Saturday, May 7, 2016

Learning to cycle at 24... (Part I)


Back in the late 90s, my parents bought me a flashy orange Hero kids' bicycle to encourage me to take up cycling, like my sister, who was rapidly gaining height wheeling through the narrow lanes of our neighbourhood. But truth be told, I wasn't much inclined towards physical activity as a child; I always saw myself as the creative one, not the active one. (And that didn't change as I grew up - the one game I ended up playing at the national level was Chess.)

It was therefore no surprise when I came up with every excuse not to have to mount that bicycle. But who was I to go against the order of the universe? On a particularly sunny afternoon, the bicycle was taken out into the street. I sat on the rider's seat and placed my feet cautiously on both sides. I remained in that position, fidgeting with the handle grips and the plastic wrap clinging to the metal frame, until I felt a sudden grip on the backseat, and my mother's voice rang in my ears: "Move". Taken aback, I pushed the right pedal in a bid to propel forward. The bicycle didn't budge. I was told to push harder, and I did. The wheels moved this time, and my spirits soared - for less than a second. The little machine simply refused to move in a straight line. It zig-zagged, and my heart leapt into my throat. Paralysed with fear and confusion, I could not steer. And I was on the floor in a heap the next moment, the bicycle sitting triumphantly on top of me.

I didn't give up so soon though. It took many more tries and almost as many falls to bring me to the point where I remember not wanting to sit on that horrible thing ever again.

But if you know your parents well, you will know I wasn't allowed to get away that easily by mine. Supporting wheels were promptly installed to the rear wheel of my bicycle. They told me it will be easier to balance with them... God knows it wasn't. My father tried helping this time. My pro-cyclist of a sister also chipped in. She would take me around for joyrides on her own bigger bicycle to show me how much fun it was to ride a cycle. But I just couldn't do it. The flashy orange Hero cycle was eventually restored to our first floor balcony, where it stood, forlorn, for years to come.

*

Fast forward more than a decade: I'm 24, an engineering graduate, a liberal arts student, and a writer. I've recently been selected for an inspector's job with the Central Excise department in Bombay. The pay is great, the timings suitable for the hobbyist in me, the location perfect, and all that remains is for me to join in a couple of months. Life seems to be shaping up rather well.

And then the letter arrives. 

The first page reads out a happy confirmation of my selection for recruitment. It also makes a passing mention of some medical and fitness tests for which I'll have to turn up in Bombay in a few weeks. I turn the page in anticipation of what is yet to come. My eyes latch on to one word and all of a sudden everything else becomes a blur.

Cycling. 

My eyes go wide with disbelief and then close shut in momentary denial. It takes no time for the irony to dawn on me - I'm going to lose my first job because of the one little skill I decided not to learn as a child. But...but...normal everyday jobs don't just require you to cycle! Whoever heard of such a bizarre thing?

Devastated, I call home and relate the contents of the letter. And all of a sudden my life becomes a joke; everybody is laughing at my predicament. I'd spent the last six months telling myself and everyone else that I was not interested in this job and that I won't be joining at all. And now that I've finally changed my mind and was dreaming of moving to Bombay, I've been whacked square in the face with this fly-swatter of a letter.

Life, and its surprises.

(...to be continued.)

1 comment:

Amul said...

Hehehe.. you can do it, girl! :)
By the way, hi5 for being in the not-knowing-how-to-ride-a-bicyle-club ��