Sumeet Paringe and Prisiliya Madan have embarked on a noble mission. With the intention of creating awareness about educating girls and raising funds for the same, the duo have began a trip on bamboo cycles from Kanyakumari to Kashmir.
Paringe, 26, an instrumentation engineer from Pune and his neighbour Prisiliya, 22, who has a masters in computer science, will cover around 4,400km in 70 days to crowdfund the Gurgaon-based NGO IIMPACT which offers education opportunities to less privileged girls. They set out on July 14.
Paringe's first long-distance cycle trip was in 2011 when he went from Panvel to Gadchiroli, and then to Secunderabad. "Visiting the Naxal-infested area was great. Some of them stopped us and asked who we were, but once they realised that we were only cyclists they became less aggressive. People here had climbed trees to watch us. It was very exciting," he said. He was with four other men during the trip.
His next trip was from Mumbai to Konark and there were six of them—five men and Prisiliya Madan. They wanted to travel coast-to-coast and cover the Naxal-infested states once again. While they were on the banks of Indravathi on the Maharashtra-Chattisgarh border, Prisiliya's father Dhananjay Madan appeared with 30 villagers who had come to see them off.
Incidentally, Dhananjay is quite the trendsetter. Besides cycle rides, he acts as a tourist guide to trekkers and riders. He loves to read, too.
"Her father is my guru and like him, I love my books,” Paringe said, adding that his favourite book is Into the wild. Prisiliya is a TV buff and also spends a lot of time on the phone.
"We have met some of the nicest people on our trips," she said.
His next trip was from Panvel to Kanyakumari during which he met a 22-year-old Austrian biker, who helped him understand more about cycling. Paringe then went on a solo ride to Siachen.
On an average, the duo cover between 90 and 100km a day. When the roads are good, they cover upto 112km.
Paringe said they do not keep a deadline. "He settles down if the place is picturesque or has a decent breeze. Then I have to push him into getting back on the bike," Prisiliya said.
"I was a good student and a great sportsman. I played all kinds of games, including badminton, and was a good runner," Paringe said, adding that though his family is supportive, there is always the occasional pressure to settle down.
Prisiliya, too, is an all-rounder and just finished her Bharatanatyam arangetram (debut) recently. She is also good at quilling and origami.
They took their time to get used to bamboo bikes. Before setting out on the trip, they rode the cycles for a month. They got the idea when Godrej approached Prisiliya, who was featured in the local newspapers, requesting her to go on a cycling tour on their newly created bamboo bike. This is their first sponsored trip.
The duo said the bikes are really comfortable as they feel it is as steady as the steel ones.
They started the journey during the monsoon, but had to endure the scorching heat of Tamil Nadu.
While they enjoy their ride as they get to experience the nature in its finest form and enjoy local cuisines, lack of proper toilets worry them. Although both love food, they make sure they do not eat much oily dishes.
"By now we are quite comfortable and know the routine. We have also not faced any health issues," Paringe said.
They talk to people about the need to educate girls, besides spreading the message of conserving nature by using bamboo cycles as means of transportation. While this ride will test their resilience, it will also test the strength of the cycles.
They do not wish to see cycling as a sport, but want people to consider it as a mode of transportation.
"It is nice to be out in the fresh air and to communicate with people. Cycling uses your own power and energy," Paringe said.