A Vegan Streak

I don’t know how to put this in words, but for the best part of my life I was a prolific meat eater. Meat to me was a wholesome diet and going to vegetarian food invites was something to be avoided. However, I couldn’t help noticing that my digestion took a hit with all that meaty protein intake and my body felt ‘heavy’ after ingesting such stuff. There were some other effects too, like the formation of phlegm and feeling of rigidity in my joints. To add insult to injury body weight was off the charts and my belly …. well, .. it was so bad that I couldn’t see my feet looking down. 

I was also becoming asthmatic and had trouble walking up staircases. All that weight lumbered down on my knee joints and soon they were creaking too. In desperation, I searched for answers in modern medicine. There were none. One of my cousins who is a qualified medical doctor advised me to try Ayurveda. Ayurveda is a system of herbal medicine in my country. It is actually a lifestyle oriented system, with particular emphasis on diet. I started off into Ayurveda and after a month or so, noticed that my weight was trimming down and my digestion had improved dramatically.

Ayurveda had helped me cut down weight drastically. However, my belly and hips still carried a lot of flab. Ayurvedic doctors advised me to cut down on sugar and on … MEAT ! That was like a punch to my solar plexus. Oooof ! They also told me that I had to avoid dairy milk that was coming off the departmental stores. According to them it was too thick and had chemicals in it. The native aka indigenous cow variety milk was supposed to be the best thing for me.

Needless to say I did not follow the advise for quite some time. This went on till I started taking part in duathlons and half marathons. In case you didn’t know duathlons are races which involve both running and cycling. On the race track I was too flabby compared to most athletes, who were lean and muscular. Most of the top performers had almost no belly flab. Compared to my friends and acquaintances I  appeared quite fit, but this turned out to be a mirage when it came to the athletic track. This was the same story in scuba and free diving. The instructors and regular divers were like chiselled up to the last shred, with almost no body fat, excluding the odd exceptions. Which meant that yours truly had no option but to take the plunge into the seemingly drab and dreary world of vegetarians or worse — the vegan world.

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Greens and the wonders of a light feeling !!

However, once I tested the vegetarian waters, things turned out to be a breeze. Cutting down on my sugar intake and chopping out meat transformed my rigid and heavy body feel to a fluid and light one. The change was noticeable once I took to long distance bike touring. 100 kilometres a day on my bike was like no sweat. Meanwhile dairy products continued to bug me. I noticed that my body was not comfortable with commercial dairy products and there were no other options available to me regarding native cow milk. That meant that dairy was off my menu too. This didn’t hurt me in any way and my athletic activity continued unabated.

Once I went down the vegan oriented trail, other things came to my notice too i.e. animal abuse in the meat and dairy industry. Thanks mostly to information from my social accounts like Twitter, I have come across articles on unimaginable cruelty being inflicted on animals to sustain the ever burgeoning demand for meat and dairy products. Now, am not going to start a full blown venting on this issue here, but it does rankle me. 

To be honest I am not very strict about my vegan streak. This has to do with the fact that there are hundreds of people groups in my country, each following their own culture and dialect. In some tribal groups it is customary to serve the guests with meat dishes ( the menu can be downright weird ) and it is considered a great dishonour to turn down the menu. Since my bike and adventure journeys often take me to the remote regions of my Indian peninsula, I do not have the luxury of following the vegan lifestyle to it’s full extent. 

This article is in no way an evangelical effort to convert meat and dairy consuming people to a vegan lifestyle. It’s just a description of how things worked out for me. I would however like people to switch from a meat and dairy hogging lifestyle to one where the intake of such is lessened to a great degree. As far as athletics is concerned there is no data to confirm that a vegan lifestyle is superior when it comes to performance. Changing one’s dietary habits is also governed by so many other factors which includes pre-existing medical conditions. In such cases, professional advise from medical practitioners should be sought.  

P.S.: Edited article replacing biathlon with duathlon, duathlon is the correct terminology.

