P9 Speech at Toastmasters – It’s just a hill… get over it.

cycling-uphill-headeaderJust gave my P9 today, September 24, 2016, at Bombay Toastmasters Club. It was after exactly 11 months that I gave a speech in different circumstances but the will to deliver the speech was high and so could do it. The speech objectives were:

  • Persuade listeners to adopt your viewpoint or ideas or to take some action.
  • Appeal to the audience’s interest.
  • Use logic and emotion to support your position.
  • Avoid using notes.
  • Time: 5 to 7 minutes.

How many of you sit in front of the computer all day? Did you know that sitting is more dangerous than smoking and kills more people than even HIV? We are sitting ourselves to death. Prolonged sitting increases the risk of developing serious illnesses like cancer, heart diseases & type 2 diabetes.

Toastmaster of the day, fellow Toastmasters and guests, welcome to the uphill journey

Now that you are all ears, the next thought that comes to your mind is to join a gym. But then far too many people quit going to the gym. WHY?

  • Time constraints – You don’t wake up early in the morning think “Wow! I am going to hit the gym and will enjoy myself sweating it out”, do you?
  • Expenses – A Gym membership costs money and if you, like me, know you are going to be regularly irregular then why waste money?
  • Prolonged results – We expect to become Salman Khan having done 2 weeks of gymming. The mirror doesn’t lie and one look in the mirror is de-motivating enough.

What if you have an outdoor regimen with the cool wind blowing on your face early morning as you explore new places, see the sun rising and hear the birds chirping? And in the midst of all of these, you could actually exercise? I discovered one – Cycling.

Apart from all the fun, cycling has tremendous health benefits.

Cycling is low impact and hence easier on my joints than running – Marathon runners, Hasnain, Omkar and others please note. And it is low impact for the road too. The BMC Commissioner requested me in private not to run in Mumbai saying “We are already drawing a lot of flak for the potholes. God forbid if we have swimming pools or craters, we would be finished. Elections are coming up so please help us.” Jokes aside, in case of cycling, the injuries per 1000 hours is 6 whereas the same count in case of running is 11.

It improves heart health – A study found that cycling 35 kms a week can reduce your risk of heart disease by as much as 50%. Much like toning your leg muscles, your heart muscles need to be put to work to stay healthy as well. When I started cycling, 10 kms and I was panting. Now I do 30 kms on weekdays and on weekends I do anything from 70 to 100 kms.

It helps lose weight – I know you are wondering if it has made a difference to my body at all but someday you will see that change in my waistline. My weekly goal is to complete 100 kms on the cycle during the 3 days that I go for it. Don’t give me those dirty looks please!

It helps strengthen muscles – My yoga teacher will confirm that I am now able to lift my leg up 90 degrees on the wall in poses which I could never do before. Your legs definitely end up much stronger as you go on pushing the pedal. And if you are riding on slopes, you will huff and puff on the way up but the ride downhill will make it worth the effort.

Is it all health related only?

Cycling makes so many friends. By participating in group rides, I come home smiling having met new people. And we have a group of our own, The 3 musketeers and our Sunday rides are always centred around a food joint.

It teaches teamwork – When you ride in a group, you have to hasten the slow movers and at the same time slow down the bullet trains. If there is a puncture or any other breakdown, the whole group stops and comes out in support of the person affected.

Goal setting and achievement – When I am on the saddle, my only purpose is to better my previous time. It is always a race against myself to better my average speed. And I did it from 14 kmph in 2013 to over 18 now.

Can I have a show of hands on how many of you are willing to take to cycling? Go to the nearby cycle shop and rent a bicycle. Set a target and work towards it. My target is to go to Lonavala in 2016 for which I am working hard. After that 2017 would be the BRM 200 in which you do 200 kms in 13.5 hours. After all, it is just a mental hill that I can ride and tide over. So why not? Come join me at 6.15 tomorrow morning at Dadar TT.

