On the road for a cause
College student Al-Ameen Kabeer is on an arduous cycle yatra from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, creating awareness about child sexual abuse. This is his story
15th June. Jaipur-Ajmer highway, Rajasthan. Temperature: 43°. Water bottle: empty.
The roads ahead seemed to be splashed with water. Mirage. Everything was sucked dry of life. The backpack seemed heavier on my shoulders. My thighs had chafed and were almost bleeding. The night rest at Bawal, Haryana had given little relief. I felt my senses getting away from me with every passing minute. For the next 50 km, Al-Ameen Kabeer carried my backpack for me. As the overhead sun grew hotter and the limbs fatigued beyond imagination, my determination broke and I gave up. He continued alone, on the melting roads, as unfriendly as hell itself, carrying 15 kg on the cycle, bearing the sun and the pain. I watched him disappear into a dot, pedalling for a 75 km stretch.
Meet Al-Ameen Kabeer, the cycling superhero, on the wheels from one end of India to another, covering a distance of 4,500 km for a cause. I was a part of his glorious trip, but I could only travel as far as Rajasthan. After that I had to back out due to health problems.
In 2017, Al-Ameen, a student of Sociology at Jamia Milia Islamia decided to run a cycling campaign against child sexual abuse after going through the records of the cases, reported and unreported of child abuse and exploitation in India. His plan was to cycle all over India, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, stopping only for talking sessions at schools and colleges to raise awareness against the social malice. The road ahead was not easy.
Several attempts at contacting NGOs and government authorities for raising funds and support failed. Ameen went from office to office looking for aid. His plea was rejected by several NGOs and child helplines. In the end, Kerala government came to his side, giving him both funds and campaign help. Later on, Kerala Tourism, ICPS and Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) also joined in. Nights stays and campaign classes in most parts of Northern India were arranged by Gandhi Global Family.
Al-Ameen began his journey from Lal Chowk, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir on June 4. The weather in Kashmir was pleasant, but the roads weren’t. Ameen recalls that climbing up a slope made his legs burn. He would cycle for about 100 metres and then stop and lie down on the road. Several passersby would offer him water. On being asked, if he ever thought about giving up, Ameen says, “Several hundred times. But each time such a thought would pass my mind, I would tell myself that the cause was bigger than me.”
So he cycled on through slopes and hills and the roads cut in the mountains. He took rest only for a few hours at nights. In the day he cycled and took campaign classes, stopping by schools and interacting with students. On his way, people hailed him as ‘Young Gandhi’.
“The most emotional moments for me,” said Ameen “were the ones in which young students will come up to me and tell me about the incidents of abuse and exploitation they suffered in their personal lives.” A thought later he added, “I want to do something for them”.
Al-Ameen reached Delhi on 12 June, at 3 am in the morning. He had to cycle extra 60 km after he took the wrong route around the outskirts of NCR. It was difficult travelling after dark, the traffic on national highways is very fast, fear of an accident always loomed above. However, this did not deter him. He could not afford getting delayed. The wind generated by fast moving vehicles on highways, makes lighter transport like cycles fall to the other side. Ameen fell down nine times, scraping his knees and elbows; the helmet protected his head. But, in Rajasthan, the immense heat made it almost unbearable to wear a helmet, or for that matter, to do anything. Dehydrated and tanned beyond recognition, Ameen reached Mumbai where rains welcomed him.
If it was difficult cycling in the heat, doing so in the rain was a herculean task. His vision blinded and his whole body shivered inside his drenching cycling outfits. His feet swelled up so much that it became difficult taking the shoes off. The luggage soaked water and became 10 times heavier. Just as he was about to reach Kerala, from where he originally belongs, Ameen fell sick and was hospitalised for a day in Moodbidri. After that he began cycling again, taking help of his friends who carried his luggage on motor bikes.
Ameen is now just a few kilometres away from his destination,― Kanyakumari. He has cycled about 4,300 km around India, taking awareness classes at more than 100 schools and institutions in the country and raising voice against child sexual abuse. During the campaign he has interacted with over a lakh students and teachers.
After this campaign is successful, Ameen plans to take a short rest before going for another. As a student of Sociology, he wants to contribute more to the society by taking such initiatives again.
My salutes to this high-spirited and selfless young man who did not leave courage even in the most difficult of the situations.