KARACHI: On the World Heart Day, some 150 riders from the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), including doctors, nurses and students, and 400 other regular cyclists from the city, including groups such as Critical Mass Karachi, Ecko Riders, Cycologists, Free Riders, CSC, Slow and Steady, Do Athletics, Unbreakable, PECHS Riders, KDA Riders and GG Riders were out pedalling to spread the message ‘Love your heart, let it beat’.
It was even before the sunrise that one encountered a lone cyclist here or there on the roads leading to the AKUH Sports Complex. Most of them were sporting red jerseys as was the AKU riders’ dress code for the day. Still, you could spot some in other colours as well.
To stand out in case anyone needed them for anything, the organisers had specially selected florescent or neon green. It worked out well as you could not miss Heart Surgeon Dr Saulat Fatmi, General Surgeon Dr Rizwan Khan, Dr Shoaib who handles finances, AKUH’s anaesthesia department Vice President Dr Khalid, etc.
Dr Saulat, the main person there, made sure no one missed the Docs on Wheels logo on his lime green shirt, especially their motto ‘#thoreeseehimmat’ printed beneath it. “Everything in life requires thoree see himmat [a little courage],” he pointed out.
About the ride, he said they started about five or six years ago. “We do it to celebrate the World Heart Day where we like to promote exercise and healthy eating habits. Cycling is one healthy activity, which creates a sense of positivity, belonging and oneness with Karachi along with getting up early in the morning,” he said.
Dr Adil Hussain Haider, dean of the AKUH Medical College, also could not stay away from the event though he wore red, not neon or florescent. “We are creating awareness about heart health along with lots of fun,” he said.
Third-year medical students Ayesha Yaseen and Noor Ibrahim were two friends there of whom only one was wearing red. “I only had one red T-shirt, which looked good on Noor so I let her wear it today while I borrowed her blue shirt which looked good on me,” said Ayesha.
Fourth-year medical student Ameer and third-year student Faryal were both in red though. Faryal said the colour red brought to mind energy and vibrancy. Ameer reminded then that the heart was also red.
There were truckloads after truckloads of bicycles that the organisers had arranged for the riders, who got busy selecting bicycles for themselves before warming up. Some cyclists had also arrived with their own bicycles loaded on their cars’ racks.
Final-year medical student Sudesh Kumar said he was just making sure that a bicycle’s brakes worked. “The rest should be fine,” he said, adding that he was more into running than cycling.
Maarij Malik, another final-year student, who arrived wearing his beloved old red and blue Karachi Grammar School shirt, said that he only needed a reason to cycle and the World Heart Day was as good a reason as any.
Nursing student Basharat Babar, meanwhile, said that he was a regular rider. “I regularly ride over 30 kilometres. Today’s ride of about 15 kilometes is not that long,” he said.
Folks representing other cycling groups could also be easily spotted thanks to their own cycling kits. Mir Alam Khan of Ecko Riders said he was used to over 50km rides on Sundays. “We also have children with us,” he said before introducing 10-year-old Pinaar Fatima, who was also quite used to long rides. Maheen Mirani, another young rider was there with her father Abdul Karim Mirani. Thirteen-year-old Aahil Ali Rehmani also said he had his father to thank for his cycling.
Salman Baig of Critical Mass Karachi looked extremely happy to be there and see so many folks taking part in the ride. It must be mentioned here that his group started the cycling movement in Karachi. “But at the end of the day we are all cyclists,” he Salman smiled.
From the AKUH the cyclists took to Karsaz and then to Sharea Faisal before turning to Clifton at Hotel Metropole where scrumptious breakfast of halwa puri was awaiting them.
Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2023