Category Archives: Sports

Zoroastrian Teen Swimmer Conquers San Francisco Waters

13-Year-Old Completes Epic 2 day Swim from Alcatraz to the Pier and Across the Golden Gate Bridge

Shahaan Tavadia, a 13 year old young Zoroastrian from Phoenix, Arizona USA took on the daunting 2 day challenge of swimming in the open waters of San Francisco Bay. On Day 1, the swim was scheduled to commence from Alcatraz Island, all the way to the Pier at a distance of 1.4 Miles. The arduous journey continued on day 2, spanning across the Golden Gate Bridge at a distance of 1.2 miles. There were around 70 people in the group ranging 10 to 60 years old.

This swim is known for its treacherous currents, chilly waters, and in the company of marine life. These conditions make it a formidable task even for experienced swimmers. Shahaan, a seasoned swimmer, has been honing his

skills in the pool for the past 6 years. He started his swimming journey at a young age, dedicating countless hours of hard work and determination to improve his technique and endurance. Despite all the challenges, Shahaan fearlessly dove into the frigid waters and embarked on this incredible journey. With determination and perseverance, he powered through the currents, staying focused to reach his goal. With sheer determination and skill, Shahaan triumphantly completed these momentous swims and “escaped his limitations”. His years of training, dedication, and perseverance paid off, as he emerged from the waters, conquering this remarkable feat. We also witnessed Shahaan’s quick wit during the first race, when out of sheer misfortune, he was swayed away by the currents to a different location than the finish line. He emerged at a completely different location amongst strangers. Unlike people his age, who would panic and have a meltdown, Shahaan quickly assessed the situation and gathered as much information about his location as he could. He then decided that it was wiser to swim back along the coastline line until he finally was reunited with his swim party.

It was a moment of great joy and pride for him, his family, and his coaches. This accomplishment is a testament to Shahaan’s unwavering passion for swimming and his ability to overcome challenges. It serves as an inspiration to the youth that hard work, perseverance, and dedication can lead to extraordinary achievements at a young age.


Where have the Parsees in Indian cricket gone? They were the first Indians to play cricket

The Parsees founded the Oriental Cricket Club in 1848 and the Young Zoroastrian Club in 1850, and as for an opposition to play against, who better than the British themselves?




The teams representing the Bombay Presidency and the Bombay Parsees in the Presidency cricket match in 1893. The Parsi Cricket Club organised the first major match in Bombay against the Bombay Gymkhana in 1877, which they lost. (Photo: Mumbai Heritage/Twitter)

The first recorded instance of cricket in India dates back to 1721, but for well over a century, the sport was restricted to the British.

Sometime in the early 19th century, the Parsees of Bombay tried to pick up this curious sport. In the vast maidans of the city, it was not uncommon to see little Parsee boys play cricket, using umbrellas for bats.

The Parsees founded the Oriental Cricket Club in 1848 and the Young Zoroastrian Club in 1850. However, they needed an opposition to play against… and who better than the British themselves?

Thus, the matches began, and the Parsees did well. In 1876, a team of Parsees became the first Indians to beat a British side. The outcome, followed by the jubilation of the fans, did not go down well with the British soldiers, who used their belts on the spectators.

But none of these could dampen the spirit of the Parsees, who kept improving year on year. They sent a team to England, in 1886, then 1888. These were the first two tours by Indian cricket sides to the country.

Unfortunately, they quickly found out that cricket in England was vastly superior to anything they had encountered. On the first tour, they won only one match and lost 19. However, they did better next time, winning eight and losing 11.

Despite the results, there were some notable individual performances. In 1886, Shapurjee Bhedwar did the hat-trick against Ashton-under-Lyne. More significantly, in 1888, ME Pavri emerged as the first outstanding Indian cricketer (KS Ranjitsinhji played almost entirely in England).

Bowling at serious pace (the archives record him as “fast”), Pavri finished the 1888 tour with 170 wickets at 12 apiece.

