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Indian Express
12 january 2013

Last year, Dr Ali Poonawalla cycled daily to attend the annual Urological Society of India Conference (USICON) held on the outskirts of Bangalore, around 25 km from his house in the Karnataka capital.

The intrepid urologist who had negotiated the Bangalore traffic on his bicycle during last year’s conference, has decided to ride a bicycle all the way from Bangalore to attend the 46th USICON in Pune.

The urologist has chalked out a plan to cover the distance, around 900 km. "The conference begins on January 17 and I aim to ride 200 km daily beginning tomorrow (January 12)," Poonawalla told Newsline.

It is not just an exercise in testing his endurance. The urologist also aims at raising funds by urging people to pledge Re 1 per km travelled so that the amount collected can be donated to three charities.

While Poonawalla is buoyed by his move to show how a bicycle can be an eco–friendly mode of transport, his wife and well–wishers were planning to tag along in a car. Poonawala objected.

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"I have absolutely refused it. Here I am trying to promote awareness about the bicycle and imagine spending fuel and money to have a car tagging me," Poonawalla said.

His wife Dr Fatema Poonawalla, a gynaecologist, now plans to take public transport and will be with him during his halts along the way. The doctor couple based in UK for several years had settled down in Bangalore and taken up various sporting activities, from running a 7–km marathon to the 25–km cyclothon in 2012.

The Bangalore Bikers Club has applauded the urologist’s bike ride to Pune.

The doctor cycles to his clinic every day.

"He has changed his work timings so that he can cycle to his clinic at 8am and return by 4pm," his wife said.

As part of his expedition, Poonawalla has already raised funds to the tune of Rs 2.26 lakh for charitable organisations like Pray Foundation Trust that helps needy patients pay their medical bills, Shraddha Foundation Trust that picks up mentally challenged persons from the roadside and reunites them with their families, and Anand Ashram that provides food and shelter to streetchildren and children of single mothers.

With a three–fold aim, to become fit, do something different and raise funds for charity, the urologist is now all set to ride into Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex at Balewadi where the conference will be held.

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