[Local writer recently Cedric Silveira interviewed me for the January, 2009 issue of GOA TODAY magazine. Below is the full story, page 66. Those who know me may be surprised by the Indian turns-of-phrase and perspectives that Cedric has given me!]
“Cycling Her Way to Fame”
Profile of the venturesome bicycle queen, Ulrike Rodrigues
by Cedric Silveira
You may have seen her riding past you on her bicycle on the vicinity of Panjim or Porvorim or laboriously climbing up the slopes with the same. And it is her unique basket tied to the back of her utility bicycle that sets her apart. Well, the person I am referring to is none other than Ulrike Rodrigues, from Vancouver, Canada, who is in Goa since the past two months. Says Ulrike, “I have come to Goa in search of my roots and to study the culture of Goans.”
Ulrike who advocates the use of the bicycle is in fact a writer of travel culture. She writes a column called “Mitey Miss” in a Vancouver magazine, Momentum, which speaks of North America’s Urban Cycling culture. However, she is truly amazed at India’s cycling habits. “In the West, cycling is considered mainly as a sport or to keep fit, while in India if you own a bicycle you are looked down upon and considered to be economically poor,” says Ulrike. She adds, “in the West we are trying to advocate the good points of cycling such as saving of fuel, keeping trim and as a fun and adventurous experience. Sadly in India it is more of a means of transport and it has to be promoted more as a way of keeping fit. Moreover, I have noticed that girls rarely ride a bicycle.”
Ulrike, who is a great follower and advocate of the bicycle, has even bought a bicycle to use in Goa during her stay which she hopes will be for the next four months. When asked what brought her to Goa, she relates an amazing story, “My father, a Goan, was in Rangoon during the World war, and was forced then to take refuge in England. He was an electronic engineer and in England met my mother who was a native of Austria. They got married and later went to Germany where I was born. Coming back to U.K. In 1966, they then migrated to Canada (Toronto) and in the year 1991 I left for Vancouver. My father did not reveal much of Goa to me and when he passed away sometime in the ’90’s, the craving to learn about his native place was far too much. It was then that I contacted a cousin of my dad and through his invitation I have come to Goa.”
Being a writer cum photographer, Ulrike spends a vast amount of time travelling on her bicycle. “Cycling is gaining in popularity in North America of late, yet in Europe there is history of the bicycle which goes back in time. If cycling has to be considered as a means of transport and not only a competitive sport in North America, the reverse has to be taught in India where it is perceived mainly as a means of transport. A bicycle is in the Canada will cost no less than 5000 Canadian dollars, which speaks about its status symbol,” says Ulrike. [Actually, I said a bicycle can cost UP TO 5000 Canadian dollars. - UR]
As such, Ulrike has travelled far wide on her bicycle. She was by herself exploring Thailand on her bicycle for a three-month period and has also travelled to Mexico, Belize and new Zealand on her bicycle. She covers approximately 60-100 kms per day when exploring the place. “Goa is a lovely place to cycle and one can explore the villages and roadways along the little rivulets. You can thereby also get to know your own state a little better. If one is working 5-10 kms from the place of work, what better mode of transport than the bicycle? Also small errands can be run with a bicycle which can cut cost,” advises Ulrike.
Yet, she is confused by the statement of Ratan Tata who remarked that the NANO car would make it possible for every Indian to own a car. “At a time when people all over the world are trying their best to cut down on costs, here is an individual who wants to bring in the cars on a large scale and thereby doing away with the benefits of the cycle,” remarks Ulrike.
However, this lady from Canada has also an opinion of Goans who, she feels, are very amicable and peace loving. “The city of Panjim draws many parallels to Vancouver, especially with its grand waterfront,” points out Ulrike. What, however, disturbs her is the lack of women in Goa riding bicycles. “Ironically in the West, many ladies are seen riding the bicycle, but few are seen riding motorbikes. The opposite holds true in Goa with a number of ladies seen comfortably riding a scooter or a motorbike,” she adds.
Ulrike Rodrigues has a website www.ulrike.ca where you will be able to learn more about her and her adventure stories.