The cycle lifeOn May 18 earlier this year, Yam Lal Rasaily embarked on a solo cycling trip—journeying from Lamki in Kailali to Rara lake in Mugu district. It was an impressive feat, cycling from sea-level up to 2,990 metres in just 13 days.
On May 18 earlier this year, Yam Lal Rasaily embarked on a solo cycling trip—journeying from Lamki in Kailali to Rara lake in Mugu district. It was an impressive feat, cycling from sea-level up to 2,990 metres in just 13 days. Such a journey might have taken a lot of anyone but for Rasaily, who is a single leg amputee, it was one of the simplest trips he’d ever taken.
Being an amputee has never stopped 41-year-old Rasaily from doing anything. Although a tailor by profession, Rasaily has been cycling since he was 19 years old. His brother, who worked at a bike repair shop, taught him to cycle—balancing and then pushing the pedal with his left leg. It took him some time to learn, but he would stand without anyone’s assistance and keep trying. Once he caught the rhythm, he’s never looked back.
The last time he stood on his own two feet was when he was four, playing bhailo with his brothers. “I danced my heart out that night,” he says. His elder brother carried him on his back on their way back home because he was too tired to even walk. At home, the family discovered that Rasaily had a fever. They took him to see various lamas, jhankris and healers, but when nothing worked, he was taken to a baidya. This baidya encased his right leg, which had nothing wrong with it, in what he calls ‘gaule plaster,’ leading to an infection. He was finally taken to a hospital at Palpa where his leg had to be amputated because of the infection.
Growing up Dalit in Parbat district was no easy feat, made all the harder by the fact that he had just one leg.
“Belonging to the Dalit community, we were already used to curses. So, some more verbal abuse did not really do me any harm,” he says. “But my classmates used to hit me with my crutches and watch me cry.”
Incidents like these led to his family migrating from Parbat to Kailali, which is where he learned to cycle. As more and more physically disabled people started to look to Rasaily as an inspiration, he only started to work harder and cycle more, embarking on rallies and trips across Nepal, starting on his solo bicycle expedition in February 2003. His story caught the attention of Nepali Congress leader Pushkar Nath Ojha, who gave him a sophisticated cycle as a gift. It took him some time to adapt to the new expensive bike, but he was dedicated to overcoming every obstacle that came his way, says Rasaily.
Someone once shared with Rasaily the story of Tom Whittaker, who despite being an amputee successfully climbed Mount Everest. “That worked on me as motivation,” he says. “I never even thought of quitting cycling.”
Rasaily’s love for adventure has not just been confined to Nepal. He was awarded with a cash prize for his enthusiasm in a cycle rally in Arunachal Pradesh, India, where he covered 730 kilometres in six days. At that event, where cyclists from 10 different countries participated, he was the only physically disabled participant. He has also participated in another cycle rally organised in New Delhi in January, covering a total distance of 200 kms in a day. He now hopes to participate in the paralympics in the near future.
Although his story has been inspirational, there hasn’t been a shortage of people who tried to bring him down. There were people who would try to knock him down or laugh at him on his trips, he reports. In Kathmandu, he had one of his worst experiences. Once, when his legal papers fell on the ground and he was unable to pick them up, he asked a passerby for help. “That person picked up the papers and then threw them further,” he says. “That incident is engraved in my heart.”
He also remembers when a random person screamed at him for the bad luck his family would now have to go through just because he had appeared in front of them. Many bus conductors have refused to take him on thinking he would not pay the full fare.
“The capital has taught me a lot,” says Rasaily wryly.
No matter what life has thrown his way, Rasaily has never given up. The inexplicable loss of his right leg did not defeat him and he has managed to turn that disability into an asset, inspiring others and winning accolades wherever he goes. Now, it is hard to separate the man from the bicycle, as he is almost never without it. Cycling has become his life.
“This is what I do best,” says Rasaily, a wide grin on his face.