The thrill of first riding a bicycle…the exhilatation felt in raising ones hands up in the air, zooming ahead….and screaming…”Move out..make way…help…the damn breaks don’t work!!”.
That’s how my tryst with cycling began. My ambitious dad had bribed a neighbour’s daughter into teaching me the art of cycling, by offering her a huge chunk of the most delicious chocolate cake ever! She was at our door at 6:00 am. A time unheard of in my life of 15 years. Anyway, I had no excuse other than the fact that I didn’t have a proper outfit. Ofcourse the family scoffed at this and sent me onto the war-front. Slowly, yet steadily, this friend of mine, held the cycle from behind and helped me move gingerly down the school lane, that was empty at this time of day on a Saturday morning. All of a sudden, waiving the courtesy of informing me, she let go. I innocently continued to pedal down the street. As I turned the corner, without slowing down, I was shocked to find she wasn’t behind me, but was standing right ahead of me, cheering me on. I couldn’t stop … the breaks failed and the damn horn was stuck. Oh! And the loosely-fitted seat would just turn up every few seconds, making it most painful in certain areas. I crashed right into her. She didn’t turn up the next day. I was glad. My dad gave her the cake, though. I thought that was unfair! (P.S: We befriended each other again, on Orkut last year :-)).
The next time I was on a bicycle was in Bangalore. Adoloscence and new-found love for my long-lost cousin-sisters had infused me with fresh vigour. The little cousin fell ill, and the elder one and I decided to comb the neighbourhood for a doctor. We walked through various lanes, then realised it was going too far. Literally. We headed back home and grabbed the bicycles. The cousin had a nice big cycle, you know, a real ladies cycle, not a child’s one. I envied it .. her! I was handed a smaller cycle…way too small. I complained that I could only walk with this, not ride it. She seemed to apologise, though offered no solution.
So we set out, on the ‘doctor-hunting-expedition’ in the unknown territories of Domlur. Cousin-sis cycled slowly ahead of me, as I tried hard to keep pace. Everytime someone came in sight…be it 100 metres ahead, I would ‘HONK’ energetically until the whole colony was awoken from their siesta. Cousin-sis finally turned around and yelled, ‘What’s the matter??’. I was still half-walking, half-carrying the cycle, and honking with sweaty palms. ‘Nothing’, I scowled. ‘Where the hell is the doctor?’. To her luck, we were right outside a board that read ‘M.B.B.S….F.R.C.S…X.Y.Z.Z…A.B.C.D…’. And guess what, the old man wouldn’t see patients at noon. We turned back home. It was mid-noon, the hottest part of a summer day. A small ice-cream depot beckoned me from afar. Cousin didn’t heed. I was angry. At being given a broken child’s cycle. At the hot summer. At the useless old doctor. And at not being able to cycle. In frustration, I decided, that moment, that I would ride this damn thing back home. So I pedalled. As strongly as I could. I lost balance a couple of times. But I kept at it. And finally, I was actually cycling. On my own. I felt liberated. Overjoyed. Fearless. And terribly in pain. For I had fallen right into the ditch by the side of the road. Luckily, the ditch was dry. Thank the Indian summer and the non-working drainage system. Cousin-sis had stopped a few metres ahead of me. I looked piteously towards her for sympathy. She, on the other hand, was roaring with laughter! I cringed. And looked around. Luckily, the only people around were the pot-bellied men at the ice-cream parlour, an old beggar (also taking a nap) and a few stray dogs. I quickly gathered myself, and walked the cycle all the way back home.
My cycling-prowess was put to the final test at Ooty. It was the evening of the ‘lake visit’. My enthusiastic college-buddies (well, “over-enthusiastic-pattani’s (pea-pods)” as they were called) wanted to cycle around the lake. I certainly didn’t want to risk falling into the lake, especially in front of my peers. I couldn’t confess that I couldn’t ride either! So I walked along with the rest of the gang the ‘Cycle-Hire, Only Rs.10 per hour’ stand. There was a host of pretty ladies’ cycles (the ones with the pretty baskets and all), and a few sturdy gents’ cycles. My friends bagged the best of the cycles. I was given the one that looked most plain, and completely unattractive. I was disappointed, but was far too timid to speak out.
We ambled towards the lake. The girls were beginning to speed away on their cycles. I pretended to savour the idyllic lake and whiff of hot chocolate peanuts from the stalls nearby. Suddenly I realised I was the only one left behind. Even my best buddy was a little ahead of me. It was time – for action! No more excuses. With trembling knees, I got on the cycle, and placed my right foot on the pedal. I adjusted my dupatta and tested the horn and the breaks. I lifted my left foot off the ground, but before I could place it on the pedal, the very unfeminine cycle tilted, almost causing me a ligament tear in my ankle! The friend stopped in obvious concern. ‘Some problem with this cycle!’, I shouted. Just as I was to repeat the process, a classmate hurried towards me. I stopped, out of exemplary concern and courtesy for the girl I’d always hated! ‘Hey, my cycle has broken down, do you mind lending me yours? I’ll pay for it!’, she pleaded. She didn’t quite expect me to yield, as my gang of friends (and I) seemed so keen on this little cycling adventure, and mine was the last available cycle!
I was so disappointed, yet most graciously condescended and handed over my ugly, yet sturdy cycle to this saviour. And walked towards the roasted-peanuts stall.
I think dad really enjoyed the packets of peanuts and home-made chocolates I brought back for him.