Let me be ME

Archive for the ‘cycling’ Category

A Podium Mother- Smithaa Kajale

Smitha Kajale

A civil engineer by profession, winner of several cycling races, 3rd rank holder at Kolhapur triathlon 2019, 2nd rank holder at Nagpur Triathlon 2020, National qualifier at Nashik association championship 2020, a struggler in all the races due to her menopause stage, yet a winner at many, married at 18 and first child at 19 years of age, here is 45 years old Smitha Kajale from Thane.

Air force background and marriage at 18

I was born in Kolkata, and my father was in the Indian Air Force. My father had his last posting at Nashik, and he took a retirement there and joined HAL. I got into Chemical Engineering when my parents decided to get me married as they did not want to let go a suitable and desirable match. 

I got married at 18 and had my first child at 19. 

I continued with my education and completed my bachelor’s in civil engineering.

My second child was born when I was 26 years old. I never walked leave aside, exercising. Being young and occupied with children and work, I never felt the need for any physical workout. 

After my second child, I started with short walks. Even walking a kilometer was a colossal task. My husband and I decided to start with regular morning brisk walks. It was refreshing to walk and talk amidst all the duties and busy schedules.

The casual fitness journey

Going fast forward, when my elder son turned 19, he started going to a nearby gym, and I followed his footsteps. I got into a habit of regular workout and weight training. 

My younger son winning a Gold at time-trial, Guwahati

When my younger son turned 17, he started outdoor cycling and gradually cycling became his passion. His passion did not remain confined to casual cycling, but he started participating in the races. He did MTB Nashik, thane cycling championship, and in December 2017, he won the gold medal at the national time trial.

He then suggested me to start riding. He was sure that I would enjoy riding. 

I was getting bored with the gym. I get bored by the mundane routine; hence I bought a basic cycle and started cycling in December 2018.

In February 2019, I won the First Prize at Navi Mumbai maha cyclothon and a 10k cash prize

In March 2019, I won the 3rd Prize in the open category at Pedal cyclothon

In April 2019, I won the 3rd Prize in the open category at Borivili Cycling association Time Trial

I started loving my finishes and the joy of winning.

It is said that a child gives birth to a mother, and truly my children gave birth to a new me.

“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.”

-Anonymous

How Triathlon?

Someone in the cycling group suggested about Triathlon. Triathlon was attractive, and the excitement to do three sports was gripping, but the issue was- I had never run until now!

I then thought and considered the upcoming episodes when my elder was already working in the U.S., and the younger one would leave soon, I would be free from their day to day responsibility.

Our life revolves around our children in motherhood, and they become our first and topmost priority. I was no different. The empty nest syndrome was daunting, and I needed to distract myself.

I decided to take the plunge and try out this new breed of excitement in my life-Triathlon.

3rd Position at Kolhapur Tri

Under the guidance of Viv Menon for triathlon plans and Nimesh for swimming, I participated in the Kolhapur triathlon (Olympic distance) and stood 3rd.

My first experience of open water swim at Kolhapur, and I was kicked, smashed, punched all over due to the massive number of participants.

After Kolhapur, I thought enough of Triathlon, let me now go back to cycling.

Meanwhile, someone mentioned about Tigerman Tri, Nagpur in Feb 2020. My previous doubts vanished, and I registered for the event.

“Sometimes we have one chance, to ride that wave, one opportunity to jump on, take a deep breath and feel the rush of adrenaline. . . don’t miss your chance.”

― Heidi Reagan

A week before the Tigerman event, I came across the Nashik Tri association championship. The championship was attractive, and with a discussion with my coach Viv, I registered for the event.

In February, I knew that Nashik would be cold, and I didn’t have the wetsuit for the race. Hence I started going for early morning swims and bathing in cold water to acclimatize my body.

The race mentioned that the swim would be in the pool, and I took a sigh of relief.

When I collected my bib, I was informed that the swim would take place in a dam(water reservoir). I couldn’t sleep for the entire night.

The race morning was horrifying than the revelation of the previous eve.

To my amazement, there were no ropes, buoys, or any emergency evacuation.

4th position in Nashik district triathlon

Upon questioning, the officials made it clear that the race was a time trial for the national qualifier and is a self-supported race.

I took a while to register this fact. My throat went dry. In already cold weather, I stood there, shivering in a swimsuit.

I prayed and chanted what I could remember and asked my husband to wait for me until I completed my swim and jumped in the water.

2nd position in Tigerman Triathlon

I finished 1500 meters of swim course in 35 mins. After completing the bike course, which was an undulating path and run that happened in scoring heat, I stood 4th

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

–Dale Carnegie

A week after I participated in Tigerman Triathlon, Nagpur and stood  2nd.

Menopause and training

For the event in November, I started training in June 2019. At the same time, I had to travel to Pennysylvania to my elder son. There the issue of menopause started. I was continuously bleeding heavily for week-10 days and changing menstrual cups every hour. Without a country-specific prescription, I could not take any medications in the U.S. hence. I continued in the same state until I returned to India.

I felt weak and lacked stamina. I consulted my physician as the race was nearing, and I had to get into vigorous training.

My blood test reports were not at all satisfying. My hemoglobin was at 8. My physician strictly advised me not to attempt any race, which was just two months away.

“Do not attempt doesn’t fit in my psyche” hence I asked for a solution. He advised for an Intravenous blood transfusion. I readily agreed and went to his clinic after work and got the I.V.

Races during my menopause phase

It is common to get a fever after the I.V., and I got it too.

