Saturday, January 31, 2009

No space for my red cruiser

I remember a time when sighting a car in my locality was rare. People depended largely on bicycles, cycle rickshaws and their own two feet to get around, and an occasional scooter thrown in. Houses were scattered far apart and you could see green fields and the skyline till as far as the eye took you. Herds of sheep, goats, horses, donkeys and buffaloes made daily rounds with their human keepers lending the whole scene a very pastoral feel. Sunsets were blazing and vivid and when the sun rose in the mornings, nothing escaped the loving rays. All was tranquil and I fondly remember many a hot mustard oil body massages out in the sun, better than any damn beach in Florida!

Then everyone tom, dick and harry decided to have three or four children each and little by little, slowly slowly, spaces began to diminish. Tall buildings, cars, honking, shouting, smoke - the whole package that is usually delivered to your doorstep once the purchase of development is complete. Today, I cannot recognise my colony. It used to be sprawled across a large area of industrially empty, green land - simple, happy, content and harmonious. Now every family needs a car or atleast two or three cars, everyone has kids, and everyone who got kicked out of Delhi came running here where land was cheaper. Unfortunately, too many came running to set up home here.

They've made a garbage dump of this place. Roads have narrowed since everyone holds claim to even a few inches off the roads. There is a car/bus/motorcycle every minute leaving behind smoke and shattered ear drums.

And why this sudden outbreak from me? Well, I have been thinking about this for a long time. The drastic transformation is confounding, but I was compelled to express because of the new man in my life - my red bicycle (which still needs christening).

I learnt in two days, after much loss of confidence and bruises that are still healing. Face it, I'm going to be 25 this year and here I am, struggling to learn an art that most normal kids master while they're toying with their GI Jos and Barbies (replaced in this generation by TV, you tube and video games). I conquered. Now I can ride without falling off or going into panic everytime I see a vehicle crawling towards me.

But where do I ride. With maniacs behind the wheels of 'harmful vehicles', a bicycle may as well be suicidal. Everytime I take out my bike to ride, I pray that I return home alive and undented. While I ride, I have five thousand vehicles going back and forth, passing me at distances from an inch to five inches. A slight loss of balance from either party and I'm a gonner. Some drivers are total jerks! They make the brush as close as possible to have their daily dose of sadistic fun (may they rot in hell!). A few are decent fellars, keeping their distances and letting me breathe.

What happened to all the spacious roads???? Will our country ever be able to contain its ridiculously inflating population to secure us bikers a safe bicycle lane? I might be fifty by the time they can. To escape the dirty traffic, I cleverly go out to ride on lazy Saturday and Sunday afternoons when the demons are asleep. It is then that I truly enjoy my ride, fresh cool air, the lovely winter sun, hardly anybody around and silence. How much I have waited for moments like these.

What worries me is - how much time left before bicycles are completely thrown off the road? Will there come a time when its insanely, certainly and obviously suicidal to make delicate tyres touch tar? Will bicycles be redundant one day, discarded as childish fancy and unnecessary since neither can it speed you to your destination nor is it socially enviable?

Today, children, electricians, plumbers, gardeners and factory workers are probably the only ones who venture out on these two-wheel drives run absolutely on human energy. Pathetic!


Anna said...

I love this, you had me hooked till the end.Beautifully and very aptly described. And yeahh I love your red bicycle :) Reminds me of my red cycle I used to ride when I was in school. I love riding and want to do it again. Was contemplating buying a cycle and then thought what people might say when they see me merrily cycling around the colony, because as you know there's barely space left on our potholed streets!! But I'll do it, buy a cycle, ride it and not care two hoots at anyone who stares too long and too hard. So cycle away and have funnn :)

Ragini said...

Hey Anna! I hope you buy yourself a bicycle. I wish everyone could buy one and ride to the market or to school or college or wherever possible. This would certainly give out a message to our government and persuade them into making bicycle lanes. I've started noticing a huge number of people going to work on bicycles, simply because they cannot afford any other means of transport. I wish to see a world where parents buy their kids bicycles who use them forever and not exchange them for "cooler", fuel-guzzling cars!

clueless comrades said...

Well.. try walking.

At the current rate u wont be able to do tht either by the time ure 40. :)

Ragini said...

Walking, even now is quite a feat.

Aarti Uppal Singla said...

You brought back memories of my good old bike which I used in Chandigarh. I even sold off my dad's scooter as didn't want to give up cycling. Sadly I moved to Delhi and everything changed. Wish roads were safer for cyclists and I'd use one again.

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Suniti said...

Loved reading this! Reminded me of my first 'serious' bicycle- a chocolate brown Hero Ranger, that was a birthday present from my parents when I turned 11. It was a steel bike and probably weighed half a ton, but I rode it everywhere, even into the mountains! I ride ultra-light alloy bicycles today, with precision components but, that bike was really something else. Tough, dependable and my companion on many, many childhood adventures.