Pushing boundaries has always been the motto of 46-year-old Dattareya Patil — a farmer from Sangli. His latest challenge is journeying from Jammu to Kanyakumari on a bicycle, but the catch is that he will cover the 3,200-km distance barefoot with three young teenagers in tow.
“I have never worn footwear. It (the practice of staying barefoot) keeps me healthy,” said Patil, who recently completed 10 MTB Himalayas, India’s premier mountain biking event held in Himachal Pradesh.
The farmer, who intends to set up an academy for budding cyclists upon his return, will carry the luggage, food and supplies for the group so that the children can ride freely.
His three companions, including his 10-year-old son and two 14-year-old boys, are among the 70-odd children he trains for free in his village.
When asked if they were up for the long road, Patil said, “I have trained them well to cope with all weather conditions.”
On April 26, the group of four began their journey in Jammu and intends to reach Kanyakumari by June 5.
The route will take them through Chandigarh, Delhi, Mathura, Agra, Gwalior, Indore, Dhulai, Malegaon, Nashik, Pune, Sangli, Belgaum, Hubli, Chitradurga, Bengaluru, Salem and Madurai.
Asked if he was wary of the turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir, Patil said he is unfazed.
“I am not scared (of taking the kids along). Terrorism can’t scare us. The kids’ parents trust me,” he said.
As a millet farmer, Patil has struggled to keep his passion going but says he has learnt to be self-sufficient. “You need some support for offbeat sports. I am tired of corruption in sporting bodies… The district sports officer promised me a cycle a year back. I haven’t received that yet.”