Almost seven months ago, Girija Venkatesan, who sold her business, took to cycling for the first time. She had never owned a cycle or even stepped on a pedal till then. A matter of months after joining the Cycling Yogis, she started cycling regularly, and was part of their DakshinaChitra ride as part of the group’s third anniversary. For entrepreneur Aparna Rajkumar, who has been an athlete all her life, cycling and revisitng history have added up to the most delightful combination. Bringing people together from across fields is the passion to pedal through history, in a group.
Cycling Yogis’ founder Ramanujar Moulana says, “I wanted to draw attention to knowing something about places in the city. As a person who studied history academically, combining the activity of cycling and my passion for history was just the right combination. Cycling Yogis is also an endeavour to create awareness about protecting and conserving heritage,” he says.
Close to four years ago, when French teacher and history enthusiast Ramanujar went on a trip to Shimla, he met a group of cyclists called Pedal Yatris. The meeting fuelled the idea of starting a similar group with a focus on heritage and history in Chennai. Starting with a small group in April 2012, the group has grown by a huge proportion to a whopping 2,000.
After participation in the subsequent Madras Week celebrations and the Mylapore Festival, encouragement from the festival’s founder Vincent D’ Souza gave more impetus to the group’s activities.
“Over these years, Cycling Yogis have carried out around 10 heritage rides to Mahabalipuram, around Triplicane, Mylapore, Perambur, Royapuram, ECR and Pulicat. There is a recce done ahead for every trip just to avoid wastage of time,” says Ramanujar
Cycling Yogis also went on a ride around Fort St George to contribute to the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan. Aparna says, “After the event one of the participants, a young boy came forward and said he would never litter the streets anymore. It is gratifying, even if it brought a change in just one person.”
While Aparna is kicked about the upcoming ride along the 2,000-year-old Cooum in August this year, Girija says it would be exciting to have rides based on food stops. “It is wonderful to explore our city; there is so much to it. In fact, you can do food stops all the way from Sowcarpet to Mylapore.”
The rides are free of cost with sponsorship from like-minded people, and supporters of the group.