My husband was concerned for me; he was always intrigued by this training idea and kept asking me,” Kyun Kar Rahi ho?”(why are you doing?)

I recovered the hemoglobin level, but my bleeding didn’t stop.

Thankfully just ten days before the race day, God showed mercy on me, and I wasn’t bleeding any more.

I could say one thing,”der aae durust aae”

Nashik and Tigerman, two consecutive races

On the eve of the Kolahour tri, I went for the bike route recce with my husband, exhausted in just 2-3 kms. I was anxious about the race the next day.

I believe that the mind conspires what you start thinking, I had made up my mind to finish the race, and I did.

From my menopause episode I can only conclude that,

“Leaders bleed, period.”

― Silvia Young, My FemTruth: Scandalous Survival Stories

The family bond

My boys are my pillars of strength. There has been no race when my husband has not been there to cheer, support, and encourage me. My two boys were my initial coach, guides, and mentor. I followed their footsteps in my workout/fitness journey as well as cycling.

What’s next?

I enrolled for Ironman 70.3 in Boulder, USA, but due to COVID, all the races got canceled. I will attempt the race whenever the racing season opens.

I aim to continue on my fitness journey and emerge as a more vital human being mentally and physically.

“A woman’s health is her capital.”

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Dabang Maa: Sunita Dhote

Sunita Dhote

Mother of two boys, a Fauji kid, Asia book of records holder, represented India in Canada for somersault competition, a college professor by profession, thrice failed attempts for Ironman to a successful finisher, a woman who stood for her passion in a family where the only job of a bahu(bride) was to do household chores. Rendevous with 48 years old, Sunita Dhote from Nagpur.

Fauji childhood

My father was in the Indian Airforce, and I’ve been born and bought up all over India. I call myself as Bharat ki Beti.
My childhood was disciplined and strict. My father used to wake us up (myself and my younger brother) at 5 am, and we were then supposed to take four rounds of the park in the vicinity. Any mischievous act or cheating would result in additional drills.
We learned cycling on hired bikes for a rent of 10 paise per hour. Mistakes would result in thappads (tight slaps).
I was annoyed at that time, but now I understand the significance of discipline that my father instilled in us.
I was into sports right from the very beginning. I got selected for state high jump when Papa was posted in Guwahati. I wasn’t allowed to participate in nationals with the fear that high jump would make me taller, and I won’t get a desirable match.
By the time I reached my tenth grade, sports were just a memory, and the entire focus shifted towards studies.
I did my B.com, M.com, MBA, and Ph.D
I was an obedient daughter.

Marriage and the grind

I got married in a business family, and no sooner I entered my in-law’s place, all maids at home were given permanent off from their duties.
I was a full-time maid now. Right from washing the clothes, utensils, cooking, and every little chore was my responsibility.
I have no regret; instead, I am grateful to my mother-in-law for teaching me patience.

She cribbed and I listened.

This habit taught me how not to react unnecessarily and carry on with your task. She made me physiologically strong- a much-needed trait of an athlete.
It was during my honeymoon to Nepal that I had a glimpse of the golden pagodas. I wanted to run to the top and shared the desire with my husband. He gladly agreed, and within no time, I saw myself running on the trail towards the pagoda. The hidden sports person was still alive. When I reached the top, a stranger shared a message; my husband was waiting for me.

He didn’t climb.

At this point, I resolve that come what may, my children will not be the ones waiting down but the ones who would climb the fastest.

I finished my Ph.D. in 2011 and settled for a job. I understood that it was essential to be financially independent.

Having been traveled all across India with my father, I was a keen traveler but never got an opportunity post-marriage.

During one of the exchange programs, I got an opportunity to travel to Seattle and stay at the Microsoft research center. I loved the experience of being on my own and interact with people across the globe. I was impressed by their discipline, eating habits, and zing for life.
I came back with a determination – I have to take charge of my life. I will not fall into this rut.

The beginning

The group study exchange program to Seattle was a game-changer. Another episode that triggered my thought process was when I was an entrepreneurship faculty, and I talked to the students about passion. I read many autobiographies in this process, and each story had primary learning- follow your passion.

Rotary group exchange program

It filled me with energy and determination.

After my first son was born, I started to learn swimming. I wasn’t allowed to swim in childhood owing to a reason that if I turn dark, then I won’t get a suitable match!

I used to go to the pool nearby, considering all the eyes watching me or even following. I used to hide my swimming costume in a towel, dry my hair, and dress up “appropriately” for this adventure.

“learning and achieving smaller things make you happy.”

chirps Sunita

In 2012, I stood first in 100 meters butterfly championship.

I now wanted to learn more. So, I went ahead and learned about diving.
I was allowed to carry on with whatever I wish to with the condition that children should not be neglected and the house well attended. So, I used to take my children along to the pool. In this process, they also learned swimming (win-win situation).

When life gives you restrictions, don’t flutter in a cage; instead, look for that one little opportunity to fly out.

believes Sunita

Within five to six years, I was a diving champion.

Even now, I was struggling at somersault. I pleaded a child in the pool to teach me. I was 41 years at this point. That child made me do 100 meters of front and roll and said confidently, “you are ready.” I could now do front and reverse somersaults.

I represented India in 2014 in Canada for somersault championships. I was an enthralling moment when my name heard my name, Sunita Dhote, India.

I was beginning to enjoy my life my filled with confidence and joy.

To add to my newly discovered joy, I did solo cycling from Nagpur to Pondicherry of a total distance of 1412 km in 6 days and registered my name in the Asia book of records.

