Para-cyclist Aditya Mehta on the challenges and motivations of his 36-day, 3800 kilometre journey he has embarked on
When he reached Delhi on Saturday, Aditya Mehta had already ridden his bicycle for more than 900 kilometres over 10 days since the ‘Airtel Endurance Ride’ kicked off in Srinagar. The 36-day, 3800 kilometre ride from Srinagar to Kanyakumari, which covers eight States and 36 Indian cities, is the longest distance the para-cyclist has ever attempted to cover.
Talking about the journey so far, Aditya, double silver medallist at the Asian Para-Cycling Championships held earlier this year, says that the stretch from Srinagar to Jammu has been the toughest ride of his life: a single road with traffic that doesn’t have much respect for cyclists, where buses often pushed him off-road next to a gaping valley. “I had to concentrate on my ride, the traffic and the mostly unconstructed roads, all at the same time,” he says, and rues that unruly traffic is perhaps the greatest challenge he is set to face during the course of this journey.
The endurance ride intends to raise funds for the ‘Aditya Mehta Foundation’ to provide amputees with artificial limbs, fund their education and provide sports equipment specially designed for the physically challenged. Aditya admits to having had the advantage of access to resources to fund and assemble his own equipment. There are many who are not so fortunate, and that is where his Trust and this ride come in: “For every kilometre I ride, anyone can donate any amount per kilometre and these funds will go to amputees who are interested in getting into sports.”
Ask him if this ride can potentially inspire someone, and he reminisces about the way the Hyderabad Bicycling Club billboard once inspired him: “that billboard really changed my life. I was so disturbed at the sight of the fully equipped bicycle rider, but it was immediately after that I began riding and every fall I have had has been worth it. A mental drive is essential, and it would be great if people took away some motivation for a general attitude towards life that if you really set your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.” He also hopes this ride will motivate people in general to get into cycling as a mode of travel, better for health, the environment as well as the traffic he has had to ride through!
Looking at the scenario of sponsorship as well as the larger sports infrastructure in India, Aditya feels that there is a great need for more such initiatives and efforts to be made. It has taken him more than a year and half to get the sponsors he has today. “Sports in general need a lot more infrastructural development in India, and within that this area needs to be addressed for amputees and the physically challenged to get the support and motivation they need to fulfil their aspirations.”
(Details regarding donations for the ‘Aditya Mehta Foundation’ can be found on Aditya Mehta’s official website: www.adityamehta.in)