Supratim Pal’s Story
Meeting deadlines, framing headlines, Selecting photographs, finalizing Graphic plates… Life of a desk person in newspaper houses is terrible. Back home well past midnight. Sleeping like a piece of log. Getting up late with your eyes still red and puffy with perennial sleep-debt… Again hitting the desk by noon… endless meetings with the News Editor… chasing reporters… shouting at the marketing guys as advertisements tend to eat up all the edit space…
Cut to: Alarm at 4. Dressing up. Getting into the familiar pairs of padded shorts, gloves, helmet… bottle in the water cage… last-minute double check whether your wheels are okay and the tyres are not flat … and then the instant euphoria of hitting the road… feeling the nip in the morning air as it wheezes past your ears… and you’re back to freedom…
Yes, that’s the welcome break for a solitary cyclist out on a mission – a much-awaited overnight transition from the ever-frowning desk person to an ardent activist, volunteering for a cause.
It was not easy, for sure. With hardly two hours’ of sleep, it was even harder to stay awake to be on the saddle. But the ride had to go on. I had some little souls to meet… some heavy stones to move…
Innocent as ever, they were waiting. Back home, my eight-month-old daughter, Samāvati, was sleeping, under the privileged warmth of her little blanket. But my young friends were not.
Underprivileged… yes. But, did they want sympathy? No way. Did I go all the way to stuff some tokenistic biscuits and lozenges in their tiny hands? By no means.
What they wanted, and still do, is proper care and support. They want food, square nutritious meals. They want vaccines, the key ones, for an ailment-free world. They want to go to schools. They want to be there till they complete education. But above all, they do want to be recognized as citizens of this society – they want their rights to be acknowledged and fulfilled.
Utopia? Not really. I can do it. You can do it too. Together, we can do a lot. And don’t we must do, what we can? I rode 300 kilometres, all the way from Kolkata to Contai, so that people around me come forward and stand up for what is right. I rode, so that children get vaccines, basic nutritional requirements, pre-primary education. I rode, I raised some funds too. Some of you donated, thus becoming a harbinger of change.
As I volunteered my solo ride with CRY’s Get Healthy Give Healthy campaign, it was as if a ride to a more empathetic me, more matured and understanding – more passionate and dedicated too. Upon reaching Kajla, a village near Contai in Bengal’s East Midnapore, i could have taken rest or changed my jersey and shorts to comfortable clothes. But changing dresses could surely wait. Spending some quality time with them, sharing stories, bringing smile on their faces were much more important. That was my mission. My legs were paining… it was a long ride. But firm was my belief that my presence would inspire a whole lot of people back in Kolkata, who would stand up to ensure a happy, healthy and creative childhood.
My only motto was to be in ‘anando’, a Bengali word with no exact English synonym perhaps… and ensure that the children spend their childhood in ‘anando’ – in optimum bliss.
Supratim Pal is a working journalist associated with a reputed English Daily in Kolkata
You can support their campaign at http://cry.ketto.org/dow