Just minutes before the final ride, sitting on her bike, Shoma Chakraborty, member of RC Thane Aces, RID 3142, tried to control her tears, stunned by what she had achieved by being part of her club’s initiative Ride for Bharat ke Veer. Not only had she, the only woman among 19 other riders, completed a 6,120-km rally across the country, she had also experienced “various cultures, traditions and the love of Rotarians from 100 clubs in the country.” The Rotary bike ride was to raise funds for the families of martyred soldiers, promote fitness across India and celebrate the Centennial year of Rotary in India.
RC Thane Aces, a less than two-month-old club, wanted to do something meaningful and big, said Club President Mihir Patel. Chartered in June 2019, it has 23 members and “we worked hard to make this bike ride a success. But little did we know then that we would raise close to ₹33 lakh to support the noble cause,” he adds. The club associated with various biking communities, fitness enthusiasts, the Indian Army and the general public for this initiative. At the curtain raiser of the project, 50 CRPF men were felicitated by the club followed by an introduction of the bikers and their travel plans.
PRID Ashok Mahajan congratulated the club “for taking up a challenging project.” Gallantry awardee Captain Binesh Nayar said, “It is such events by Rotary that make us believe that our families will be taken care of while we are fighting at the border.” On the flag-off day, the riders met Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh who praised the club’s efforts. “His handwritten letter of appreciation was the cherry on the cake,” said Patel.
Little did we know then that we would raise close to ₹33 lakh to support the noble cause.
DG Mohan Chandavarkar helped the club get in touch with DGs across the bike route and the meals and accommodation for the riders were arranged. “To make the ride cost- efficient we tried to get as many clubs to host the riders,” said Project Chairman Sanjeev Jain. While hoardings and posters were put up at vantage spots in Thane and Ulhasnagar, “our Rotaractors used social media to talk to other schools and colleges about the event,” Jain added.
Shoma pointed out that the ride involved spending long days on the bike, sometimes sleeping in uncomfortable places and eating indifferent food. “Although local, street food served on paper plates was delicious, it was hard to cope with the mental and emotional stress during our journey.” During the travel, the riders got appreciation for their good work by PRIP Kalyan Banerjee. His district, RID 3060, made sure they were given a warm reception from Valsad to Vadodara. “Coursing through the cities with a Rotary convoy, NCC procession and patriotic songs playing in the background,” are some memories Shoma will cherish. An amount of ₹500,000 was collected during the journey from Rotary clubs and local donors, with RC Bangalore Indira Nagar, RID 3190, giving ₹150,000.
Besides, the riders exchanged their club flags with 80 other clubs. Rajashree Birla, Chairperson, Aditya Birla Centre for Community Initiatives and Rural Development, and Nihchal Israni, Chairman, Blue Cross Laboratories, were among the donors.
Rotaract Club of Billabong High International School performed a nukkad natak on the difficult life of a killed soldier’s family, followed by felicitation of the riders at the valedictory event. “We will be collecting funds for Bharat ke Veer till June when we have planned to hand over the money collected to the families of martyrs. I sincerely appeal to all the Rotary clubs to contribute to this fund,” says Patel.