TA Writer of the Week: Monica Pillai

Here’s Monica Pillai, our writer of the week, getting candid with TA about her likes, dislikes, and more!

Handling HR and Communications by (work) day and Wonder Cyclist through the rest of her time is Monica Pillai, our writer of the week. With a mental age of 8 (her words, not ours!) Monica says loves 4 things more than anything: books, Bangalore, living simple, and cycling! Here’s her getting candid with TA about her likes, dislikes, and more:

Tell us a little about yourself – What you do for work, studied, passion, causes and all the small things in life you appreciate.

From 7 AM – 5 PM: I work at The Fuller Life. I handle HR and Communications for this 50-person-strong company. I have known of them for about 10 years, so when I decided to go off corporate, I picked them. Here, I brave unbelievable energy, fun and major noise levels and very strong opinions to hire more noisy people, keep them happy and seeing career growth.

fancy type b&w

From 6 – 7 PM: I’m at Crankmeister Bicycle Works – They call me Patron Saint there, and I let them! I drop by most evenings and some weekends to help them with their blogs, make great coffee, handle customers sometimes, take care of some finance & MIS, keep their larders stocked with goodies (that is a hungry lot!), and generally just have fun.

Occasionally, I do soft skills training for another favourite organization, Navgati.

I like to live simple and buy local, support local businesses. I have a deep love for Bangalore – I have lived here for 14 years and it is the first home I have had – everywhere else felt like I was a visitor.

I love books. They have been the one big abiding love of my life. I really like fiction. I am usually found with my nose in one. I also love exploring art in a rather amateur manner. If not canvases and acrylic, I am found painting stuff on tshirts and gifting them to friends.

It has only been in the recent past (7-8 years), I have taken to running and cycling. My brother started working with Runners For Life. I had, at that point, never run in my entire life. I had a long career in dance – 20 years of learning, teaching, and performing. But running – I believed I couldn’t run.

Then I went with my brother and friends one Sunday morning to Cubbon Park. And ran. When I got tired, I walked. And before I knew, I had done 8kms! That was the start. From 2007, I have run a dozen half marathons. Simultaneously, I also started cycling. I have a trusty old Trek 3700. It has gone with me to most parts of town and outskirts, to running events, friends houses, restaurants, Nandi Hills, Kodaikanal.

cycle treasure hunt

I have a really simple philosophy in life – today is a good day. Today I have good health, the love of family and good friends, and optimism for tomorrow. And that leads me to try and live mindfully in the moment!

Tell us why you chose to write on this topic.

I had read some of these “Date A Guy/Girl” articles and thought they were nice. The idea of writing something about cycling never even occurred to me. Then I got a mail from Makepeace at around 10 PM, when it is usually time for my head to say “lights out”. My eyes lit up, and before I knew, it was 11 PM , I had an article that seemed to have just turned up out of thin air, and my heart was singing. And just like that, “Date a girl who cycles” came into being.

I even woke up the next morning and went cycling with a song in my heart (and if I am honest, I sang rather loudly, scaring some small children), because I remembered, from the night before, all the reasons I love cycling.

Any other story or piece of writing that you’re most proud of in terms of moving the needle on social action or thought?

I have not written very much for The Alternative, but this one article I wrote on lakes really came from the heart. I love the lakes in Bangalore and every time I read about lakes disappearing, it really is like an ache in the heart.


Recently, a runner friend was talking about a beautiful bund in Sarjapura Road next to a lake so large that you couldn’t see the end of it standing at the bund. But in the last four years, thanks to the water mafia using it to siphon off water to supply to the burgeoning Sarjapura Road residential and corporate communities, that large water body is now bone dry. Knowing that things like these happen, I shared that article to a lot of running/ cycling friends who really care about such things.

Another area of effort I’m proud of is the Crankmeister blog; we are putting good effort into making cycling a viable, usable commute and lifestyle option, one blog at a time!

What are the 3 #thingsyoucanlivewithout?

  1. The “9-6” life. After having logged out of the 9-to-whenever life, I realize that 9-6ing is a waste of all human potential and possibility on earth. If I could work in an organization or two for varying periods of time and have, say, two hours to be productive in areas that I am personally passionate or curious about, say, gardening or educating children from challenging backgrounds or learning disabilities, wouldn’t my life be richer!
  2. Mobile phones. I read in an old Agatha Christie book about how Miss Marple has rules about not phoning anyone before 9 AM and not after 10 PM. Same rules! So, I don’t call people before 8am unless I have plans to go running or riding with them, but I hate how the phone can sit in your pocket and disrupt anything, indubitably convenient, though it may be.
  3. Sugar. I have bid goodbye to white sugar. It’s been 3 years. Unless I go to a restaurant where they don’t have demerara sugar, I have no contact with the thing. I enjoy drinking my coffee with liquid jaggery.
  4. Bonus: Fake-green proselytizers. There are those who do and those who talk. I am happy to listen to people’s stories of what works or doesn’t and learn from them, to live a sustainable life. But I hate it when people say, “You ought to try and grow organic Douglas fir trees” or something equally ludicrous, without a concept of what they are about – just saying it because it sounds fashionable.
With the Runners For Life team

With the Runners For Life team

3 things that you do for a more sustainable lifestyle

  1. Buy local. My veggies and fruits are all locally bought. The Cox Town market is where I head to, for produce and if I feel fancy, possibly hopcoms. No air-conditioned supermarket veggie shopping for me. Which means, I attune naturally to seasonal fruits and vegetables indigenous to the region and therefore necessary for good health. I am not saying I never eat a Kiwi fruit – I’m saying it is rare. There’s lots more of avocados and plums and mangoes in the diet, right now.
  2. Support local organic stores. Most everything else I buy – wheat,rice, pulses, oil, jaggery – everything is organic to the extent possible – it also means the local folk working very hard have one more customer. To big supermarket chains that one customer matters less; I’d rather throw my weight it where it matters. My top food suppliers are Vanastree and Timbaktu Collective.
  3. Cycle/walk where I can. I use a bike for all other mobility purposes.

running urban stampede1

Suggestions and words for us

Four years ago, I joined this company to do sustainable living projects. I loved the idea of doing something worthwhile with my time. That project and job lasted three short months before it had to be wound up owing to funds shortage. I met some ex-colleagues from there recently who said, “The Alternative does what we set out to do. Only better!” and then the penny dropped. He was absolutely right! That explains why I read articles by The Alternative everyday and am so proud to contribute – it’s a long standing dream come true! I believe that the thought that has gone into making sustainability more ‘mainstream’ (to use a hated word) will go miles in the right direction.


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