Cycling Love in India: Profile of Mother, Physician Blogger

A few months ago, I stumbled across Preethi’s blog, IfeeIthinkIsay.

I was delighted to discover  she also is a cyclist..in southern India.  In addition to bicycling for health and fun, she is also busy as a full-time physician (psychiatrist) there for last 9 years for children with disabilities and emotional problems, as well mother of 2 young children.

preethi
Mother of 2, physician and consulting psychiatrist for children, relaxing for short time during a bike ride. Kushalnagar, Coorg. India 2016.

She graciously agreed to be interviewed by answering some questions and sharing her thoughts. Do drop by her blog!

Tell us highlights about yourself and how you first got into bicycling.
Bicycles, I can say, are an important part of childhood in India. It is a means of transport easy for children to go to and fro from school, go for their tutoring after school and to run errands. It is a mode of transport which needs no driver’s license. Hence, almost every child here learns to cycle and owns one. I started similarly. Over the years, others seemed to move on to brighter, shinier and faster moving vehicles, while I remained enchanted with my bicycle.

Did you ride with anyone often as a child / teen? 
As I have mentioned earlier, cycling was an important part of my life till I turned eighteen (which is when we get to apply for a driver’s license). As a teen I would cycle with my friends, but it would be mainly to college and never road trips.  This is again because, class eleven and twelve in India are crucial years before we decide on our careers and have important exams to take.

Rickshaw slumber. State of Karnataka, India 2016. Photo by P.V.S.
Rickshaw slumber. State of Karnataka, India 2016. Photo by Preethi.

As an adult, how often do you bike?  Is it for utilitarian purposes (shopping, community centre, work) or recreational/fitness? 
Not even once for utilitarian purposes, I’m sad to say. As adults, cycling in India is not as well accepted as it is for children. Certain cities are taking up to it in a big way recently, but sadly, mine is not one among them.  Here, bicycles are a means of transport for people who cannot afford anything better, and female adult cyclists are a rarity. Luckily, I live in the heart of the city, hence my commute to work and for other stuff, is within short walking distance.

But as a recreational activity, I do take it out every day. On weekends, we cycle to places which are close by along with a group of cycling enthusiasts.

In North America, we just don’t see TV nor magazine images, of Indian women cycling in their own country.  Is bicycling as a form of transportation /recreation or fitness, not undertaken by Indian girls and women? Or is it just the Western media choosing certain images?
As mentioned earlier, cycling women are a rarity. Surprisingly, I found a large amount of people, both male and female, use bicycles in Pondicherry as a means of transportation. But, across the length and breadth of India, the use of public transport, motor bikes and cars, far outweigh the amount of people who use cycles consciously, as adults.

As a positive change, due to the smart and clean city initiatives taken up by the current government, cycling is slowly making a foray into the mainstream.

Pausing on bike trip. Coorg, India 2016.
Pausing on bike trip. Coorg, India 2016.

Summarize any safe areas for people to bike often for a  distance in your area?  Is safe cycling infrastructure, such as a bike lane or signage necessary?
As much as I can say, there are no separate safe areas or special cycling infrastructure in any of the places that I have cycled in. There are no specific rules that apply for bicycles, separate from those for other vehicles. You just have to be careful, and watch where you are going.

Since you are a doctor, tell us  your observations on healthy or unhealthy lifestyles.  Any motivators or barriers that are different for local women and girls vs. in other areas of India, to encourage bicycling or any form of regular exercise they liked?

In India, I feel we are bound by certain social barriers to cycling. It is not yet a part of the norm for people who have crossed a certain financial and social milestone, to cycle.

Though most of our cities have high levels of pollution, we have very minimal awareness regarding this.

Enroute to Gajanur dam. Karanataka, India 2016. Photo by Preethi.
Enroute to Gajanur dam. Karanataka, India 2016. Photo by Preethi.

Hence, if people who matter, take up the cause, we may see a surge in cyclists. A new set of rules for cyclists and safe cycling areas may make a difference. Improving awareness regarding environmental concerns among school going children, may make a difference in the way children choose their mode of transport in the future.

Note: Preethi  added later that in her state, Karnatake, “Regarding children cycling, it would possibly surprise you to know that cycles are so popular here ( among children), that the Government of Karnataka gives out free bicycles to girls from economically disabled backgrounds, so that they will not drop out of school! Each school has about a minimum of hundred to two hundred kids cycling to and from it. With the advent of school buses in the bigger cities, the numbers who cycle is slowly dropping!”

As a doctor and a mother, I had slowly slumped into a lifestyle which was extremely unhealthy, and it showed. I was irritable, falling sick and somewhat depressed. Getting some form of exercise seemed a necessity, and cycling seemed to fit in to fulfill my needs, both as a form of exercise and as a fun option. I find myself a more fun and fit person now, than I was a year ago when I started cycling seriously.

There are many methods and ways out there which give you gyaan (supreme knowledge)  on how to make a better life for yourself. I would not want to add more jumble to it. But, to put it simply, I would say:  keep fit, keep up to your goals and have fun. After all, we have only one life.

Many thanks, Preethi for sharing with us your experiences and thoughts!

Here’s a sampling from her blog:
Cycling in Pondicherry.

