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City bikers take up riding to find life’s purpose
While bike riding has been a leisure activity for many, these Chennaiites have taken to biking to help them deal with personal hardships. On World Mental Health day, they share their journeys of getting stronger and finding freedom by hitting the road.
For Lalith Kumar Nataraj, life took a turn for the worst the day he lost sensation in both his feet when he was in Class 6. “It all happened over the course of an hour. Then, I lost all feeling in my hip. Soon, I was completely paralysed from the waist down,” he recalled. Natarajan was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis and has been using a wheelchair ever since. “It was very difficult for me initially. All the simple joys of independent living – from getting some water to using the washroom – became something I needed assistance for. At the time, I was deeply affected by it,” the 39-year-old said.
As an adolescent, Natarajan would hear his family and neighbours roaring past his house on their Royal Enfield Bullets, and for just a few moments, he’d imagine himself doing the same. Determined to fulfil his dream, Natarajan approached bike manufacturers and asked them to make him a special motorcycle. Soon, he bought his bike, which he called Nandi, and the side-car, which he named warhorse.
“It changed me. People no longer saw me as a person with a disability. My identity wasn’t tied to that anymore. I began meeting new people. Over the many long rides, people would sit on warhorse and we would bond and become friends. I finally felt free,” he recalled. Elakiya Mathimaran, another local rider, found her purpose through riding. After a break-up, professional issues, and family troubles in 2016, the 29-year-old was left doubting herself and that’s when she chose biking.
“The break-up left me feeling very low. I kept asking myself if this is what I want to do,” she said. Having taken up riding in 2012, Elakiya didn’t understand its significance till she took a trip to Leh from Delhi at the end of the year. “You can see the Milky Way at Leh and that experience changed me. By the end of the trip, I had managed to refocus and got a clear idea of what I wanted in life,” she said.