I was in the third standard, and selections for the Annual Sports and Cultural Meet were going on. There were rumours that there were going to be brand new cycles for a cycle drill. The bikes were BSA Mongoose, sleek and quick. Practice meant riding the cycle for hours a day. It was great fun. Not for me, of course.
I was in a stupid drill called ‘Horse and Stars’, because I didn’t know how to cycle. This innovative drill involved running around in formations with a stick-horse in between my legs, and huge, golden stars pasted on each of my palms. It was humiliating to say the least.
I finally learnt to ride a bicycle pretty late – around my 5th standard. It was a maroon BSA Ladybird that belonged to my sister. Though the cycle must have weighed a total of 15 kilos, it was everything for me. I first learnt to ride it ‘half-pedal’, and then ‘full-pedal’, and then while sitting on the seat. I still remember the feeling when I was convinced I could ride it. The ecstatic feeling of balancing on your own wheels.
Soon, it became a mad obsession. I would do the rounds of the colony, on my BSA Ladybird, in an imaginary world of my own. Sometimes I was Agniputra Abhay with the magical bike, other times I was a hero being chased by goons, and on some romantic evenings, I’d imagine I was carrying a senior from school on the carriage behind – I would ride slowly then. My first accident with a cycle happened soon after.
It was in the afternoon, and I was on the road near a chaurasta. I was imagining that it was the last ball of a cricket match, and Ajay Jadeja and Robin Singh are in the crease, and they have to steal a quick single. So lost was I in the imaginary match, that I failed to see the vehicles in front of me. Not one, but two of them. So I ended up bending the rims of both the wheels, one by a scooter, and another by a bike.
Now, Ladybirds are no Royal Enfields. They are just Domestic Dandies. Both the rims having bent in the nail-biting finish to the match, I had to part-drag, part-carry the cycle back home. I was welcomed with the choicest abuses, and Ladybird was caged in the house. That was probably the last time I rode that cycle.I had never had a bicycle since.
Now the thing is that the University of Hyderabad’s campus is one fucking huge campus. When I first joined it, I made decisions to jog to the college in the mornings, and jog back after classes. All good, except that the distance is seven bloody kilometers. Aptly titled J&K hostels, they are in the other end of the campus. If you do not have a bike, you have to have a bicycle. Or make sad faces and wait for lifts, hoping someone will drop you somewhere on the way.
Keeping these factors in mind, I decided to buy a bicycle. I went to this shop, suspiciously named ‘Peddlars’ Point’, and asked him for bicycles. He showed me a few. From the Postman wala Atlas to the modern snazzy ones. I finally boiled down on one. It was a cool silver Hercules Ultima DX 6 gear bicycle. I remember riding back to the room, with the same feeling of ecstacy that came with the ladybird. On the way back, I remember re-committing myself towards a fitter life, and that this was a beginning for new things to come.
They say, you can take the horse to the river, but you can’t make it drink water. Similarly, you can buy yourself a bicycle, but you cannot stop being a lazy bastard. So I would wake up, realise there were 15 minutes left for class, and rush to Vamshi’s room below, and go on his scooter.
I did use the cycle once in a while, like the time when KSS came over one evening. There was a film screening at the auditorium and we planned to go there. We had also planned to have some rum, and passed out with flying colours. Also, the film was ‘Poison’, and so there were, the two of us. Drunk and horny, and riding on a bicycle to the auditorium.
You would have seen gruesome bike accidents on AXN or youtube, ours was the lamest accident ever. Just two drunk guys, riding, and toppling over. While we got up, and dusted and laughed about it, my cycle was hardly amused. The handlebar turned upside down, the bell stopped ringing, and random loose screws resulted in me making a chhang-chhang sound wherever I went.
There is something about us human beings, imperfections make our hearts grow fonder. I repaired my cycle, and started spending more time with it. I took it to college, to the Sports Complex, and for other chores. One day, I left it near the small gate, properly locked, about thirty feet from the security post. The next morning, my cycle was missing.
I was sad that I had not used it enough. That I had not been a good owner to the cycle, and that I had expected even an iota of alertness and brains in the security guards. I looked for it for days, in secret couple hangouts, dumpyards, and obscure parking spots, but I never found it.
As a final desperate gesture, I put up the following poster at different spots around the university.
I got some appreciation, some criticism, and an SMS telling me that the University was not my father’s, to use the f word. But I didn’t get my cycle.
So, dear cycle. If you haven’t been dismantled and sold in parts at the Chor Bazaar in Dhoolpet already, I hope you are good.
I hope your new owner is treating you well. And I hope you are spicing up his life too, with the little surprises you used to spring on me.
Like making a quick turn in front of a hot chick, and suddenly realising the brake is not working. Or pedalling vigorously uphill, only to have the chain snap.
Hope you’re giving him the real pleasure of riding a cycle.