By : RACHNA TYAGI
On a foggy December night, Kailashnath Tiwari, 79, who was cycling back home from work in Aminabad (near Lucknow), late in the evening, met his end when a car rammed into his cycle. He died on the spot. “The accident happened because of dense fog; there was barely any visibility that night,” recalls his granddaughter, Khushi Pandey, 22, a final year student of Law. Wasn’t the driver of the car to blame who ran into him, weren’t the car’s headlights working? “It was pitch dark and frankly, I doubt whether he could’ve guessed that there would be somebody on a cycle ahead of him on the road, that night, the fog was really bad. What was really unfortunate was that my grandfather’s cycle did not have a light or even reflectors” says Pandey. The gnawing feeling that maybe her grandfather would still be amidst them if only his cycle had a light or reflectors spurred Pandey into action.
Pandey made a few inquiries and it didn’t take her long to find out that that cycles do not come with factory-fitted lights and, that in fact, they have to be purchased as an additional accessory. And that is when Pandey decided that she would buy lights for cyclists and fit them onto as many cycles as she could. Easier said than done though. The lights that she was looking for, she realized, weren’t readily available as there wasn’t a great deal of demand for them. “Finally, after scouring the market for them, I walked into Vaibhav Cycle Store, in Teli Baug, and discovered that the owner of the store, Rakesh Singh, stocked the kind that I was looking for,” she says.
Pandey who is joined by her brother, Akhil Pandey, 26, and sister-in-Law, Swati Pandey, 28, is on a mission to fit as many cycles as she can with lights so that the cycles (and cyclists) can be spotted from a distance by other drivers while they’re cycling on roads during foggy nights. “From January 13th 2023, we started fitting lights on cycles of people who are daily wage earners and who need them the most,” says Pandey. They have been fitted onto cycles of security guards, shop vendors, and they even fitted one for a young teen who uses his cycle to deliver food. Right now, we fit lights on cycles at three spots - Sarpotganj Chauraha, Awadh Chauraha and Hussainganj Chauraha. “When we started, it was difficult to catch hold of cyclists who didn’t quite understand what we were up to, but when we told them about the reason behind our mission, most were very happy to give us their cycles to be fitted with the light,” says Pandey. “The word has spread in the last few days, many cyclists have brought in their cycles to us to get them fitted with the light which we do with the help of a double-sided tape, and then further securing it with a cello tape. It’s really quite simple, says Pande who is happy with the blessings that cyclists have been heaping on her.
What kind of lights are these that are being fitted onto the cycles? “They’re a local brand, “Made in India,” lights that come with three batteries which can be replaced at a total cost of INR 20 (For all three) once they die,” says Rakesh Singh, 45, Proprietor, Vaibhav Cycle Store. “We usually sell them for INR 150 a piece but when Pandey came and told us about their mission, we thought that because it was for a noble cause, we would sell it to them on a no-profit no-loss basis and so, we sold it to them at INR 100 a piece. We received an order for 500 lights from Pandey and we fulfilled that order within two days, now, we have an order for 200 additional lights and that is a wonderful thing,” says Singh.
But how is Pandey funding this mission? “Even though I am a student, I also work part-time and this mission has been completely funded from my own earnings and savings,” says Pandey who believes it would be improper to even think of charging money from the cyclists whose cycles she has fitted with lights. “The government should be paying heed to this matter and lights and helmets should become mandatory for cyclists,” she says, and urges cycle manufacturers across the country to make lights a mandatory fitment on the cycles that they manufacture and sell. Until then, Pandey, says she will continue helping as many cyclists as she can – “A small step towards creating awareness is what I have taken but I do hope that someday, hopefully soon, big changes will happen which will go a long way in saving lives,” she says. For now, though, clearly, Pandey is living her life by the adage “Be the change you want to see.”