One cannot help but admire the cheery resilience of 81-year-old Laxman Vartak when he pedals his cycle across the streets of Pune. With a stamina that could put most people to shame,Vartak on his cycle — cheekily named Sr. Citizen Express has been pedalling his cause to all and sundry- to stay fit the simple way. The octogenarian,who is still working in the audit department at Deekay and Co,attributes his abundant store of energy to his simplistic living style. Every day when I take the cycle to go to work,I meet people in the colony and also near my locality who compliment me on my health. Instead of just acknowledging it I tell them to practise the same. Yoga,pranayam,and cycling,individually or in a combination,have all made me what I am today. I just tell them to follow the same principles to stay fit, he says.
An employee of The Indian Express till 1969,Vartak cites two inspirations for his holistic approach towards life. The first is Dr Joseph D’Varda of Australia who helped cure cancer using garlic pods and the second is a 103-year-old,whose name fails Vartak,who told him that being punctual in life kept him in good stead. Sharing their stories with children,youth,adults and senior citizens,Vartak has inspired over a dozen people near his own colony to start taking their health seriously.
I think people have forgotten simple techniques. For instance,surviving and co-existing in harmony with nature. Everyone wants to run fast,go to places faster and lead lives on the go. And then everyone complains about health problems. Most of which are lifestyle problems. Whenever I cycle through the city,people come up to me and ask me about the Sr. Citizen Express. And I explain to them,that the concept might be a tongue-in-cheek but it can benefit them too,as it has me, he says.
The results are often plainly visible. One youngster in my colony came up to me and told me that he had given away his motorcycle and bought a cycle. He now cycles to work and everywhere around the city. That is the essence of my work. I don’t wish any monetary gains or any records but it is important that people understand they must not abuse their bodies, he says.
All the years he’s put into championing the cause have,however,not satisfied him. He hopes to speak to more and more people,especially youngsters,about the need to stay fit. Every day I cycle 10 kms to office and back. In addition,wherever I go,I do so on my cycle. This has a dual advantage. The more we start depending on ourselves to keep the body fit,the less we tend to damage our surroundings. I hope to continue doing so as long as I live, he adds.