Riding Healthy

A group of eco and health conscious young bankers wearing formal suites have started going to office riding bicycles. Tasavur Mushtaq reports about the gathering momentum of their movement.

Bicycle is back on the streets of Srinagar. This time not just as a means of travel but as passion. Inspired to be the agent of change, a group of young people working with the only stock exchange listed company of state – the Jammu and Kashmir Bank Ltd – hit the idea of helping society in positive way, in terms of keeping good health and economic benefit.

Coming forward to lead by example, five youth started the organization ‘Change’ specifying the motive. Comprised of young professionals, Fhad, Sameer, Asif, Shahid and Ejaz, among which four are MBA (Master of Businees Administration) holders and one with MFC (Master of Finance and Control), Change is out to inspire. It came into existence on January 8, 2012. Hoping to make a good impact on the society, the group of five met in the corporate headquarters of J&K Bank in Srinagar.

Preaching came after they practiced first. Abandoning their costly cars, they preferred to go to office on their bicycles.  The journey in the beginning was not smooth. The CHANGE went through many hiccups facing criticism and sarcasm simultaneously. “You guys can’t afford petrol now?” was the choicest comment of many people, says Ejaz Ayoub Mandoo, one of the core group members. “You are in regressive evolution, going back to Stone Age.”

The group faced indifference at home as well. “You are maligning our image by using bicycles and wearing formal suits,” is what Ejaz was told by his father. All the five being the officers in bank were initially embarrassment by their seniors. “You people are officers, it does not look nice to do all this,” a senior officer told them in the office. “A cunning smile was followed by a comment,” Ejaz remembers.

Undeterred by the negative feedback, the group is slowly making a difference.  When asked what made them to do so, they respond saying, “We felt our life is in status quo, something is needed to be done and reclaim a life which is healthy, stress free, eco friendly and above all ego free.”

Right now, inspired by the Change, there are 150 people in Srinagar who have started cycling again. The organization is planning to organize first of its kind mega event on Sunday the April 15 in Bakhshi stadium, Srinagar. Around 1000 cyclists are expected to be there alongside a gathering of 3000 people. Besides cycling, there will be different programs, including the remix of a Kashmiri tarana. The function in the stadium will last three hours. The riders will cycle from Polo Ground to Bakhshi stadium.

“CHANGE 2012 is not just an event. It’s a lifestyle in the making. It is a cult of people who think that an angstrom of effort done consistently can create light years of difference,” the group posted on their face book wall, having five hundred followers in just two months.

Impressed by the initiative of its employees, the J&K Bank has consented to provide refreshment on the day of the event besides constantly encourage the group. To make it more vibrant the group has submitted a proposal to the office of the Bank’s CEO Mushtaq Ahmad for approving one day in month where all the employees of Bank will come to office riding bicycles. “It is in the office of worthy chairman and we are hopeful that a decision will come in our favour.”

The CHANGE is not aiming only to campaigning for cycling but to address other issues as well. “The concept of introducing cycling is just a beginning, we all have so much more to improve and refine but we cannot afford to take up all the issues or many issues simultaneously,” says Ejaz.

The group organized various awareness camps at different places including at Merci Corps Srinagar, Government Medical College Srinagar, SSM college of Engineering and Technology Parihaspora and one-day workshop with Management Students of Islamic University of Science and Technology and The Business School at the University of Kashmir. The group is planning a calendar of cycling activities in state. In the month of March they conducted small cycling events like ‘Tasting Spring 2012’ on Sundays to make awareness and educate people about their cause.

“We believe that our honesty, dedication and non-commercial nature will earn it a good number of well wishers. We all believe in earning than buying,” says Sameer, another member of the group.

Motivated to take cycling a long way the group has found support of some senior citizens. “My father gifted a bicycle to my husband when I got married in mid-seventies,” says Tahira Parveen. Tahira has preserved the gift of his father and shows it with pride to her children.

Not only cycling, the group is concerned about the lack of infrastructure for riding bicycles. They demand for the separate tracks for cyclists to ensure their safety, parking lots, and declaration of few areas as no traffic zones, like Gonikhan. “Let people adopt this, we will provide infrastructure,” Ejaz quoted an official saying.

These attempts at reviving a culture of cycling are showing in terms of repair shops receiving bicycles for overhauling. Talking to Kashmir Life a bicycle mechanic, Bashir Ahmad was surprised to know there is campaign for using cycle. “biti wanan yeth kya daleel gayi (I wonder what happened).”

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