Parel and came home. Under 19 kms done but a very leisurely pace of 12.5 kms so around 90 minutes. Felt so good and I was lucky it did not rain. Hope to repeat something again tomorrow. Weekdays can’t do a long distance or duration thanks to the traffic so will be an hour at the maximum.

As Vyenky mentioned on Facebook, I felt like a child who found his favourite toy after a long time. How true:-)

Cycling – A week past – Findings

fat-cyclist

I am enthused by my new-found love for cycling. For the past week I have been using it off and on and let me tell you every ride has memories of one form or the other.

Day 1, Saturday March 30, 2013 I went to Hanumanji Temple in Wadala and 5 gardens. A trip to 5 gardens always brings back my educational years – first to pass is Ruia College where I did my XI and XII. Then comes my school, DPYA where I spent my formative years right from Nursery to X. Then further down is VJTI where I did my Engineering so nostalgia is all around.

Day 2, Sunday March 31, 2013 I went to Siddhivinayak Temple which was the farthest I had travelled on my maroon BSA SLR bicycle and from there went to Mahim, passed by the office building and came back home.

Day 3, Friday April 5, 2013 Started from home not knowing where to go so got on to the main road at 0645 and rode on. Reached the Byculla zoo and then turned back. Must admit I was impressed by myself. Wrote on Facebook and was enthused by the Likes and messages from one and all.

Day 4, Saturday April 6, 2013 This was probably a hectic day. Morning 90 minutes of yoga. After that was all set to cycle to office as everyone wanted proof of my having cycled. Went in shorts but admit the traffic was bad. Return journey started at 1400 and it was terrible as the sun was shining mercilessly and the humidity was phenomenal. 1500 to 1600 Swimming coaching (Still don’t know free-style but am learning in all earnestness). Came home and went to meet an ailing school friend at Bhandup. Post dinner at 2215 went for a walk with my better half to Dadar. Came home and slept like a baby:-)

Day 5, Sunday April 7, 2013 After yesterday I was banking on a friend to accompany me for early morning cycling today but he dropped out at 11 pm last night so woke up at 0630 only. Left at 0745 and decided to drive to Priyadarshini building along the Eastern Express Highway and then via Bhakti Park, came home. On the way went up St. Joseph’s slope which during school days was always a challenge.

Takeaways from all these escapades – Please do not avoid a helmet at any cost. Traffic sucks. Early morning the number of cars maybe less but at that time no one pays heed to traffic signals or traffic rules of any sort. “Cycle to the left of the road” – This is what Mrs. Pereira had taught us in Standard III but look at the left of the road and you realise that is the most unkept side of the road. Even the smallest stone makes your bottom go up in the air and thud you come crashing back down on the seat. With a bottom like mine, IT HURTS! Watch out. Don’t expect any car, bus or truck driver to show any respect for you. They are ruthless. While crossing major roads, I have walked across. Can’t take on these mighty vehicles. So better to be safe than sorry. Eyes – Please protect your eyes with some form of glasses. I forgot my spectacles today and went on without them (I have a miniscule number so doesn’t matter) but when going down a slope you need to be extremely careful. Hydrate yourselves – I have been advised by all my cycling friends (rather gurus) to keep myself well hydrated. My 31-year-old habit of 1.2 litres of water first thing in the morning helps me there as I have enough supply of water in my body but will sooner or later need to carry a bottle as the temperatures rise.

Every road taken has brought me memories of one form or another so while I cycle my mind is wandering into the past. Enjoy the ride.

Rode a bicycle after 28 years

Hercules 110sYesterday I finally took the plunge and bought the Hercules 110s. I have been a cyclist right from Standard III when I bought the first maroon BSA SLR from a shop in Kalbadevi. This faithful friend of mine was stolen some 6 years later and I ended up in tears (A vehicle always has shared so many moments of your life). Then bought another maroon BSA SLR from Ambika Cycle mart in Dadar West. This one proved my teenage saathi from 1981 all the way till say sometime in 1986. Used to cycle down to Ruia College, to VJTI even if I was less than a kilometre away from both of them (and yet ended up late / missing the morning lecture…. shameless me!) In 1986 got my driving licence so the two additional wheels took precedence and I lost my friend. Somewhere deep down the urge to get back on 2 wheels was always there but the increasing girth / the feeling of ending up sweaty and grimy kept me away. Met Chetan Shah an avid cyclist who gave me an insight into what is done and how. Infact he sent me details of the model of the cycle to buy  (maybe considering my mass and girth:-)) and accessories I must have (including the helmet which is so necessary these days). Yesterday evening the bicycle was home and this morning after yoga I took it out for a test drive you can say. My first time since 1986 and womenfolk in the house were ready with their advice that “you haven’t tried cycling in so many years. Will you be able to do it? Be careful etc.” with a geared cycle. The first few metres were kind of wobbly as I tried to get hold on myself. It was also my first time with a geared cycle and I tried to change gears just for kicks around 5 gardens. The first bomb fell on me as the chain came off:-) Got it back soon after all did it so many time before in a cycle without gears:-) Went to the Hanumanji Temple in Wadala as my Grandfather always went there on Saturdays and we go there whenever something new comes in. After that went around 5 gardens reliving so many memories and took 7 rounds. Traffic sure makes cycling very difficult these days I will admit. I thought people stared at me every time or maybe they were pitying the bicycle who was thrust upon with such an elephantine load:-) But I was enjoying it. Will have to build endurance for sure but enjoyed my ride after such a long time. Good to be back cycling.

Disastrous beginning to 2011 – No exercise

3 days into the new year and I have not even woken up in the morning to exercise. Shame on me. I planned to walk in the mornings but sleep always got better of me these past 3 days. Need to get back to Robin Sharma on that. 5 AM alarm has been shamelessly switched off and the comfort of the blanket takes over. Saturday I did go swimming and enjoyed too but then on Sunday afternoon, slept like a log and in the process, Kavya slept too and she missed her swimming lesson. Shame on me. Better pull up my socks and get my act together.  Also had planned to get a bicycle for me in the new year so that could cycle my way to office on Saturdays and also would then push (read inspire) Kavya to pick up the art of riding a bicycle without the trainer wheels…. Gosh what is wrong with me?

Kavya’s first bicycle


Finally Kavya now has a new cycle, her first one. Just went and got her a red Hero Cycles’ Tango. Infact I am tempted to get one for myself too (not the same size or structure obviously). I bought it from the same store as my second cycle. The first one, a BSA SLR maroon colour, was bought from somewhere in Lohar Chawl / Kalbadevi or such when I was in the 3rd standard. This was stolen when I was in the 9th or was it 10th and then I bought another BSA SLR same colour. This was the one I used all through junior college and even Engineering till two more wheels came into action in the form of a Fiat. I am hoping Kavya too derives the same pleasures of cycling that I enjoyed. Who knows I too will end up with one so can ride it to office on Saturdays or such. Environmentally friendly and yes I can always do with some exercise.