In 1889-90, the first major English side toured India. Of their 13 matches, they lost only once — against, of course, the Parsees, in a match that was hyped as the “Cricket Championship of India”. Pavri took 2-3 and 7-34, and made 21 to help the Parsees chase 77.

Two years later, the Parsees beat another English side, by 109 runs. Pavri claimed 2-18 and 6-36. In 1895, Pavri played in the County Championship for Middlesex.

But before that, in 1892-93, the Parsees, led by Pavri, beat a team called the “Europeans”, which essentially consisted of the British. This much-followed match became an annual rivalry, billed as the Bombay Presidency Match.

Taking a cue, the Hindus joined in 1907-08 and the Muslims in 1912-13, and the contest went from the Bombay Triangular to the Bombay Quadrangular and, with “The Rest” joining in 1937-38, the Bombay Pentangular.

Until it was abolished around the Indian Independence, the Bombay Pentangular remained the most popular cricket tournament in India.

But let us return to the Parsees. As Pavri ruled roost in the 1890s, other stars emerged. Batters “Jessop” Machhliwala and MD Kanga, wicketkeepers RD Cooper and DD Kanga, left-arm seamer Dinshaw Writer, all-rounder Nasarvanji Bapasola were all big names of the era.

But the next truly great Parsee cricketer, HD Kanga (brother of the abovementioned MD and DD), arrived in the early 20th century.

A prominent feature in Bombay cricket, Kanga slammed 233 against the Europeans in 1905. In 1911, he toured England with the first ever All-India side, and made 617 runs at 28.04, including 163 against Leicestershire. In the 1912/13 season, he got 150 against the Muslims and 8-14 against the Europeans in consecutive matches.

When Bombay Cricket Association launched their monsoon cricket league in 1948, they named it after HD Kanga.

As the other communities rose, the Parsees no longer remained the strongest Indian team. Mind you, they were still a formidable force, and two Parsees — Sorabji Colah and Phiroze Palia — played in India’s first-ever Test match, at Lord’s in 1932.

In 1933-34, Rustomji Jamshedji became India’s oldest Test debutant: at 41 years and 27 days, he still holds the record.

In 1944-45, Rusi Modi became the first to score a thousand runs in the history of the Ranji Trophy. For much of that decade, he competed with Vijay Merchant and Vijay Hazare for the title of India’s finest batter.

Polly Umrigar, who arrived in the next decade, held the record for most runs and hundreds by an Indian in Test cricket in the pre-Gavaskar era. He also led India, as did Nari Contractor, the first Indian to score a hundred in each innings on first-class debut.


Nari Contractor

As the 1960s arrived, so did Rusi Surti and Farokh Engineer. For two Test matches on India’s West Indies tour of 1961-62, the two men played alongside Contractor, by then Test captain, and Umrigar — the only instances of four Parsees in the same Test XI.

A brutal injury on that tour ended Contractor’s Test career, while Umrigar retired after the series. But Surti and Engineer continued to play.

A left-arm seamer, left-arm batter, and an electric fielder, Surti continued to play throughout the 1960s. He impressed so much on India’s 1967-68 tour of Australia that Queensland offered him a contract. Surti, thus, became the first Indian to play in the Sheffield Shield.

Khershed Meherhomji and Jenni Irani had kept wicket for India before, but none of them matched Engineer’s stature. An ebullient presence on either side of the stumps, Engineer was the first non Indian outside royal families to play long-term in the County Championship, for Lancashire.


Diana Edulji. (Photo: Twitter)

Unfortunately, Engineer also remains the last Parsee to play for India — among the men, that is. Two seasons after Engineer played a Test match, the Edulji sisters, Behroze and Diana, played in India’s first Women’s Test match, against West Indies in Bangalore in 1976-77.

It remained Behroze’s only Test match, but Diana went on to become a legend. Her 63 Test wickets are the third-most among women and the most for India. She was India’s first captain, led them in two World Cups, and as player, captain, and scout, virtually built the all-conquering Railways domestic side.

Diana Edulji last played for India in 1993. No Parsee has played for India in the three decades since then.


Arzan Nagwaswalla.

