I used to be active in sports in childhood days and continued playing cricket till my graduation days. It was only during one winter morning after graduation when I went for light jog, I felt a sharp pain in my back because of wrong footing. Blame the bad roads or whatever. Strangely, after that incident I seemed to have lost shoulder strength. I couldn’t throw a ball properly. Believe me or not, but a casual yawning gave me a stiff neck. So, I had to yawn keep my head straight. Funny!!
I could not run or play cricket for the next six years. I was detected with problems of frozen shoulder and cervical slip disk. Doctors advised no forward bending and weight-lifting. Pillows were a big no no. I was doing neck exercises and going for physiotherapy with 80-year-olds for company. The acute pain gave me many sleepless nights and off days from office. No sports but weekend parties started making me a big fat miserable shit. I consulted few more specialists but they just prescribed pills which gave me relief for few days but never cured me. It was a waste of years which I could never get back. At 5'5" weighing 84kg, I was nothing but a pumpkin.
It was only on my 30th birthday when I was watching a documentary on Discovery about a man who was celebrating his 30th birthday in pub with friends just gets up and started running. He went for a 30-mile run and broke down. He had to call his wife to pick him who thought his husband had lost it. Dean Karnazes today is a ultra-ultra marathoner and continues to inspire millions worldwide. Aahhh!! No I didn’t go running right after watching this on TV. But it certainly shook me up and I decided to give it a try. So it was January 2013 I started doing light short-distance runs and a few stretching yoga exercises. And believe me, I started feeling better. There was no pain after a few days. Still, I was not losing weight because I had no diet control. But the pain was not there and only came back when I was not running. I realized that exercising was warming up the muscles and helping my spasms.
Once a doctor explained me that going on and off a particular exercise regime gives muscle spasms. Say for example, if you are working out in a gym and then after few months you discontinue because of certain reason. The muscles which you had worked on again become weak and go into slumber. Then after few months again you decide to hit back the gym and start working out. This on and off exercises, especially weight training, can give you muscle spasms – which had exactly happened with me. Adopt a exercise which you can continue for a long term and without breaks. It could be a simple brisk walk also but has to be regular.
Nevertheless, the running which I had started made me active but not fit. I started scouting the blogs, videos, journals for research to do it right. They said – cross-train. The only activity which I could think of was cycling. In younger days, I used to be on my saddle all the time. I used to cycle to school which was 15km away when I used to miss my school bus and sometime I used to miss it on purpose because I loved to RIDE. Yes I loved riding too. And yes I got my first bike in March 2013. An entry-level MTB bike.
Initially, I used to do solo 15-20km rides until I met Subhajyoti Sen Sharma in April 2013 who not only helped me understand biking better but introduced me to the concept of touring on cycle. The first tour was a 120km trip to Diamond Harbour — a port town in south Bengal. I had been there only once before in school days for a day picnic. It was a shocker for my friends and others who just wouldn’t believe that a person could go so far on a cycle. But that was just a beginning.
People's awe was a motivation for me. It was the jaw dropping, believe it or not expressions on people’s face which inspired me and made me a serious rider. Social networking helped me connect with more cyclist nationally and internationally. I am a randonneur today and planning to complete the Super Randonneur series in 2015.
In India, cyclists, those are mostly 30+, used to ride in a group and adopting cycling as healthy lifestyle. Kolkata at that time did not have any riding group and no riding culture. Cyclists were riding in their colonies or apartment compounds. We wanted to fill the void and give all Kolkata cyclists an opportunity to come together and have some fun in riding. This thought transformed in a Kolkata cycling group called Discover on Wheels which I started in January 2014 with my buddies Supratim Pal, Subhajyoti Sen Sharma and Chandranath Banerjee. On 1st September, 2014, the Facebook group page of Discover on Wheels had 1,500 members, including cyclists and non-cyclists.
The enthusiasm of the cyclist in Kolkata has continued to inspire and motivate us till date to continue to do something new and fresh. Hope to see Kolkata soon on cycling map of the world.