Determination. Persistence. Passion. And on top of it, a very strong will to do it! Santosh Holi from Pune describes his journey from being a hobby cyclist to the fastest cyclist in India to travel from Jammu to Kanyakumari. Let’s hear it directly from him –
I was always passionate about cycling. Since childhood, while the other kids craved for toy cars and bikes, I always wanted a cycle. But due to the penurious condition at home, I never had the privilege of owning a good cycle. Then I got married and magic happened – my wife saved up some money from her part-time job and gifted me a basic single speed cycle on our first Valentine’s day! It was the most special day of my life and it still is. I decided to put it to good use. After a couple of months of research and planning, I was ready with the most ambitious plan of my life. I wanted to cycle from the North to the Southernmost tip of India.
Initially, none of my family members, my colleagues, my employer, and my friends were with me. My colleagues and friends satirized my thoughts and said that I was a fool to attempt such a feat. A common man is supposed to slog, earn a few bucks and feed his family. He is not supposed to take up such ridiculous missions and that too on his own expense! My employer was not ready to give me even a day’s leave out of goodwill, I had to work for six months continuously and save up on my leaves. The cycle company refused to sponsor me as I was using a single speed cycle against their insistence of using an 18-speed hi-tech cycle costing 40k as promoting that model was likely to be more beneficial for them. They were also ready to provide me the cycle, but I refused as I wanted to go with my concept – a journey of 3,500 km on a single speed cycle. With no support from anywhere at all, in those days I often felt dejected. It was just my wife and me against the whole world.
When I applied for a Limca record, I came to know that there was no such category for single speed cycles. After a lot of efforts, I was able to introduce a category in their books and that was the first step of my journey – Jammu to Kanyakumari solo on a single speed cycle covering 3,500 km in 25 days. Within a few days, I was standing at the door of a gazetted officer in Jammu for a signature. I was not supposed to begin without the signature and stamp. All my plans of leaving early in the morning and covering maximum distance before the sun comes up were devastated by the procrastination of the officer and then the peon who took another hour to give me the stamp. And this had to be continued throughout the journey. Two signatures daily – one in the morning before leaving any city and other in the evening after reaching the next city. Also, I was not allowed to skip any police stations on the way. Had to get their signatures too.
The next four weeks tested my endurance to the limits. At times I used to think, cycling for an average of 150 km per day in the scorching sun was easier than all these extra-curricular activities I had to do to keep my log sheet up-to-date. But the experience was amazing. Meeting new people of different cultures, living with them, learning their ways of life, having the local food with them, listening to their stories, all of it was like a dream come true.
I always kept some highly nutritious stuff in my rucksack in case I had to go without food for a long time. Sometimes I had to go through days of barren land until I found a settlement. On such nights I used to speak to my cycle, thank her for being so supportive. I always set an alarm for early morning, but used to wake up way before it rang! This was because I was doing it out of passion and not force. I also practiced some breathing exercises, always kept a first aid box handy and two pairs of tyre-tube and 25 spokes. But as luck might favour me, I did not come across a single puncture in 3,500 km.
Many-a-times people were awestruck by my journey and insisted on having dinner with them and sometimes also spending the night at their homes. At times I also had to encounter some whimsical people, like the officer in a particular village hell-bent on making me speak the local language! He was so adamant for two hours and would not sign unless I requested in his local language. I had to go out, take help of a local person, learn a few words and come back to him for requesting the signature in the local language.
I reached Madurai two days ahead of schedule and hence decided to take a detour via Rameshwaram. In spite of the detour, I completed the journey within 23 days and 8 hours which gave me about two days to explore Kanyakumari. Standing at the ‘Sangam’ of three mighty oceans, I felt fatigued. But content. I closed my eyes and spread my arms. Inhaled the salty air. I was the only man in the country to complete this journey in record time.
Speaking to Santosh was enlightenment in itself. I was so profoundly reminded of Orson Whitney’s thoughts –
“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It all comes together to make us a better person.”
Do read our next story on Santosh’s Guinness record Journey “Gully to Guinness – The fastest and longest cycle journey of India”