For Akshatha S Rao and MV Santosh, cycling is not just fun. With a cause in mind and the will to execute it, the couple has decided to cycle across the country, educating children and adults alike about ‘healthy touch’ through ballroom dancing. They believe healthy touch can help reduce abuse against women.
For the couple, life has always been about living every moment. To achieve this, they have gone to the extent that many would have quit before starting. Akshatha and Santosh are ballroom dancers and train people to be dancers. However, cycling came into their life when Nicole Huber and Gaetem Milliard, a couple from Switzerland, came to their home as CouchSurfing guests.
CouchSurfing is a website where you make friends who could be from any part of the world or from your own state. When they are in town, they will announce it on the website and you can invite them home for free lodging.
“We got the idea when our CouchSurfing friends came to India from Switzerland on a tandem cycle. A tandem cycle has two wheels and two sets of pedals for two people to ride. We also wanted to do something similar but, with a twist,” said Santosh.
It took the two about three months before they could build a home-made tandem cycle from scratch, and today they are preparing to pedal across the country.
“An average tandem cycle costs around $1,500-2,500. We could not afford so much. We tried and tested different ways of assembling a cycle. It was tough. I had an old cycle frame and we fabricated another similar one. Assembling them together was troublesome. Local cycle repair shop owners helped us out,” Akshatha said.
Promoting dance sport and educating children
After three months of labour and loads of help from friends, the couple created a “workable” cycle. “Meanwhile, we were trying to teach ballroom dancing in schools in Mysore. But they were not obliging as they felt that boys should not touch girls. In some schools, boys and girls cannot even shake hands. They have different corridors to walk through. We are trying to make them understand that ballroom dancing is a sport and not something vulgar,” Santhosh said.
The two decided to do a trial run at nearby villages and teach ballroom dancing and sensitise children, teachers and parents about healthy touch. “We worked in a small school in Mysore with 45 members, including parents, teachers and students,” he said.
The couple teaches dancing for free and also hold workshops on touch sensitivity. “All we ask is for a place to stay as long as the classes are held, besides food. Nothing else is charged unless they decide to give us some financial help on their own,” Akshatha said.
Now the couple is on a tour to Chamarajanagar and other neighbouring places. “We have packed up as though we are going across the country,” she said. If you want to invite the couple to your school or institute, call up 9480338778 (Akshatha) and 9448359687 (Santhosh).