By Anissa Lamare
Most cyclists in India and abroad from all disciplines know Kiran Kumar Raju as KKR. Chants at each finish line of every race, followed by wins, prizes, press releases and sound sleep after grueling days, has been Kiran’s cup of tea for the past decade.
Apart from the glorious wins however, Kiran always looked forward to more in life. “There is life beyond cycling”, as he begins to narrate how he got to where he is now.
“Being the eldest son,” Kiran’s family already had pre-conditioned norms for him to fall in line as well. Little did anyone know, Kiran had always dreamt of life outside those boundaries.
During the initial years of racing, Kiran was somehow able to juggle life alongside his day job. However, self-realisations of his capability in cycling dawned on him and with it, quit his job. This period in Kiran’s life was filled with endless questions, pressure from his family but most of all, it was a pendulum if he could actually do it. To single-handedly think about moving past the conventional Indian nine-to-five job is one side of the story. But to take up cycling as the ultimate career in a place like India, I’d say Kiran weighed his life on a pretty edgy scale.
The story however isn’t all that black and white. One thing Kiran always had was a companion who was ready to pilot whatever weather in a journey that could only be taken one day, one training, and one race at a time. Besides, mental and moral support, his girlfriend, Megha DS who is now his wife, supported Kiran financially as well.
While trying to pursue cycling, there were always inquiries surrounding life after the sport, one of those being marriage. Building a life with Megha was always one he had to add to his story. While the journey to marriage was another tough road, Kiran's family were finally convinced of the love marriage - something outside the normalised arranged convention in the Indian society.
Nonetheless, all of these events took an emotional toll on Kiran but overall he says he is proud of how he could balance performing well in the elite class of cycling and creating the life he wanted with his wife.
"The confidence I got from the sport and doing well and knowing how much she means to me" was the way to go, says Kiran with the deepest sense of gratification in his voice.
He touches upon the other aspects of the sport as well. Injuries are something that can change one's life and Kiran was aware of the risks involved. "I took all the time and energy to channelize and balance my career", and while doing so I knew that Megha was the constant support I needed.
Today, KKR has accomplished many accolades in cycling, be it local races or nationals. Cycling he says, is not an easy sport, you need sponsors and you need to build a strong network of connections with like-minded people. Such things he recalls, don't happen overnight. It is a continuous effort of expanding, learning and researching what has worked best for me.
But one thing he was always sure of was the outcome of the journey he chose to take. "Patience" he asserts is crucial for something as dynamic as cycling alongside his personal life.
Even if many races have his name on the top list, Kiran always felt he could do better.
At 35 now, Kiran is still going strong. He gives me an outlook of his future ten years down the line. With chuckles to his voice, he says "I would love to be a part of the master's category as long as I am fit and healthy". Other than that, he looks forward to coaching the younger generation and hopefully help the country's athletes go big on international soil as well.
Kiran has a three year old daughter, Bhoomi who has already mastered her trainer's cycle. I'd say she already has her father's cycling genes rooted. Kiran also says he will definitely give his daughter the right exposure to cycling but at the end of the day it's her choice.
Before we ended the call, Kiran stuck to his fundamentals of cycling or particularly mountain biking by asserting how important it is to enjoy the sport and it's journey rather than the aspects of winning and losing.
Connecting with nature is already pretty rewarding and with the right mindset everything else will follow.
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