Published: 08th September 2021
This French teacher's Cycling Yogis just documented Chennai's healthcare history with a wheelie twist. Check it out
Madras By Cycle documents the various age-old hospitals, medical institutes, dispensaries and pharmacies as cycling trails across the city
Over the past five years, Ramanujar Moulana and his Cycling Yogis — the cycling group he founded in 2012 — published a book on the occasion of Madras Day on August 22. They have covered myriad topics, including various cycling trails across the city that bear testament to rich heritage and history of the city.
In 2021, Ramanujar and his compatriots had planned to publish a guidebook about the food in the city. "However, when we were working on it, the second wave (of COVID) struck," says Ramanujar. He decided to pivot and work on a book on Chennai's rich medical heritage, which has made the city a hub of medical tourism. And that's how, this year, he launched the first book about Chennai's medical institutions, hospitals, pharmacies and much more called Madras by Cycle.
So, how did he fix on this idea? Ramanujar says, "When I decided not to work on the food trails of the city due to the pandemic, I knew that I wanted to do something for the healthcare workers. The book is dedicated to them." Ramanujar and his team have been travelling across the city since 2012 and had already visited most of the heritage medical institutions like Madras Medical College and King Institute of Preventive Medicine. "Some of the photos that are in the book have been taken years ago, when we still could ride in groups," says Ramanujar. As part of his research and also to discover the various trails, Ramanujar visited all these places again, documented it and also took photos to put in the book.
The book contains 10 trails spread across the city. Some of these include the Hospital Trail, Clinics and Dispensaries Trail and Medical Institutions Trail. In the Clinics and Dispensaries for example, hidden gems like Chinese dentist clinics from the 1940s on Evening Bazaar Road are present. "The trails have been carefully mapped from our years of cycling across the city. We have even placed a QR code on the page for every trail. When scanned, the QR code will lead to Google Maps and show the trail and the individual locations to the rider in real time," says Ramanujar. Besides Ramanujar, Cycling Yogis members like Hari Krishnan and Hari Prathan were instrumental in bringing out the book.
Along the cycling trail
Ramanujar has been cycling across the city every weekend for years now. "I would leave home early in the morning and come back only during the evening. Whenever, I come upon something interesting, I tend to document it," says Ramanujar, whose fascination for the city's heritage stems from his love for History, a subject he did his graduation and postgrad from Loyola College, Chennai and University of Delhi respectively. He is now a French teacher and translator and has been teaching students online for the past year and a half.