New Internationalist

The cycle diaries: into ‘real’ India

The organization I work with , ACCORD – which aims to improve the human rights of adivasi people in India – arranged a fund raiser cycle trip from Bangalore to Gudalur last week to raise funds for an amazing school for adivasi kids. In addition to the basics, the school, Vidyodya, tries to keep the culture and values of these indigenous children alive, unlike the mainstream schools around us.

At night we listened to the story of the farmers’ movement: the struggles for survival, against globalization and damaging agricultural policies. It could have been an all-night session, but everyone was overwhelmed by the physical fatigue of having cycled 80 kilometres in very hot sun. The second night, we visited the RLHP (Rural Literacy and Health Programme) slum dwellers’ federation project and a local school. And the third night, some people slept under a magnificent peepul tree, under an enchanting moonlit sky, in the middle of the Bandipur forest.

We stopped to taste fresh, tender coconut water, local buttermilk and lime juice. Everyone including Lucy, Robbo and Sophie – visiting British volunteers – survived in spite of all the warnings that local water would lead to Delhi belly.

We stayed in free or cheap lodgings. But for the Brits, as well as the Bangalorean city slickers, it was a taste of authentic, real India, away from the madding crowds, the pollution and traffic jams, in pristine, beautiful surroundings.

Those interested in the next cycle trip can log into Mad Cycle Tours or email Nishita Vasanth.

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  1. #1 Nicola 20 Mar 12

    Mari, I'm so pleased this trip went so well; lovely to read about it and fantastic knowing lots of money was raised for the kids at Vidyodaya. So sad to have missed it though. Next year...

  2. #2 Prabir 20 Mar 12

    Sounds interesting! Brilliant idea!

  3. #3 Anita Christy 20 Mar 12

    What a fun trip!!! Would have loved to be part of this especially knowing that the funds were going to make a difference in the life of so many well deserved children. Nice article Mari!

  4. #4 Siddharth 21 Mar 12

    Sounds awesome :)

  5. #5 nirupama 22 Mar 12

    Nice way to cycle up and I hope Vidydya reaches greater heights. Great going Mari.

  6. #6 Ludwig Pesch 25 Mar 12

    Hats off to all at ACCORD - this is courageous and should set a trend in human understanding on all levels and also bring home the point that able bodied people shouldn't merely rely on technology. I say this knowing India's traffic conditions and being a fervent cyclist myself both for local transport and the sheer joy of it. After all this joy is within easy reach of all and anywhere, certainly in India. It reinforces self-reliance and self-respect, giving it up means losing freedom, something not to be expressed in terms of wealth or status; and for those who can afford motorized leasure rides, it's worth pondering that pollution and disproportionate risk of accidents destroy health and human relations have become a real burden on too many already - some known to me personally.
    So carry on the good work, yours is a region whose natural beauty and gracious inhabitants should be given a chance ’to make it’. So much to discover and celebrate ...

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About the author

Mari Marcel Thekaekara a New Internationalist contributor

Mari is a writer based in Gudalur, in the Nilgiri hills of Tamil Nadu. She writes on human rights issues with a focus on dalits, adivasis, women, children, the environment, and poverty. Mari's book Endless Filth, published in 1999, on balmikis, is to be followed by a second book on campaigns within India to abolish manual scavenging work. She co-founded Accord in 1985 to work with Adivasi people. Mari has been a contributor to New Internationalist since 1991.

About the blog I travel around India a lot, covering dalit and adivasi issues. I often find myself really moved by stories that never make it to the mainstream media. My son Tarsh suggested I start blogging. And the New Internationalist collective are the nicest bunch of editors I’ve worked with. So here goes.

Read more by Mari Marcel Thekaekara

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