Multiple failures and finally a successful Ironman finish

In 2017 a friend introduced the word Triathlon. With an assumption that it’s just swimming, cycle, and run, I enrolled for Pune triathlon, sprint distance. To my dismay, after the swim and the bike, I couldn’t manage to run.

Being a total novice, I participated in the race empty stomach.
I was unaware of the word nutrition.

The same year I enrolled for the Hyderabad triathlon, and it was a DNF. I attempted thrice and failed.

Three failed attempts at Hyderabad Tri

I kept trying.

Life is all about trying.

says Sunita

The “chipko andollan” movement is imbibed in me; hence I don’t leave until done.

In 2018, finally, I could finish the race in 9hrs 15 mins.

A friend told me about systematic training, planning, and nutrition. I then took proper coaching and participated in the Dubai ironman.

Ten days before the race, I had two bad falls, and my training came to a standstill. But I am a stubborn soul, and I was determined to fly to Dubai for the race.

I swam for the first time in a wetsuit, and the clear water gave a feeling of “patal lok” I clocked my PB in the swim. Cycling was comfortable, and during the run, I followed a strategy to run pole to pole.
Dubai IM finish was blissfully satisfying.

I became the first woman from the Vidarbha region to have completed the Ironman race.

When I came back and showed the medal to my family, my husband had a blank expression, and he could only ask me,” iske liye itni mehnat?(so much of effort just for this medal?)”

Sunita at the finish line

It is difficult to explain your desires and passion, so it’s better to keep the hustle on and move forward.

The training was a tricky part. I used to put a cycle in my car, wear the cycling gear, and cover it with a salwar suit (formal dress).
Once the college used to get over, I drove to the highway, parked my car, and did a three-hour cycle, and returned home.
There were several episodes where I had to manage the timing and surroundings efficiently.

You have to decide what you have to do, then be on it, come what may”

says determined Sunita

Life is about how you face it.

When I did my solo cycling, my elder son was in grade 10. I had a lot of “Gyan” for everyone around that I was an irresponsible mother who has left her son behind in the crucial year.
During a press conference for the Asia book of records, a media person had serious doubt on my grit and daring to do a solo ride. I wanted to reply,”are you scared of a woman being on her own or are you feeling insecure”(pun intended)

Sunita, with her sons


I didn’t allow life to churn me, but I did the other way round.


I sponsor the races on my own. I ensured that I bought up boys with discipline and integrity.
Work colleagues who once questioned my caliber now have the utmost respect for me.
My son does 200 crunches, and we are quite competitive about it(in all humor). He also cooks a fantastic meal.


My nickname is Sona(means gold), and one property of gold is that it glitters the most when it is rubbed hard and rough.

grins Sunita

It is my time to glow, and I’ll ensure that I shine the brightest.

that’s sunita’s promise to herself

DHUNTE REH JAOGE-A WINNER WHO IS FAR FROM SOCIAL MEDIA FANFARE: DR.UMA VINOD

“When I first saw the racing arena, zooming cycles, training jargons, and high energy at the event, I was almost hypnotised. I never imagined that such a world existed. I made up my mind that I’ll be a part of all these high adrenaline events.”

Dr.Uma

Meet 47 years old Dr.Uma Vinod. Ahmedabad based Ophthalmologist and a  mother of two boys. First rank holder of Gandhinagar Triathlon 2018 and winner at several cycle racing events(you will not find her on any social media although)

As Dr.Uma says,

I got married immediately after my MBBS and completed my Post Graduation in Ophthalmology.

I was soon engrossed in all motherhood duties, work, and house chores—a typical story for most married women. 

The race euphoria 

In 2012, I participated in my first half marathon and finished in 3.45 hours. I was at cloud nine that I finished the race.

In 2014 I witnessed a cyclothon in Ahmedabad. I was aghast to see the zooming cycles, the cheering crowd, and pumped up, high energy athletes. I was stunned by the entire event. I never imagined the existence of such a world, as if it was a parallel universe.

In the same year, I registered for a super sprint event. The main reason to register for the event was – Milind Soman(blushes).

The race briefing was an eye-opener. I heard the terms like wet-suit, cadence, cut-off timing, and several other jargons that seemed like french. The trainers talked about cycle gear ratio and cleats while I came to participate in the race on my son’s bicycle!

For the event, I got my first BSA “thin” tire bike assuming it’ll make me go faster. Only thin tyres don’t make you win a race but training and effort do.

With all the learnings of the previous event, I got my first road bike and participated in a Duathlon in 2014. I stood first!

By now I was in deep love with cycling. 

I started participating in cycling races and winning too. I was utterly mesmerized by the sheer joy of zooming on the bike and winning as well.

I was a hypothyroid patient until the age of 40, but then I decided to lead a healthy life and gifted myself a significant weight loss.

Do it, because it makes you happy.

In 2015, I went to Manali-Leh biking, and as it is known that the route is not for the lesser mortals. I was surely not the one. It was a life-changing experience for me. It was my zen moment of putting all the elements of the body together and strengthen the mind. 

Winner at Gandinagar Tri 2018

I was gaining expertise in cycling, but my running was still lacking. I started with proper training in 2017. Guided practice, along with a proper diet, helps a lot in improving the training performance.

In 2018 I participated. in the Triathlon in Gandhinagar. Due to fewer women participants, the organizers kept an open category for women 18-55. I stood first in the race!

I then registered myself for the Berlin Marathon in 2019. I was hesitant to go on my own, but my elder son persuaded me to travel. Technology and I don’t have much of a friendship. To navigate the phone to find a way or even to use google translator is tough for me. 