दूसरी साईकल का परिचय

पहली रेंजर साईकल से आपका परिचय तो हो चुका होगा, आईये अब आपका परिचय अपनी दूसरी साईकल से करवाता हूँ, यह रेसिंग साईकल है और रेंजर से काफी हल्की भी है:

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विश्व प्रसिद्ध सुन्दरी यानि मेरी रेसिंग साईकल।

आज ही के दिन का फोटो है भाई, इसी वास्ते आज निकला था। इस साईकल मे कोई गीयर नहीं था, गीयर मैने लगाये हैं। अब इसमे २१ गीयर हैं, पेडल भी बदल दिये हैं, बाकि आपको तो सब दीख ही रहा है। इस साईकल मे गति तो है परन्तु इसके टायर पतले होने के कारण सड़क पर पकड़ भी कम है और बजरी-रोड़ी इत्यादि मे इसे सम्भालने मे पसीने छूट जाते हैं। अच्छी सड़क पर यह पानी की तरह चलती है लेकिन गड्ढ़ों और मट्टी मे यह लड़खड़ाने लगती है। इस पर अधिकतम ४०० कि.मी. की दूरी तय कर चुका हूँ लेकिन इसमे कुछ न कुछ समस्या इसलिये भी बन जाती है कि इसका फ्रेम हल्का है और ऊबड़-खाबड़ सड़कों के झटकों से यह बिगड़ने लगती है। सच कहुँ तो यह मक्खन जैसी चिकनी सड़कों के लिये ही बनी है। हैंडल नीचे की ओर मुड़ा है और अगर हेंडल के निचले भाग में पकड़ बनायें तो ४० कि.मी. प्रति घँटे की गति कुछ वक्त तक बनायी जा सकती है। हैंडल के नीचे सिरे को पकड़ने पर सर भी झुक जाता है और आप हवा को चीरते हुये निकल जाते हैं। पर अगर उल्टी दिशा से कोई वाहन आपकी तरफ आ रहा है तो आपको बारम बार सर उठा कर उसको ताकना होगा और लम्बी दूरी मे यह समस्या बन जाती है। शहर की धमाचौकड़ी मे तो इसे चलाना कष्टदायी है क्योंकि बार बार ब्रेक लेना और हैंडल मोड़ने पर इसमे संतुलन बिगड़ जाता है। राष्ट्रीय एवं राज्य स्तर के राजमार्गों पर इसे दौड़ाने का आनन्द ही कुछ और है।

मेरी एक अन्य रुची भी है, यानि लोगों द्वारा सड़कों किनारे फेंका गया कूड़ा बटोरना और उसे उपयोग मे लाना। इसमे प्लास्टिक की बोतलें, बीयर के कैन और अन्य सामग्री भी है। यह काम मैने इसलिये आरम्भ किया क्योंकि सुंदर जलाशयों के किनारे, वन-जंगल के सड़क किनारे लोग बेछिटक होकर अपनी गाड़ियों मे से कूड़ा फेंक देते हैं और इससे मुझे बड़ी उदासी हो जाती थी। साईकल की कई एक फोटो मे यह कूड़ा दिखाई देता है, लेकिन वह फोटो मै इंटरनेट पर इसलिये नहीं डालता क्योंकि विश्व भर के लोग इनको देखकर हमारे देशवासियों को ही कोसेंगे। अगली फोटो मे आपको प्लास्टिक की एक थैली घाँस मे चिपकी सी दिखेगी, यह पीछे के टायर से जैसे लगी हुई है। इस मनोरम स्थान मे भी प्लास्टिक का कूड़ा देखकर मन तो खराब हुआ और फोटो भी, कूड़ा सफा करने के बाद फोटो खींचते वक्त एक प्लास्टिक थैली उड़ कर आ लगी।

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सुंदर छटाओं मे कूड़े का तड़का। गोलाकार लाल निशान देखें।

आगे का वीडियो भी इसी जलाशय का है, वीडियो मे थोड़ा कम्पन है इसके लिये क्षमा चाहूँगा। वीडियो ऐसे खींचा है की इस जलाशय के किनारे फेंका गया कूड़ा न दिखे।

कानपुर से १० कि.मी. बाहर देहात का सुंदर जलाशय।

आगे के लेखों को भी पढ़ना न भूलिएगा, ऐसे ही लिखता रहूँगा।

Introducing my Roadie

My other wife aka the MTB, got the exposure that she needed, meanwhile the overlooked beauty prodded me to be put on this blog. So, introducing here and now, the fast, light, fickle, slick tyre beauty:

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The lighter but faster touring Roadie.

This is several kilograms ( kgs. ) lighter than my MTB, but it’s just as fickle if stretched or fiddled with. The MTB can take our typical roads, smooth as butter in one stretch and then absolute mayhem in another. This one doesn’t cut it. On one of my 400 km. runs, it gave up on the way back, a cup in the hub that houses the ball bearings gave up. Today, it’s rear tyre burst and took the tube with it too. I had to drag it and myself for 20 odd kilometres with the no-rules traffic zipping by on the highway. Luckily, this was just a photo op run and I decided to limit myself to within 50 km. of my residence. If I had gone on further, I may have had to haul it over a lot many miles ( or kilometres ).