Her reflection on stigma of mental illness for some female patients in India made more complex due to some misygnostic attitudes on lower societal status of women.

 

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33 Comments Add yours

  1. Sue Slaght says:

    Jean how fascinating to read your interview. I certainly take the ability to cycle most anywhere I want. Thank you for the introduction and the next time I jump on my bike I will be grateful for the ability to ride anywhere I choose.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      I agree, taking for granted our freedom to jump onto the bike and go unchaperoned. And who cares if one wears spandex or not.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great to read that bicycles are still important in other areas of the world. Even during my university times I used to bicycle to school every day (30km in both directions) instead of using public transportation as those were even slower at times. Only in winter I would use them as snow and ice aren’t the best conditions for a bicycle ride

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      For Asia, it is important that some folks still bike and aren’t overly caught up in car use. Now we’re seeing the negative effects of too much car-love in big Chinese cities. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

      1. During this trip I saw perhaps a handfull of people with bicycles…it gets less each year!

        Like

        1. Jean says:

          😦 This most definitely is not good. Unless a lot more locals are using transit..

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Really fascinating… Thanks for introducing us to this amazing woman!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Hope you visit her blog, aginggracefully.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Jean, it seems you found your soul sister in India! Interesting post, thanks for sharing it with us. ❤
    Diana xo

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Robyn Haynes says:

    An interesting post on cycling in another country.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      The Internet opens up doors to more learning and sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Mabel Kwong says:

    Such a lovely interview with Preethi, Jean. It is interesting to hear there are social and cultural norms around cycling, and each one is on their own when they decide to cycle in India given there are no laws around this activity. Good on Preethi for being an independent woman and cycling because she wants to, and hopefully more in India will follow suit.

    Her interview reminds me of the time I lived in Malaysia, and it’s a similar story there. Cycling on a day to day basis to work is not common in Malaysia because of pollution, horrendous traffic and the humid weather. It’s just not practical. So the only time you’d be able to cycle would be mostly in your spare time and for recreational purposes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      How long did you live in Malaysia, Mabel? I’m hoping Preethi will drop by and respond to us. Hope Preethi finds more cycling gal-friends, though even myself a lot of my closest friends don’t bike as much as I do. At least they like doing other forms of exercise. Important for health and keeping those joints “oiled”.

      Like

      1. Mabel Kwong says:

        I lived in Malaysia for three years (7-10 years old) and then visited 2-4 times a year up until the end of high school. Good for you to find comfort in biking with your partner. It may not be the sport or exercise for everyone.

        Like

        1. Jean says:

          Awhile ago, I wrote the value of simply finding a form of exercise that you love. https://cyclewriteblog.wordpress.com/2012/09/04/a-fitness-match-made-in-heaven-your-personality-and-your-favourite-sport/ so it’s never a chore. It doesn’t matter what the exercise is.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. livelytwist says:

    I enjoyed the interview and learning something about the cycling habits in India. I think handing out free bicycles is a welcome initiative to encourage students to continue with schooling.
    I like recreational cycling when the city has made provision for it.
    Thanks Preethi for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This gives me a great insight of the life in India. Never been to that place and hope to visit there 1 day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      At least you’re closer than I. But then, I’ve never been to Asia yet. For India, I hear of the importance of expecting great contrasts between modern/hip vs. poverty, etc.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Chrissy Jee says:

    Really interesting interview. Didn’t realize schools give out bikes so girls won’t drop out. I really like your new site.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      The bikes for girls sounds like an effort that isn’t necessarily widespread all over India. But great for the girls in her region to facilitate getting to school.

      Thx for new site thoughts. It takes me time readjust certain photos if I get around to it. Anyway change is..change. 🙂

      Like

  10. I just stumbled upon your post and I really loved it. Great post. I’m a bicycle lover by the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      And you have a great blog! Thanks for riding by to visit. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Lani says:

    Great interview, Jean! I can relate to what Preethi says regarding cycling in a developing country. It seemed sweet, at first, to see so many school children bicycling to and from school in Cambodia, but it really is economics. If they had a choice, they would motorbike. This is changing though. I see more and more children on motos and SUVs on the road.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Not a good thing to see children on motos and SUVs on road in Cambodia. I actually find the small gauge engines very smelly for some. I bet they don’t wear helmets? They have found here in North America that the return to cycling regularily is people with abit more money. Not referring to students who must out of economic necessity but there’s that too for those who may be unemployed. I learned much from interviewing Preethi. Maybe you’ll find someone at your end..

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Lani says:

        No, they don’t wear helmets. The whole driving/biking situation is terrifying here, and yet, everyone manages to get by…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jean says:

          I’d rather be in Netherlands and not be wearing a helmet. They have more cycling infrastructure. If a cyclists is hit by a driver, a driver has to prove that they are not guilty. That’s very different our North American laws re cyclists.

          Liked by 1 person

  12. That’s very interesting!
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      thx for dropping by travelingrockhopper! You seem to travel to a lot of destinations!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. This is great. A reminder of how there are still barriers to cycling for women. On the positive side, a reminder of how it can do wonders for you mentally and physically!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Yes, some barriers still for some girls and women elsewhere in the world. Thx for popping by!

      Like

  14. Sartenada says:

    How wonderful interview. Thank you.

    Like

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