July 15, 2014
Aanchal Tuli & Saloni Bhatia, TNN |
Meenakshi Lekhi leading the cyclists at the cycle rally
After much anticipation, Gurgaon’s famous Raahgiri Day made its Delhi debut at Connaught Place’s Inner Circle, this Sunday morning. Delhiites from all corners of the city started arriving at the event location as early as 6am. An hour later, the stage was crowded, there was music in the air and happy Delhi Raahgirs were cycling all around the circle. While the majority drove down to the event, there were also brave ones who rode their bikes from areas as far off as Dwarka and Yamuna Vihar.
From cycle rallies to zumba sessions, street football to gym training, there was something for everyone here. The heat and humidity failed to deter the spirit of people who walked around the circle participating in all the activities. The zumba stage, set-up by fitness partner Reebok, was one of the most popular places to be in and the crowd danced to original zumba tracks as well as Honey Singh numbers. The equipment space had trained gym instructors guiding people on using weights and machines and the kickboxing arena had state level players showing off their moves.Aastha, who came to the event with her group of friends from Dwarka, told us, “I read about the event in the paper and somehow managed to convince everyone to get up early for once and come for this event. And this has been an awesome morning. My favourite was the zumba arena and we’re going to come back next week too.”
But for the Raahgirs, more than the activities, it was the freedom to walk on the streets of Connaught Place that was important. Like Sandeep who had come in with his wife and skating enthusiast daughter from Janak Puri, told us, “We had stopped coming to Connaught Place months ago because of the traffic and the messy situation. This is the first time in years that I can actually stand on a road here and look around and enjoy the original charm of this place. This is the Connaught Place that I want to show to my daughter.”
Ravi and Anup, who took the Metro from Noida, added, “CP is the perfect place for an event like this because it is the central point for everyone. I don’t remember the last time I walked on this busy road without having to worry about speeding cars running us down. You can see such a cross section of people here and we’ve never seen Delhi roads come alive like this.”
Students For Peace, a student group, performed a street play and a flash mob-style dance in front of a cheering audience. In fact, the emcee, Madhukar, got people from the audience to talk about what motivated them to come for the event. There was also a nukkad natak staged by a Gurgaon-based firm Nagarro Software on the theme of active commuting and the benefits of cycling. Round two of the cycle rally followed by a performance by the Delhi Drum Circle concluded the first week of Delhi Raahgiri on an energetic note and the participants headed to the restaurants nearby for breakfast.
Robin King, WRI – Ross Centre for Suitable Cities, Washington, was quite impressed with the initiative and said, “I feel this is great. Streets are for people and they should enjoy them. My husband has grown up in Delhi and he used to tell me about CP, and even when I have been here, I have always seen vehicles moving around. I have never seen CP like this where people are cycling, working out and jogging.” SK Lohia, former OSD and ex- officio joint secretary (urban transport) at Ministry Of Urban Development said, “I have been to Gurgaon’s Raahgiri and it’s a dream come true to see Raahgiri happening in CP. When I was with Ministry Of Urban Development and we had sanctioned the redevelopment plan for CP in 2006, we wanted a space for cyclists and pedestrians. Today, this is happening in the heart of India, the heart of Delhi, CP. In fact, the response has been so good and people have turned out in huge numbers despite the heat.”
Jalaj Srivastava, the NDMC chairman, said, “It’s quite hot today. Hopefully, there will be rains next time. People will enjoy cycling and playing soccer in the rains. This will generate good business for eating joints in CP and areas like Bengali Market, because after participating here, people will head to these places for breakfast. I guess some of the places will start opening a little early, so as to get customers. Also, families can come here and work out together and there are so many options available and that too, free of charge.”
Meenakshi Lekhi, MP, New Delhi Lok Sabha constituency, also led the cycle rally. “I don’t know after how long I am cycling. Give me some time to get my balancing act right,” she exclaimed. She added, “You cannot cycle or skate in parks. For some sports, you need the streets and this is what Raahgiri has done. It is stuffy but sweating is not bad for health. I think all our potassium and sodium levels will be balanced. This will be developing into a rocking concept.” Muktesh Chander, special commissioner of police (Traffic), said, “This is something which is happening in Delhi for the first time. Delhi needed something like this and there couldn’t have been a better place than CP to start off.”