Riding a life full of letters on a bicycle

Leena Kumari

Leena Kumari | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Last Friday was 60-year-old Leena Kumari’s final day in service as a prerak with the District Literacy Mission. And like the previous 20 years, she pedalled her way to the study centre at Chittattukara panchayat near North Paravur.

Though she joined as a prerak in 2002, her association with the literacy mission dates back to the basic literacy programme as an instructor in the late 1980s when Ernakulam was declared the first fully literate district in the country.

But her love affair with cycling goes back even further to when she was in Class VIII beginning with her brother’s old bikes. Later in 1987, when she moved to her husband’s house at Chittattukara, her love for biking made her an automatic choice for a women’s cycle rally organised by the Kerala Sasthra Sahithya Parishad aimed at women’s empowerment. It also gave her the confidence to associate with the literacy mission and interact with society.

As the literacy mission’s prerak, she had been assigned not less than six study centres across multiple wards at Chittattukara and her penchant for biking came in handy.

“Biking helped me dictate my own schedule rather than being dependent on bus services. It also helped me interact with people and help them with their small requirements such as filling application forms and clarifying their doubts about literacy programmes. It also helped me find potential beneficiaries for the literacy mission’s courses,” says Ms. Kumari.

She also used to encourage fellow preraks and other women to take to cycling, citing the many benefits of good health and saving money.

Though she used to ride long distances earlier, she has cut down on that at the request of her family considering her advancing age. “While the family still encourages me to keep cycling, they don’t want me to venture into busy roads too much. Their concern is understandable, as the roads are no longer the same. The high roads with rough edges have made life difficult for cyclists,” she says.

However, she has no plans to abandon her cycle any soon and is determined to keep biking as long as health permits.

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Printable version | May 31, 2022 9:05:00 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/riding-a-life-full-of-letters-on-a-bicycle/article65456203.ece