Some hope came when India picked Gujarat left-arm seamer Arzan Nagwaswalla as one of the standby cricketers for India’s 2021 World Test Championship final against New Zealand. But Nagwaswalla did not get a Test cap, and has not been in contention for international cricket since.


Abhishek Mukherjee


Always knew Parsi men were pioneers and had taken the FIRST cricket team to England But A Parsi all women’s cricket team in 1933 is news!

Merzban ‘Bawa’ Patel adjudged Best Grassroots Coach at Sportstar Aces Awards 2023

Renowned hockey coach Merzban Patel won the Sportstar Aces Award 2023 for the Best Grassroots Coach at the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai on Monday.

Better known as Bawa, Patel has dedicated more than 40 years of his life to grassroots coaching in hockey.

He has produced several renowned players who have gone on to represent India at the international level and also won laurels around the world.

“It is unbelievable that I am standing here among so many legends, being only a talent spotter. Forty-five years of my life I have sacrificed everything for the sake of hockey. I achieved everything that I have without the help of sponsors, without any help from the corporates, without any help from any big individuals. Despite not having any sort of academy, I have just trained on a matti ground. In spite of this, we have been able to produce so many players. I can assure you I will be producing more players in the next five years; that is my job. I would also like to thank the Odisha Chief Minister for supporting the game of hockey to this level where India is holding a World Cup,” Patel said.

The list includes former India captain and Asia Cup gold medallist Viren Rasquinha, Japan’s national team coach Jude Menezes, Gavin Ferreira, and 2011 Asian Champions Trophy winner Yuvraj Walmiki.

Adrian D’Souza and Suraj Karkare are also his former pupils. Patel is recognised across the country as one of the most prolific guides in the sport.

The septuagenarian is the co-founder of the Bombay Republicans Club (launched on Republic Day by the late B K Mohite), which participates in Mumbai tournaments and the local league.

He also set up hockey training at the Children’s Academy (Malad), and Our Lady of Dolours (Marine Lines) and their teams compete in inter-school tournaments.

Without a formal degree or diploma in hockey coaching, his forte is talent-spotting and giving exposure to young players on the Republicans’ teams. It earned him the prestigious Dronacharya Award in 2019.

Legendary India cricketer Sunil Gavaskar, former India hockey captain M. M. Somaya, chess great Viswanathan Anand, former India football skipper Bhaichung Bhutia, Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra and Olympians Anjali Bhagwat and Aparna Popat are the members of the Sportstar Aces 2023 jury.

The event is supported by IDFC First Bank, Indian Oil, India Cements, United India, Ramaiah University, Experimenta Science Center GD Naidu Charity, Finolex Pipes, LIC, BPCL, Samsonite, Big Basket, Nippon Paint, CRICHQ, Wordswork, NewsX and Casagrand.

All Parsee Volleyball and Throwball Tournament 2023 held in Pune

Zoroastrian Youth Association Poona in association with Poona Parsee Panchayat, Poona Parsee Gymkhana and Poona Zoroastrian Seva Mandal recently held All Parsi Volleyball and Throwball Tournament 2023.

The event was held at Parsee Gymkhana in Pune Camp.

“There were 8 volleyball all boys teams and two women’s throw ball teams, which had members from 14 years to 50 years. This was the first time that such an event took place in Pune. Members who participated practised for the tournaments at the Parsi Colony Volleyball court in Lulla Nagar for the last one month, ” said Mabrin Nanavati, Poona Zarthosthee Seva Mandal, member.

“I thank the participants who made this event successful. It was because of Cyrus Malegaonwala, Bakhtiyar Nariyalwala, Farah Khambatawala, Hormaz Pundole, Benaz Nanavati, Cafe Yezdan, Imperial Bakery, Pearl Motafram whose extensive help made the organisation of the event smooth and exciting,” she said. The winners were given rolling trophies, cash prizes, and certificates, added Nanavati.

The association now looks forward to organising a national level tournament soon, concluded Nanavati.

