Around the Narmada in 30 days
In what could be termed as the most remarkable journey of their lives, a group of five men — four from Pune and one from Belgaum — recently covered 2,850 km along the banks of the Narmada in Madhya Pradesh.
The group comprises Aniket Sutar, Anand Ghatpande, Upendra and Vedang Shevde from Pune and Chandrashekhar Iti from Belgaum. While Shevde (23) is the youngest member in the group, Iti is 61 years old.
Most pilgrims perform this religious ritual on foot, which takes around a year. The group, though, decided to bike it, and finished the journey in a month.
“We came into contact with each other through activist Jugal Rathi of the Pune Nagrik Manch. He had completed Narmada parikrama a few years ago. So we also decided to emulate his feat,” said Upendra.
The group got together in 2012 and decided to accomplish their venture in 2014.
“After practising on several city roads, we went on weekend tours to Konkan, Karad, Mahabaleshwar, Pandharpur and Kolhapur to build our stamina. Of the total distance that we covered for the parikrama, only half was on tarred roads. On several occasions, we even pedalled through forests,” said Shevde.
The group said that the people in MP were very modest and straightforward. Everywhere they went, they received a warm welcome. Shevde said Narmade har (salute to the river) became their slogan.
“Though we had carried money to buy eatables, the villagers at various locations did not allow us to eat outside food. As a part of their hospitality, they offered us either homemade food or gave us grocery,” he added.
Rs 25k —Rs 40k
Cost of the high-end bicycles used by the group to complete their journey
All eyes on them
The cycles they rode became the centre of attraction across all the villages they covered during their journey. “In one of the villages, a group of children came running out of their school the moment they spotted me repairing the bicycle. They only retuned after the teacher called them inside. But the attraction of the cycle was so overpowering that they returned within minutes,” Sutar said.
Everywhere the group went the villagers inquired about the cost of their bicycles. “They were amazed to hear that our cycles ranged between Rs 25,000 to Rs 40,000,” said one of the group members.
Most of the villagers assumed that such expensive cycles must be automated. Sutar said, “At one of the villages, locals chased us for a few kilometres and then asked us to prove that the cycles had to be pedalled. They just couldn’t believe that such high-end cycles required manpower.”
The bikes used by the group were either mountain bikes (MTB) or semi-MTBs. Even their carriers were specially designed to accommodate a repair kit, bedding and a few personnel belongings.