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The importance of a helmet when cycling

I have a friend who comes to yoga with me and he cycles from home to the venue. The distance is honestly a pittance. It would barely be a kilometre. However, he comes without a helmet and every time I have to remind him not to ride without a helmet. My standard expression is “God has given you only one nariyal (coconut). Don’t break it”

Honestly, even a gentle nudge is enough for a major mishap.

Bicycle helmets may seem to be uncomfortable to wear and ugly looking, but they have their importance indeed. They protect your head from serious injuries while riding a cycle. No matter how good you think you are at riding, accidents can happen in the blink of an eye. Did you know that almost 75% of the cycling accidents involved injuries to the head? The bike helmet can literally save your life.

One of the most important reasons for wearing a helmet is to protect yourself and your head from a fatal injury. Head injuries are the most likely to cause fatalities due to damage to the brain. God forbid and you fall, it is the foam inside the helmet that is taking the energy of the impact, rather than your head. If that foam wasn’t there or a helmet was not worn, the energy from the impact would affect your head and brain directly, forcing your head to suffer injuries that could result in death. Unfortunately, not just any helmet will do. You must find a proper fit helmet in order to ensure that it works the way it should in protecting your head and hence your brain. A concussion is another effect that can be experienced. And it is serious business as concussion can result in death or lifelong disabilities.

Hence it is of paramount importance to understand that the key is not just wearing a helmet, but wearing the right one that fits right. Do not compromise on the helmet as your life depends on it. A properly fit helmet will be fit all the way around your head, and will not move much when your head is shaken or moved. The strap that holds the helmet in place should be tight, but comfortable and the helmet should not move with any type of force. The best fitting helmet will cover all areas of your head, including the sides, to help prevent injury to any part of the head.

Happy Riding but not without a helmet, please.

Cycling to Tansa lake – A long day indeed for me

Sunday, August 21, 2016, and the day finally dawns. The alarm goes off at 0429 and I am all set to mentally ditch my friends and sleep in. After all, I have slept only past midnight. But the thrill of doing a 100+ km ride pushes me out of bed. I leave at 0600 to meet Rony at Kings’s Circle. The two of us take off and meet Nitin at Sion who arrives in his car. He has a cycle stand (borrowed from another friend, Jinesh). I am handed over the car keys and so my grandiose plans of sleeping for an hour vamoose.

We drive on Eastern Express Highway and head to Kalyan junction (or whatever that may be called – the right turn for Chokhi Dhani) Just a km or two before the junction, there is a thud and we see the 3 bicycles lowering down a bit. We realise after a lot of effort that one of the joints has given way. Decide to park the car on the road and begin cycling. Meet Sydney and Rohit who are from our group but who planned to cycle to Vasai. (Reminds me of the Kishore Kumar song, Hum the woh thi aur sama rangeen samajh gaye na, Jaate the Japan, pahonch gaye Chin samajh gaye na from the evergreen Chalti ka naam gaadi). The 5 of us take off. The first pit stop is some 5 or 7 kms away at the McDonald’s. This is the first time for me that I am actually eating even with the ride having barely started.

Continue reading “Cycling to Tansa lake – A long day indeed for me”

Overcoming a mental barrier

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 6.29.31 PMA mental barrier is a barrier that we put in our minds that keeps us from doing something or acting upon something. And I, for one, had a huge barrier about cycling from Borivili to Thane via Ghodbunder Road. Don’t ask me why! I had dropped out twice before despite being gung-ho about joining.

On Saturday, February 27, 2016, Nitin and I discussed on the group about doing this ride and we agreed to go ahead with it the next day. Skeptical I was but what worked for me in the past (when I did the 100 km ride) was that I committed to a couple of dear friends. That pressure always would weigh on my head trying to back out so I took off with Nitin at 0630 on Sunday, February 28, 2016.

