The outdoors has attracted me ever since my childhood. From these early days I was enamored with making images – pencil sketches and eventually photography. Life got busy with bringing up our kids and the job sucked up all my time. Gone were my nature trips and the physical activity that got me hiking tens of miles or riding the borrowed bicycle within the jungles of Simlipal in Orissa. I grew in stature and headed in to the realm of obesity. After our daughter left for college, I tried to carve some time out for going back to my passion – nature. Have been engrossed in my landscape photography but came to a painful conclusion – I could not hike even a mile with my 30 lbs camera gear. The path to shed some weight was an overarching requirement for me, however, the boundaries of the gym walls did not motivate me enough.
I had to go back to an activity I loved and enjoyed – bicycling. Had done some road biking several years back and thought that it might be a good way to get some of my stamina back. Yet the motivation was just not strong enough. A childhood friend of mine brought up the idea of joining Asha. He is on the running team, but my legs could not carry the weight around my waist, hence running was not my cup of tea. He asked me to attend the introductory session at Sports Basement for the Asha biking team. Since that meeting all seems to have turned on its head for me.
I was a part of Asha very briefly in 1992, loved the activities they contributed into and no one had to sell me in to the Asha family. My trips to remote villages in Orissa, Bihar, Assam and West Bengal exposed me to the state of children in those parts of the world. Now I found a new motivation to strengthen my resolve to lose weight. The first ride of the season showed me the resolve and the motivation that showed on the faces of more than 50 riders. I had found my “Hope”. People at the first meet showed up with various capabilities – some appeared to be “Olympians” by my measure and others were people I could relate to. I had yet to realize that behind each of these members was an even stronger passion that got the folks going.
Every one in the team had one passion – “miles for smiles”. This caught on to me and I wanted to add miles for smiles to the little ones that needed it. Had been worried with the concept of fund raising being a road block, but thought of giving it a try and ping my friends. I used some of my paid photo assignments to raise money for the cause, but was completely overwhelmed with the contributions that my friends poured in to support not only me, but also, most importantly, the cause I was doing this for. Within my first week of sending out the link I had met my commitment level. Now the onus was on me on my bike.
I was not sure how the bike would fare under my weight and how I would do carrying myself along the roads. My first couple of rides, showed me that the challenge was not in the distance, but the climbs that came along the way. I would have quit had it not been for the selfless mentors I met on this team. Their motto seems to have been to get even the least capable to cross the finish line. It all started with tips on how to plan on my rides. What followed was even more illuminating. Here I had mentors, who ride for their enjoyment, riding next to the slowest in the pack looking at the gear combinations and guiding me on each turn of my pedal. They just would not let go of me or leave my side. Yes there were some that need to be called out, but it would be an injustice since everyone in the pack got me in to the act. Every small tip helped. Every stop I made on my early rides got someone stopping to say “Are you OK?” and that finish line crew that hung in there long enough for me to finish my ride just to say “Well done”. I am sure that even dreaming about a 100Km target ride would have been a nightmare for me. But the way each member of this team egged me on to progressively longer distances and over steeper and longer climbs, turned my nightmare into a dream and got me contemplating the 100 MILE some time. I cannot even thank these coaches, captain and my cohorts enough to get me to the stage that I am in. If they can get me to this state, I am sure anyone can do this.
To the entire Asha bike squad, I have only one thing to say – you helped me smile while adding miles for someone in need. Looking forward to many more miles before I sleep.