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The bicycle men

He has painted India on his head and Sachin rules his heart! A diehard fan of Master Blaster Tendulkar, Sudhir Kumar Gautam, from Muzaffarpur in Bihar, is all of 26 and has created a record of sorts by travelling nearly 40,000 kilometres on his bicycle just to watch 14 test matches and more than 30 one-dayers played by the Indian cricket team over the last four years in India and Pakistan.

india Updated: May 05, 2006 00:09 IST

Cheerleader No. 1

He has painted India on his head and Sachin rules his heart! A diehard fan of Master Blaster Tendulkar, Sudhir Kumar Gautam, from Muzaffarpur in Bihar, is all of 26 and has created a record of sorts by travelling nearly 40,000 kilometres on his bicycle just to watch 14 test matches and more than 30 one-dayers played by the Indian cricket team over the last four years in India and Pakistan.

Indian cricket fans calls him the ‘Indian Chacha’ like the ‘Pakistani Chacha’! Gautam is now friends with many Indian stars like Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh, Virender Sehwag and Irfan Pathan. He even cycled all the way to Pakistan, with the Tri-colour painted on his body, to watch Indo-Pakistan matches.  Naturally, he was welcomed by the ‘Pakistani Chacha’ with whom he stayed in Lahore.

“Cricket has brought together fans of both the countries. We have developed a sort of family ties with each other. He is just like my Chacha and a part of my family,” says Gautam, adding that, “Actually Chacha is originally from Sialkot but due to my visa limitations, I was not able to visit his house in Sialkot. He has promised to call me for the wedding of his son this year.” 

A labourer in a paper factory in Muzaffarpur, Gautam has overcome several hurdles for his hobby. He had to withdraw his entire PF amount ( Rs 7,800) to watch cricket matches in Pakistan. But he was lucky to have found the Pakistani Chacha as his host, who never allowed him to spend anything there. Maybe, some big corporates will come forward to sponsor him soon. “Cricket is everything to me. I even missed my sister’s wedding as I went to watch the Jamshedpur one-dayer played by the Indian cricket team this year, but how long can I watch cricket on my bicycle?” he wonders, adding, “I want to go to West Indies to watch India playing in Caribbean’s, I have met Sharad Pawar thrice but he has refused to help me.  Shyam Saran of Dada Army (Club of Indian Cricket team fans) has promised me to arrange my tickets if Sharad Pawar refuses to do anything for me.” 

“I earn only Rs 1,400 per month, and belong to a lower middle-class family.

Above all, my employer is not happy with my habit of following the Indian cricket team. I don’t have money to purchase train tickets that is why I went for the bicycle,” he says.

Sudhir has visited residence of Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly, Harbhajan Singh and Virender Sehwag on his bicycle too.

“Sachin drove back home from Pune, when he came to know that I was at his residence on a bicycle from Muzaffarpur. Sachin welcomed me in and offered me juice and snacks. He talked to me for an hour.  After that he has always helped me in getting the tickets of matches he has played.

He provided me tickets of all the test matches played in Pakistan and India, while Harbhajan Singh given me the tickets of one-dayers. Harbhajan supported me in my passion. He even wanted to help me monetarily but I refused any financial help instead, I pleaded for the tickets for the matches. He was so happy that he presented me his autographed bat which is like a treasure for me,” said Sudhir.

In fact cricketers like Sehwag, Harbhajan, Tendulkar have praised him for his passion and look forward to Gautam’s presence on the grounds when they play.

Pedal away

Neither does he wish to lose weight nor, does he intend to become a champion cyclist! He’s got a Honda City parked at home but he cycles to his office. A resident of Indiranagar in Lucknow, Indra Prakash Agrahari, manager, Indian Oil Corporation, presently posted in New Delhi, took to cycling after finding the over-crowded roads, traffic jams and pollution very upsetting. He cycles daily to office, eight kilometres away. And, everyone’s hooked… his colleagues, family and the media to the ‘Cycle Chalao Andolan’!

The inspiration came from his son Amrit. Says Prakash, “My son had asked me to gift him a motorcyle when he got through to IIT. However, when he did get admission to IIT-Kanpur, Amrit said motorcycles were not allowed on campus.

That’s when I too, decided to go for cycling.” Now, Indra Prakash has persuased more than a dozen officials in his office to cycle to work too. Of course, things were tricky at home. He found it tough convincing his mother and wife that a senior official “of his stature” should move around on a cycle. “It’s a pre conceived notion that someone cycling away does not have the means to own a two-wheeler or a car. But no longer. In the West, cycles are extremely popular,” he tells you. “I am also close to Nature while cycling through Cantonment, listen to FM and radio cassettes and enjoy the greenery too, on my way to work,” he says. An NGO, DPG Sansthan is also talking to authorities in Delhi to persuade people to cycle. The man himself is planning a celeb-cycle rally. For Lucknow, he says people should park their vehicles before Hazratganj, pick up a cycle from the stand nearby set up for the purpose, for a minimal payment, cycle through Hazratganj while shopping, return to the entry point and go home in their vehicles.”

“At many busy places in various countries this is a popular practice. It cuts down on pollution and traffic hazards,” he says. Besides cycling, Indra Prakash is also engaged in tree plantation and has so far planted thousands of trees already. All said and done, Prakash says, “Since I am an officer with the Indian Oil Corporation, biggest oil major in India, cycling by me is sure to impress and inspire all.”