As luck would have had it, Nitin’s rear wheel had a flat at Jogeshwari which was beyond repair. Since he has a BTWin, he took an auto from Jogeshwari to Decathlon to get that fixed. I thought this was my golden chance to chicken out. I could simply go to Borivili National Park entrance and turn back as that was the farthest I had gone to on the Western Express Highway (WEH). And the WEH is definitely not as good as the Eastern Express Highway (EEH) which I love to ride on. The mind immediately started googling for excuses on why should I not go it alone to Decathlon. Some of the reasons, I could whip up:

  • I am alone. What if I am attacked by a dog? (Always my first excuse thanks to my mortal fear of the canine species)
  • Ghodbunder Road is treacherous I am told. Slopes galore (my Achilles heal)
  • I am told tires tend to get punctured. What will I do? (I don’t know how to fix a puncture as yet – Shame on me!!)
  • It is getting hot. What will happen? (What if I get dehydrated or my sugar level drops?)

Despite all the search results in my mind, I continued. Rode over all the bridges from Jogeshwari so could practice riding uphill on slopes.

At Ghodbunder junction, turned right with a lot of mental resistance but at that time, the commitment made to friends mattered a lot. Kept me going. The slopes weren’t half as bad. I could manage them and did not have to walk up even once. Maybe the new cycle helped in that? Maybe Rony’s tips on managing gears helped? Who knows?

Made it to Decathlon where Nitin was waiting. He got his wheel fixed while I had some breakfast with black coffee to pump me up lest my sugar fell.

Left around 1130 under the blazing sun and once again took some of the bridges (I know the cardinal rule was broken but then I must also get some practice on slopes).  Reached home by 1300. Quite drained out as the sun really saps you of the energy. 80.22 kms done finally.

Lessons learned:

  • It is all in the mind.
  • No dog ever barked at me.
  • No punctures.
  • Slopes could be managed with ease.
  • And the heat didn’t kill me either.

So get over it and move on Manish!!

Next big ride – Keep watching!! I just love bragging so will be here:-)

Christmas 2014 – A memorable day for me.

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It was a normal day to start with just that the previous night, I had promised Kavya that I would be back by 1030 from cycling. She had taken my phone which at that time I felt was to play Lumosity (That is the only game permitted on my phone). I had expected it to be a cakewalk as was going to do about 40 kms. Woke up early and was out by 0600 and cycled to Lucky Biryani in Bandra along with Nitin. BCCT let by Vishal Sharma had planned the Christmas ride to an orphanage, Swagat Ashram near Malad. We were under the impression that the ride would start at 0630 sharp but we left only by 0650. Made it to the Ashram by 0820 or so. Waited as the food packets hadn’t arrived. Finally at 0905 left as I knew I had to reach home. Dropped by to meet my Mami in Kandivili who was surprised to see me and shocked that I was on a bicycle. When I was there Kavya called and reminded me of my promise so I confirmed that yes I was on track even if I knew that it would be impossible to reach home from Kandivili in 30 minutes.

When I was at Jogeshwari, I took a hydration break when I heard the phone ringing. I picked up only to hear a bawling Kavya. I checked my watch and it was 1040 already. Asked her to calm down and tell me what the matter was. She simply said “You broke your promise! Not fair!” I tried to argue with her but she would take none of my stories. Checked the phone and had clocked just under 50 kms so decided to go on for a few more minutes to get over the 50 km mark and then take a cab. Around the Domestic Airport, after completing just under 54 kms, I boarded a cab with my cycle on the carrier. As we were moving, I called her up to inform her that I was on my way home. I could not fathom what the din honestly was all about. Once home, she snatched my phone and ran into the room and locked herself in. Finally she opened after 10 minutes and asked my parents and us to get in with eyes closed which we obeyed.

As we entered, she asked to open our eyes and we saw her with a Santa mask put on. She asked her to look for the gifts that she had got for us. And while we moved she played “We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” recorded in her own voice on the phone. She bought chocolates for my Dad, Pauravi and me. And a Sudoku book for her favourite, Dadi (my Mom). She then danced with each of us while playing the song in the background. It was so touching. And she said “No one ever gets you all gifts so I decided to get you this time” Never have I had such a memorable Christmas Day in life. Thanks so much Kavya for making it so special.

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.