Three people -- Clifin Francis, Dona Jacob and Haseeb Ahsan -- will set out on an eight-month journey on cycles from Kochi, across eight countries, to reach Japan in time for the Olympics
Photos: (From left): Clifin Francis, Dona Jacob and Haseeb Ahsan; Dona Jacob; Clifin Francis
By Shevlin Sebastian
On most mornings, at 9 a.m. when Haseeb Ahsan stepped out of his house in Indira Nagar in Bengaluru, he pulls out a Bergamont Endurance 6 cycle. He used to travel by the metro. Now it is a cycle. He is on his way to the Amazon office at Yeshwantpur, a distance of 15 km. One day a neighbour asked him the reason why he had begun cycling to work.
“I am in training,” said Haseeb. “I will be going on an eight-country, 10,000 km journey spread over eight months, along with two friends of mine. We aim to reach the Olympics Village in Tokyo.” The Olympics is from July 24 to August 9.
Apart from cycling, Haseeb gets up at dawn and goes for a long-distance run. And in the evening it is gym work. His colleagues are also in training. They include the Kochi-based Clifin Francis and the Mumbai-based Dona Jacob. While Clifin is a teacher, Dona is in the IT industry.
Both have done long-distance cycle rides earlier. Last year, Clifin rode from Dubai to Moscow to attend the football World Cup. That was where he met Haseeb who had come to watch the tournament from Bengaluru. In 2015, Clifin hitchhiked across Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. As for Dona, she had been stationed as Technical Head of a leading Indian software company in Mexico. As a result, she was able to cycle around Cuba, which was a 1000 km journey. She also backpacked across Mexico and Guatemala.
For Haseeb, this is his maiden adventure. “In life, there is always a first time,” he says, with a smile. “I am going on this journey because I want to take a break. I want to know whether I want to do something else, maybe a change in career. I have an MBA but I like writing. I want to ask myself what are my priorities. In short, I want to clear my head.”
Clifin and Dona plan to start from Kochi on December 15, while Haseeb will join them a month later. They are starting from Kochi and will go to Bengaluru, Vishakapatnam, Bhubaneshwar, Kolkata, Mizoram, Meghalaya, on to Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, China and then on to Japan.
“Every day we are planning to ride 100 km,” says Clifin. “Three hours in the morning and two hours in the evening. After a day of cycling, we will take a day off and see the tourist sights.”
On the journey, they will gather wishes for the Indian Olympics team. “For that, we will be carrying an Olympic poster which will be signed by people through all the countries we are going through,” says Dona. “When we reach Tokyo we would like to hand it over to the Indian team.”
The trio will be holding a photo exhibition in Tokyo with pictures and videos from their trip. And there will be daily updates on their Instagram page, ‘Snails.On.Wheels’. They will also work with NGOs to give talks on mental health, the importance of gender equality, women’s empowerment, and the importance of girls’ education in rural India. Other subjects include breast cancer and the need for regular check-ups.
As for the type of weather they will face, Haseeb says, “We are travelling through Asian countries. So, it will mostly be sunny, humid and rainy. Japan is expected to have a hot summer.”
As for the underlying message to the public says, Haseeb says, “I was an athlete as well as the captain of my college football team in Kochi. I gave up everything in the past few years. That is something which happens to us Indians. We stop physical activities altogether. I want to tell people that they should restart exercises as it is closely connected to our mental make-up. It relaxes and calms the mind. We perform much better, as a result.”
(The New Indian Express, Kochi)