img-20190211-wa0039-1

With some thought I put together the core elements of the messages I would share with the people I meet on the cyclothon. The delivery and emphasis would change depending on the composition of the group I am talking to; the core messages however would remain the same.

Celebrating active aging:

  • Working on your fitness needs to start when you are well ahead of your sixties
  • Actively work on your fitness in and post the sixties
  • Active aging is not just staying free of illness; it is being fit and being in a position to successfully complete physically challenging tasks
  • Give full play to the hobbies and passions that are dear to you.
  • Stay active socially, spiritually and mentally
  • Senior citizenship is not a period of decline but the third phase of life when we can add value to the society and community we belong to
  • Leading a long life is meaningful only when we resolve to reach out to others to enable them to be happy

Respect and caring for elders

  • Elders have spent most of their lives often with several sacrifices to ensure that their children are well educated, get good jobs, get married and live lives that are more prosperous than their own
  • The elders deserve the support, caring and comfort of the younger members of the family
  • Care for the elders has always been a part of our heritage and culture
  • The growth of micro-families and the need for the young to take jobs far and wide has made taking care of the elders a challenge
  • There are too many instances of the young abandoning the elders especially when they fall ill; the young must remember the debt of gratitude they owe to the elders
  • Several studies indicate that there will be over 150 million elders in our country by the year 2025; this is a huge population that requires rapid enhancement of infrastructure for the caring and treatment across the board
  • The government needs to e conscious of this and deploy adequate resources for developing and funding initiatives related to care and treatment of the elders
  • Trusts, religious institutions and private enterprise need to expand their investments and involvement in this sector manifold
  • Volunteer support from the young and able elders also needs to be stepped up with appropriate training

Living in peace and harmony

  • Our youth was always spent in the company of friendly neighbours who were an extension of our family; they walked in and out of our houses just as we did theirs
  • Today we take very little effort to get to know our neighbours and create a neighbourhood of mutual respect, caring and encouragement
  • Let us resolve to reach out our hands in friendship to our neighbours and the people we are associated with to build communities of friendship, harmony and happiness around us

 

 

 

Cyclothon Stage 3: The sway of FESCOM


img-20190211-wa0008

We cycled from the little town of Sankeswar to Kolhapur to be greeted first at the Maharashtra border by members of the Federation of senior citizens of Maharashtra (FESCOM).  FESCOM has more than 5000 affiliated units at the district level and over nine lakh members. Quite a powerful body for lobbying with policymakers. The FESCOM presence could be felt all over the ride into Maharashtra at welcome and flag off points of the cyclothon.

img-20190213-wa0020

This was one stage of the cyclothon that I felt I would face challenges of ghat sections that might prove beyond me. However, at the ghat stage near Satara and the Pune, I managed to cycle without too much difficulty. At Satara, we took a detour to visit an ancient Ganesha temple. There was significant climbing here which I just about managed. I cycled along the old highway to traverse the Karjat Ghat near Pune. Here too I didn’t have too much of trouble. After a short ride through a tunnel near the summit was a steep and winding descent that was a delight to traverse. The large number of engagements arranged by the HelpAge team and the traveling we had to do left little time for rest and towards the end of the stage at Pune was happy that we were halting for a three-day break. On the morning of the ride from Satara to Shirwal, I was distinctly weary. Luckily it was a short ride and largely downhill. The presence of other cyclists and one who rode with me all the way to Shirwal also helped.

At Kolhapur we spent a night at the Matoshree Virddhashram; a home for senior citizens run by elderly ladies in their seventies. Some of them were active members of the Mahila wing of the Shiv Sena. The ashram had a wonderful atmosphere and the residents looked comfortable and cheerful. Some of the ladies had pleasant and calm faces. The founders told us that this was because of the emphasis on prayer both morning and evening at the ashram and the chanting of mantras. Food was wholesome and rather good. The stay arrangements left a lot to be desired. I have spent a night in far worse rooms but for the support team, this was a bit of a dampener. It was largely to take care of their needs that I shifted the plan to stay at an ashram at Pune to the luxurious stay at the College of Military Engineering.