All Parsee Volleyball and Throwball Tournament 2023 held in Pune  

Naheed Divecha wins double crowns

All-India Racketlon Championship: Naheed Divecha wins double crowns

Naheed Divecha  |
Naheed Divecha

Naheed Divecha of Bombay Gymkhana stamped her supremacy winning the women’s singles crown in the Willingdon Catholic Gymkhana (WCG) organised 2nd All-India Open Racketlon Championship and played at the WCG courts, Santacruz. Over 70 players from across the country competed in the championship.

The experienced Divecha encountered quite a strong challenge from 15-year-old Aadirai of Coimbatore before managing to scrape through on the ‘Golden’ tie-breaker 68-67 as the total scores, after the four events (table tennis, badminton, squash and tennis) were deadlocked at 67-all (19-21, 21-4, 17-21, 11-21).

Divecha, who is a renowned badminton player, narrowly lost the opening table tennis tie 19-21. She later completely dominated the badminton event winning by a convincing 21-4 margin to gain a sizeable 40-23 lead. The talented youngster Aadira fought back by winning the remaining two events, squash 21-17 and tennis 21-11 and managed to level the scores and force the ‘Golden’ tie-breaker.

However, in the tie-breaker, Aadirai was a bit unfortunate as Divecha won the crucial match-deciding point to snatch a hard-earned 68-67 verdict and emerge champion.

Divecha enjoyed more success winning the mixed doubles title. The top-seeded pair of Divecha and Ashutosh Pednekar defeated the second-seeded combination of Roma Dutia and Adit B Patel by a narrow 60-59 (15-21, 21-6, 21-11, 3-21) points difference in the final.


Women’s singles: Naheed Divecha beat Aadirai 19-21, 21-4, 17-21, 11-21. 3rd-4th Place: Swapnal Chakrabarty beat Gayatri 13-21, 21-0, 21-11.

Mixed doubles: 1-Naheed Divecha/Ashutosh Pednekar beat 2-Roma Dutia/ Adit B Patel 15-21, 21-6, 21-11, 3-21. 3rd-4th Place: Aadirai/ K.A. Aadith beat Gayatri/ Ved Prakash Pandey 21-5, 21-14, 21-5.

Trained in Pune, Huafrid Billimoria becomes the fastest athlete with a disability to finish Ironman 70.3

Para-athlete Huafrid Billimoria competes, completes and wins third place at Ironman 70.3 clocking in 7:07 hrsPara-athlete Huafrid Billimoria competes, completes and wins third place at Ironman 70.3 clocking in 7:07 hrs

Held in Dubai, Billimoria also ended the race with a podium finish, bagging the third place
Triathlete, Huafrid Billimoria is no stranger to setting records. A para athlete, Billimoria not only became the fastest Indian Ironman athlete with a disability to complete the race, but also ended with a podium finish, bagging the third place. Living with dystonia- a movement disorder, the 26-year-old athlete has never been discouraged by his disability. Taking up all challenges heads on he had a gruelling routine preparing for Ironman.

Training at Powerpeaks – The Athlete Lab, under Chaitanya Velhal , Billimoria and his guide for the race Omkar Jokar, were both forces to reckon with at the race. Infact, despite having a crash at 80 kms, and injuring his elbow and spraining his knew, he managed to finish the cycling part of the race as well as ran the full 21 km as Huafrid’s guide. The two of them finished the race in 07:07 hrs.

Huafrid Billimoria(r) and his guide Omkar Jokar

Iron Man reached is popularity in India when actor turned marathon runner Milind Soman won the race in 2017. Gaining momentum from there on, a bunch of athletes from across the country started preparing and gearing up for what is crowned as one of the toughest races of all time.

Set against the magnanimous 7-star Burj Al-Arab Hotel and Jumeirah beach, Ironman 70.3 kicked off on Saturday, March 12. As over 2500 athletes competed to not only attempt at winning but to also just finish the race, the event was a thrilling experience as always.

Till date, Powerpeaks- the city based athlete founded by Velhal, has helped more than 250 people achieve their dream of becoming Ironman and can boast of a 100 percent finisher record as well. This was the 3rd time that Powerpeaks has hosted an Ironman contingent representing India for the Ironman Dubai. The first visually impaired Indian to finish an IRONMAN 70.3 race and create history, Niket Dala is also an athlete from Powerpeaks.

