Friend on wheels: Lakhan Hansda
What goes around, comes around, feels Lakhan Hansda, Jharkhand’s lone international pedal star.
The 24-year-old from Damodih village, East Singhbhum, has promised to lend one of his two racing cycles to any of his state mates who might need it in the lead-up to the Kurukshetra national road meet from October 24 to 27.
Lakhan, who doubles up as a paddy farmer to make ends meet, had been running from pillar to post for a couple of years for a proper cycle, finally got one from Uranium Corporation of India this January.
Needless to say, he’s very kicked about his Fuji racing bike of Japanese make that costs Rs 1.75 lakh, and, made of carbon, weighs just 6.3kg. His other cycle, bought some years ago by mortgaging his ancestral land, isn’t in great shape.
But still, Lakhan happens to be one of the privileged few cyclists in Jharkhand to have two vehicles in working condition and to be training “for 80km a day” for a national meet.
“Yeh (his offer of a cycle loan) meri taraf se bahut chota prayas hai. Apne saathiyon ki dasha dekh dukh hota hai (It’s a small gesture from my side. I feel sad seeing what my mates go through),” the shy tribal pedal star told The Telegraph.
He knows too well what the other boys — Dhanbad’s Ram Kumar Bhatt and Navin Kumar Ram, for instance — go through.
The rear wheel of Ram’s cycle is tattered, while Navin’s is useless for any competition.
But despite widespread media criticism, the state sports department prefers imported cycles bought for the 34th National Games in 2011 to rust in the Ranchi velodrome. State cyclists are condescendingly told they could practise on the velodrome and use cycles only if they shelled out a security deposit of Rs 10,000.
That’s a kingly sum for state cyclists.
Lakhan knows this and it riles him a lot.
“Ram, Navin, Prasad Khairnar and I bagged 1500m team trial bronze for Jharkhand at the 34th National Games. We are buddies. We give each other moral support,” he said, adding he gave a spare wheel to Ram to help him practise.
“Any national event is important. Without proper gear, you can’t expect medals from us,” he said.
But Lakhan also knows that his gesture of lending one of his cycles to his good friends could well prove to be a no-brainer.
Where competitive racing is concerned, a professional cyclist first and foremost needs to be comfortable on his bike.
For starters, his bike needs to be in sync with his height. Lakhan, 5.7” tall, and Ram, around 5.3”, can’t be comfortable in each other’s cycles. Tinkering with cycles at the last moment also makes participants nervous.
“Even if one manages to make adjustments, it’s a tricky affair. When you are a professional competing at a mass start road race of 120km, you can’t take chances,” Ram said.
Jharkhand Cycling Association (JCA) secretary Satbir Singh Sahota, a former international himself, admitted to the pragmatic difficulties but said: “Lakhan has a big heart.”
Hope it rubs off on the state sports department, too.