Sunday, July 25, 2004

15th ride from Birmingham to London (25th July '04)

This years Sikh Arts & Cultural Association (SACA) annual Birmingham to London has attracted over 350 riders from around the UK and from all communities. Amazingly, it is the 15th ride and the organising committee are optimistic about smashing their fund raising target. This year the ride is focused on raising funds for SCOPE – Helping to raise money for disabled children.

On the evening of Friday 23rd July riders from around the UK assembled in Birmingham, Smethwick. After an evening of resting, they were ready to start their 15th ride from Birmingham to London on Saturday morning.

After a day of riding across a wide range of terrains, completing the equivalent of four marathons (100 miles with approx 20-mile interval pit stops) the riders reached Luton. For many riders it was their first time but for the veterans they enjoyed the annual challenge. NB Some riders train throughout the year and take it very seriously in terms of pacing. However, for the majority and the projected ethos of the ride is ‘fun through fitness’. On route, the riders are divided into marshalled teams and everyone realises the importance of the event being a ride rather than a race.

The final day started with the Majoress of Luton and other dignitaries launching the last 30 miles. The riders then rode through St Albans, Radlett and Harrow. The veterans and the virgin riders took on the ‘the hill’, aka the Elstree hill with a welcome ice cream at the pit stop at the top!
The grand finale took place in Southall, West London, with a 2-mile stretch of riders, bikes, support crews, dancers and open juggernauts with ‘live’ DJ acts.

The event organisers would like to thank all the sponsoring firms, riders, their families, the welcome crowd, SCOPE and all those that gave up their time and energy to perform on behalf of this annual fitness for charity challenge.

A presentation & show is now planned for October to present the total sums raised.
Press Release : Written by Dr S S Arora For information and contact information on SACA, please visit WWW.CHARITYBIKERIDE.COM.

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Monday, July 19, 2004

Not in my face

One the things that I feel strongly about are the awful right that all smokers believe that they have to simply light-up and smoke in public. Although recent survey data suggests that the majority of the UK public would support a public ban, there appears to be a reluctance to pursue a final decision. What are the government scared of? Is it a potential loss of political support?

From a pure health (I am talking about all non-smokers like myself!) perspective, I do not want passive smoking to ‘hit’ my lungs. It is my decision not to indulge in this awful habit so why should I have to breathe in somebody’s second hand or cigarette end smoke?

The situation is worse for those that work in clubs and restaurants. Having a no smoking area in a restaurant can sometimes help, even better if it is air conditioned too. However, all too often and this is true in small restaurants, the smell becomes immediately apparent, especially as many smokers indulge in after dinner smoking.

I remember a trip to Morocco, going for a Mexican meal. We had to change seating three times and gently request (why are we all too polite during these situations?!) the obliging waiter to open a few windows. A huge smoking mountain was located on one of the tables where four diners had clearly completed their meals and drinks but were actively pursuing in the act of generating as many nicotine-ridden clouds around them as they could. As they laughed and howled, they had no sense of guilt or remorse as to the anguish they were causing amongst fellow diners.

Is there a solution to this? The problem is about acceptance of social etiquette, personal space and equal rights. All these qualities appear to be presented as an official waiver form to smokers. It is as if when smokers first light-up they are given such a form to complete. Unfortunately, they omit to read the small print that promises in return new depths of coughing and a strong percentage probability of dark internal cancer ridden lungs. It is also troubling that there is a younger group of smokers arising (pardon the pun!). They are likely to add to the time bomb of health care provision needed unless they are educated.

There is some light at the end of the tunnel or should I say cylinder of death. Both New York and Ireland have introduced public smoking bans. Recent shock advertising has brought home to many the horrors of the internal facts.

There is a need to address the key issue on why smokers start in the first place. No one is immortal and it is certainly not cool. However, these blind thoughts are present. If shock and practical implications tactics are not fully working, what can be done to discourage Smokers? Maybe we need to focus on ‘the feeling’ or sensation. Smoking is a stimulant that is highly addictive, but the reason for its attraction could be linked to the apathy, self-respect, personal destructive nature and projection of invisibility.

Celebration of life, all it has to offer and how others can benefit from your presence rather than loss, could be another angle to challenge this evil.

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Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Commuter Friends on the train ride of life

I recently heard of a charming story regarding the building of relationships…
A few weeks back I happened to ‘bump into’ the same person a few time in the first class carriage / compartment/ cabin of an over ground train to Waterloo, London. Do not get me wrong, currently the first class cabins are free on selective routes as they are of the old ‘slam door’ variety. He told me that he took the same compartment at approx 7.30am every morning. Each cabin consists of six seats assembled in a three across three arrangement. He explained that everyday the same six people alight, meet-up and exit to and from different stations. I can only assume that cabin seating is respected and reserved for each passenger. They collectively proceed to discuss a variety of everyday topics, exchanging views and opinions. Even if they do not agree with each other, they can respect each other’s viewpoint. By the end of each person’s journey, they depart as friends and look forward to next day’s reunion.

It just so happened that during his morning journey that day they had bid goodbye to someone who was immigrating to the US. That morning she had brought in drinks and food (cake, croissants and chocolates). It was her way of thanking all her commuter friends of the good times that they had shared together over the years.

I wondered why I was so fascinated by this true story. In an era where people have what I call ‘personal lock-out aids’ such as personal stereos, mobile telephones, laptops and personal digital organisers. With such items, it is all too easy to become insular and closed off. The story suggests that although people can appear insular there can be opportunities for people to communicate and share their viewpoints. It is a bit like life itself. One gets on a rollercoaster, has fun on the ride, hopes not to fall off and when its time to exit, they can leave with a big smile on their face. The rollercoaster analogy unfortunately does breakdown if you are sick on route!

The other question to ask is what does the person on the ride of life actually achieve? In the case of the train ride, the journey and experiences on the way to work form just one part of their lives. In the same way, everyday we experience a multitude of roles. We can be a brother, son and friend to different groupings. This morning, again on a train I met someone who expressed how he was coming to terms with a recent close family loss. He was also trying to help another family member come to terms with what they should have done while the recently deceased relative was alive. I suggested that we should not considered life as scientific or linear with set start and end dates. Clearly, one cannot repair damage to an experience timeline. Instead, we should consider life as precious. Unfortunately, sharing experiences and helping others is sacrificed for achievement Vs competition. It is terrible that this latter dynamic is ranked higher than positive human traits of sharing, caring and selflessness. Soul enrichment as a personal goal appears to be missing.

In summary, I believe we are on this Earth to help each other. We should take an opportunity to learn from each other and just as important consider that some of the things we leave behind are relationships, memories and of having made a difference to each other.

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