October 2007
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Memories of my bicycles


Memories of my bicycles


I wish I could show that picture here: We are on our small two-sitter bicycle. I am on the driver’s seat, wearing that blue dress of mine, and on the back seat my sister is sitting. She has worn her frock with pink flower printed on it and is biting an apple. I think you could see that she had taken a bath sometime back – that is why she looked nice. I had been driving the bicycle for some time, in fact that bicycle was hers, and then someone came with a camera and shot that picture to make a history…


That scene was around ’83 or ’84 and that was our first bicycle. We used it to its fullest capacity, and that was the only way to feel equal with father’s motorcycle. Another fine memory is when my cousin came driving that bicycle to my school to pick me up! I was so happy that he took trouble for me. That was when I was around 6 and he was 5. Then my classmates asked me why I didn’t come to the school everyday on that bicycle… Such a proud owner of that bicycle I was. And that was the time when I learnt the different words like cycle, bicycle and circle.


When my younger sister came into the world, and grew enough to claim driving abilities, we got that bicycle repaired. Its foam seats were replaced and it was running again for some time. But now we had grown bigger and so it couldn’t bear its old owners’ weights. Then sometime somewhere, it vanished. We couldn’t have sold that loving bicycle as scrap. I think someone took it. Better to believe that it vanished….


And then our second bicycle. It was from the Hero’s initial series of bicycles for smart kids. Its seat could be raised to change its height. As we grew, the seat reached its maximum elevation, and stayed there. Initially, it came with its two support-wheels attached, that made the ride safe, but killed the fun. At that time, we didn’t know riding a bicycle. During that summer vacation, we worked hard on it. Many of our friends knew how to ride; we were under tremendous pressure to learn that quickly.


First we removed one supporting wheel. Then one fine Sunday morning, we found ourselves in the coaching of our father. He removed both support wheels, and asked us to ride. He told us that we couldn’t learn without falling. So falling became a fun. I and my elder sister drove that alternately. We started well, then lost balance, and then fell on the wild plants. The same process repeated again and again. At last, she could ride it without falling. Day one was successful. After that day, we never fixed the support wheels again, and within some days, we were comfortable riding it. We used to carry one more person as pinion rider also.


By that time, our younger sis had turned into more than a mute doll. And we had her with us more often. One morning, a mishap happened. My elder sister was taking the bicycle for filling air in the tyres. She had our younger sister with her, walking. She first crossed the road and made the bicycle stand on its support. And then she came to the other side to take the younger sis. By that time, a tractor passed on the road. Don’t know how, but the bicycle fell down on the road, and the tractor passed over its back-support. The back-support of the bicycle got crushed and even the seat got deformed. My elder sis came back home weeping. But I was happy: first because it had not happened with me, and second because my dare-devil sis was weeping and was proven weak that day. The next day, our doodh-wallah got the bicycle repaired; now it sported golden welding over white steel rods.


This bicycle remained with us for a long time. When our younger sister got old enough, she also enjoyed riding it for a long time, until she went to her hostel. And after that, our lovely red bicycle has been kept idle. Someone in our neighbour offered to buy, but our father didn’t part with it.


And then, my, only my, bicycle. That was a red Hero-Hansa; very light one with thin tyres. I wanted to buy a Hero-Ranger, as all my friends in the school owned and looked very strong riding that wide-tyre Harley Davison for our age. But my father got me the opposite. I am happy to blame him, because when we went to the store, and he asked me what kind of bicycle I wanted, the same sentence came out from me that used to come in similar situations – “anyone”, equivalent to saying “as you wish…” So I came back home with that lean and rickety bicycle I didn’t like. I remember before that bicycle was packed off, I had told my father that I wanted the Ranger – but he didn’t accept.


With that bicycle of mine, I was the fastest on the roads, always. Maybe because that was designed for races, with its light body and narrow tyres. But I didn’t like it. Once an uncle asked me what bicycle did I own? When I replied, he said: “Oh that one which goes for a flight once a stone comes under its tyres?” I said: “No, the one which runs fastest”. But I knew I was not happy. 


This one remained with me for a long time to come. I spent countless moments studying the air-pump and the art and science of bicycle repairs. And I spent countless mornings being the fastest on the road. There is a funny story. The bicycle repairing-shop wallah asked me to put coconut oil in the chain, he said it works best. When I reached home, ‘coconut oil’ had become ‘mustard oil’ in my memory. And I kept applying that for several months, until the bearings got choked with the thick deposits with the mustard oil. When I went to him again, he laughed at me for what did with the bearings.


Our railway station was a small one then. And young men and some not-so-young ones also, crossed it with bicycles in their hands, instead of taking the longer road to reach the other side. I did that quite often: many times, even when a train was approaching. Once a train was coming, and I crossed the lines raising the bicycle in my hand. One neighbour aunt saw me and complained to my mom. I heard the words ‘safety’, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ for the first time beyond the text-books. I was more cautious after that, for some days…


When I went to engineering, my red bicycle waited for me at home. I used it during vacations. At my hostel, I used my friend’s bicycle – that with wider tyres. Then I joined for my first job. Now I didn’t feel like riding the small bicycle whenever I used to come home. By the time I was already riding a motor-bike. I lobbied with my father to sell my bicycle off. One vacation, I came to know that papa had given that bicycle to our old time mason. A not-so-happy farewell to a loyal friend…


Three bicycles and three different lifecycles…