Veteran Football Commentator Novy Kapadia Dies

Veteran Football Commentator Novy Kapadia Dies After Prolonged Illness

Novy Kapadia was involved in commentary for decades and it was not just restricted to football. He had been part of the Olympics, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and other multi-sport events.

Novy Kapadia died on Thursday and was 67-years-old.© Twitter


  • Novy Kapadia died on Thursday
  • He died due to a prolonged illness
  • He was 67-years-old
Considered an authority on Indian football, veteran commentator and former Delhi University professor Novy Kapadia died on Thursday after a prolonged illness. He was 67. Kapadia is not survived by any immediate family member after the death of his sister. The soft-spoken Kapadia, who has covered nine FIFA World Cups, was on ventilator for the last month. The eminent football expert and author had been suffering from a motor neurone disease, a rare condition that causes the nerves in the spine and brain to lose function over time.

Rendered immobile because of the condition, he was confined to his house for the last two years. Kapadia was left bed-ridden for the last couple of years and was most recently in the news due to issues with his pension, prompting former Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju to intervene and provide a financial aid of Rs 4 lakh.


The versatile Kapadia was involved in commentary for decades and it was not just restricted to football. He has been a part of the Olympics, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and other multi-sport events.

Kapadia, who founded the Ashoka Club and played active football in the local league, was held in high esteem by the players, officials, scribes and everyone else associated with Indian football and beyond.

He was sought after for his knowledge and experience in the sport and it is encapsulated in his seminal book, ‘Barefoot To Boots, The Many Lives Of Indian Football’. He also authored The Football Fanatic’s Essential Guide Book in 2014.

Besides his involvement in sports, Kapadia was also a former professor at SGTB Khalsa College, Delhi University. He was Deputy Proctor of the university from 2003-2010. The Indian football fraternity was devastated by the news of his death.

“We are saddened by the demise of Novy Kapadia, eminent journalist, commentator, and football pundit. May his contribution shine through everyone he has touched through his coverage of Indian Football,” the All India Football Federation tweeted.


Top clubs such as Bengaluru FC, ATK Mohun Bagan and Kerala Blasters too expressed their shock and sadness, calling it a massive loss for Indian football. Football Delhi too mourned the death of Kapadia who was often referred to as the “voice of Indian football”.

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“Novy Kapadia made an unparallel contribution to football in Delhi, he represented Delhi State Team in the Junior National Championship and played in the Delhi league for many years,” Football Delhi president Shaji Prabhakaran said in a statement.

“Novy was a legend in many respect, his passion and dedication for football can’t be expressed in words. Indian football has lost a legend, who was married to football and his connection with football was very deep rooted.


“I haven’t come across a second person in Indian football who commanded such an authority and respect. Novy was our inspiration, his writing, commenting, expert opinions, etc were greatly inspiring to each of us in Indian football. His departure is a big loss for Delhi football in particular.”

In Kapadia’s memory, Football Delhi will hold a prayer meeting at the Ambedkar Stadium on Monday.

The tale of Indian cyclists who circumnavigated the world of a century ago

‘The Bicycle Diaries’: The tale of Indian cyclists who circumnavigated the world of a century ago

An excerpt from the book’s introductory chapter, ‘Freak fall; Fascinating finds’ by Anoop Babani and Savia Viegas.

When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.

— Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes

Life’s defining moments usually come on a high – a victory, an achievement, a breakthrough, an award or simply falling in love. Mine came with an injurious fall. After three decades of hectic existence, we had moved from India’s maddening megapolis of Mumbai to neighbouring Goa. This idyllic, coastal state was once a favourite abode of flower-children and hippies and now home to some crazy-rich Indians and yuppies.

