“through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us. . ."

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Invisible Cyclist

The sudden spurt of pleasure in bicycling a couple of months ago nearly had a premature death, what with my old lower back pain's reappearence. The roads of Trivandrum, esp., around where I live are not the best for biking. They are in a horrible state of repair. Moreover, after 5 minutes in any direction you have an incline, which in my surge of enthusiasm, I tried riding up which in turn strained my poor back again. And living in the heart of a city...

Now that I have to leave for Ladakh on 6th July, I thought I will give whatever preparation I can for my muscles and took up bicycling again.

Have you recently rode a bicycle in your city? At the peak hours? You should, if you haven't. It is as if the cyclist does not exist. He/she is invisible. The cars, buses, motorcycles and autorickshaws cannot see you. Maybe they cannot be blamed, because there are hardly any cyclists in the city streets. I was forced out to the verge of the street into the ditches and potholes  several times; there of course you have to deal with the pedestrians who totter directionless onto your path, talking into mobile phones.

My only weapon is the Klaxon, faintly remembered by the older generation here as that of the call of the fish vendor. I give it a couple of squeezes and it goes – 'PEEEYOOO! PEEEYOO!', jerking the passersby out of their reverie. I am looked upon as a strange creature, this anachronism from the past.

Yet, there is great pleasure in the anonymity. I ride by, like an old man on an evening stroll. My face is frown-free, my lips have a smile, I hum an old song – Ye Apna dil to aawara, na jaane kis pe aayega..'

I see hoardings I have not noticed before, I notice the rear of pretty girls walking by with great appreciation, I appreciate the brilliant red of a brand new VW Polo. I am all humility and pleasance to the rude motorists who curse me for straying into their speeding paths. ( I just now looked up the WordWeb dictionary for 'pleasance' – it says - A fundamental feeling that is hard to define but that people desire to experience). I am in no hurry, ladies and gentlemen, my apologies. I smile at them and see puzzlement in their faces.

In the streets of Chalai Bazaar, (it is a fascinating area), I am submerged by the crowds, swallowed up by the waves of humanity and internal combustion engines. I can see everything, right from the little puddle in front of me to the new shopping mall that has come up. Yet I am totally anonymous and free. The realisation of  being non-existent to the rest of the world is so exciting, so liberating; more so, because the rest of the world is craving mad for recognition.  I guess – if what some people say is true, that the dead aren't gone away, they are around you all the time – I guess this is exactly what the dead would be feeling, the bubbling joy of being unseen but seeing it all.

Perhaps we all ought to go on a retro. Take up bicycling. Chill out. Take your right foot off the accelarator, ease the right palm on the grip of the throttle.
******** Balachandran V, Trivandrum 02-07-2011


  1. Wow! who is that dynamic and handsome young man I see? :-)

    You know in Bangalore, cycling is being promoted by IT folks. Few corporate honchos cycle everyday to work. But as you say cyclists are invisible. A pain in the ass as they say. There are no cycle lanes..The walk path/footpath are being hijacked by 2 wheelers.

    Its scary more than anything, one can get knocked off in a jiffy. I have been thinking to cycle to work; but I am not sure if it would work. Carrying a backpack laden with laptop and other stuffs, it might be difficult.

    But its worth the effort for sure - imagine cycling while singing "Ye Apna dil to aawara, na jaane kis pe aayega.." and then succeeding it with a "tyoon..tyoon..tyoon..tyoon...la..la..la.." :-)

    And you are leaving for Ladakh...(takes a deep breath)..hmm lucky you!

  2. :-D
    How sadistic can you get?

    Yes, like you said, it is scary, but in a city like Bangalore with its flat and straight roads, cycling would have been lovely.
    So, don't cycle to work, but ride it in early mornings and on Sundays / holidays. You see, it is the pace that makes the difference. You know, you slow down yourself deliberately and then there is this deep sense of peace and calm - and pleasance! ( oh, I love this word, pleasance!)

  3. I think I have seen something in a news channel that they have introduced a new system in your city,of renting the bicycles,use,lock and go..Didn't bring any difference ? or nothing happened so far ?

