Bicycle diaries

My maiden attempt to learn cycling during my mid-teens ended in a complete fiasco.

I wish I had learnt cycling. I curse myself for not having acquired that skill. I feel ashamed of the fact that I am innocent of it.

And now that I’m past my prime, I know that mastering a new skill is a far cry. My uncle was quite enthusiastic about cycling and learned it when he was quite young. But his enthusiasm never rubbed off on me.

There is a reason why I rue myself over it now. The other day, I watched a video clip sent by my daughter, living abroad, which showed my five-year-old granddaughter cycling.

She was doing it very skillfully and with effortless ease, like a veteran. Riding cycle at the age of five may not be a great feat.

Nevertheless, she won my instant admiration. 

Earlier this year, I had seen her tri-cycle. That she had now graduated to bicycling indeed warmed the cockles of my heart. When I told her that I hadn’t learnt that skill, the impish girl made fun of me, laughing aloud.

Not that I didn’t try to learn cycling. I did. When I was in my mid-teens, a feisty friend, who like a true friend, took upon himself the task of teaching me cycling.

He said he would make me a good cyclist in a month. Tall claim of an overconfident friend, I thought. He had learned cycling all by himself, without seeking support from others.

Back then, many people would visit his house to see his father, a village officer. They would bicycle their way, for in those distant days in villages, no other transport was as popular as a bicycle, if you discounted the bullock court.

As the saying, “Make hay while the sun shines” would have it, my friend made good use of the cycles that came his way. His modus operandi was to sit on one and slowly work the pedals of the vehicle, with one hand on the long compound wall for support.

As practice makes one perfect, he soon learned to pedal well.

I sat on the cycle with his help, and gripping the handlebar feverishly with both hands, and pedaled slowly but awkwardly. He was holding the cycle by the seat with firm hands to keep it from falling. Though it wobbled, I did not fall.

Then, there came from the opposite direction a great procession of people, all of them waving party flags and shouting slogans thunderously. It was election time and the entire state of Kerala had become a beehive of political activities.

My friend kept pushing the cycle but I lost its control as the procession was formidable. I panicked and failed to hold the brake.

The cycle zoomed straight along the slightly sloping road and ran into a couple of people in the procession, making them fall. They instantly got up and rushed towards us with raised hands to thrash us.

They were furious and beside themselves. One of them kicked the cycle violently and it fell to the ground, with me on board.

My wounded elbows were awash with blood.

So, while my maiden encounter with politicians was sanguine, my first attempt to learn cycling ended in a fiasco.

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