The FESCOM presence could be felt at Kolhapur, Karad, Satara and Pune. At Kolhapur, we had a wonderful meeting with a large gathering of senior citizens organized by my dear friend Ravi Dhale. I liked the interactions during the section and also the continued engagement with several seniors even after the event had been called to a close. Sadly, we made them wait for two hours as we made an unscheduled visit to the Sri Mahalakshmi temple; a must I am told for anyone who visits Kolhapur.

Likewise, I liked the interactions with the senior citizens at the Ananda Dham ashram. This stage of the cyclothon enabled me to speak about active aging and the attitude as we face the third stage of life.

A very unique welcome awaited us at Satara. After a visit to an ancient Ganesha temple we went to a school for Vedic studies, Vedpattshala, were the students and the guruji recited special Vedic prayers for the success of the cyclothon. It was an unusual but pleasant experience.

Another surprise welcome at the other end of the spiritual spectrum was a visit to a large shoe mart just outside Satara where I was presented a pair of Kolhapuri chappals.

img-20190214-wa0007

Doctors continued to support the cyclothon. Dr. Nandalal Kulkarni was ever present where ever we went in Satara, running around briskly making arrangements for a warm welcome and a comfortable stay.

img-20190213-wa0006

A group of doctors, at least a dozen of them joined me for a short ride of ten plus kilometres up till Umbrej. We also stopped for tea together and lots of photographs.

A quaint but interesting experience was at the Savitribhai Phule school in Shirwal

img-20190214-wa0009

Two corporate houses stepped up to felicitate the cyclothon team. The first was the Karad Co-operative bank which appears o be one of the largest cooperative banks in the country and also very well run. The CEO is an avid cyclist himself and has a team of 40 or 50 cycling club members in the company. Emphasis on fitness by the CEO could be seen among his senior management team. We were hosted for lunch and dinner by the bank and a special felicitation event was held at the Shopping Festival where the President of the Satara Rotary Club and a senior vice president of the Bank were present among other dignitaries.

The TE Connections company also hosted lunch and dinner for us at their factory in Shirwal. Their staff members were most gracious and warm in their hospitality and involvement in our engagements and also at the early morning flagging off event.

img-20190215-wa0000

Along the way to Pune from Shirwal, we kept meeting groups of people and stopped to have a pow-wow with them on active aging among other things.

A warm welcome awaited us as we entered Pune city. We were greeted by the President of the FESCOM Pune and other members.

On to the College of Military Engineering for a three-day break before we pedal on again to Lonavala on 19th Feb morning.

Cyclothon Stage 2: A spiritual awakening


img-20190209-wa0003

A spiritual journey more than a cycling journey you could say, in spite of the relentless cycling often under the blazing sun and over rolling roads. This stage was a little more taxing from a cycling perspective as was to be expected. I went through all the legs reasonably comfortably, a few niggles notwithstanding. We have now completed 900 kms of the journey. The standout memory is spiritual, a gradual awakening that would leave all of us very different people deep inside of us as the journey progresses.

img-20190204-wa0042

Several humbling experiences told us that there are journeys more taxing and arduous than the one I have embarked on. At a school for orphaned visually impaired just outside Davengere, we saw young children combating the challenges of learning to write in Braille. The thought of the journey of life that lay ahead of them had a sobering impact on us. Yet we were moved by their zeal to sing as they were being trained at this school founded by Sri Pt. Panchakshara Gavai, who was blind from birth but was an outstanding musician.

Even more moving was our visit to a government school for the blind in Hubli. The current premises are sparse and inadequate and the classrooms dark and depressing thankfully they are moving into a new and better premise in a month.

We were amazed at the confidence and agility showed by the visually impaired students. As they moved around the school premises, they gave no impression of visual impairment. Their confident demeanour was admirable. The students were tutored under the caring eye of the acting headmaster Annappa. He has devoted all his life to caring and teaching the visually impaired. He told us that he firsts orients the children to their surroundings so that they can move around unaided and with confidence. He then orients them to the world around them and helps them to use all the other senses and their hand and bodies to “see” the world around and understand where they are. He then teaches them to be self-sufficient in daily life skills. Finally, is the training to memories and use the Braille language and tools to communicate.

