Nagpur Today. Dr. Sunita Dhote, Proffessor at Shri Ramdeobaba College of Engineering and Management, Department of Management Technology and holder of a new Asian record “longest Cycling Expedition – Female” was felicitated by Nagpur Today team in their office in Nagpur.
The 41 years’ old Sporting enthusiast and Proff. could very well pass off as a student herself, she has such a lively and bubbly personality. But what amazed us all at Nagpur Today was the fact that this record holder cyclist is not such an avid and regular cyclist at all! In the sense that she hasn’t been part of the tribe that participates in cyclothons or cycling marathons etc. The last time she did any long distance cycling is when she cycled from Goa to Mumbai in 2011.
“Why such a long cycling expedition then?” we asked. Sunita replied candidly that what she really desired was doing any sporting activity that would set a new record, she discussed this with the team at the ‘Asia Book of Records’ and they suggested she could attempt a cycling record as solo female cyclist.
“Yes, cycling I like….I think I can do it” this swimming champion decided. And without any ‘warming up’ cycling stints, except a ride to Kondhali and back a day before, Sunita set off on a long cycle read of 1412 Kms that she had to finish within seven days! The whole ‘expedition’ was arranged hurriedly with a deadline in mind – the event at Puducherry was already planned and Sunita had to reach there by the 14th November so she could receive the award for achieving a new Asian record at the hands of Puducherry CM. Shri. N.Rangaswamy.
When she and the Manager at Asia Book of Records planned this feat not for a moment did Sunita entertain doubts that she would not be able to make it in seven days! “To reach Puducherry from Nagpur in time, I would have to do 220+ Kms a day almost every day!” Sunita tells us. Till now in Nagpur she has been part of the cycling groups that cycle on Sundays which they treat as picnic days; the idea is ‘sundays – fundays’. Maximum cycling done could be 50 Kms.
Her cross country, long distance cycling reminds one of this immortal poem by Walt Whitman: I think heroic deeds were all conceiv’d in the open air, and all free poems also, I think I could stop here myself and do miracles, I think whatever I shall meet on the road I shall like, and whoever beholds me shall like me, I think whoever I see must be happy.
“ These words from “Song of the Open Road” by Walt Whitman could well describe the spirit and the mood of Dr. Sunita Dhote as she traversed the highways, the country roads as also busy city streets, while cycling all the way from Nagpur to Puducherry, a distance of 1412 Kms in a record seven days. Accompanied only by a driver and volunteer Kritika from CAC going along in a Scorpio car – Sunita’s gift to her husband some years ago. Achieving the near miraculous, the impossible is always what Sunita has desired as a child studying in school in Tamil Nadu where her father was serving in the Indian Air force. She loved athletics, and excelled in it. She raced 800 meter races, broke the school high jump records but was then prevented by her father from participating in more such sporting activities. “Put your head to your books and study ! It is not lady like to indulge in all such activities” admonished her dad. So she did just that. Did her graduation, then MBA and then Ph.D. in Retail Banking.
Her full time job is teaching at Ramdeobaba College of Management. But she continued her love for sports after marriage, and after motherhood, learning swimming and then excelling at it and getting medals too. She is a state champion of diving and butterfly stroke. “It was not easy to do all this after marriage since I lived in a joint family and was expected to behave like a demure ‘bahu’ by the elder women of the house” But having compromised once, Sunita was not in a mood to do it again so she rebelled, but without displeasing anyone. “I would go for my swimming lessons at 5.30 a.m. and be back before my aunt in law even woke up” she shares. It is this spirit that carried her forward till she achieved this new high. As her certificate reads
‘Dr. Sunita Kshirsagar Dhote from Nagpur, Maharashtra attempted a new Asian record “longest Cycling Expedition – Female” dedicated to spread the awareness about the ‘Swachha Bharat’ mission. She travelled on cycle from Nagpur to Puducherry covering 1412 Kms. She began on November 7th, concluding on November 14th at Hotel Mass. in Puducherry.’
Speaking of her record achieving expedition she says it was exhilarating to be cycling from day rise to day end. “Beginning with the rising sun and continuing past sunset sometime – cycling through rains and the hot sun – on deserted roads and busy city roads, on smooth highways and bad rocky terrains where I fell off the bike five times”. She used three bikes in all – a Scott Sports bike donated graciously by Naresh Chandra and Company Nagpur’s oldest cycle shop, another sports cycle lent to her by good friend Sudhir Chaudhary and her own cycle. She was dressed in proper Cycling gear with helmet, gloves, jacket and sports shoes. Her night stays were sponsored at the house of various Rotarians arranged by her own Rotary Club of Nagpur (Fort).
Her first night halt was at Adilabad after she left Maharashtra to cycle through Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and then finally Puducherry (Pondichery). Her subsequent halts were at Kamareddy, Hyderabad, Pidiguralla, Nellore, Chennai and then Puducherry. Naturally the food she ate on the way was mostly South Indian cuisine. “I always had a dosa for breakfast, skipped lunch and ate normal home food at night at some Rotarian’s place. I stuck to vegetarian fare as I am not very comfortable with non-veg. The one time I ate prawns, I got an allergic reaction immediately.”
At home too, she is a fitness freak – goes jogging or swims everyday and eats lots of oats, egg whites and sprouts; also one pomegranate a day without fail. Though he is not exactly a sport loving person himself, her husband Mr. Nitin Devendra Dhote, a Civil Contractor encourages her to the hilt. He did not accompany her on the expedition so he could look after the home front, especially their two sons Tejas and Rajas.