Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Dhabas, friends and Ambdekar Jayanti ...

Reached Vijaywada previous afternoon. Before entering into the headquarters of Krishna district, Andhra Pradesh had taken a few halts on the way from my last shelter, a road side DHABA in Nandigama. I am very thankful to the Dhaba owner and all the staff for their kindness. They not only provided me space but also but also two tables to make bed, one of which broken in the morning. :(

Dhabas are the most convenient space to settle down in the nights. Apart from food and snacks, usually they have the facility of washrooms too. The night prior to Nandigama, had got shelter at Sai Durga Hotel in Indiranagar, Munagla. There met Sai Kiran. An engineering student helps her dad-mom in running the hotel. What a delicious meal I had there. They gave me plenty of dosa and onion chutney in the breakfast. Sai Kiran's dad gave me 3 huge papayas, "this is fresh, keep it with you. Eat whenever you feel on your way".
The first halt of Yesterday was at Keesara, next to the bridge on Krishna river. A dry krishna! There met an young engineer, Pranit. Pranit came to me and said that he saw me riding while he was traveling on a bus to his work place. Just after deboarding the bus, he took his sister's scooter and came to see me. He asked whether he can spent some time with me, which i affirmed. We both walked upto the toll plaza.

There I found the washroom, which I was looking for. After my freshening up, we sat together for sometime in the same complex. There met some staff of National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and a staff of AP police. All were very kind to me and the ride. Later we together went to a dhaba on the other side of the road and had breakfast. Idly and dosa! A little spicy!!

The next halt was at Kanchikcharla, somewhere 22 kms before Vijaywada. There I stopped to click some photographs of the statue of the legendary Telugu actor, who founded the Telugu Desham Party and later become CM of Andhra Pradesh for many years, N T Rama Rao, popularly know as NTR. While I was busy in clicking, heard drum beats. It was a huge procession, in celebration of the great visionary, legendary wold leader and the father of Indian constitution Dr. Bhimrao Ambdekar's birth anniversary. Later the procession converged into a public meeting. When they knew about the ride and its purpose, invited me to speak to the people. It was indeed an honor for me talk to about Dr. Ambedkar. They offered me food too, which could not avail as I had to reach Vijayawada, which still was more than a hour ride. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Human Rights Day and Special Branch of Kerela Police

Yesterday (10 December '14) had been gone to a solidarity protest at Civil Station, Kapatta with Father Baby. I was told that people will observe International Human Rights Day by this silent protest and express their solidarity to the ongoing standing protest on Tribal issues in Trivandrum. I started clicking photographs as usual, meanwhile staff from Special Branch of Kerela
Police started interacting me about my locus standee, whereabouts, my family, my
native place and my prior connection with the people present in the protest. Which I repliedone after other. This interaction/interrogation went on till the end of the protest, almost for more than one hour. Had a long interactions with ASI Mr. Gopi and Forensic Photographer Mr. S. Babu. A few others had their questions, which I replied. 
They wanted to know about the Ride and my further route, which I told them. Later Mr. S. Babu, (a Fine Arts Graduate and a official police
photographer for the last 17 years)  told me, "Please don't mind the questions of Special Branch officials, as recently a Maoist action has been taken place in the district and the Maoists are active in Waynad district. Since you do not seem local,this is why they were asking to you these questions". To which I replied, I really don't mind to these questions, because when I am on the wheels,

people ask whatever they want. It would have been nice if any senior/responsible official from your department would have asked all the questions instead of persons coming one after other with the same set of
questions and ascertaining my identity and citizenship. Later ASI Mr. Gopi invited for a tea at nearby shop. We had a brief conversation on tea also. He told me about the terrain and road towards Karnataka
boarder. He said me to be careful while crossing the Jungle part of Karnataka. It could be dangerous, because wild animals like elephants freely roam there. Replying my question he said that his elder son has recently completed B. Tech while the younger one is doing B. Com., And he is a native of Waynad district.

With the words, 'if I face any difficulty on my, I will give a call to you', I departed from there. It was a memorable and a bit traumatized experience indeed.