But I did. Because it made me happy, very happy.

says, Dr.Uma

Women in endurance sports- lesser lady

Is it a new discussion? I face the same set of questions each time,

Dr.Uma in one of her training sessions
  • what fun do you get in killing yourself in training?
  • You are always either running or cycling, do you even spend time with your family?
  • Why are you going alone for your races, take your children along too?
  • How will your family manage without you?

I’ll miss cooking a great meal over the weekend, but I’ll never miss my training, this gives me a title of – lesser lady.

Dr.Uma in her training session

I mostly train alone and do not share that moment “ME” with anyone. It is my meditation. My alarm buzzes at 4 am and I go out for my run. Being dark at that hour, I can’t go far for the practice; hence I run in loops at a stretch in front of my building. I have informed my guard that if I don’t turn back within time or he hears my scream, then he should run to trace me. 

There will be questions, allegations, and stereotypes to face, but the choice is yours, either pay heed and remain in your cocoon or be a butterfly. What will you choose?

asks, Dr.Uma

Male dominance and raising boys

I have five males in my family: husband, father-in-law, father, and two boys (18 & 15).

I am a working female, and along with my training and work, the house responsibility doubles up. There were days when I could not prepare the meal, and my boys made their tiffin and went to school. In the growing years, my children understand cohesive existence. They also see that I have a liking towards sports gadgets than fancy clothes.

There was a point where I was fulfilling all my duties as a mother, wife, daughter, professional, but I wasn’t doing anything for myself.

It was a tough call to prioritise my liking over everything else. We live in a society where women are meant to be more focused on home, but

Elder son at IIT Kharagpur

I believe that when you don’t negotiate you’ll never be taken for granted.

Younger son after his first Tri

Today my elder one is studying in IIT Kharagpur and is in the college squash and running team. He is a swimmer as well.

He says, “mom, sports gave me recognition.”

He prefers a girlfriend who loves cycling!

My younger one has already completed a triathlon and is looking forward to more.

Mothers are the first and most significant influencers, see that you prove this to yourself first.

believes Dr.Uma

What lies ahead?

I aim to improve my race timings and keep winning as a mother as an athlete and emerge as a more robust version of myself.

Vietnam: Coffee and beyond

I was searching for a cycling trip, and as ever, my focus was on my favorite destination, Europe. But by the time I decided and finally made up my mind, it was already winters, and Europe was ruled out.

The extensive search began again for the best countries to travel in December. None other than south-east Asian countries reflected in my search.

My cycling friends suggested doing Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam.

And I was back in my exhaustive search. 

I was mailing to cycling touring companies, getting the best tour deals, searching for best deals on flights, AirBnB options, checking on reviews, bike hire, planning an itinerary. Phew! I was exhausted.

But finally, the plan was laid we were set of our trip, cycling in Vietnam

Excited as we board the flight

Day 1

With fewer flight options, we took a flight to Hanoi via Kolkata from Mumbai.

No one knew what was in store. Not even me, even though I had planned for the entire trip.

We reached Hanoi in the eve, and after a little glitch in coordinating with the pickup guy(as language was an issue), we were heading towards our stay.

We reached the small bylane, and our host leads us to our apartment.

With our host Thang

All the hotels and buildings in and around our stay were more vertical than horizontal, same as Hongkong. Our apartment had two rooms on each floor with three stories and a swirled staircase. We all captured one place each, luxury of staying in a condo than a hotel.

After a quick freshening up, we were out in search of food and beer. As we were walking around the street, we realized that we were staying in the central city, and we had lots of eating and drinking options.

The cosy Czech Bar
Happiness is BEER

We spotted a Czech bar and headed straight in without wasting much time.

Day 2

According to figures by the Ministry of Transport, there are 45 million registered motorcycles. For a country with a population of 96 million, that’s close to one bike for every two people. Hence our guide,Tom suggested we move out of the town and then start the ride.

All set for the ride

We reached our ride venue, assembled and checked our bikes, and were all set. The weather was terrific, and we traversed through beautiful small villages, rough patches, dirt roads, canopied trails, and places where you’ll not find tourists. We loved it. It was just our group that was riding on those beautiful trails.

We crossed Nin Bingh, did not go for the caves ride because it takes three hours for the tour, and we were running short on time. The ride around the mountains was breath-taking: beautiful, serene, and no traffic. 

Nin Bingh
All geared up

We carefully saw the banana and pineapple plantation.

Pineapple plantation

After a great riding day, we packed our bikes and cushioned ourselves in the van to ride back.

Day 3

We were up early and about for another riding day. Today we were to start our ride from the city and then move to the outskirts. While crossing the road, our guide was pretty impressed by our ability to crisscross the streets, after all, Mumbai traffic has taught us all!

We picked up the bikes from the cycle store and started our ride. We rode past the narrowest bridge I have ever seen, explicitly meant for two-wheelers. It rumbled, shook, and rattled as if it’ll breakdown any moment. I held my breath all through until I crossed it.

Resting after lots of Orange stealing from the farm
Crowded streets of Hanoi

We then rode across the periphery of the city, crossing the cabbage fields, talking to farmers (google translate came handy here), flower fields, stopping now and then for clicks or just soak in the beauty around. Weather played a significant role in making the ride favorable.

Sunflower fields behind
Chor chor.. Oranges Chor !!

Another fantastic riding day, and we were back with all smiles.

This eve we also went for a little stroll and watched the water puppet show. It’s just a 45mins show, and the artists clad in traditional dresses, playing traditional musical instruments narrate different scenes which are common in Vietnamese culture. Go for this show ONLY to experience the music. I booked the tickets in dance via Viator; you can choose your preferred timing and seating. Opt for the first row if possible to get you a clear and uninterrupted view.

