“I’m not a cyclist. I just wanted to pay homage to the fallen heroes of Indian Army and I could’ve chosen to walk, run or cycle my way across the country. I chose the easiest way out. I’m not a cyclist for sure,” said Major General Somanth Jha (Retd.) while Sourabh tried to capture the smoke entangled in his horseshoe mustache emanating from his classy pipe.
Now if someone who has already clocked 10,000 km spanning across 29 states and 170 days, tells you that he is not a cyclist then he is nothing but humble to say the least.
Somnath Sir retired on 30th September 2016 and on 19 October 2016 he picked up a cycle, two infact and started his audacious journey that had only one purpose: to pay homage to the fallen heroes of Indian Army. He took exactly 19 days after his retirement to start his cross-country ride. In an average household, statistics have revealed, usually it takes 21 days minimum to count the number of gifts received by the retired person. Another 21 to realize that one has actually retired. But this is a different story altogether.
In his own words,” The scars of soldiering carry the memories of many a buddy, friend and peer who fell in battles and combat defending the honour, integrity and freedom of our country. Hence, before I put my military career behind me, I have decided to undertake one last mission.
This last mission is a personal homage I wish to pay to all our fallen heroes; numbering over 20,600 since independence. This homage is being rendered by cycling two minutes for every fallen hero. The journey will carry me over 12,000 kms on my bicycle, touching every state in the country, over a period of seven months or so.
I met him accidentally in Himachal and then I decided to cycle with him, even if that meant pedaling along side only for 40 km. Now if truckloads of inspiration is passing you by, wouldn’t want to be missing out on it. While I had a very brief interaction with him when we first met, this time we decided (I and Sourabh) that we would ride all the way to Ropar from Chandigarh (42km) just to be able to ride alongside him for a longer duration.
His mission: To ride two minutes each for every fallen Indian soldier since 1947.
His driving force: Chitra Jha, who not just plans his moves but makes sure that his focus stays only on riding and nothing else. From stay arrangements to planning the route to take care of media/social media interactions, she has proved to a pivotal force in this mission.
Not to forget his pipe that powers intermittently during his rides while he makes strides in summer sun.
To be able to bring your ass back on the saddle, more so when you have rode for more than 150 days, is surely a herculean task. The motivation force has to be greater than all your pains combined and Somnath Sir has indeed managed to pull off an incredible feat.
Did I mention that he is 58 years old? But that doesn’t matter, right?
This duo is awesome not because they are traveling together. There’s another interesting aspect of their story. They don’t own a house and infact they have given away a majority of their possessions. Even those letters that ‘Somnath would write to Chitra’ from his remote postings were re-read and torn apart and burned down. Now how cool is that!!!
“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter,” said Mark Twain. I don’t need anymore proof of age being just a number. If you are in doubt, he is coming to Paonta Sahib, Roorkee and Delhi in coming days.
There’s a retired General pedaling his cycle to your city. What’s your excuse for being lazy in 2017?