Kashmir youth undertakes 4000-km cycling expedition to promote healthy lifestyle

Mannan Hassan Wani poses for a picture in front of the iconic India Gate in New Delhi as he continues his solo Kashmir to Kanyakumari cycling expedition. Image: Special Arrangement

On the bone chilling morning of January 1 when the ominous snow forecast in Kashmir would only herald more misery to the local populace already grappling with the harshest winter period, Manan Hassan Wani set out on the auspicious New Year’s solo self-sponsored expedition to cycle from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, some 4000 kilometres in targeted 24 days and break the previously held record in the process.

The young athlete, who hails from Sopore in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district, has already proved his mettle by bagging 32 gold, silver and bronze medals at various national, state and district level cycling and running competitions besides achieving the feat of cycling the 480-km Srinagar-Leh highway in record 22 hours, two years ago.

Yet, with his latest solo expedition, Wani wants to expose the “undermined” local Kashmiri talent to the outside world even as he hopes the cycling trip would inspire some fitness among the people in the valley, which has been reporting frequent heart attacks lately, he told Greater Kashmir from Nagpur city of Maharashtra where he was half way in the expedition on Saturday evening.

The young athlete is lucky enough to have scheduled the expedition early given the heavy Kashmir snowfall on January 4 though his life has been otherwise marred by only adversity so far.

Wani lost his father in 2017 to kidney failure leaving his mother to look after the family on her deceased husband’s pension.

The hapless mother had to recently sell off her gold ornaments to arrange a second-hand professional bicycle for Wani’s ongoing expedition and Rs 1 lakh food and accommodation charges during the trip.

Wani said he has been delaying the cycling expedition for the last two years now solely because of the apathy by the authorities to sponsor the trip.

“I begged my college authorities from 2015 to 2018 and also the then officials in the Youth Services and Sports to provide me a professional cycle and bear the logistics, but to no avail,” he alleged.

Wani said that in 2015, authorities at Government Degree College Sopore backtracked on their promise to buy him a professional cycle after persuading him to take part in the inter-college cycling competition in which he emerged as the winner.

The authorities at Government Degree College Baramulla where he was forced to shift the next year were not supportive either in encouraging him in his endeavor, he said.

The young athlete also lodged a complaint with the Governor’s Grievance Cell in 2018, which also did not evoke any response, he said.

To add to his woes, Wani also lost a once in a lifetime opportunity to participate in the international running championship scheduled in Italy in 2019 as he failed to obtain his passport and visa in the wake of abrogation of Article 370 in August that year.

“I had been waiting for the championship for twelve years, but lost the golden chance at the last minute,” he lamented.

Notwithstanding all the misfortunes, the tenacious athlete is aiming at completing the Kashmir-Kanyakumari expedition in 24 days to break the current record held by Ujjwal Shah of Rajasthan.

Wani specially thanked his long time friend, Sameer Ahmad for helping with the route tracking as he had himself completed the expedition on his bike some time ago.