t was back in the year of 2001… I was a budding teenager eager to shred the tag of “child” and befriend the tag of “grown up”. I was unsure though. I knew I wanted to be independent. But, I did not know how. I wanted to take my own decisions. But, the need to take nerve racking decisions never arose. The hardest choices to be made were either associated with the new dress to be purchased or the food item to be ordered from our rare outing to the restaurant.
Life was simple… I used to walk to school. I was forbidden from tuitions by my parents. After all, my ammaji was a teacher herself. So, the need to walk to the tuition classes never erupted. Those days, I used to be rather spiritual. As an outcome, temple visit both in the morning and evening was a must. Without any complaints I used to walk… Pray… meet friends on the way… Gossip… Giggle and flee back.
Life was so simple…
Until, my desire to ride a bicycle hit the roof. The gravity of desire was such that I convinced my parents to buy me one. My parents were hesitant. They were genuinely concerned about my safety on road.
As a fresh teenager, I wanted to fly like a bird. I wanted to enjoy the air of freedom, I wanted to breathe independence.
Finally, my parents gave in and they offered to get me one! I cried out of happiness. We went to the cycle dealer. I was clear about my choice. One of the earliest difficult choices I have made in my life. I wanted a BSA Ladybird cycle in grape/brown color. A dozen were standing in unison. But, in no time I knew who among them would be mine.
I remember how beautifully she was gleaming. I also remember how possessive I was about her. I would not share her with anyone. Every day I would clean her and ensured that she never lose her sheen. I used to make sure that she was parked under the shade… That she was well protected from the sun and rain. I was obsessed about her. I used to take her wherever I went. A puncture would puncture my heart. I used to feel worried and would scurry to my nearest shopwallah to repair her. I used to take care of her as if she was my baby… I was so close to her as if she was my best friend… I used to love her so much as if she was my mother…
She was everything… My World… My identity…. I was proud while admitting my dependence on her.
Yes, she was madly in love with me too. She has also gifted me with a few wounds and patches. And, the feeling being mutual, I have also awarded her with a few marks and scratches. Yet, we were not complaining. I didn’t complain when my lovely dupatta got tangled in her wheel and was torn apart, I did not whine when I fell in a ditch and smelt like a crap. I did not complain at all. I was happy with her.
Until, I started feeling like riding cycle is too juvenile. I could not reach to various places on time. Riding a cycle seemed cumbersome. I started feeling like it drains out all my energy. So I went to my parents and said I need a two-wheeler. After all, I was 18 years old!! They smiled and without any hesitation, they bought me one.
Since then, my affair with my Pep+ started. Gradually, my friendship with my darling cycle started fading. I started feeling closer to my pep+.
Now it is half a dozen years since I left my cycle for pep. She still stands in one corner of my home, leaning fragile onto the windows. At times, I would feel like she is holding out her handle bars expecting me to hold them. She would stand there dressed up in dirt, looking pathetic. Many asked if I am ready to sell her. But, I could not convince myself to do that. She is my first love. I can never stay away from her.
Two weeks before, I rolled up my sleeves and dusted her. I held her handle bar and carefully took her on road. She was weak and tiered. But, she never complained. She smiled faintly. I took her to the nearest shopwallah and asked him to massage her… Overhaul her. He said he would need a couple of days time. I offered to collect a week later. I noticed that the shopwallah looked older. There wrinkles around his eyes and he walked clumsily.
I realized that life had changed a lot. I was a first year college student when I abandoned my lady love - my lady bird. Now, I am a qualified Chartered Accountant. Life has changed stupendously. Many people have come and many have gone. Some wounds have faded in efflux of time and a few fresh ones have emerged. I am not a teenager anymore who used to live in dreams. Now many of my dreams have come true and I am working relentlessly to weave more dreams.
As already agreed, last week, I walked to the shopwalla. I saw my lady love there. I felt as if I am rejoining with a lost friend. She smiled at me. This time she looked much better. She looked glossy. There was a tiny crack on the basket. Yet, she looked stunning and young. I could not believe that she was almost a dozen years old.
Then, I started riding her. Initially, I felt terrified. Cycle bell was on right in contrast to the Pep+ horn on left. That seemed odd. But, the uneasiness lasted only for a few seconds. In no time, I mingled with her. The camaraderie that we used to share earlier returned. The years of silence and gap seemed meaningless. I was all smiles and I felt nostalgic.
Nostalgia... That brought a sequence of countless memories. And I felt as if I was transported back to my childhood. Such was the intensity of the phantasmagoria.
I remembered that sunny morning when I rode my cycle to an internet café and checked my 10th Board exam results. I remembered how profusely I sweat; partly because of the awaiting results and partly due to the merciless Sun. On looking back, it seemed like a moment before.
I remembered those days when I used to ride her to that library. I remembered that my affair with books started in a flicker. Boom…!!! We started romancing.
I remembered how I used to share my exam fears with her and how she used to ensure that I reach the exam center on time.
I remember taking her to my college for application. I remember how lanky she stood amidst of innumerous bikes and scooterette. I remember how tiny she seemed in the crowd.
And… I was still riding her; along those familiar roads and amidst of a bunch of recognizable people. There was a glint in my eyes and a childish grin on my face. I was feeling elated. I vowed within that I will take her out every weekend.
Life may change. But, love and habits will be the same. She is a part of me. She is one of the factors who contributed to what I am today. She was the one who fed me with the air of independence.
Yes… She is the Ladybird who let this ‘lady’ fly like a ‘bird’.
I can’t afford to miss her. I can’t afford to feel old at heart. I always wish to be that old budding teenager at heart. I really wish to dream unrealistically and still hope that all those dreams would come true. I wish to be carefree. I want to be that innocent child who was uncorrupted; who was untouched by particles that would render the soul impure. I may be of any age by the count of years. But, I just wish to be that tender tot who thought life is simple… Easy… and FUN!!!