Manali: It is not very often you hear of people setting out to cycle hundreds of kilometres just because they can. It definitely is not very often you hear that one of them setting out on this mission is completely blind.
Divyanshu Ganatra earlier this year became the first visually challenged person in India to paraglide and now he aims to be the first such person to go tandem cycling in tough and rugged terrains in the Himalayas. With software professional Gagan Grover, Ganatra started on the 550 Km trail from Manali to Khardungla on August 28. A team of three friends is supporting the effort.
Before setting out Grover spoke to Hill Post. He said the cycle is custom designed and can be ridden by two persons. “Tandem cycling comes with its own set of challenges which get accentuated on hilly trains,” said Grover.
He disclosed that he has been cycling for years and has participated in both national and international long distance rides. Ganatra has been vocal in his promotion of these sports for both the challenged and the abled and sports is great breaker of barriers.
When the two communities participate in these activities, empathy is naturally built, says Grover, Another reason Ganatra decided to undertake the journey was to raise awareness about this sports in India so that our country manages to represent itself in 2020 para-olympics.
Ganatra, 38, lost his eyesight to glaucoma at the age of nineteen . With experience in fields ranging from psychology to the IT industry, Adventures Beyond Barriers Foundation is his brainchild, dedicated to promoting inclusive adventure sports in the country.
“We believe that sports can be a great leveller, and disability should not act as an impediment to experiencing the wind in your hair or the rush of adrenaline. Adventure sport gives you the perfect opportunity to push your own boundaries and is the ideal platform to meet people and form relationships,” said Ganatra before setting out on the arduous Himalayan expedition.
He and sighted captain Gagan Grover, 32, are setting out to tandem cycle up the mountains to the highest motorable road in the world, and unsurprisingly would be the first-of-their-kind to do so.
The duo, with crew members, have planned halts at Koksar, Pang, Rumptse and Leh amongst others along the way. “We have a Plan A, B and C,” says Tanya Ginwala, a member of the crew. “There are challenges on a trip like this, and many aren’t in our control. The weather has already threatened to play spoilsport for us, so we are just keeping our fingers crossed and pushing forward.”
If all goes as planned, there will be one cycle, two men and seven days to conquer the mountains. Along the way, there will probably be a lot of raised eyebrows and hopefully a lot of awareness spread.
The message is simple. No matter who you are, or what disability you may or may not have, inclusive and accessible adventure sports can be the platform where you can be yourself, find yourself, push yourself, and meet other amazing people while you are at it.
Grover said after slight initial hiccups, both of us managed to synchronies well. His being deferentially-abled did not make any difference to our chemistry .
Sanjay Dutta, an engineer by qualification but is a journalist by choice.
He has worked for the premier new agency Press Trust of India and leading English daily Indian Express.
With more than a decade of experience, he has been highlighting issues related to environment, tourism and other aspects affecting mountain ecology.
Sanjay Dutta lives in a village close to Manali in Kullu valley of Himachal.