The roadie suffers from several shortcomings when touring in the Indian subcontinent. It has no suspension and the potholes here can be brutal. Then there are the uneven bumps on the better roads too, which can jar a rider if travelling at a good speed. To be honest, roads are now much better than a decade back, but still a no go for a roadie with slick tires. On the plus side if it gets a smooth as butter stretch it can clock 40 kmph.* with ease. 

*kmph. — kilometres per hour

When I had purchased it, it was a fixed gear roadie. It’s tyres are 27 x 1 1/4″ and the frame is steel. Worked on it and have added 21 gears to it, adding gears is not so easy as it seems, more of this later. The gear freewheel is non indexed and has thumb friction shifters. Have replaced the front and back mudguards with self made cardboard ones, they look a bit crude, but are much lighter and do the job of keeping the dirt in. The pedals are Keo compatible clipless type and I have shoes that lock into them. These pedals are comfortable on the long hauls but can be demanding when negotiating the chaotic Indian city/town traffic. A lot of practice is required before they can be used on our roads. Saddle post was replaced and a cushion seat cover added. Other accessories like a rear view mirror, front basket and a front light with an odometer were put in later, making it a short touring bike. 

Am trying to replace it’s tire frame with lighter alloy stuff but 27 inch wheel frames are rare and am considering fitting in alloy 700 cc wheels. I may replace the transmission with a freehub/cassette combination and compatible shifters. But, this is still in the planning stage. All in all, have travelled a lot on this bike and it has served me well on my shorter runs. That finishes the intro of my Roadie beauty. Keep checking back for more of my travel tips and tours!

 

Lawless Highway Code

Imagine huge 5-10 tonne beasts roaring loudly, racing past each other on an asphalt tarmac. The ground trembles under the combined assault of this gigantic pack, racing at speeds reaching 80-120 kmph.*; the beast overtaking the others nearly breaks out of the tarmac and leaves behind a plume of dust and debris. Thankfully, there are no collisions and the winner rushes ahead oblivious of the tremors that it created. The dinosaur pack vanishes into the distance; and out of the swirling dust and debris emerge tiny beings choking in the wake, bewildered and disoriented.

*kmph. — kilometres per hour 

Sounds like a Hollywood thriller featuring gigantic beasts battling to control the world ? Err .. No. Welcome to the real life Indian highway traffic. This is almost a daily routine here. At risk are the inconsequential cyclists, the tiny beings, like me, who have to keep a constant watch in the rear view mirror and be ready to dive out of the road. The thought of being plastered on the front view of these speeding beasts keeps gnawing in the mind of those like me. There are no rules on our national highways linking states and cities. The unwritten code here is : The bigger and noisier the beast, the more it deserves to be respected, traffic rules be damned !

If you haven’t guessed it, the dino* beasts are buses, trucks, lorries and dumpers; at the head of the traffic food chain, then the middle sized SUV’s**, mini-trucks and pickups with the cars and then the motor bikes completing the hierarchy. Our highway traffic follows it’s own rules based on the hierarchy above. Cyclists like me are the lowest vermin with no rights on the highways. Since there is almost no traffic rule enforcement, I won’t even discuss the highway patrols here, and focus on the unwritten lawless highway traffic code.

*dino – dinosaur, **SUV’s — Sports Utility Vehicles

Let’s get down to business and start with the pirate code; for starters your vehicle size matters. The bigger the beast you ride, by big I would say it’s both weight and size, the more you can flex your might on the highway. At the top of the food chain would be the beast trucks hauling several tonnes of load and often overweight. They are to be feared as they can just about do anything, including crush you like a mosquito. In the nights these beasts become true predators, with their liquor soaked drivers driving them into a speeding frenzy. Their presence can be heard from a distance, with crude music blaring from their driving cabins and the roar of their engines. To be fair most of the trucking drivers here are underpaid and overworked, and they do have an obstinate, dangerous streak about them as they drive these monsters. If you want to survive, keep your distance from this top predator.

The middle tier of the food chain is populated by swanky SUV’s, pickups and mini-trucks. The SUV’s are the things to be watched out for. The new ones have a fast acceleration and can zip up to 120-150 kmph. without breaking a sweat. The drivers of these beasts are often not concerned with the world outside, locked up in their own air-conditioned cocoon often with stereos belting out desi aka vernacular music. To add to this it’s common for the SUV drivers to talk on mobiles and have a hearty chat with the other occupants, while zipping on these things. This leads to predictable results. For a lowly cyclist like me, SUV’s are a terror. They can weigh a tonne and have a sizeable girth. One kiss from this baby and I could end up with Saint Peter. Which leads me to the other beasts in the middle tier.

