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World Bicycle Day 2023 : A Kerala Story

In the subtly vibrant town of Kondotty, nestled within Malappuram District in the southern Indian state of Kerala, a humble bicycle once breathed life under the diligent feet of Odakkal Master. The mid-1960s was a period steeped in the audacity of dreams and the anticipation of forthcoming adventures. Odakkal Master, a Sewa Gram trained teacher, embarked on a journey northward, his spirit indomitable, his ambitions limitless. His quest mirrored the heartbeat of a nation in flux, powered by the whirring wheels of change.

His trusted steed, a Raleigh cycle, bore him across the diverse landscapes of the Indian subcontinent, bound for Agra, and beyond, the alluring expanses of West Asia. Each turn of the wheels marked a revolution of dreams, a testament to unyielding resolve and an indomitable spirit. Yet, the journey faltered at the precipice of the Attari Border, constrained by the iron hand of bureaucracy. Undeterred, Odakkal Master took it in his stride, transforming an apparent end into a scenic detour through the historic contours of New Delhi and Aligarh, and eventually, Agra.

In the early 1970s, this simple marvel of metal and rubber became my magic carpet, introducing me to a world beyond the confines of textbooks. Our classroom sprawled across the city roads of Prayagraj, formerly Allahabad. Perched on the front bar of my father's Raleigh, I gleaned lessons from the kaleidoscope of life—the 'Google on Wheels', as I fondly dubbed it. The jovial bounce of the wheels, the gentle hum of the chains, and the crisp whistle of the wind composed the symphony of my formative enlightenment.

During the 1970s, two pairs of wheels spun in harmony as father and son braved the winter chill to cycle the 55-kilometre stretch from Agra to Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. The sight of Siberian Cranes, their pristine plumage gleaming against the winter sun, added a feather to our shared cap of experiences. Our rides—replete with hearty conversations, laughter, and lessons—wove a bond that transcended temporal and spatial constraints.

Odakkal Master—a freedom fighter, a Royal Indian Navy veteran, and a living anthology of literature—continued to teach well into his 80s. His lessons, extending beyond the academic realm, encapsulated the quintessence of life. The bicycle, an innocuous two-wheeler, served as his chosen conduit of wisdom, a silent observer of our shared experiences.

As we step into the year 2023, transitioning into the Amrit Kaal, my heart brims with nostalgia. My father would have turned 95 this year, his spirit vibrantly alive in the lessons he imparted, the memories we created, and the love he shared.

On this World Bicycle Day, we celebrate more than a mere means of transport; we commemorate a timeless symbol of freedom, resilience, and discovery. To me, the bicycle stands as a testament to Odakkal Master's spirit, embodying the essence of exploration and his insatiable curiosity. It continues to inspire, educate, and connect us with the world beyond our immediate surroundings.

Despite my departure from cycling as a mode of commute, it occupies a cherished space in my heart, an artefact of my childhood, a nostalgic echo of my father. It is a silent muse, whispering tales of past adventures, lessons learned, and love shared. Each tick of its wheels, each chime of its bell, reverberates with memories of Odakkal Master—his hearty laughter, his sagacious wisdom, and his resilient spirit. Even now, when I close my eyes, I can feel the rhythm of his pedalling, hear the creak of his old Raleigh, and see the world through his eyes, unfolding before us as we cycled through life's vibrant tapestry.

Yet, his legacy reaches beyond physical biking adventures. His belief in education and continuous learning left indelible marks on my psyche. His teachings, etched in my memory, have shaped my worldview and steered me through life's myriad terrains.

My father’s wisdom was not confined within the four walls of a classroom but was as boundless as the routes his Raleigh traversed. Every ride was a class in itself - the open road, our classroom; the chirping birds, our music; and every passerby, a character in our mobile theatre of life. From the changing hues of the sky and the varied flora and fauna to the diversity of human life that India cradled, everything was a subject of intrigue and a topic of learning.

Odakkal Master, my father, was a man ahead of his time. Today, as the world recognizes the importance of sustainable living and embraces cycling anew, his vision is vindicated. He pedalled not only for travel or health, but to trace the contours of a rapidly evolving nation, to connect with its earth and its people, and to instil in a young mind the value of staying grounded even when you're moving.

On this World Bicycle Day, I pay tribute to the man who taught me the joy of journeying, the essence of learning, and the beauty of seeing the world on two wheels. His legacy is not just about a bike or a ride; it's a testament to the wisdom that life's best lessons are learned in its journey, not its destination. Today, the bicycle stands not merely as a mode of transport, but as a symbol of freedom, a tool for enlightenment, and a monument of a father's love. Odakkal Master, my "Google on Wheels," continues to navigate the terrain of my memory, guiding me through the roads less travelled.

Are you seeking to chart and live a legacy? Let's connect over a #DISCovery Session because your voyage is unique. Every journey must have a VOICE. Visit www.johnsonodakkal.com and don't hesitate to reach out via email at ceo@johnsonodakkal.com. Let your journey begin.


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