‘Cycled today after more than 20 years. Thank you @Equal Streets’

Written By kom nampultig on Senin, 15 Desember 2014 | 22.23

Neetu Dang's body knows how to keep a secret. It does not bear tired bulges or an arching spine, not even a slight kangaroo pouch to suggest that she had a baby only eight months ago. Her yellow gunjee hugs her washboard stomach snugly and the only dark circles on her face are her sunglasses. "I do 10 surya namaskars everyday," says Dang, who took her indoor ritual outside on Sunday, amped it up and went home with a certificate. At Yogathon, a shiny new feature at Bandra's Equal Streets Movement, Dang exchanged hugs with a group of certificate-clutching Art of Living practitioners, after completing almost 50 of the coveted 108 salutations.

Many such personal milestones marked the movement in its fifth installment on Sunday, where over 50,000 people showed up to count their weekly blessing of happy, vehicle-free hours.

'Cycled today after more than 20 years. Thank you @Equal Streets', tweeted Tarika Singh, while Sonali Gupta called her daughter's joy of running on the road without having to hold her mother's hand 'awesomeness' on Twitter. For Heer Trevadia (8) from Prabhadevi, who trains in western dance, it was the first Sunday spent dancing on the street. Trevadia, who participated in various activities, said he loved sweating it out with the Shiamak Davar dance troupe along with his brother, Swayam (5). "We only go to malls or Chowpatty on Sundays, but this is superb," chimed in his mother, munching away on the khakras that she had packed for the trip.

The Linking Road half of the 6.5km stretch of The Equal Streets Movement especially brimmed with activity. A spontaneous circle of spectators formed around American hula hooping artiste Peyton Pleasant, as if replicating the ring around her waist. Her wild set of golden dreadlocks parted into two, a bespectacled bunny staring from the tummy of her blue jumper and teeth piercings peeking through her smile, the quirky artiste masterly steered the hula hoop along the length of her frame, moving back and forth to the strumming of her musician friends. "In America, there isn't a movement like this to showcase artistes," says Pleasant, who works with dance studios and has been touring the world to promote hula-hooping.

Not very far away, a few curious veterans half-seated on a bunch of soft, red circular mats (that looked like enlarged mouse pads) with their eyes closed, made for a curious sight. "This is a traditional self-cultivation practice of Chinese origin, Falun Dafa," said Suren Rao, who teaches the discipline locally for free. Many passersby asked Rao how it was different from yoga. "It helps purify the body through meditation, exercise and development of the heart," explained Rao, as the participants held their hands out, as if embracing a tree.

Capoeira, stepper challenges (where kids worked on their feet on a pedestal), zumba, the bouquet of activities for kids was heavy. Both adults and kids, some in neon shirts sporting gold-rimmed aviators and white earphones, plonked on the plastic chairs around free carrom boards for a game. After striking a white coin a few inches shy of the hole, Bharat Vaghela, a resident of 35th Road in Bandra, said, "Such events are great for kids."

Other pleasant distractions included the usual assortment of pets and kids. Anayaa Marwaha brought out two-month-old Pluto and four-year-old Brownie. Cradling her wide-eyed Shih Tzu, Brownie, in her arms, Marwaha said the event was "something different", while the mother of one-and-a-half-year-old twins, Tanya and Shanaya, whose stroller-cum-cycles drew requests for pictures from passersby, called the movement "heartwarming".

For Mahim gynaecologist Dr Rajesh Shah, the initiative was not only a chance to play wicket-keeper in a cricket match with strangers, but also to spread the word about his own, one-man social endeavour, Save The Girl Child. "The sex ratio in the country is pathetic," said Shah. On October 2 last year, Shah had organised a walk from the mayor's bungalow to Sanjay Gandhi National Park to raise awareness, where around 300 strangers joined him. Shah cycles to his dispensary everyday. "I am against working out in air-conditioned gyms," he said

Even those in the periphery of the 6.5km stretch seemed to reap the indirect benefits of a ready, weekly transient crowd. Khimjibai Gala of Sayonara, a toy-cum-crockery shop on Linking Road, said his Sunday business had shot up. "Parents come in looking for cycles and kids' scooters," said the elderly, bespectacled owner of the 45-year-old store as a group of kids trooped in to purchase WWE cards. A visual highlight was a giant Harassment Map of Mumbai, marked by maroon bindis that mostly congregated around Juhu beach. "We told women to mark what they thought was the most unsafe area," said Urmila Salunkhe of the NGO Akshara, which wants to make public spaces safer for women. While many passersby stuck bindis, not everyone shared stories, said Salunkhe, who understood the discomfort. Some asked, "What next?" And Salunkhe assured them that the police were working with the NGO. The bindis also accumulated quickly around Vile Parle, Santa Cruz, Mahim and Sanjay Gandhi National Park. A group of women, however, refused to stick bindis as they felt Mumbai was safe. "They were from Delhi," she said.

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