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Breaking stereotypes: 'We are stronger than we think'

March 04, 2016 11:46 IST

We had asked you, dear readers, share your experience if you're a woman who has broken stereotypes.

Here, Vandana Chaudhary shares her story.

Vandana Chaudhary

I am Vandana Chaudhary, 33 years, and presently live in Vizag.

I have always enjoyed sports like badminton and cricket.

I also run marathons occasionally. But cycling, and that too 80 kilometres, is something I never fathomed in the wildest of my dreams.

It all started in August 2013, when I first bought my Firefox (MTB) and enjoyed riding it casually on Dolphin hill (my residence).

In the first few months, I could barely do 4 to 5 km at a stretch, without running out of breath.

Gradually, I improved my timing and was able to do 12 km (with a steep elevation) within six months.

However, I never thought I was good enough to participate in a cycling tour, which had professional cyclists as participants.

In December 2014, the 'Tour of Eastern Ghats (TEG)' was organised.

It was time to send in our names and I was still in two minds if I would be able to ride half the distance, let alone complete it.

Nevertheless, with immense encouragement from my husband (Anand V), I decided to give it a shot, with my humble six geared cycle.

Vandana Chaudhary at the start line

On the D-day, while standing at the starting line, I felt terribly intimidated by shiny, sleek Cannondales, Treks and Meridas around.

My heart sunk further, when I saw all of them zooming past me on their 24-geared bikes.

With low spirits already, I decided to continue, slow and steady, with my hubby following me in our black Santro.

Every time I would slow down, he would shout out aloud a word of encouragement like , "C'mon Vandana, you can do it, you are almost there".

When the group stopped for a quick lunch, I was the last one to reach.

Post lunch, many participants decided to drop out due to exhaustion. That's when I decided, it is not important to win the race, but it's important to complete it.

I started with rejuvenated vigour and cycled my way through the fields, mountains and lakes. All this while, Anand trailing me and cheering me.

At one point of time, the organisers asked me to stop and use the towing truck, like others had as it was getting too late.

Sensing my disappointment, Anand stepped up and said, "She will not give up even if it meant riding in pitch dark".

In the end, I proudly wish to reveal that there were just three of us who completed the entire route, the other two being Naval officers.

That day, for the first time I realised, what a little bit of will power and self belief can achieve.

I still feel a sense of pride when I think of how I decided not to give up despite the darkness, pain and exhaustion.

"We are stronger than we think" -- I will never stop believing this!

Photographs: Kind courtesy Vandana Chaudhary

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