The pickups, mini trucks and vans make up a dicey mix. They are often loaded up to the brim with stuff intended for local markets. Like vegetables, bread, milk and maybe sacks of flour. The main thing to remember is that they are in a tearing hurry to get that load to the market. Add that to the reckless driving culture with the load that they are carrying, and the picture is complete. The early morning ones are the worst. If that does not horrify one, let’s add more spice to the mix, most of these vehicles are not road worthy. I saw one whose chassis was inclined at such an angle that the vehicle looked like it was travelling sideways. It’s best to bail out of the bicycle if this beast heads for us and needs to brake to a halt. Braking is a no go with these vehicles, with the speed and the load that they are carrying. By the time they will halt it would be game over for the cyclist.

This brings us to the cars and the mobikes*. These are the fastest ones on the highways, zipping in and out, weaving to and fro between the dinosaurs. A Formula One driver would be put to shame at the manoeuvring undertaken by the warriors behind the steering wheels on Indian roads. Again, when the split second calculations fail, it’s a sad end. Cars treat dino trucks as slow trolls, weaving between them and zipping away. For the cyclist, this means keeping a watchful eye as there is no lane discipline when cars try to overtake a heavy. If they hug the outer lane where we travel, it’s best to drop off the road.

mobikes — motor bikes*

Mobikes are the fastest, with the latest ones running faster than most cars. They pose the least danger as they have to be careful too, being just a rung above the cyclist. Most mobike riders will often slow down for a friendly ‘on the road drive-as-we-chat’, which I have found to be a bit disconcerting as well as comical. Cyclists have to maintain a lateral as well as vertical balance without any motor power and chatting while cycling is tough. Then there is the traffic following on behind us that keeps blaring their horns to break this impromptu conference on the road. In some cases, I had to stop at the roadside if the conference continued for too long, just to let the traffic behind pass through. Fun facts apart mobike riders will get nasty if a cyclist is stuck in a traffic jam, cause the hierarchy kicks in when it’s jam time. The mobikes get priority while the cyclist has to wait for the jam to clear.

Moving on to the other rules in the lawless code; there is no such thing as a cycling lane. Cyclists travel on the outer fringes of the road, inside clearly marked side lanes on highways. But as lowly vermin we have no ‘actual’ lanes, speeding beasts will often hog the whole road while overtaking and cyclists have to take the dirt track next to the road, when that happens. Then there is the unique Indian highway traffic phenomenon of a wrong side reverse traffic flow on the ‘supposed’ cycling lanes. Mobikes, jeeps, auto rickshaws and passenger loaded tempos will often travel on the wrong side using the cycling lane with their headlights on as a sort of warning to the incoming cyclist. If we do not heed the horns and the headlights, it’s game over as they travel on the wrong side at high speeds. This mostly happens near small town settlements but is in no way restricted to such, and one has to be always on the alert.

Once all this sinks in, we are ready to tackle the highways. Helmets are very conspicuous here as most Indians think they have a head made of unbreakable titanium alloy. A cyclist with a helmet is considered as rare as a Martian, since even mobike riders on highways here don’t use one. It’s advisable to wear one though. The post is not meant to discourage prospective cyclists. Many of us out there are actually doing it despite the insurmountable odds. Drive slow, drive safe and be alert.

Will keep adding more to this post, so do check back and try to take up your cycling, you won’t regret it !!

घुम्मक्कड़ी साईकल

साईकल की कला समझने के बाद मानो मुझे पर लग गये थे। ऐसा लगता था की अब तो बस ब्रम्हाण ही मेरी मुट्ठी मे समा गया हो। मैने हर हफ्ते १-२ लम्बी दूरी की साईकल यात्राएँ आरम्भ कर दीं। अब मै अपनी मस्त चाल मे देहात की अपेक्षाकृत स्वच्छ वायु का आनन्द ले सकता था। २०१७ मे शीत काल के आते-आते कई सौ किलोमीटर की दूरी पूरी कर चुका था। आरम्भ मे तो आस पास के छोटे कस्बो मे मेरी लम्बी दूरी की साईकल यात्रा को देख कर लोगों को बड़ा कौतूहल होता था, लेकिन अब मेरी सवारी को लगभग कानपुर के आस पास सभी ढ़ाबे और साईकल वाले पहचानने लगे हैं। 

