A year of cycling across India to save youth from drugs

By V.N. Balakrishna, IANS,

Ahmedabad : Amandeep Singh has cycled his way through 20 states in the past one year, with a small stove and a bag of flour tied to his bicycle. His aim is to spread the message of love and peace as far as possible and also create awareness amongst the country’s youth about the ill-effects of drugs.

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A teacher at a school affiliated to a gurdwara in Bangalore, the 46-year-old is now in Gujarat, on way to Bhuj, after spending a couple of days in Rajkot and Jamnagar in the state.

Speaking to IANS on phone from Dariapur Gurdwara in Lakhpat, some 400 km from here, Singh said: “Gujarat is the 20th state on my cycle yatra. I’ve covered over 40,000 km.”

“I began my humble mission on a cycle to spread the message of love and respect for others and see that peace prevails in our troubled land. I also want to spread awareness among students of the enormous harm drug addiction inflicts. Unfortunately, gutkha (chewing tobacco) is becoming popular,” said Singh, a part-time teacher at the Guru Nanak Mission School in Bangalore.

“In Gujarat, I noticed the gutkha habit is on the increase. I printed some pamphlets and distributed them to students at hostels and colleges on the ills of drugs and gutkha,” he said.

His cycling marathon began Jan 1, 2008, from Bangalore and he has pedalled through Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar and West Bengal among other states. He arrived in Gujarat in early December and has visited Surat, Somnath, Jain pilgrimage centre Palitana and Dwaraka as well.

“After Bhuj, I leave for Rajasthan to Kota-Bundi before I turn back home,” Singh said.

He always carries his stove, some flour and a few other ingredients with his luggage tied to his cycle. “Since I’m alone it is a life-saver, especially on highway halts,” said Singh, whose wife is also a teacher in the same school.

The teacher said that he could recount many instances during his odyssey when only “divine intervention” came to his aid.

Once he was left without any money in Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and he realised that he had forgotten his ATM card in Kerala.

“I was penniless. But I felt Wahe Guru is with me and he will help me. And then a stranger came from nowhere and, understanding my predicament, gave me Rs.350,” he said.

“The most unforgettable experience was near Patna. I was passing through a jungle in the evening when I decided to light my stove. To my shock I realised I hardly had any kerosene left. I prayed and as if god had heard me, a baba (seer) passing by inquired if I was hungry. He said he was from a nearby ‘dera’ (pilgrim centre) and asked me to wait. He brought me food and left. It was the sweetest food I ever ate.

“After I resumed my journey, I tried to meet the baba but no one had heard of any pilgrim centre in a 10-km radius. There is truly a superpower that guides us.”

Singh said that he had run out of money in Lakhpat when he heard four men talking in Kannada. “They were taken aback to come across a Sikh speaking Kannada. One of them took out a Rs.500 note and told me, ‘You will need this. Keep it’.

“Though I’m often without money, someone somewhere comes to help me.”

Where does he plan to travel in future?

“I wish to visit Britain with my message of peace. I also plan to tour India on a motorcycle in future,” he said.

Singh has a son, who is a doctor, and a daughter.

He said he was overwhelmed by the love of the people in Gujarat and would love to visit the state again.

“I like Gujarat very much. I am touched by the hospitality shown by the people. They have appreciated my efforts and have received me warmly. Gujarat is worth visiting again.”

(V.N. Balakrishna can be contacted at [email protected] )