Chilling at the night market after the water puppet show

We then chose to sit on the rooftop café and sip our coffees and also roam around the night market. The place was vibrant and lively. We loved the vibes around and spent almost entire eve here.

Day 4

It was a day to fly to a close-by island. We packed our backpack (as Veitjet Air allows only 7 kgs of handbag and you pay for everything else – that’s how low-cost airlines work) and headed to the airport. There are very few domestic airlines that fly between the islands; also, they are very poorly schedules and unorganized.

Off to Hoi An

But we had no choice, and with few glitches, we landed in HoiAn. Our host was excellent and very prompt in communication, and she also arranged a vehicle for the pick up at the airport. We enjoyed all these luxuries because Vietnam is not an expensive country to travel, and we were paying bills like a multi-millionaire in lakhs and billions. Uh, la la !

Our apartment was a beautiful two-floor bungalow and all to ourselves. While searching for lunch, we landed at a beachside restaurant with a breath-taking view. Vast, beautiful sea with lovely breeze made the environment all the more soothing. We had a heartfelt meal and were not at all keen to go anywhere else but just plonk ourselves on the couch.

The food and drinks- that’s all !
The beautiful sea

We somehow forced ourselves and landed on the cycle seats. We decided to explore the night and lantern market that day. It was a beautifully lit market with well-placed shops and neat lanes. 

I would suggest visiting the night market at HoiAn than Hanoi. 

Lantern Market- Hoi An

After exploring almost every lane and tasting the food and drinks, we rode back to our apartment.

It was a beautiful eve as we sat and chatted for a very long time and ended the day with a great spa.

Another amazing day 

Day 5

We took the day easy as the weather also demanded the same. We went for a stroll by the beach and had a sumptuous breakfast cooked at the apartment. We then got on to our bikes and, after a little discussion, decided to head towards the pottery village and coconut village. Knowing nothing about the route, we started riding. Our google map showed coconut village closeby, so we obeyed every direction instruction.

Cafe enroute coconut village

While on the way to the coconut village we saw a beautiful café and we stopped there to have a coffee. We chatted with the host and sipped our coffees. We then continued our ride in search of the coconut village. A lady midway guided us to the village, and we were there within no time. We hopped on the round boat and went an hour-long ride. The experience was terrific. A must-do when I Hoi An.

Making friends on the way

We had our lunch, which was the toughest part for me. Myself being the only vegetarian in the group found it challenging to remove chicken from the chicken fried rice and eat, but I had to as there was no other option. That’s how travel makes you learn and adjust to all types of situations.

Here and there, somewhere
Pottery Village

We strolled all through the town and were back to our apartment by evening to board the flight back to Hanoi.

Day 6

Cheers to not just one but many more rides to come

We planned for a short ride around the town but visited the local cycling shops instead. After a hitch start as there was an ATM fiasco that took time to get sorted, I left the situation as it is and headed for our destination. Another learning, struggle until you can else leave the issue and move ahead. We then walked around local markets and shops until it was time to leave for the airport.

The beautiful, mesmerizing, filled with laughter, secrets revealed, countless beers and so much chatter in this trip.

Our last lapse of the trip was here.

Day 7

Back to base

Back to the pavilion and reality.

Must do when in Vietnam:

  • You can land at Hanoi or HoChiMinh city; both are crowded and chaotic
  • Don’t expect clean and organized lanes. You’ll have a Bangkok and Mumbai feeling there
  • Do use google translate, and it helps a lot
  • People are amicable, sit with them, and talk. It’s a beautiful experience 
  • Leave the central city as soon as possible (if you are keen for main tourist attraction then visit water puppet show, night market and center of the town)
  • Look out for experience tours where they take you to local villages showing you the essence of a country. You can opt for walking or biking tours
  • Cave boat ride to Nin Bingh 
  • Halong Bay Cruise
  • Try egg coffee, coconut coffee and even other flavors of Vietnamese coffee
  • Eat local food, also if you are vegetarian like me do try the regional cuisines
  • Two days at each place is more than enough
  • You can club Myanmar and Combodia too
  • Check for hot air balloons over golden pagodas in Maynamaar
  • Hoi An has lots of high-end hotels as well so if you are keen for luxury can check those too
  • Shopping, eating is very cheap there so look out for pieces of stuff made out of bamboo
  • You can easily create a week’s trip in less than 60-65K, which will include your flight, stay, eating, shopping, and roaming around.

Useful sites

  • Skyscanner
  • Trip.com
  • Viator for local tickets
  • Airbnb for stay

Useful links for stay and local restaurants

Experience over Gift for your children

IMG_5492

How do most people plan their New Year?
Goals: Career, financial, be-a–good-person, slimming, get-married, move-out-of-stinking-relationship, make-a-new-boyfriend and many more goal-a-goals.
How do I plan my year?
Keeping aside, being-a-very-good –woman-goal (which I fail always ), the primary goal is –                                                                        TRAVELa70588cc-4758-4fc1-8bda-ea127e299227
Oh ! How much I crave to be airborne or on my bike or the mountains.
But this year it’ll be different. I’ll attempt to take my boys along to as many offbeat travel destinations that I plan for myself. Although with Arun Jaitley bombarding, bringing them along each time will not be possible I know.
For the first long weekend of the first month of the new year, I came across an event on Facebook, Tour De Chattisgarh. After looking at the itinerary, it seemed perfect for a family vacation.
Why?
1. I was itching to ride and wanted boys to experience the joy of touring on the bike, I have done many, and I know how incredible it is. Check few links here:
a) Passion for cycling
b) Rajasthan Tour on foldie
c) Bhutan trail with Times Passion Trails
3. Exploring another state on bike
4. I got married in Raipur and never visited after that. It was a perfect time to relive the moments.

