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Posted On Thursday, June 03, 2010 at 10:57:43 PM
Both are passionate bikers, have an affinity for speed and a penchant for zipping around on their mean machines.
But that’s where the similarity ends. For the two youngsters are not anything like the speed monsters often seen whizzing past crowded Mumbai streets.
On the contrary, Devjeet and Vartika used their bikes for an interesting mission — to cover the entire length of the Golden Quadrilateral (the over 5000 kms highway network connecting the four metros) on their bikes with a simple message of saying no to tobacco and changing faulty lifestyles to prevent cancer.
A RIDE FOR GOOD HEALTH
The idea for the 12-day, 12-city cancer awareness ride struck Devjeet when he realised how glamourised images of smoking were being lapped up by youngsters. “Smoking is not cool. But movies and the mainstream media have always portrayed this image of bikers with babes and cigarettes.
What people don’t realise is that the most important quality of a good biker is stamina for which you need good health. Also, in India, bikers have this Roadside Romeo tag attached to them. I wanted to prove that you can be a biker, and be cool without depending on the butt,” says the final year MBA student.
He then walked up to the Cancer Prevention Aid Association (CPAA) office and volunteered to take this ride for creating awareness. “We were amazed at his conviction and interest,” says Shital Raval of the CPAA. “Since World No-Tobacco Day was coming up (May 31), it fit in perfectly.”
GIRL POWER JOINS IN
For Devjeet, this was not the first long-distance ride, but unlike his earlier trips, this time he was joined by another equally spunky fellow biker Vartika Pande.
A professional stunt biker and a participant in the MTV reality show Stuntmania, Vartika was always up for a challenge. “I have been into stunting, but when I got to know of Devjeet’s journey, I wanted to join the party!” she laughs.
A law student, Vartika is one of the few professional stunt bikers in India. “I started off as a pillion rider! But gradually started riding one myself and became a part of a stunt rider girls group.” So passionate is she about her bike that she hopes to make a career out of stunt biking.
Starting from Bandra, over two weeks, they covered Surat, Jaipur, Delhi, Varanasi, Kolkata, Bhubhaneshwar, Vishakhapatnam, Chennai, Bangalore and Pune before returning to Mumbai. In each city, they went to a college, made presentations and interacted with students on the ill-effects of smoking.
The college experience was interesting they say. “During our meeting with students of ITC college in Surat, quite a few of them came up to us and pledged never to smoke.”
Every day, they covered about 850 kms on the bike, taking a break every three hours. And how did they survive such a long ride in the heat? “On liquids,” says Devjeet. “During long-distance biking, I go off solid foods; they make one sluggish.”
Battling traffic in Surat, negotiating the smooth roads at Chennai, battling the storm Laila in Bangalore… the road trip of the last two weeks was enriching, in more ways than one, say the duo.
RACE AGAINST TIME
While this was his longest trip, Devjeet is certainly not new to biking adventures. His most-documented achievement was of course in 2008 when he raced (and won) against the Bandra-Jaipur Aravalli Express train in 2008.
Again it was not the challenge of being faster than the railgaadi that motivated him but to get a pertinent message across. “Indian trains always run late, I wanted to show one can reach faster on a bike,” he says.
Starting the same time that the train did from Bandra terminus Devjeet covered the 21-hour, 1,250 km journey and managed to reach Jaipur 30 minutes before the train did the next day! “Even people at Jaipur were cheering me on,” he recalls. But what was the response of the railways? “I’d rather not comment,” he quips.
Yet another biking record came last year, when he covered a distance of 2,650 km in 36 hours in the gruelling bun-burner ride.
All these achievements, stems from his interest to use his passion to promote causes, says Devjeet. “Do you know I still ride the same bike I bought four years ago — a Hero Honda Karizma.
I just maintain it so well, it is still as good as new. I love my bike as I would love my girlfriend.” Next on their agenda is another long ride and a message. This time for the soldiers on the Leh-Ladakh route.
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