Biking is fun


Even today, I fondly recollect the memories of learning how to bike.

Growing up in India, one had to learn only on adult sized bikes. Youth sized bikes did not exist. I commandeered my grandfather’s bike and learnt what we used to call kurangu (monkey) style. You would pedal with your feet inside the triangular frame and reach out with your hands to the handle bar. Very risky but exciting as well. I have tons of scrapes, the scars which carry to this day.

My grandfather would bike from his home to ours everyday (about a 20 minute ride). He would bring guava for us and some fresh vegetables to his daughter that he got in the market. After testing the guava for it’s ripeness, I would take his bike for a pedal around the neighborhood. After a while, he started locking his bike because he got tired of seeing scratches and slightly bent handlebars. However, I would keep prevailing.

It was a sunny morning as I started pedaling around the neighborhood. Turned the first left corner and I felt very good. After the second left, it was a straight road for 4–5 blocks. The 3rd left was executed smoothly. My friend Balaji waved at me and said I was doing great. It was hard to get compliments from friends those days. After the 4th left, I entered risky territory. Roosters scurried across the road. The hut dwellers across the street had no sense of boundaries and put their cots, grains and chairs in the middle. Those were navigated successfully. Just a few more minutes to go.

Every home has a family priest. Ours was a very nice man named Krishna Iyengar. He was responsive to my father’s personality and didn’t bother him too much with a strict following of ritual observances. I have seen him countless times after finishing his morning tasks enjoying the outdoors while relaxing in his easy chair in his front porch. He seemed very content despite the hubub of the street activity.

On that sunny morning, Krishna Iyengar relaxed contentedly in his easy chair fanning his big frame. It was hard to not notice him even from a distance.

In life, some things happen in a flash. Some things happen in slow motion before it actually happens.

It was an errant stone. As I looked down to avoid it, my focus wavered. My outstretched arms could not hold the handlebar steady. My legs felt like stone. I entered the crash zone.

The easy chair tumbled over. I was on top of Krishna Iyengar. He slid to the floor. His fan got caught in my slowly turning wheel and made a ‘patpat’ noise. I apologized profusely. “Mannichikanum Adiyen” and I tried to help him up. After a few tries, I gave up. He got up slowly by himself. I was glad he was not hurt.

Should I bike the remaining 2 blocks or just push the bike back home? After a few tentative glances at onlookers, I threw caution to the winds and started pedaling again.

No word to my grandfather. Didn’t look him in the eye as I ran inside to get ready for school.

A few days later, Krishna Iyengar came home. He reported the incident to my parents while I darted sneakily in and out of the room. He said I needed to be more careful.

Biking was off limits for a few weeks. Those weeks were downright miserable. As a kid, it’s your responsibility to get back into good graces. I did that well.

I did not see Krishna Iyengar ever relaxing outside his home ever again. The easy chair had moved inside forever.