A few years after moving to Goa, I took to cycling. Savia joined me on my escapades later. We have never been a cyclist – it is impossible to be one in Mumbai. We came to cycling rather late, in our sixties and quite unexpectedly. It began with neighbourly encounters and inspiration by a duo of passionate and professional bikers, Dr Belinda Viegas-Mueller and Richard Mueller. The subsequent camaraderie with Dr Balasubramaniam Iyer (Bala) – my guru and cycling buddy to this day – worked the magic.

I took to cycling almost instantly, discovering not only did I adore it but was good at it. Cycling up the hills and plunging down their slopes – through thick green cover, amidst bird song and morning light filtering through trees – soon became, and has remained a singularly spiritual experience. A bicycle is bound to the road in a way no other vehicle can. Once addicted, you can never cease to be a cyclist.

In 2016, I fell off my bike, badly injuring my rib cage.“No surgery, no medication, only rest” was the medical mantra. Barred from cycling for weeks, we chose to read about it.

How and when did cycling come to India?

Who and from where were the early cyclists? What kind of cycles did they ride and why?

This curiosity about our predecessors gradually unveiled the fact that it was well-to-do Indians, mainly in Bombay and Calcutta, who took to cycling in the 1890s inspired by their British peers. Such was the allure of riding that cycling clubs came up, founded by the small-yet-powerful Parsi community in Bombay and Bhadraloks (educated and prosperous Bengalis) in Calcutta. The cycles were predominantly imported, British-made and heavy on the pocket. These were used for leisure, sports, fitness and global tours.

Global journeys on cycles! That sounded impossible and unbelievable. Digging deeper, we were amazed to discover that a group of six cyclists had actually ventured on such an incredible journey way back in October 1923. All of them were Parsi from Bombay, in their early-to-mid twenties. Three of them – Adi B Hakim, Jal P Bapasola, and Rustom J Bhumgara – went on to complete the global ride over the next four-and-a-half years.

This trio became the first Indian globetrotters to undertake the most arduous journey of their lives.

They pedalled 71,000 km – at times in 60 degrees Celsius, for days without food and some days without water, across pirate-infested territories and in swamplands, through dense jungles and “up 6,600 ft amongst the terrible solitudes of the Alps”.

Framroze Davar and Gustav Sztavjanik before starting their ride across Amazon, in Lima, Peru, in 1928. Photo credit: Author provided

On returning to Bombay in March 1928, Hakim, Bapasola and Bhumgara recalled being “surrounded by people who had come to receive us… and garlanded till we were buried in flowers”. They hoped that “the public of Bombay will not fail to extend (‘unique welcome’) to another son of Mother India – Scouter F J Davar, who is shortly due in Bombay on the conclusion of a similar enterprise”.

They were not the only ones, then, we were amazed to discover. Three months after the Super Six group had commenced their ride, Framroze J Davar – another Bombay Parsi and a sports journalist – embarked on a global expedition in January 1924.

His was the most adventurous, lengthier and partly, a solitary journey. The 30-year-old Framroze initially pedalled more than 9,000 km entirely on his own, till he reached Austria 11 months later. In Vienna, he met Gustav Sztavjanik, his cycling mate. The duo rode 1,10,000 km across 52 countries and five continents, over the next seven years.

Framroze returned to India in October 1931. Eighteen months later, in April 1933, another trio of Parsi cyclists from Bombay – Kaikee J Kharas, Rustam D Ghandhi and Rutton D Shroff – decided to girdle the globe on their humble bikes. They rode for nine years and traversed 84,000 km spanning five continents, before returning home in April 1942.

A year after Kharas, Ghandhi and Shroff had left Bombay, cyclist Jamshed Rustom Mody began his global ride in May 1934. He was only 18 and decided to ride solo all the way. A fortnight later, yet another Parsi cyclist, Manek K Vajifdar also chose the solo global ride. Both Mody and Vajifdar took the reverse route – circumnavigating the world from east to west.

They began biking from Australia and cycled across China and Japan, reached America and eventually Europe.

Mody returned home three years later traversing 48,000 km across continents. But, riding during the years of World War II, Vajifdar got stuck in London and could not make it back.

