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