I placed my foot on the pedal and pushed it. The bicycle moved forward. My eight-year-old son cheered as he watched me cycle, chasing me around our complex on his own bicycle.
It was the first time the mother-son duo was cycling together. It was indeed the first time he was watching his mother cycle, excitement writ large upon his proud face. COVID-19 was making me do things I had been missing for long.
I couldn’t contain my excitement either, I was riding a cycle after about two decades or so! The cool sea breeze of a December evening in Mumbai doubled the joy of cycling. In my excitement, I almost crashed into a stationary bicycle, followed by a large flower pot and then a cement wall.
As my bicycle (borrowed from my teenage daughter) moved forward, with my son chasing me, my thoughts travelled back three-and-a-half decades.
It was a large-sized shiny blue Avon bicycle with a blue seat and matching blue handle covers. It had travelled over a hundred kilometres in a truck to reach my older sister and me. It was a gift to us sisters from our late maternal grandfather, whom we lovingly called ‘Baji’.
We lived in a small hill town called Jyotipuram in Reasi district of Jammu & Kashmir, over a hundred kilometers from Jammu where Baji lived. In that hill town, whose market had a total of about fifteen shops, there was no shop from where you could buy a bicycle.
I must have been eight or nine when Baji bought a cycle in Jammu and sent it a hundred kilometers uphill, in a truck, to us. When we saw our brand-new bicycle — a blue Avon cycle — our happiness knew no bounds. Back then, many kids did not have bicycles, it was almost a prestige symbol.
We got a cycle, which was indeed an achievement. But there was a big problem! We did not know how to ride it.
Near our house, there was a large Ramlila Ground where every October or November we kids used to spread dharis on the dusty ground and watch Uncles enact the Ramlila dressed up as Sita, Ram, Laxman, Ravan, Hanuman and his vaanar sena.
My sister and I started taking the blue bicycle to the Ramlila Ground every day in the hope of learning to ride it. It was decided that we would hold the bicycle turn wise from the back while the other person tried to ride it. I don’t clearly remember how many days it took but soon we were cycling on our own.
Who can forget those evenings when it was the cycling season in the hill town. All the kids who had bicycles would bring them to a pre-decided road (we had no traffic in our hill town) and there were cycling races. It was common to share our bicycle with other friends who didn’t have one.
“Nidhi, wait. Nidhi, slow down!” I could hear my childhood friends scream as I pedaled fast.
“Mamma, watch out! There is a flower pot!” my son screamed and as I pressed my left hand to apply the brake, I was abruptly transported over two thousand kilometers from Jyotipuram to Mumbai.
For the next fifteen or twenty minutes I cycled with a smile on my face. I thought about Baji and wished I could meet him. Some thirty-five years ago when he gifted that bicycle and I learnt to cycle, how was I to know one day as I cycle, I will have my son chase me on his own bicycle.
Is this the cycle of life?
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