Rarely do you get to meet a teacher in a government school so very dedicated to his profession, increasing his own capabilities by completing an MEd.

img-20190201-wa0041

Seeing so many caregivers at close quarters helped us understand that a re-engineering of your inner selves was necessary to be a good and caring caregiver on a sustained basis. I refer to caregivers as anyone working for uplifting the lot of the underprivileged. Be they teachers of the blind, or teachers of children from the poorest of the poor families or those caring for the shelterless and those chronically ill.

img-20190203-wa0032

In Davengere we visited the Rasmi school for girls from the poorest of the poor families. We were struck by the disciple and training the girls were receiving. I can’t recall such discipline in a school or group of young children that I came across. There wasn’t a regimentation; it seemed that the students willing accepted a disciplined way of life.

The Kabeeananda ashram and the Anandadham ashram in Chitradurga stood out for us because of the relatively happy faces of the residents. Both these ashrams housed senior citizens and children. The proximity of these two disparate groups seems to be a good model. The elderly are in close proximity to the vibrancy and hope of the young and the young are exposed to the needs of the elderly.

img-20190124-wa0028

Not such a good experience was the home for the urban homeless in Ambur.  The shelter which is run by an NGO and supported by the government was quite depressing. The dormitories were shabby and the residents had forlorn eyes devoid of hope.

At the Kabeeananda ashram, I was moved by the bright and hope-filled eyes of the children. The ashram runs a school for children who are orphans or from broken homes.  Something very good is happening at this place from what we could see.

img_20190201_145553116

We got a pleasant exposure to the ashrams run by religious Mutts. We stayed at the Sri Murugarajendra Mutt in Chitradurga. It was a large sprawling place well constructed and well maintained. There were rooms for travelers who needed to stay the night, home for orphaned children and large spacious canteens that served food for anyone who chose to walk in for a meal at lunch or dinner time. The Mutt serves food for approx. 1000 to 1500 every day. Above the dining area was a large conference room that could house approx. 5000 people. An impressive hall that had no pillars. On the 5th of every month, the Mutt conducts marriages for couples who wish to use this facility at no cost along with the wedding lunch for the guests.

We never got a chance to get a deep insight into the working of these Mutts but what we saw from the outside was very impressive. The influence these institutions have of the community is enormous. They seem to have a very necessary place in the fabric of the country.

At every place we went, we were warmly welcomed.

img-20190201-wa0045

The Rotary Club of Chitradurga held a meeting where I was the key note speaker.

An event that warmed our hearts was a community meeting at Hiriyur which was held in a temple premise.

Welcomes galore was the order of the day.

And so the cyclothon goes on. It is as much a spiritual journey as a cycling event. We have much to learn on what it takes to be a caregiver.

 

Cyclothon Stage 1- Chennai to B’lore


Done and dusted you could say after a relatively less taxing ride. It was a bit strenuous from Ambur to Krishnagiri and a lot more on the Krishnagiri Hosur leg. Looking back it was the ideal start for this arduous endeavor. Lots of meetings, more than expected ceremony at the start and finish, a  doable ride and superb support along the way from HelpAge, TI Cycles and the support team of Prem, Premila and my wife Deepa.

IMG-20190119-WA0040-1

With Senthimal, who accompanied us all the way from Chennai to B’lore, on the right.

IMG-20190119-WA0026-1Present at the kick off at Elliot’s Beach was the effervescent 92-year-old, Kamachi Subramanium.

IMG-20190119-WA0046-1

Great supporters of the cause, family and friends.

IMG-20190119-WA0024-1

And we are flagged off by Mr. TS Krishnamurty, the retired Chief Election Commissioner and Mr. Krishnaswamy, Vice President and Business Head of TI Cycles.

IMG-20190121-WA0001My childhood friend and classmate from class 5 all the way through Engineering college, KC Srinivas made arrangements for us to stay at the SCSVMV University guest house at Kanchipuram our first halting place. Srini arranged an interactive session for me with the faculty of the Department of Management Studies. It was a wonderful session with Dr. Ramana Kumar, theFaculty Head and other faculty members.

IMG-20190122-WA0020My dear friends Senguttuvan and Elangovan from the unforgettable HRL days drove down from Chennai in the early hours of the morning to see us off as we commenced our journey to Vellore. Sengu had just returned from a holiday in the UK, he braved jet lag and associated tiredness to come to see us off.

