ARTI DAS | NT KURIOCITY
A gold medallist graduate of Nalsar University of Law, who works at Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) in their Legal Affairs Department in Mumbai, Mirza Saaib Bég hails from Kashmir and cycles 70 to 100 kilometres a day on weekdays and over 150 to 200 kilometres on weekends. His hobby of cycling inspired him to start ‘Cause Cyclothon’. He is currently undertaking a 3500 kilometre journey in fourteen days for phase two which began on March 19 and will culminate on April 2 and will raise ` 30 lakhs for economically weak law students. He has already raised ` 26 lakhs and donated the money to prominent law schools on his route – NALSAR – Hyderabad, NLSIU Bangalore, ULC Bangalore, NUALS Kochi and Salgaoncar Law College, Panaji, Goa.
Q: What inspired you to initiate a fund raising event?
Kashmir is my biggest inspiration and driving force. My life revolves around trying to identify means to ameliorate even the most basic things in Kashmir. I took up cycling and trained myself for ultra-cycling activities in order to raise money for an orphanage in Kashmir. It was in 2015 when I raised ` 10 lakhs by cycling 1200 kilometres from Mumbai to Ahmedabad and back. This year I decided to replicate the exercise for law students.
When I was president of the students’ union at Nalsar University of Law, many students would approach me to seek help with finances. There wasn’t much that we could do for them except ask the administration to waive off a part of their fees. I decided to make phase 2 of ‘Cause Cyclothon’ to help such meritorious students who could not afford an education in premier institutions in the country.
Studying law has helped me greatly in life and my approach towards Kashmir. This is my way of giving back to the legal fraternity. I spent half a decade at Nalsar University of Law and this period has had an extraordinary impact on my growth and enrichment and I am glad to be among the inheritors of Nalsar’s traditions.
Q: Why did you choose cycling as a medium for your cause?
Cycling is my hobby. I enjoy it as it liberates me and makes me feel free. I wanted to merge an activity that I loved with making a difference and decided to use cycling as a platform. The cycling community is very closely-knit in India and I was supported by cyclists in every city.
Q: Are these expeditions self-funded, corporate-funded or crowd-funded? How do you manage funds?
The expedition is mostly funded through corporates, but the Rotary Club of Bombay Worli has been our biggest supporter. Even individuals have donated out of goodwill but most funds are donated by corporates in lieu of advertising. Convincing people to donate money is not hard, when the cause is noble and selfless. You’ll be surprised to know how many people are waiting to get an opportunity to be a part of something and make a difference. We are providing that chance.
Q: What according to you are the hurdles faced by students in terms of securing higher education?
There is a tremendous lack of infrastructure in most rural areas – from bathroom facilities to transportation. But, the primary hurdle being faced is finance.
Q: As you are from Kashmir, could you share with us the educational situation of this state? Is the political situation hampering the growth of educational sector?
A strong political will to achieve positive changes is conspicuous by its absence in Kashmir and it has indeed hampered the weakest elements of our society in pursuit of their education. Kashmir was, and continues to be, in need of a catharsis on many fronts and I decided to study law with the objective of eventually using my education and resources to play a role in this inevitable purgative exercise. To my mind, training in law was most appropriate in order to prepare myself for the challenges that lay ahead – a fear of uncertainties, the hope of order, triumph and a constant process of discovery of ways to mend the economic and socio-legal fabric of Kashmir’s society – all this had left me in deep thrall and I decided that I would have the best tools to address the challenge. Over the years, having met many Kashmiris living away from home due to the economic and political situation there, I have observed that the desire to do ‘something’ for Kashmir is a feeling that is not alien to any Kashmiri and it is a point of poignant meditation that we are all connected by our pain. I look forward to the day when I’m given an opportunity to apply myself to Kashmir and push the limits of what can be done to solve the intractable issues my people are facing. I pray to God Almighty to help me.