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What is the only way to remain healthy and fit in today’s world of comfort and convenience? A balanced diet and exercise of course!“Exercise? But who has the time for it? I can hardly manage time to eat and sleep, leave alone exercise”, say many a professional. An hour at the gym may be the order of the day, but how many can find that extra time or afford the astronomical charges?

Dr. Dhamankar has hit upon a refreshing and viable solution. A dental surgeon with a flourishing practice, he finds cycling much more relaxing than driving on the roads of Pune. “You can meander your way through the traffic maze, while the four wheelers have to await their turn”. says he. Astride a hub geared bicycle, fitted with 3 gears, the doctor, a fitness freak as well says, “Cycling, like swimming is really a rejuvenating form of exercise. The added advantage being that I can integrate this into my daily chores and put it to good use as a mode of transport. Now my petrol bills no more dent my budget as they used to”.

An ‘˜old boy’ of St.Vincent’s school, Dr. Dhamankar’s passion for cycling developed during his school days, when the streets of Pune were more conducive to such activities in terms of traffic congestion, pollution, population and people’s temperament. Parking your vehicle is not a hassle at all with this form of transport as it requires very little space and and is light to handle, he explains. “But unfortunately here in India we do not have special lanes on the road for cyclists, and there is always the risk of being hit and run over if one is not careful”, he laments. But undeterred he pedals on.

It was in Goa, where Dr.Sarda was on a holiday with his family in 1996 that he got fascinated by the idea of cycling. The family had gone around Goa on bicycles and they found it a refreshing change from the mundane and unexciting world of motor vehicles. Back home, he decided to pedal his way to work and back on a six geared bike. Since this involved a good twenty-six kilometers’ distance, from Shaniwarwada to ChandanNagar on Nagar road, he could do only half the distance in the beginning . But gradually he built up his stamina and started cycling the entire distance. His clinic staff and patients were puzzled at first, but soon they came to terms with the fact that Dr. Sarda meant business as far as his cycling was concerned and some of them even started emulating his example. Very soon he started traveling to distant places like Nasik, Sholapur and even Hyderabad for medical conferences on his bicycle. Dr. Lahoo Kadam, Dr. Shrenik Shah and Dr.Shende have accompanied Dr.Sharda twice to Hyderabad on bicycles. On their way they arranged several programs such as workshops on blood donation, safe motherhood and environmental care. At Hyderabad all the doctor delegates took part in a cycle rally around the city to highlight the advantages of cycling as a means to stay fit and control pollution.

The Pune Cycle Pratisthan which was formed in August 98 and boasts of forty members, celebrated the World Cycle Day by doing a Shaniwarwada to Sancheti Hospital and back to Shaniwarwada on bicycles. The members cycle out into the countryside around Pune during weekends. Apart from getting to breathe clean air, they feel that it is a welcome change from the hustle bustle of the city and a much better way to spend their weekend than being glued to the idiot box at home.

Dr. Sarda elaborates, Dr. K.B. Grant, Dr.Mahesh Tulpule and Dr. Yashwant Namjoshi are ideal examples of doctors who commute on bicycles. Dr.Namjoshi even attends to his calls in various hospitals on his bicycle. Dr. Sarda recalls his visit to Holland with his family and some friends, where they commuted mostly on bicycles. The special lanes for cyclists and the respect they commanded amazed him, because in India a cyclist is one, only because he cannot afford any other means of independent transport. “Cycling has the visibility impact which means that other people take inspiration from the cyclists on the road. After all, ‘˜Do as I do’ is more effective than ‘˜Do as I say’. In Pune, a filter mask is mandatory to keep the pollution at bay and it is better to use the by–lanes as far as possible”, he says on being asked how he combated pollution.

According to Douglas Carnall, associate editor of the British Medical Journal, “The consensus that regular physical exercise is a vital part of maintaining health and well–being has existed for at least a decade. Integrating walking and cycling into daily life is much more likely to be sustainable in the long term than gym based exercise prescription schemes”. It is time that we opened our eyes to the reality of health risks due to a stagnant life and what better way to set an example than by those who profess good health?