“Watch out!” I shouted as my driver swerved to avoid the cyclist then jumped out of the car and ran to pick up the fallen man.
That’s when I saw his bicycle.
It lay old and rusty. I looked down at it and it seemed nearly a half century was slipping away: I was back as a teenager. My dream, to get myself a set of wheels, “There’s one for forty bucks,” my neighbour told me and I walked with forty hard-earned rupees.
The boy who was selling his bike wasn’t there but his mother was. “Forty-five rupees,” she said sternly to me. “I was told it was forty,” I said bravely fighting the tears of frustration in my 15- year- old eyes. “Go home and get five rupees more,” said the lady, “and come back soon before I sell it to someone else.” “This is all the money I have,” I whispered, “I don’t have any more.” The lady looked at me and reached out to take the four ten rupee notes, “Take it!” was all she said.
It was an old rusty piece of junk, but for me, a dream come true.
“Saab,” said my driver, bringing me back to the present, “Let’s go!” I nodded but my eyes returned to the cycle on the road and my thoughts went back in time:
It was the first day of college. I rode down the road on the same bicycle I had repaired, part by broken part for the occasion. It was a workable bike, all set to take me to my seat of learning. In my eyes a worthy steed!
“Get off the bike, junior,” shouted a Charles Bronson type from the group who blocked my path. I hastily obeyed. I’d been told about the ragging and put my bike on its stand, which tilted dangerously towards the ground. “Stand straight!” he shouted. I stood at attention. “Not you, your junk!” laughed the brawny senior. I tried to hold it straight, but a spring was missing.
“You dare come to college bringing something like this!” shouted the senior, kicking my dream machine onto the ground. “No,” I screamed as I lashed out with skinny arms. “Leave her alone.” It was a badly battered, bedraggled and bruised junior who crept into college that day, rescued they say by a professor on his way to class.
I patted the old leather seat on my way home: “Nobody will touch you as long as I live!”
“Saab,” said my driver tugging at my sleeve, “It’s getting late, I’ve given the man fifty rupees, he’s happy.” I walked to the cyclist who was getting ready to leave and slipped him two hundred more, “For her,” I said and walked back to my car. “Not just for her,” I thought later, “but also for those old ancient cycles that carried thousands of immigrant workers, and their families back home!”
I did not want him to see the tears in my eyes.
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