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We have done five-star holidays, beach vacations, foreign tours, camping, hiking trips with boys but never a cycling trip. An adventure freak mom has passed on some traits to boys too. Hence I thought to attempt this trip with boys.

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Why should you move away from the comfort zone and gift your children experience?

1. Situational obedience (discovered a new word )

Before I booked the tickets, I had to seek permission from the school. Boys were instructed to be on their best behavior and studies until I visit the class teacher. I came out grinning ear to ear from the school gate with a permission letter in my hand. See, that’s why it’s important to obey mom when she asks. Give me a high five here !

2. Being methodical and systematic

Both of them were given a cabin size trolley and instructed regarding the number of clothes, undergarments, footwear, and anything that they feel will be significant during travel to pack. The younger one had not-to-forget-tactics. He kept his watch in the shoes as they arranged the clothes for the next day early morning flight he said, “mamma, I’ll not forget this way.” Nice one!

3. Meeting, making and not “adding” new friends

Mumbai is always on the run and gives less opportunity to socialize. We end up having a handful of people to interact and mostly limited to within the housing complex. While on the trip the boys associated with people not only across India but other countries as well. It was great to know about Giom Tell from Switzerland who is exploring India on a bike. Check his profile you may find something interesting, Giom’s profile

Riding with Alexi Grewal, an Olympic gold medalist was a remarkable opportunity.About Alexi Grewal

Ben’s passion towards creating customised bikes – check his page, Life Behind Bars

The gang of boys from Gujrat riding for the cause “ek bharat,shresth bharat.”

Swati and Tarique ,couple with multi-facet talent and super enthusiasm towards life !

Namrata , Lorraine and myself -mother of two were riding all through this tour. It was great to see that is not just me who makes multiple phone calls back home when on a tour like this 🙂

Observing, understanding, adjusting and knowing people’s habit, the way of living, language and behavior is what we learn hands on .Boys made their own set of friends and were happy  be riding, playing or just chatting with them

4. Discipline without saying “the” word

Every morning we were supposed to report at 5.30 am for the ride (which we never did, that’s another story), but boys were up with my one wake up call. Their dresses ready for the next day and bags packed too. We were riding to different locations each day and bags were supposed to be transported as well. Temperatures dropped at certain places, and Mumbaikars are too lousy when it comes to cold winds. Younger one being asthmatic had sneezing attacks in wee hours but all wrapped up in a blanket they were always ready on time. There was no fuss about early morning rise.

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Sid , all up and ready for the ride

5. Adjusting beyond the comfort zones

We all have to agree that we have a far more comfortable life now than what it used to be in our childhood. I was amazed on how boys adjusted to whatever was available. Although we stayed in Chattisgarh tourism guest houses, they had their limitations. There was no fuss or cribbing about food. Sid, who is such a fussy eater ate whatever was available because I told him to eat adequately to ride well the next day. No hot shower but just a bucket of warm water and they were happy with it wherein Abhi at home loves his hot water shower twice a day. They adjusted to every situation .

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6. Discovering new likings

Sid has always been an outdoor kid. Full of surplus energy and enthusiasm, unable to fix his liking on one thing. So typical ME . While Abhi is a happy go lucky child. Happy and satisfied with himself and his surroundings. This trip gave both of them to do what they wanted to and find their happiness rather than their parents forcing them in some hobby classes in the name of skill building. Children are born with multiple skills, let them explore themselves.

7. Observing relationships

We had solo riders, families with children, couples, father-son duo riders in this trip. It was an excellent opportunity to observe the bond and connect with each relationship. It was amazing to see the confidence senior citizen father had in his young son as they were riding together. I saw Sid from the corner of my eyes nodding his head in approval of this relationship. I also saw him blushing whenever he saw Ben and Stephanie. together,  teenager syndrome is setting in now.

8. Independent decisions

They took small but independent decisions in the entire trip. They chose the clothes they wanted to wear the next morning for the ride, although I guided them on layering up. Picked the food they wanted to eat from the buffet with Sid evidently seeking approval from me on the right quantity(he was riding each day). Deciding the distance and whether to ride or not. Choosing to ride after the fall or not (Sid had two falls).The decisions were small, but they give them immense confidence in being responsible.

I am glad about my decision to take all my three boys on this trip. We were addressed as the tribe called “Charon dishayen” (Char-four, means we family of four and Disha- implies direction, which is also the meaning of my name).

We all learned something or the other from this trip and had an enriching experience. It is important to let children be themselves, take own decisions, get dirty, mess around, get tired, be in the sun, fall, get hurt, above all let them grow the way want to.

I am mighty proud of all my three boys for being together throughout , no tantrums , utterly cooperative and  understanding. I underestimated your hidden trait. Mom is sorry about it but a strong pat on your back Som, Sid, and Abhi.

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IndiaGate to Wagah Border- Ride for Mental Health Awareness

The two things which I love the most as they let people move forward without any wastage are books and bicycles.

“When you want something, the entire universe conspires in making happen for you”

Something similar happened with me.