सवाल भी बड़े हास्यास्पद होते हैं। ‘आपको क्या सरकार साईकल पर घूमने का पैसा देती है ?’ ‘यह क्या कोई नई कम्पनी की साईकल का प्रदर्शन है ?’ ‘तुम क्या साईकल किसी संदेश का प्रचार करने को चलाते हो ?’ शहरों और कस्बों मे जब जवान बच्चों को मै बताता हूँ की मै १००-२०० कि.मी. बिना किसी विशेष कष्ट के साईकल भ्रमण कर सकता हूँ तो उनके चहरे पर अविश्वास की झलक रहती है। यह एक चिंता का विषय भी है। शहरी समाज अब मोटापे, मधुमेह और अन्य रोगों की चपेट मे पूरी तरह आ चुका है। साईकल चलाना अब स्टेटस के विरुद्ध है। देहात मे मेरी साईकल यात्रा को लोग आज भी समझते हैं। मध्य-प्रदेश के दमोह ज़िले के देहात मे एक सज्जन ने सटीक बात कही थी — ‘यह एक यात्रा है।’ भारत मे यात्रा का विशेष महत्व रहा है, लोग अपना घर बार बेच कर तीर्थ अथवा अन्य किसी लक्ष्य से यात्रा पर निकलते थे और कई एक बरस के बाद वापिस लौटते थे। आधुनिक भारत के काले अंग्रेज़ अब यह सब भूल चुके हैं, लेकिन देहातों मे अभी भी लोग इस परंपरा को मानते हैं।

२०१७ अक्तूबर तक मै कानपुर-प्रयागराज और वापिसी की यात्रा ( लगभग ४०० कि.मी. ) पूरी करने के पशचात ५०० कि.मी. की यात्रा का प्रोग्राम बनाने लगा। बुन्देलखंड के बीहड़ों का सौंदर्य के विषय मे मै यह कह सकता हूँ कि उत्तर-प्रदेश मे अगर कोई वन संपदा बची है तो इसमे बुन्देलखंड के बीहड़ एक बड़ा भाग हैं। मैने खजुराहो जाने का मन बनाया, जो कानपुर से लगभग ५०० कि.मी. की दूरी पर है। यह पूरी यात्रा बुन्देलखंड के बीहड़ों मे से होकर जाती है। कानपुर से हमीरपुर-महोबा-छ्तरपुर और फिर खजुराहो।

दिसम्बर, २०१७ तक मैने अपनी खजुराहो एवं पेंच की यात्राएँ पूरी कर ली थीं। दोनों यात्राएँ अलग हैं, खजुराहो की यात्रा से लौटने के कुछ समय बाद मैने पेंच की यात्रा आरम्भ की थी। 

खजुराहो और उसके भी आगे पेंच वन्यजीव अभ्यारण ( जो मध्य-प्रदेश और महाराष्ट्र की सीमा पर है ) की यात्राओं के पूरे लेख अभी लिखने बाकि हैं, परन्तु उनसे सम्बन्धित कुछ वीडियो और फोटो आपकी सेवा मे इस लेख मे डाल रहा हूँ। पेंच वन्यजीव अभ्यारण पहुँचने का रस्ता कानपुर से छतरपुर और फिर आगे दमोह, नरसिंघपुर और सिवनी जिला तक है। पेंच अभ्यारण सिवनी जिला, मध्य-प्रदेश मे ही है। कानपुर से पेंच के तुरिया गेट तक ७०० कि.मी. है, आना-जाना १४०० कि.मी पड़ेगा।

नीचे के फोटो व वीडियो कानपुर-खजुराहो मार्ग के हैं:

IMG_20171008_093201

हमीरपुर का यमुना पुल।

IMG_20171009_153741

 छतरपुर-खजुराहो मार्ग।

खजुराहो के पास रानेह झरना जो रानेह वन्य अभ्यारण क्षेत्र मे आता है।

आगे के फोटो कानपुर-पेंच मार्ग के हैं:

IMG_20171225_164736

बतियागढ़, दमोह के पहिले एक पहाढ़ी क्षेत्र है, यहाँ के एक ढ़ाबे मे पड़ाव डाला था।

IMG_20171223_114023

लखनादौन, सिवनी जिले के पास वन्य खेत्र मे सूखा नाला, इस खेत्र मे सूखे की मार का आभास हुआ।

IMG_20171222_080021

पेंच वन्य अभ्यारण मे एक सरकारी चेतावनी पटल। इसमे लिखा है कि बंदरों को खाना देना एक दंडनीय अपराध है।

cropped-img_20171226_0712471.jpg

बतियागढ़ के वन खेत्र मे मेरी रेंजर साईकल।