    I think you are more than a youngster esp to ride through Chala Market.But I am sure if any vehicle can go through that area,it should be bicycle..(I could see you pass by sitting here,but the song would be somewhat different..mera jeevan khora kaagaz khora hi..Don't know when ever I ride,I have this one automatically)

    "Yet I am totally anonymous and free. The realisation of being non-existent to the rest of the world is so exciting, so liberating; more so, because the rest of the world is craving mad for recognition..I loved that one".So,in order to have an existence,or the feeling of existence,we have to relate us with something ? With family,friends..okay,that part I am leaving.But being related with the vehicle and then the kind of 'recognition' we try to have or searching for..My God,this is why I love to read anything you write..You always poke me,my brain,my heart,in a reasonable and emotional way..Thanks .

    And the word pleasance..haha..Don't send poisoned arrows here,but lemme tell you something.The word suit best for us,Keralites much..I mean we have this feeling in almost everything..for example,as I scribble this,I am having kind of 'pleasance' !

    Wishing you good time at Ladakh..Do take care.

  4. @Melange: 'Mera jeevan..' is one of my favourites, but has a sorrowful note. 'Yeh apna dil' by Hemant Da is one of my 10 most favorites. It has that sense of carefree, happy, eager-to-be-loved and to- love ring.

    You exist only in relation to others. I remember long ago when I was working in Chidambaram and would come home for holidays. I would be walking from the Bus stand to my house, just 5 minutes away and look at the people passing by. I'd tell myself- 'Even if I were not here, all this would be going on, this boy on a cycle, this girl dresses in Holy Angel's' uniform, this man selling lottery tickets - whether I was there or not would not have made any difference to them. This thought would make me deeply sad and depressed. That the world can easily do without me is a sobering thought...

    Yet, to be there, and be unnoticed but you noticing everything - isn't it such a wonderful thing?

    'Pleasance' is a great feeling, isn't it? I loved the way Wordweb struggled to explain it! :-)

    Thanks for the wishes.

  5. And I thought I was the only one bit by the cycling bug. New ones cost a fortune though, so I've taken to the cycle club. They have a stand just a few metres from your home, incidentally. May be we could do this other ride too together some day :-). Luck for Ladakh.

  6. @Gopu; Long time since I heard from you. no, my bike is not new; it was bought for K when he crossed 10th std. Hardly used and rusted.
    Check out a poem I had written'Bicycling by'.

  7. Aww, I meant it I swear :)

    Yes Balan, there is a group which cycles along Malnad and the Western ghats on weekends. I am thinking of joining them. Soon!!

    I need to visit decathlon and get a decent bike first :)

  8. Enjoy the rides and keep a glass of milk with a dash of haldi(turmeric) near. remember something ? heeee.
    Wish You A Happy Trip .

  9. Many of us do not keep to a regimen, do we? So the cycling too met is terminal state.

    It is, yes,must be wonderful to be unseen and nonexistent in the melee around. Loner in the crowd - no better be not noticed in the crowd.
    To move about in spirit as "Spirits" does.
    Dey have a good time up in the mountains. Hope you got all those updates on flight rescheduling.

  10. @kavita: Turmeric with Milk? What for? Pl enlighten me!

    @Anil: yep, Hope I will have a good time...

  11. Balan, I too bought a bicycle some five months back and cycled to office 10 km away and around the city for two days to cover events including one at the five star Taj Residency hotel leaving the cycle to the security people at the gate and going in drenched in sweat amidst coated suited high profile people and everyone who saw the exercise was encouraging saying this was how we should conserve energy though I know they thought me slightly off my rocker. I abandoned the idea after two days because cycling so much on work is too much at this age, besides being dangerous in a city like TVM, espoecially in the night when one cycles back home after one's customary couple at the Press Club. One is flat by the time one reaches home.

  12. Cycling is a pleasure elsewherein the world,but it is a pain in Trivandrum.The traffic,the crowd,the dust and pollution that makes you blind,the roads and the terrain..where do you do your cycling,Balan?

  13. @Venu: THAT is a bit too much, yes! But running little errands, cycling for pleasure - that could be done.

    @Doc: Oh, it isn't that bad, Doc. One can always have a leisurely ride in the mornings, especially towards the beach side, since the roads are comparatively flat and straight. In all the other directions, there are too many exhausting gradients.

  14. Balan sir
    You are going to Ladakh this year too in bullet !! Hats off to you sir.

    And your writing as always is inspiring !! I am also thinking of cycling to office atleast 2 days a week.


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