The itch to ride

I suffered my first major fall from my bike on 19th March, 2016 as I remember the fateful day of my operation. It was the day when my right arm was operated upon, so as to insert a metallic plate for treating my broken bone. The accident just broke my bone not my spirits, as I was back on the saddle with the support of my fellow group riders after a prolonged recovery. To fight my fear and to face it eye to eye, I rode through the same spot on 5th November 2016. But the fate didn’t want me to defeat my fear this time on the way back a bike banged me from behind. I almost flew and landed with a thud on the right side of the body and got dragged for a distance. This one left me with almost three weeks of limping, bruises and lower back injury. When I look back at 2016, it was a year witnessing some major falls and some painful recovery period too. I was itching to get up brush off the past, and get back on my saddle to ride towards happiness. It was not easy though, the pain and the fear to fall again started sinking in my psyche too.

I was in Delhi for work in January, 2017. It was then that I shared my will to ride again, with my cycling buddies in the city. Passionate people have a different kind of enthusiasm and energy around, which never fails to attract me, so were these  riders and I was already in for a nice, long ride with them. Sai Pratyush ,my rider buddy in Mumbai helped me selecting the best bike for my ride and coordinated with Mukund of Mastermind Bike studio for the right fit for me . But this time I wanted my ride to stand strong for a cause, and I chose ‘Mental Health’ for the same, as it was close to me in many ways.

The three important men (senior and the juniors) in my life came in full support (read hubby and boys). But my little one had some sincere advice to pass on as I buckled up for the ride. He considerately said, “ride properly mumma , don’t’ have a fall this time ”.

I also shared my fear with one who is the force behind me picking up endurance cycling, Rajesh Kalra and as he always says.”Just Do it” and I was determined to DO IT!

Obstacles

It is rightly said, the greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it. There were few obstacles in our path too, so as to make our journey more glorious may be.  The tougher one came out to be the already stirred jatt andolan across Haryana. We were to pass through the most active belt of andolan (protests). We made up our minds to ride through and take a call regarding the completion as per the situation confronted.

All other obstacles were a passé. I had to face the major one: fear of rising on streets and downhill (courtesy my previous falls). I mentioned this to Saurabh (one of my riding partners) and he assured me that I’ll be fine. I took his assurance.

So, it was all set and I was ready to fly to Delhi on 2nd March 2017.

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Bike all packed and ready to fly at Mumbai Airport

Day 1 (3rd March 2017) Delhi to Kurkshetra

3rd March 2017, the day decided for the commencement of our ride and also the day to defeat all my psychological fears. Our ride was flagged off from India gate at 5.30 a.m. I and Saurabh took a deep breath, sat on the saddle and soon we were zooming through Delhi streets. So, here we were riding for a cause and we were enjoying it. The first halt happened to be at Murthal, which is precisely remembered by us for the yummy paneer parathas. Saurabh constantly accompanied me to comfort me against my fear. The weather was pleasant, making our ride an enjoyable and fantastic one. Halting at fields, clicking pictures, interacting with the local people and sipping sugarcane juice helped in smoothing our ride. By the time we reached Kurukshetra in the evening, we were dead tired. A comforting shower helped in relieving the physical tiredness. Yummy Punjabi food satiated our hunger and was a perfect full stop for the day. My inner self was already patting my back and I was thinking, “Yay, I could cycle on the highway. It was a battle which I think I was slowly conquering”.

Day 2 (4th march 2017 ) Kurukshetra to Ludhiana

We started the day at leisure as the distance to be covered was less. As usual we had our amazing paneer parantha to kick start our ride. What we thought to be an easy ride turned out to be the most treacherous one. It was very strong head and cross winds that were not allowing us to pedal ahead. We were pedaling very hard, forcing ourselves to move forward but we realized that we were cycling at snail’s pace. All this made us stop at several halts; we had to continuously sip water, drink sugarcane juice, even ORS (to keep ourselves hydrated). We pedalled with all our might after every stoppage. We kept on noticing the trees on the roadside bending with the winds, which made us realize the strength of the air currents.

Goodness finds a good cause itself, similarly Mr. Karanveer Singh and his group found about our ride on the social media. He and his team greeted us with guava juice and also a lot of encouragement. After battling the winds it was such a delight to meet Mr.Karan and his group.

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Mr.Karanveer Singh and his group

We finally reached Ludhiana by evening. Our stay arrangements couldn’t be done due to short notice, but help poured in from all sides. One of my rider friends in Mumbai, Swati Sablok’s father, Mr.Jagdeep Sablok, came forward to help us. We couldn’t thank him enough for the way he took care of us like his own children.

He received us at Ludhiana entrance and then took us straight to a cycling expo. The expo was quite wide spread and as soon as we entered the expo we were greeted by Ludhiana cycling club. We were easily recognized as cyclists firstly because of our attire and secondly with dirt all over us. It was fantastic to meet this super energetic group and all our tiredness due to our ride fighting the vicious winds vanished in thin air (ironical).

We then headed to the guest house to call it a day (a very tiring but enriching day).

Day 3 (5th March 2017) Ludhiana to Amritsar

Our tired bodies rested well and we started early. It was the second last day of our ride, and we were super excited to reach Amritsar. The route was beautiful, while the weather favoured our movement. We had a different zing in our ride today (today being the concluding day). The excitement of completion of our journey, made the hard hitting winds from all directions, quite bearable on this day. We chatted, ate good food, stopped at several places and pedalled faster every time Saurabh chanted encouragingly, “Chal puttar pedal maar”.

An old saying goes like, birds of same feather flock together, may be this is the reason we could get to meet passionate riders like us every time. We were lucky to spot few riders wearing fluorescent orange jerseys riding in the wee hours. We stopped them to inquire about their club if any. They informed us about their club called Jalandhar Cycling Club.

