By Kirat Kaur
If you were driving through the gulleys off Malaysia’s North-South Highway last weekend and happened to catch a stream of white and yellow jerseys whiz past the corner of your eye, you may have been forgiven for thinking these were simply ordinary cyclists taking advantage of the uncharacteristically good weather.
In fact, these were no ordinary cyclists.
These were highly committed and well-trained Sikhs who had signed up for the inaugural Ride For Charity – a two-day cycling event from Malacca to Singapore to raise funds for Singapore’s Sikh Welfare Council (Siwec).
Siwec is a registered charity that provides bereavement services, financial support to needy families, education support, prison outreach, and other social welfare programs.
The Ride For Charity (RFC) kicked off on Nov 28 morning with kirtan and ardaas at Central Sikh Gurdwara Sahib, before the team made their way in buses to their starting point in Malacca.
Following breakfast at the Gurdwaras Sahib Malacca, bright and early on Saturday morning, the cyclists flagged off, spending the next two days hunched over their trusty two-wheel companions, backs arched on the ready, heads bowed over their bicycle handles deep in focus.
With 50 riders and 36 support crew and well wishers in total, the contingent made waves as it passed through town after village, negotiating potholes, pedestrians and traffic. Support teams followed in vehicles to make sure the riders stayed hydrated and were taken care of throughout the gruelling trek.
Organisers told Asia Samachar the cyclists had to contend with blazing heat for most of the ride, but were caught in a heavy downpour the first afternoon just before reaching the rest stop at Batu Pahat.
Everyone was in high gear and ready to pick up where they left off on Sunday morning, though, and the team made it to the gurdwaras in Johor Bahru in time for chaa (tea) at 4pm, before ending off the last leg back to the Central Sikh Gurdwara Sahib in Singapore.
Rider Simer Narulla said, “The energy and camaraderie about the group at the weekend were a highlight for me. After months of training together, it was clear that we had all established a bond and were determined to complete what we’d set out to do.”
The group had been training together since April, and consisted of people from all walks of life. Fifteen non-Sikhs joined the team, and there were five women on board. Team members ranged in age from 24 to 70 years.
“On the trip we had one gentleman who is 70 and rides like the wind!” Simer said. “These are people who care about keeping fit and healthy, and who are keen to do their bit for society. I’m thankful to have met them through RFC.”
While the numbers are still being finalised, the RFC is estimated to have raised over $150,000 for Siwec. Siwec plans on using the funds to expand its programs to reach a wider range of beneficiaries, as well as initiate new programs.
The mood at Central Sikh Temple was electric as a crowd of supporters welcomed the riders home with cheers, dhol beats and jaikaaras on Sunday evening.
A glow radiated across the faces dripping with sweat and exhaustion, marking evidence of a heartfelt and fulfilling adventure, all for a good cause.
Many of the riders felt the support crew was the backbone of the endeavour.
Support crew member Hartirathpal Kaur said, “RFC was pure heart and soul. I feel privileged to have been a part of the experience.”