City Ride, Kozhikode Beach and Stuffed Banana

Pottamel Junction
Before retiring previous night, had fixed three alarms; at 5.00, 5.20 and 5.30 am respectively. I wanted to be at Pottamel Junction on time, i.e., 6 O’clock. The beginning point of the Ride, which Abhishek had already planned with Kozhikode cyclists on Sunday. My very beloved Kris Bhai also had promised to be there to see off the cyclists for the morning city ride. Baring a few exceptions, I never remained early riser after my college days.  I had to wake up on the second alarm even after not having proper sleep previous night. I wanted to be there on time. After freshening, I checked up the route map on my mobile phone and started for the day with my dear Gender Bender. I was pedaling towards the Malaparamba junction; saw Abhishek coming from the other side. He supposedly was coming to the house to accompany me to Pottameal Junction. I stopped just opposite to the Qurram Hospital and rang him up to say that I already have left and saw you going towards home. He turned his bike and within a few seconds I started following his week. It was still a bit dark.
By the time we reach Pottamel Junction, around 7-8 cyclists were already there. They all welcomed me with hand shake and hugs. It was around half past to 6 and we were waiting for Rafiq. By the time my dear Kris Bhai had also reached. Though doctor had suggested him for rest for few more days, but he simply wanted to be there for our encouragement. He took out his camera from his pocket and started clicking from different angles. Meanwhile Rafiq reached. We all did fall in line and there happened a photo session and then we all started. Initially it was decided to cover 35 kilometers in one hour and then will reach to Kozhikode beach. I was told to be in the front, as my cycle had board and flag and I am the campaigner; which I replied, “I will try my level best but please don’t expect me always to be in front. And I am also a bit tired, as I am continuously riding for the past two weeks without any gap. This terrain is entirely new for me …” Pressy understood me and did revision into the plan. I was allowed to ride easily and the city riders decided to cut sort the route also. So, now It was only 25-28 kilometers before reaching the end point Kozhikode beach.
During the ride Mahesh, Rafiq, Pressy, Neyaz and Farish had some conversation with me regarding my campaign and cycling. By the time we entered into the main city, people were started coming for tea at the stalls. At many points they expressed their solidarity by raising their hands. I was told to explain about the ride at a few corners. Whenever passer bys and bus passengers used to look at us curiously, and especially the school children; it felt nice.
At Kozhikode beach
After having almost one third round of the city we reached at the beach. There we met a few more riders who were jogging there. Gender Bender was attracting public attention as usual. Farish was the youngest rider among us. He is a student of std. XII and continuously riding for the last one year. Recently he did pedaling to Kannur in 4 hours. He is an inspiration for me. After spending some time, we went to Bombay hotel in Silk Street. I was amazed to see so much people having their morning tea and breakfast in hotel unlike any other North Indian city. Saw women having tea and breakfast in groups, some alone, but nobody was staring them. Being a North Indian, a Dilliwallah and a Bihari this would have been a surprise for me, if this would have been the first such glimpse. Thanks to the Ride, I got the chance to witness and feel, what is generally termed as South Indian culture.  Nothing unusual!
Got an opportunity to taste so many dishes in breakfast including fish curry, mutton curry, stuffed banana, putt and pakodas. Thanks to Gokul and Lekha my friends in Thrissur that I did taste PUTT for the first time and fell in love with this. Stuffed banana is generally a part of snacks and a very delicious sweet dish.

After having the breakfast I started for Malaparamba, my local shelter. Pressy was with me, as his house was also on the same route. After a few kilometers pressy turned towards his house, I took the route of Civil Station which is in Malaparmba. I had to finish some important writing work, so I sat on Abhishek’s computer and did my work. Later after lunch had a good sleep, which was required, because could not sleep well last night.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Day one in Calicut: Talai, Vinayaka and the Good Day

After a wonderful stay and work in Thrissur, My stay in Calicut was pleasant and fruitful. I reached Malaparamba Junction, the place suggested by Abhishek Shankar on Saturday (29 November 2014) afternoon and gave him a call on his cell phone. He was going to take care of my lodging at his office, which earlier used to be his house. Just after a few minutes of unbinding my luggage and settling down, Abhishek, a professional Architect with vivid social concern, handed over a well designed map/chart of the city to me. Explaining the map he told me about all the important places, landmarks and institutions.

In the evening he escorted me with his Enfield mobike to the city. First we stopped at Calicut Press Club. There we met the Secretary Mr. A. V. Sherine. Sherine is a nice human being. He heard about my ride and its objective. Appreciated and suggested to see an article on Acid Attacks written by the Social Welfare Minister Mr. Muneer in the recent issue of Matribhumi, a malyalam weekly. He also suggested to meet Mr. Muneer as he could understand the mission of the ride and might support. Next he offered a press conference in the press club on Monday. That was a kind of big moral support.

After that Abhishek took me to Talai area (Daryaganj of Delhi). There is huge pond in the locality. That might be one reason for naming the area Talai. Mr. Kris Sreekandath, now my very dear Kris Bhai and Sebastian uncle waiting there for us. Kris Bhai, originally from Kochi has spent most of his time in Oxford and now settled in Calicut for the last few years. Sebastian Uncle, a cyclist for the last 62 years is a very nice and enthusiastic human being. Later we all went to nearby Vinayaka restaurant, there Abhishek and Kris Bhai interviewed me with nice coffee. Kris bhai always keeps Sony camera in his pocket and never leave any chance to click. He has taken some photographs in front of a very old temple.

On the way to Vinayaka restaurant we met with a cycle shop owner, Kris bhai introduced me to him and said that he met to Abhishek only because of him. This wonderful human being offered me to repair my cycle if required. 

Later I followed Abhishek and went to the office of Social Welfare Minister of Kerela Mr. Muneer. But by the time we reached there, he had left for some other work. 

Once again I followed Abhishek’s Enfield till a whole sale market. From there Abhishek left for his home and I decided to take a round of the city. But before that I got some batteries for my cycle lights and a tooth paste. K. P. NAMBOODIRI'S an Ayurvadic for the first time. The shopkeeper gifted me a packet of Good day, my all time favourite biscuit. There met many shopkeepers and salespersons encircled the GENDER BENDER and started asking about the Ride. Why the ride? From where I started? My native place? (these were the questions. In fact, these are the questions, I usually reply. Everyday at least 50 times! I Always enjoy answering except when someone stops in the sun and started asking questions one after other or a mo bike passerby starts asking during the ride only.)  

After that, I started for Malaparamba, my local place of stay. On the way to I had my dinner in SANGAMAM hotel. During my Calicut stay I had my many meals in Sangamam. Now the hotel owner and staff are my good friends. Every night I used to take two bottles of boiled water from Sangamam. 

This was the end of the first day in Calicut. By the time I unfolded my mat, it was 1.00 hours. But I could sleep only after 3.30 hours.