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With Jalandhar Cycling Club members

They lead us to Haveli, a wonderful huge open restaurant serving most delicious north Indian food we ever had. The morsels satiated our tummies, taste buds and even souls with their taste. We then bid good bye to them as we had to reach our destination.

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Breakfast at Haveli near Jalandhar

 As mentioned earlier too, the vibe attracts the tribe, so were we attracted to so many amazing cycling groups on our way. The experience was enriching as a rider.

 We reached Amritsar by evening and were greeted by the gates of the huge and pious Golden temple. Yes, the long stretch of the ride was over!

We visited the Golden temple in the evening to seek blessings and had sumptuous food at brothers dhaba. As the day came to an end at the peaceful and blissful gates of Harminder Sahib, we were the happiest souls around that day.

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For all the blessings at Harminder Sahib

Day 4 (6th March 2017) Amritsar to Wagah Border

The final lap was the shortest, hence we were totally relaxed. We started late and started to ride after moving out of the city.  We drove for a distance and then assembled our bikes to ride towards Attari. As our fate was with us throughout the ride, we met another set of riders from Amritsar cycling club. We enjoyed tea together before heading towards the border. Mr. Harminder joined us to the border, as we approached the partition line we beheld the huge Indian flag hoisting with pride up in the sky. The feelings fall short for words and can’t be ever expressed verbally. While we approached the border, I was overwhelmed with the completion of our journey.

Yes, I did it and we did it !

Take Away

This ride was mind over matter for me. I was able to overcome if not all but few of my fears and undoubtedly Saurabh , my co-rider played a major role in making me complete the ride by his encouraging words. He made me draft behind him when head winds were hitting us , he slowed down with me when he saw that I was exhausted , he did not bother about his strava average but rode along with me irrespective of the speed . I owe you a lot Saurabh !

Excuses come handy but to make things happen what it takes is – WILL

Family , children , home , responsibilities  , social image , duties ,expectation will never leave but to find a way out from all this and live for your passion is the key .

 Get up and move! Do it !

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End of the ride ,at the border with India Flag flying with all pride

P.S: Special thanks to Apollo Hospital , Sledgehammer Foundation , RiteBite ,DNA,Poineer ,My Powai for coming in full support in very short time .

Enjoy – Winning will come later

On a typical hot and humid Sunday I entered home post noon after a long ride tanned, dirty face, tired with a parched throat.. I removed my helmet which was dripping with sweat, kept it on the table and rested myself on the sofa. With a deep exhalation I said, “Damn, I could have ridden faster and longer today but it was too humid”. My words disappeared in the air as all other members were busy with their Sunday chores. I was too tired to take their observation into account so decided to head for a wash.

On some other day, I entered my house after my run and checked on my sports recording app for my distance and time. I was unhappy and murmured, “what is wrong with me, why can’t I run fast?”

I reacted in similar way after my swimming or stair climb but I thought my words went unnoticed, really?

It was on Sid’s sports day when I realized that my each word was taken into account.

After the prize distribution he came running to us with more than 3 medals dangling around his neck and his face beaming with joy. Surely, it was an elated moment for all of us. He said in all glee, “, Mom, I am the fastest in the entire junior section and no one is even closer to me “. I patted his back and was surely proud of his achievement.

Sid with his hard earned medals

But then the things changed a little. He wanted to race anywhere, anytime and with anyone. Why? To prove and show that he is fastest of all even the younger sibling suffered several times because he was slower. He was not even happy when he stood third in cross-country race among more than 70 students .Sid asked me one day to record his run on Strava (sports app which records your sports activity) .So, the Strava bug was setting in.
After my rides or run he checked upon my distance and speed. He was also curious to know if I was fast in the group and who was the fastest (he knows some of the fastest riders in the group) .This was alarming .I could see fierce competition.

I was at fault.

Unknowingly I introduced this culprit. My activities  are purely my passion. It is my outlet to anxiety, stress and depression but this was not conveyed properly and I could see my son getting into unhealthy competition.

So, how did I correct it?

Talk about enjoyment first , winning may or may not happen – it is just fine !

After my rides I talk about the fun we had , chit-chat, weather, road condition, what we had for breakfast, some funny instances. Also, focusing on how the group rides together and not to race. I focus my discussion  more on the love for ride than any Strava jargon.

One of our group rides

I run alone so after my run I come home with a satisfied smile and then talk about my sprint for a short distance and slow run for longer distance.  Also, discussing long distance running tactics with my boys and asking for their comments.

In the end it is neither the speed nor the distance that will matter but consistency will.

Parents feel elated by the accomplishments of their ward and look forward for medals too.  It is good to get recognized for the efforts but it is equally important to be happy and satisfied without medals dangling around the neck.

We have a medal stand at home and I love that corner of my house. It shows my effort , my participation, my pain , my strength , my hard work and my will to do more . My each medal has a story and a memory to it.

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Our medals: We have a story and memory attached to each one

It is extremely important to get into a state of bliss when you enjoy any sport than comparing, creating records for recognition, proving oneself better than other and feeling low for not being at par with the group. My accomplishment, effort, handwork and dedication are for myself and not to prove to anyone else.

Joy, during my Rajasthan exploration on my cycle

Children give learning of life and my son did too. I shall continue to pursue my passion towards adventure in full fervor but for myself and not for any competition. I would love to get recognized by own inner belief that will scream to me,” DISHA, I KNOW YOU CAN DO IT “and I’ll give MY complete dedication to make it with a smile on my face.

“My boy, love , live , explore and come out as winner in life”

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