Considering their extensive travel plans across diverse climatic zones, the cyclists made a wise selection of their baggage. Essentially, it comprised few clothes change, light tent, firearms, leather hoods, basic provisions, medicines and water, besides their constant companions – camera and compass.

Jal Bapasola, Rustom Bhumgara and Adi Hakim on their Royal Benson Cycles in 1923. Photo credit: Author provided

On their journey, however, they acquired additional clothing and provisions depending on weather exigencies – leather jackets to combat cold, snow and light wear as a shield from winds and rains. On an average, their cycles weighed anywhere between 40 kg-45 kg including the baggage, carried in metal boxes attached to their machines.

The cyclists rode single, fixed gear “push bikes”, be it steep mountains, wild jungles or bone-dry deserts. Finally, they were slightly ahead of the age of affordable sunglasses and hence could not use the protective eyewear to prevent bright light and the blinding sun from damaging the eyes. At least one cyclist lost his eyesight during the expedition and died a blind man.

Despite these perilous journeys, the cyclists maintained meticulous diaries and shot awesome photographs. This was feasible, thanks to advances in the miniaturisation of photographic equipment and the introduction of a new Kodak camera that used film rolls instead of glass plates.

According to Kenneth Helphand, Knight Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Oregon, United States, “the development of the bicycle and photography (the Kodak), independently and in their interrelationship, radically altered our landscape perception and experience”.

Each of these expeditions is lucidly recorded and is a story of human ingenuity and courage.

More than that, these chronicles are invaluable anthropological, sociological and historical narratives. They were penned and pictured by a handful of Indians, the only ones to ride the streets of the world in the 1920s and 1930s.

They cycled through a Europe devastated by two World Wars, the Great Depression in America, strife-torn East Asia, the deserts of Sahara and Mesopotamia, the rainforests of Amazon and Southeast Asia and the mountains of the Alps and the Andes.

They observed the world of a century ago – witnessing the material destruction and moral degradation that followed the Wars, the humiliating racial discrimination and persecution of immigrants in the US and elsewhere, civil wars and peoples’ revolutions in East Asia, scenes of abject poverty and homelessness in Asia and Africa and the lives and practices of the tribes in the Amazon, Sahara and other places.

These sun-tanned cyclists were received by the Pope, kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers, statesmen and mayors, innovators and scientists and sports persons and movie stars all over the world. They were welcomed and adored everywhere they went. They could have conveniently stayed back in either Europe and or the US. But they all came back, barring couple of exceptions.

Something was missing, though.

While their adventures and chronicles made a fascinating and insightful read, they did not reveal much about the cyclists themselves. Who were these daredevils? What motivated them? How was their upbringing? Where did they live and work? When and how did they meet and plan these death-defying expeditions? Who helped them financially and materially? What was their post-glory life? Were they recognised by their country and community? Or, did they die as unsung heroes?

Honours are not always honoured. We found ourselves drawn back to the same lingering questions again and again. To seek answers, we needed to find their families, friends and relatives.

Over the last five years, we have been able to trace them – some scattered within India and the rest overseas. They have been extremely kind and supportive, generously sharing their pictorial and documented archives and narrating stories about their fathers, grandfathers or grand-uncles, as the case may be.

In the two decades between 1923 and 1942 – the years immediately after and during the twentieth century’s two Great Wars – twelve Parsis from Bombay undertook five separate global cycling journeys: eight of them succeeded.

In our pursuit to retrace their journeys and getting to know them better, we have cherished every meeting, every chat – in person or online – and every moment spent on reading old books, filtering historical records and trawling through the age-browned pages of personal diaries and the albums of timeless photographs. It has made us even more of a committed cyclist than we were and connected us intimately with that simplest of human inventions: the bicycle.

Though an avid rider today, cycling is not an end in itself for us, it is a ride into infinite possibilities. This story of unsung heroes is a case in point, and we are proud to be telling it – thanks entirely to that freak-yet-fortunate fall of mine, back in 2017!

Excerpted with permission from The Bicycle Diaries by Anoop Babani and Savia Viegas, Saxtti Books.

Savia Viegas & Anoop Babani

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