This post is for you Kirti as promised.
I was all of a very young 29 when my Lord and Master decided to teach me to ride a bicycle. I don’t remember how exactly this came about, what turn of which conversation led to this enthusiastic decision on his part. I was all for it, feeling excitement and apprehension in equal proportions. The excitement perhaps is easily understandable under the circumstances but the apprehension had a more obscure origin. I had till then not even ridden a tricycle. So did I at 29, have the necessary whatever to master the art of riding a bicycle?? Only time could reveal.
Equipped with a borrowed bicycle (a new one would be useless if I did not make the grade, so it was essential that my capability be ascertained first) from a neighborhood schoolgirl (which bicycle by the way did not have proper brakes), the L & M, the four year old senior son and yours truly set out to the nearby deserted playground. I am not sure whether the L & M expected the traditional gurudakshina (gift to the teacher) of betel leaves and areca nuts with a crisp high denomination note being handed over to him with folded hands and bowed head, not to mention the mandatory bending low to touch his feet as my guru. But since I’d have to ask the guru himself to get the necessary items and the high denomination note, I skipped that part of our ancient gurukul system and went directly to learning my lessons.
The Lord and Master held the cycle firmly while he asked me to seat myself. I did accordingly with much trepidation. Fear of falling, yeah, that was my problem. But I did not have to worry, what with a six-footer of a L & M all ready to promptly catch hold of me in case I decided to. Besides, I was still a featherweight back in those good old days, sigh… weighing a measly 40 kilograms or so and steadying me while riding a bicycle was child’s play for the L & M used to going for 40 kilometer walks carrying roughly the same weight in his backpack.
It helped that there were no gawk-ers or gape-rs around to make me nervous, other than a friendly black and brown dog which quite enthusiastically ran along with the L & M as he ran beside me while I cycled. He, the friendly dog, faithfully met us daily at the playground and loathe to part from this family that seemed to delight in his company, followed us home too. But our attempts at turning him into ‘our’ dog and making him a resident member met with howls of protest that we had to let him be the free wild one he was and love us on his own terms. But I digress.
Being a …ahem… quick learner, I was soon riding on the roads of Secunderaband cantonment area with the L & M and the son accompanying me on another cycle. After all I had to get used to navigating the roads and he was there to keep an eye that I learnt the ropes. The place was relatively free of traffic those days (1988) with just an occasional bus or car plying the roads. One evening while cruising along on one such road, I lost my balance and fell by the wayside in a heap. The deceptively quiet senior son, the future geek-in-the-making, turned to his Dad and stated very matter-of-factly,
“Acha (Dad) we should have brought the camera along to take Amma’s picture…”
Talk about being amazed. I surely was, hearing his cheeky observation. While the L & M was busy laughing his head off I managed to gather myself, my wits, my undamaged bicycle not to mention the slightly damaged dignity and we were soon on our way. Anyways, stumbling stones they say are mere stepping stones to success. Since there weren’t any stones involved here, it was merely stumbling followed by success.
I got a bicycle of my own (Yippeee!), with proper brakes for a change. I happily cycled to wherever I wanted to go. Deep down I always had a fear about my ability to balance and so tended to avoid the junction (I strictly forbid you to laugh) where the traffic policeman stood directing traffic. His raised hand might signal ‘stop’ at the time I reached the junction and that just wouldn’t do. An unscheduled stop and start was something I was not going to willingly face. To avoid that, I skillfully took detours and only used lesser traveled roads. This way I didn’t have to stop midway. If at all the necessity arose, the practically deserted roads meant I would not be stared at (Isn’t ‘Staring’ our National Pastime’ though it hasn’t yet been officially recognized as such??!) and made to feel nervous making the wheels go all wobbly. I became the butt of jokes for precisely this reason and to this day what the L & M persists in saying is that I had actually been scared stiff of the traffic policeman. Ha, me and scared?? Hmmm …. perhaps…. ummm… ahhh…. errrr….of the creepy crawlies, but of traffic policemen?? Not a chance. You see, I always play by the rules.
In about a year’s time when I moved back to my hometown, I had to bid farewell to my first (and last) bicycle. The junior son, the future animator-in-the-making had decided to make his appearance and cycling was decreed a big no-no for his Mom. He came, saw and tiny that he was, tried to topple me and take over the household. But I stood my ground and put him in his place. I was the Queen and he was only the newbie of an entrant to my kingdom. Shortly with two scores (successful indoctrination of children 1 and 2) to nil (Failure of children to undermine authority of and take over control from Mom) I justly earned the epithet of Hitler Mom. You thought titles such as these came by easily?? Oh no siree, they are hard-earned. But, I digress again. So what’s new?!
When the junior son was into his terrible twos, the L & M got me my first motorized two-wheeler, the Luna. It was back to the playground for practice sessions with the L & M running along as before. The junior son insisted (that taking-over instinct of his had only been blunted and reared its head at frequent intervals well into the future) on standing in front even during my practice runs. One day History as it is wont to do, repeated itself. I lost my balance and the Luna and I fell in a heap by the wayside when navigating the road just off the playground. The junior son was outraged at what he probably presumed were unfair warfare methods on my part and vociferously made his displeasure known.
Very soon (ahem… quick learner, that’s me!) I was out riding on the thoroughfares with the L & M accompanying me on his Bajaj scooter. From there to riding on my own was but a small step. No more waiting for auto-rickshaws or boarding the city bus. I now had wheels of my own (Yippeeee again). Within months, the children and I set out to join the L & M at Siliguri (No, not on the Luna but using the more conventional form of transportation called trains). As luck would have it, while there, I developed a pain in my shoulders from a fall I had and had to reluctantly give up riding the Luna. It was goodbye time again….
To be continued…..
Updated to add:
Continued here: “……to cycling”