Meet the health promoter who is bringing back the culture of cycling among children of Hyderabad
Dhiraj Kaveri, a fitness promoter and founder of the Stay Active programme, is inculcating cycling into his training programme and connecting the community through it.
Cycling is one of the most popular outdoor activities among children. It is an effective form of exercise and is, in fact, one of the healthiest modes of transport. While children nowadays are more inclined to stay indoors and play indoor games than go outside to play, Dhiraj Kaveri, a fitness promoter from Hyderabad, is trying to change that. He is encouraging kids in his community to get out of their homes and learn more about their neighborhood.
When Dhiraj moved to Hyderabad in 2010, he observed that kids in his community were rarely seen using their bicycles. Even when some did, it was because of the excitement that came with every birthday gift, until the excitement fizzled out a few months later.
Dhiraj, a qualified physiotherapist, yoga teacher, and a wellness coach, started interacting with the kids in his community and educated them on how to maintain their bicycles. It was with the intention of getting kids to stay more active, he started a health programme in early 2011, which slowly grew into Stay Active.
With the growth of Stay Active, Dhiraj began to expand the various activities for kids and adults alike in the community, such as health and environment education, wellness sessions which included walking, running cycling, fitness and yoga classes, adventure and recreational activities, and encouraging people to take part in events like marathons, cyclothons, and triathlons.
“These days, kids spend very little time outside and the memory of cycle is reduced to a very short period of time which does not enable the kids to actually learn the cycle and manoeuvre it professionally. So, I teach them how to work on slopes, turnings, when to use brakes, bell and checking the tire pressure. Once I got confidence that they were ready, I took them out of the community, says 38-year-old Dhiraj.
This kind of training made the kids more confident and they are now skilled, fit, and are able to cycle around their community.
“It was also a means of exploring and connecting with the neighborhood. The kids who never stepped out of the community came out for the first time and discovered many things that they otherwise never notice about the neighbourhood.
As we explored the neighborhood in a year or so, I thought of expanding our radius of cycling and explored the southern part of Musi river,” says Dhiraj.
Dhiraj, who is a bicycle enthusiast, eventually grew to form the Attapur bicycle group, where he says he has been able to gather the kids of the locality but failed to turn many adults into cyclists.
When someone from the neighborhood community visits our community they are surprised to see so many kids cycling in contrast to their own community where kids are in their homes operating computers, says Dhiraj.
Dhiraj says that the visibility of the bicycle grew by leaps in his community, which gave the confidence to others in the neighbourhood to take up cycling and start buying cycles.
As part of the Stay Active programme, Dhiraj started taking the kids on explorations to nearby places, such as ancient temples, heritage structures, and monuments, which have formed an educational part of their sessions.
As a result of Dhiraj’s activities, the kids are more geographically oriented and more connected with the city.
He encourages everyone to take up cycling and says that the quality of life of an individual and as well as the community will improve once they take up cycling.
When you cycle within the community, people get used to seeing cycles and slowly accept the fact that cycles are also a mode of transport that needs to be given its due space on the road. When we are cycling on the road, we get a lot of appreciation from the pedestrians, says Dhiraj.
Dhiraj, who feels that cycling is the transport of the future, says that every community should have a cycling group where people should regularly use the bicycle in their daily routine.
Keeping the environment clean
Apart from promoting the use of bicycles, Dhiraj also encourages the kids and members of the community to walk around the neighbourhood once a week. On these walks, Dhiraj carried out activities that were aimed at keeping the neighbourhood clean and green. Tree plantations and cleaning up the streets were activities that were called ‘green exercises.’
Most of the activities offered by Stay Active are free and activities for kids are charged around Rs 300–500 per month.
Dhiraj is also very conscious about the carbon footprint that the urban dwellers leave behind. Thus, he conducts marathons and walks the eco-friendly way. He ensures disposables and plastic containers are not used. Unlike most events in urban areas where people travel long distances to attend events across the city, Dhiraj believes that it is the local people who need to attend these events. And he hopes more and more localites join him getting connected with the neighbourhood and staying active and fit at the same time.