The air was moist and cold. It was dark and the world was still in dreams. But not so for us ! We were eager to get on our bicycles and bond !
My brother Prasad and me decided to bicycle to IIT from Velachery ; I for the reason that I wanted to enjoy a traffic free ride early morning ; my brother partly for the reason that he had no choice as we could not load 6 cycles in a car !! Yes, 6 cycles ! We managed to load my cousin Tharini’s and our 3 kids’ cycles into/onto the Alto !!
The ride from Velachery to IIT was adventurous, with most places still sheathed in darkness. It has been ages since I cycled with my brother. It was our primary mode of transport during childhood for chess tournaments and hindi classes. We two along with our sister Arthi have traversed the entire Pondicherry, and we have many fond memories from that era – some wonderful and some thrilling 😉 . I was transported back to those wonderful times during this ride !
We entered through the rear gate of IIT and the guard just glanced at us and went back to whatever he was doing , probably he was used to cyclists in strange hours around campus !!
The air was colder inside the campus, owing to the heavily wooded space inside. We cycled our way to the main Adyar entrance . Few students and faculty were in their morning jogs. Our co-riders from Chennai Trekking Club were assembling at the entrance. A few parents and kids had signed up to bond over bicycles on a Sunday morning, forgoing their weekend sleep !
Thilak and me were organizing this event as part of CTC’s 5th bday celebrations ! We took a head count, discussed the route with Noel, an IITian who was also instrumental in getting permission to conduct this event here, and started off towards the car park. Prasad protested jokingly that he had already rode around 10 kms and so his event was over ! But his daughter Sanju was enthusiastic to start off on her maiden long ride on her new bicycle.
Arya, a tiny 6-yr old, in a tiny cycle pedaled furiously to keep pace with the bigger cycles ! And he seemed to be successful ! All the kids were chatting and laughing while cycling around the empty roads.
We assembled under a big banyan tree and Vallab, an expert in sports physio, guided the kids and parents through some warm-ups and stretches to make the ride injury free. He had brought colourful rings and had some fun games for kids to improve their agility and loosen their muscles, so important to avoid tearing ligaments.
Now the kids were rearing to get back on their bikes and ride uninterrupted ! Shumon on the bike and Nobal on the cycle, seasoned cyclists, were making sure that all the riders were safe. We had instructed the kids to stick to one lane, and they were very co-operative, well for the most part atleast !
Its always a pleasure to visit the IIT Madras campus. The last time I was here was o organize a kids marathon in january. The lush greenery in the heart of the busy Chennai is like an oasis in a concrete jungle. It was still early in the day and the birds were chirping in the trees. One specialty of this reserve forest, which is part of the Guindy national park, is the vast number of banyan trees with their hanging roots framing the roads like thoran ! This makes the place cool even on a hot summer day – perfect for any outdoor activity ! And ofcourse the deers and blackbucks stops everyone in their tracks – just to catch a glimpse of them while we can. But they are camera shy and run off into the woods if they see visitors stopping close to them with a camera !
Nivya, Gowtham, Ganga Dharan and Naresh, expert photographers from CTC, criss-crossed the cyclists to click some awesome pictures ! The kids were the focus of the show, until one saw an endangered blackbuck ! Then everyone went in pursuit of these 4-legged wonders to click a perfect wildlife picture !
Agni & Sanju were riding together happily, Kavin was chatting and declaring that he wanted to study at IIT, Arya was performing stunts with his small cycle and Nisreen was enjoying the ride. My kids Abhimanyu & Rahul joined the party after their tennis and immediately got into the groove ! The kids shared their snacks, water and glucose. Kids never need any introductions. They are hardly bothered about the other’s background, they are only bothered about this moment of enjoyment and camaraderie with the other kid ! Kids have the gift to form simple friendships instantly. Not losing this gift as one grows up is also a boon, which few adults have.
Noel led the way expertly around campus, and at one point as we were going in loops, it looked like kids would take the lead, having become familiar with the landscape ! The parents should also be lauded for their special effort to join this ride. Muthukumaran, Jovitha, Geetha, Huzefa, Jumana, Prasad and Tharini were a sport in trying out cycling for the sake of their kids !
Many more kids and parents had signed up, but called in the morning to state their inability to join us, because they could not load the bicycles to their cars. We are thinking of solutions to this problem and hopefully next time more cyclists would be able to join such an event.
We took occasional breaks for water or snacks, and sometimes to wait for lost cyclists ! But the kids were going around in circles even during a ‘supposed’ break ! Such was their enthusiasm ! The adults got tired after some time, but not the kids. They did not agree to stop and wanted ‘1 more round’ !! After couple of more rounds, we assembled at the starting point for the intro session !
CTC intro sessions are always mid-way or at the end of the event, by which time the participants would be happy and comfortable to reach out to the group ! Kids were swinging from the banyan roots and climbing trees ! They were at their naughty best under the protecting arms of the big banyan tree ! After intros we adjourned to the cafeteria for a hearty breakfast and some much deserved coffee ! Already plans were being hatched for the next trek 😉
Bonding over Bicycles is an attempt to bring kids out of the confines of the house to nature , away from screen to outdoor activity. Four hours of fun and fitness has added one more healthy option to the menu of kids activities ! Parents were also happy to spend quality time with their kids while being part of a healthy activity.
With Indian roads largely being unsafe for kids to ride a bicycle, it becomes imperative to organize special events to transmit the joys of cycling to kids, which we enjoyed freely during our childhood. Hoping to bond over bicycles more often. My kids and me cycle together often, and that is one of the most enjoyable activities for us !
When was the last time you rode a bicycle ? How often does you child ride a cycle ?