HYDERABAD: Nothing can be more ‘spiritual’ than hitting the pedal and the air kissing the skin as a reward for all the ‘leg work’. Despite all its worthiness, we have taken the ultimate ‘two-wheeler’ for granted. Why? Because hardly anyone of us have acknowledged what a significant year this is for the bicycle. 2017 marks the 200th anniversary of humble bicycle, but there’s hardly any fanfare around it.
Luckily, a few denizens like apna Mohammed Haneef Saheb chichha inspires us to look at the bicycle in awe once again with their remarkable feats. Haneef, an auto driver by profession, traversed from Mecca Masjid in Charminar to the Holy Mecca in Saudi on a bicycle for nine whole months! His deed will put any youngster to shame as Haneef pedaled all the way from here to peform the Hajj at a ripe age of 71.
Now, at the age of 81 years, Haneef alas auto chacha drops Nasr School Kids from Gachibowli to Sanath Nagar and comes all the way to Begumpet for the interview. After lot of efforts, we still failed to find trace of tiredness on his face.
In 2006, when he was 71, he wanted to accomplish the task of cycling to Hajj. He ran from pillar to post to get the permissions. What made him take up the task? The octogenarian says, “I read about Mohammed Faisal, who had started cycling from Orissa to Hajj. Later another elderly man, at the age of 82, took up Hajj on bicycle. It inspired me immensely. I took permission from the commissioner, AK Mohanty and also then-additional commissioner supported me and encouraged me. I met all the MLAs, ministers and also YS Rajashekar Reddy ignored my request. I met Sonia Gandhi, she left my letter aside. I was demoralised but I didn’t lose faith or courage. Without backing out, I struggled. I went to New Delhi and requested the BJP too. Although they were not in power, they gave me permission. Even Abdul Kalam Saheb had sent a letter to Sonia Gandhi, but they didn’t pay any heed to my letter,” he recalls.
“Abdul Kalam saheb gave me permission and supported me,” Haneef adds, with tears rolling out of his eyes. Haneef says he was later given a permission letter by Rajnath Singh, which he has preserved securely.
“Bandaru Dattathreya had also given me a go-ahead letter. Pakistani former President, Parvez Musharaf, Afganistan, Iran, Iraq officials too had helped me through out. Public had helped me with food and shelter,” the auto chacha tells us.
During the emotional conversation, where auto chacha veered to nostalgia, he also revealed that our current Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao too had supported and requested him to pray at Mecca for a peaceful separation of two states. “It’s been three years now and he hasn’t paid any heed to me. I don’t think he even remembers me now,” he smirks.
With the same emotions, he said that BJP is now in power only because of their good deeds and of course his prayers for them at Mecca for supporting him.
His visa was arranged and his cycle expedition began from Hyderabad to Maharashtra to Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. From Delhi, he crossed Wagah Border, Lahore, Afganistan, Iran, Saudi, Jeddha, Madina and reached his destination. He cycled for nine months.
“I think, the passion and excitement to reach the God made me forget the fatigue. I enjoyed my journey. It was a memorable 11,000 kilometers cycling journey. It started in 2006 and ended in 2007,” he smiles.
Chacha says people helped him with food and shelter, wherever he went. “The media from other areas knew my arrival and arranged for food. In the other countries too, my food and shelter were arranged without much hassle,” he reminisces with joy.
In the course, he had also met Narendra Modi in Gujarat, who was the state’s Chief Minister in 2006 and of course Amit Shah too. “They were all compassionate and reassuring. If not for them, I wouldn’t have succeeded and I am eternally grateful to all the BJP members, who helped get through,” he shares.
Interestingly Haneef had a pleasant encounter with the wild animals when he passed by forests. “I saw a lot of monkeys, tigers and other wild animals. I used to quietly sit when they are around. They don’t attack us when they realise we are not predators. They have stronger senses than us,” he narrates.
Haneef had worked in Muscat in 1983, but his dream was to cycle from his homeland to Mecca and pray for the peace of our country.
Haneef has been driving autos for 50 years now to give quality education to his kids. His children hold engineering and MBA degree. He has six daughters and two sons of which one son is in Dubai and one daughter is in London. “I have to get two daughters of mine married. I even take up plumbing jobs to earn some extra money. With the grace of gGod, all my kids are well educated, otherwise my struggle would have gone futile,” Haneef says while informing about his daily routine of dropping the school kids in the morning and evening. Haneef is planning his next cycling expedition to Mecca, Hajj in 2019. Good luck chacha.