Why would one wake up before dawn on Dussehra and cycle from the Red Fort to the Supreme Court? Depends on who you ask.
For the hundreds of cyclists who turned up to participate in the capital’s first car-free day at 7 am, it’s to be part of, as one of them puts it, “something historic”. When else would you get a chance to cycle on the busy five-kilometre stretch — that takes you past Ramlila Maidan, the road leading up to Jama Masjid, Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium and ITO — with the might of the police force preoccupied with making sure you don’t fall?
It could also be because you don’t have a choice. “I got done at 1.30 am and I was here at 6 am,” says a traffic policeman between sips of tea.
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Or it could be, as a woman who is tying up her chunni so that it doesn’t get stuck in the cycle wheel, says, to “see Arvind Kejriwal”, who arrives at 7.40 am to kick off the cycle rally.
But why focus on just catching a glimpse of the chief minister when you can cycle with him — and maybe even overtake him? “That’s what I’m here for,” says Nitin Sharma, a 25-year-old.
That, of course, is easier said than done. For one, Kejriwal seemingly vanishes the moment he got off the stage at the Red Fort. “Did he take the car? Isn’t he riding with us,” asks Nitin.
He decides to give chase.
At ITO, a couple of kilometres from the finish line, there is no sign of either the chief minister or his entourage.
Volunteers stand next to orange traffic cones that demarcate the area cyclists are supposed to stick to.
Occasionally, a scooter, an autorickshaw or a bus veer dangerously close, till either a volunteer or a traffic policeman waves frantically, signalling the driver to move away.
At Bhagwan Das Marg, a crowd has formed. At its centre is the chief minister on a red cycle. On two wheels, even the man who crushed his opponents in this year’s assembly elections betrays a hint of vulnerability.
“This is my chance,” says Nitin, who manoeuvres around the television crew and Kejriwal’s entourage, doing just enough to get an inch ahead of him.
Seconds later, Kejriwal cycles into his deputy Manish Sisodia’s official residence, and the gates shut behind him.
“Yahan se chaliye (move away from here),” a security official tells the crowd.
“I did it, did you see? I went past the CM,” says Nitin.