I am not going to give a blow by blow account of each day of the ride but instead, just pick and choose the top of the mind highlights.

Ambur suddenly turned into a press deluge and a retired Dy. Collector alerted the press of the cyclotron. The evening then belonged to the press. Subsequently, there was fair coverage in the Tamil language TV Channels and newspapers. Quite a few friends got back to say they say the coverage on TV or in the newspapers.

At Krishnagiri was our first close interaction with a home for the Urban Homeless.

The forlorn look and sadness in the eyes of the residents tugged at our heartstrings. We tried to suggest that there should be a bit more social and other activities for the residents but were told that many were traumatised at being abandoned by their family and needed psychiatric attention.

In contrast was the meeting with the employees of Sundran Fasteners that took place at Hosur.

Over a hundred employees attended on a voluntary basis, something that surprised the HR team, as they do not generally get so enthusiastic a response to training and development talks.

We spend the night at the Ramana Maharishi Sevasreya, a premium senior citizen home . We enjoyed the interactions with the residents and our stay. The place has an atmosphere that is quite appealing.

The 26th January, the 70th anniversary of our Republic Day saw a delightful R-Day event at the Ashram.

IMG-20190126-WA0089More was to follow at Attibelle, a little town at the border between Tamilnadu and Karnataka. HelpAge India had arranged a welcome and flag off event at this point. It meant that I had to ride just 10 kilometers to reach the venue from Hosur.

A surprise development was a quick visit to the nearby Jai Bharati school to participate in the R-Day function.

They did manage to make a monkey of me as you can see !!!!

My family, my grandson in particular and friends from the corporate world were present at the event making it very special.

IMG-20190126-WA0084It was time for a few days of relaxation before pedaling off to Tumkur and beyond to Belgaum. More strenuous cycling awaits me.

IMG-20190126-WA0039

Flagging off at Elliot’s Beach, Chennai


IMG-20190119-WA0024The cyclothon is flagged off by Mr. TS Krishnamurthy, retired Chief Election Commissioner and Mr. Krishnaswamy, Business Head of TI Cycles. It was a wonderful event very well arranged by HelpAge and supported by many long-standing friends who attended to cheer me on.

IMG-20190119-WA0026In attendance was the indomitable Mrs. Kamachi Subramanium, 92 years, who says she is in no hurry to leave the world. In her words she loves to be with people, she loves talking to people and she loves the noise and buzz of people around her.

IMG-20190119-WA0040My steed for the ride lies perched on top of a TI Cycles support vehicle. With me are the friendly technicians who will be supporting me on the ride.

IMG-20190119-WA0031My cousin Brig. Mohan Bharathan makes a donation to HelpAge for their care projects for elders, the first of what may well be a copious flow.

IMG-20190119-WA0015Warm appreciation for the cause.

IMG-20190119-WA0046A light moment with very dear supporters of the cyclothon.

Dedication personified


IMG_20190118_122619809-1

Edwin Babu ( left) Muthukrishnan ( right) are long standing employees of HelpAge based in Chennai. In a matter of fact way, they share that HelpAge has rescued over 14000 senior citizens, many terminally ill, who were abandoned on the roadside. Muthu runs a helpline that receives alerts that trigger prompt action. I enjoyed talking to these very dedicated personnel from HelpAge India.

A press meet in B’lore sets the stage for the cyclothon


A press meet at the Press Club B’lore was an ideal stage to get the cyclothon rolling.

img_5491Sitting to my right as you view the photo is Mr. Murthy Rao, a ninety year old very active senior citizen. He runs an old age home with great care and empathy with the emphasis on active aging. One area he focuses on a lot is to ensure that the inmates are always engaging in one activity or another.

img_5486A few words of caution in preparation from Rekha Murty, the State Head -Karnataka of HelpAge Inda.  It was timely, there was dis-interest and an insistence on Kanada as the medium of exchange to start with but as the meeting progressed there was palpable interest.

img_5485The enthusiastic team from HelpAge India with Murthy Rao and Premila.

IMG-20190117-WA0003-1Quite a few reporters captured sound bites and carried out interviews. We may see some of these covered in the Kanada media.

On to Chenna now.

Support for my cyclothon


Posted by Silvertalkies on Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Blog post by Silvertalkies