Wheels of change

Cars whiz past,two-wheelers weave in and out,wispy black clouds of smoke disperse in the air...

Written by Nupur Chaudhuri | Published: July 19, 2010 12:12:06 am

With boards attached to his non-polluting vehicle,software engineer Jasvindar Gill motivates others to follow his example of cycling to work everyday

Cars whiz past,two-wheelers weave in and out,wispy black clouds of smoke disperse in the air…and in between this regular mayhem on our city roads,one spots a blue cycle,with placards urging others to switch to this healthier mode of travel.

Software engineer Jasvindar Gill cycles everyday from his home in Warje to his office at Nal Stop. He moved to Pune from Indore three years ago,and has been pedalling away ever since. “Once I decided to ride a cycle to work,I made two boards,one in Marathi – ‘Cycle Chalva’,and one in English that reads – ‘Riding cycles is healthy; it reduces pollution and burns fat and not fuel’,” he reveals.

Gill might not be from Pune,but he is aware that this was once known as the ‘Cycle City’. Now,those lines of parked cycles have been replaced with fancier and costlier two-wheelers. “Pune has the highest number of two wheelers in Asia. I want to change the mentality of those who think cycles are meant for the poor. When people know that I,being a software engineer,ride a cycle instead of a bike or car,they will consider the fact that it’s not below one’s dignity to push pedals instead of changing gears,” he states.

It’s often said that even one man can make a difference,and Gill is on his way to doing just that. “Every other day,passers-by appreciate my endeavour. Some ask me to pose for pictures,while others express their desire to join my ‘group’!” His cycle has even made an impression on the youth. “Some kids ride behind me and shout slogans of ‘Cycle Chalva’. I want them to realise that though TV ads promote bikes,it’s as cool to ride cycles. I hope to be an example for them,” he says.

The distance from Gill’s residence to his office is 6 kms. “Sometimes people counter question me that how can they possibly ride a cycle when they have to travel 20 kms. So I tell them to use public transport or a cycle whenever possible. Walk as much as you can too. Diseases have crept into our lives because we’ve forgotten how to walk and cycle. Those who join gyms usually take breaks every few months. But if you cycle to work,then no matter what,you will be exercising everyday,” he explains. An interesting fact is that when Gill initially began cycling to work,there were only a couple of others,including the office boy,who would cycle to office. Today,two and a half years later,the cycle parking space is full! He says modestly,“I don’t know whether that’s because of me or another reason,but I’m glad that more people have taken to cycling.”

Once when Gill was cycling at Karve Nagar,he came across some slum kids who were curious about his efforts. “Our conversation steered to tree plantation. They urged me to plant trees while they would take care of them. We’ve now planted about 12 trees in the area,” he smiles. Gill,along with his friends,also works with The Green Hill’s NGO that does plantation drives at various tekdis in the city.

His will to motivate others doesn’t end here. He had also joined the Rotary Club project of replacing plastic bags with recycled newspaper bags. He reveals,“I would ride my cycle and sell paper bags at vada-pav counters and to vegetable vendors. I did it for about four to five months,and then the PMC implemented the official ban on plastic bags. My main message is that we should live in harmony with nature.”

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