Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Big Bikes And Bigger Hearts

The members of the Alleppey Bullet Club indulge in their passion for riding, as well as helping people

Photo by Ratheesh Sundaram 

By Shevlin Sebastian

On a recent Sunday afternoon, a group of people appeared at the doorstep of Saneer Shereef, at Alleppey (53 kms from Kochi). It is a small maroon-coloured house, which has a verse from the Quran pasted just above the entrance.

Soon, a cash gift of Rs 13,600 was presented to Saneer's mother, Laila. She is suffering from an advanced stage of throat cancer and is undergoing several rounds of chemotherapy. Unfortunately, Saneer, who works as a labourer, is unable to meet the cost of the treatment.

When they stepped outside, one of the members, Vishnu Vijayan, said, “When we help people, of whatever religion they belong to, we get blessings from God.” The others nodded silently.

What is unusual is the group that gave the gift: they are the members of the Alleppey Bullet Club (ABC). “The club was formed in October, 2015,” says President K. Priyan, 44. “We began as a Facebook group and then decided to form the ABC.” All the members, numbering 160, are from the various towns of Alleppey district.

They consist of company employees, engineers, police officers, students, government employees, a Christian priest, Fr Benzi Sebastian Kandanat, as well as a Hindu priest, Santosh Kumar, and a couple of women.

Says medical student Neelima Oby, “Even if Keralites are very educated, they still make a face when they see a lady on a bike. So, the club is a good platform for those of us who want to live our dream of riding a Bullet.”

Asked the charms of a Bullet, as compared to other bikes, club  secretary Rajeev Karthikeyan says, “You feel relaxed while riding a Bullet. The shock absorbers are great, so there is no strain on the lower back.”

And all of them find it easy to ride a Bullet even though, at 150 kgs, it is twice the weight of an average bike. “It does not matter how big or small you are,” says Rajeev. “You need to have confidence and mental strength. I have seen slim girls riding a Bullet without any problem. This is the most comfortable bike in India.”

Every now and then, the club members go for long rides, to different places in Kerala. “It is usually a round trip of 300 kms,” says Rajeev.

But, surprisingly, the biggest joy for them is to do charity works. “This idea to help others occurred because most of us are financially well-off,” says Priyan. “You need to be, if you are want to be able to afford a Bullet, which has a starting price of Rs 1.5 lakh.”

One day, they went to a government-run home and gave the physically challenged boys an irresistible offer: they could have any meal they have always dreamt of eating. So, for breakfast, the boys ate egg curry and appam (pancake made of fermented rice batter). For lunch they had biriyani, while for dinner, it was parathas and beef fry. “By seeing their joy, we felt a happiness that no ride has given us,” says Priyan.

On another occasion, while they were travelling, they saw a ramshackle house at a place called Mannancherry (8 kms from Alleppey). They went in and saw that it was the home of a mother and four children. The father had abandoned the family. 

The children, one boy and three girls, aged from eight to 12, did not have the money to pay the school fees. The mother earned a bit of money through scavenging. So, the club collected money and bought text and exercise books, uniforms, tiffin boxes, shoes, raincoats and umbrellas. “We also gave a cheque of Rs 25,000,” says Rajeev. “Interestingly, the mother told us not to give money regularly. Otherwise, the family would get lazy.”

Finally, when asked about their future plans, treasurer Abhin Kumar says, “With the help of sponsors, we want to set up a refrigerator by the side of a busy road in Alleppey where people can store their excess food. At any time, a poor person can open it and take what they want.” 

(Sunday Magazine, The New Indian Express, South India and Delhi)

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