Archive for the ‘Iskool days’ Category

A boy’s best friend

A dog may well be a man’s best friend, but before he became a man, the boy had a friend who was just as close, if not more – his bicycle. Yes, the bicycle is undoubtedly a boy’s best friend and faithful companion.

I myself was thoroughly addicted to my cycle(s) and now long to get a new one. Owning a cycle is quite unlike owning a bike, car or any other fancy automobile. I am almost 22 and have owned a couple of cycles, a scooter and have driven my dad’s cars without a valid license (both from him and from the state). I can say without the slightest hesitation that my cycle days were the best.

My first cycle was red in color, had three wheels and was, for the most part, made in plastic. I must have been 3-4 years old when I rode that. I confess I don’t remember having a lot of fun memories on it, but to be fair, I couldn’t have expected to have any, under my mom’s watchful eyes. I was never meant to have fun on a tricycle. I was put on one to keep me occupied, to make me go around in circles till I got tired and ate – or better still, got disoriented and slept off. No, tricycles don’t count. Boys want the real thing, they want the two-wheeled beasts. We want bicycles.

I believe that the cycle days are when boys have their first tryst with sexism. Boys are very touchy when it comes to the cycles and their relationship with their cycle is a sacred one, albeit, macho. For us, its about the speed, about the adrenaline rush and the falling down. For girls (from what I’ve seen) its an achievement, a credential. They learn to ride a cycle and they go tell their friends about it and get admiring, appreciative nods. It goes on their resume. So they have to be careful while learning to ride a cycle. They have side wheels – yes, the 2 words that make a boy cringe. The two words that question a boy’s masculinity.

My first bicycle was a BSA Champ and I shared it with my cousin Sharanya. Yeah, you guessed right – incessant fighting, bruises to limbs and egos, gender abuses. I hated the side-wheels on the cycle. The extra wheels defamed the cycle, made it effeminate and on some level sexually abused it. I would bend the wheels upwards or remove them completely when it was my turn to ride the cycle. I longed to grow up and get a cycle for myself, not one that I had to share with a girl, not one over which I had only partial right over, not one that had stickers on it, not one with side-wheels!

Finally, when I was in class 8, my dad gifted me my very own cycle. Well, he didn’t gift it in the traditional sense. I had to argue, cry, protest, boot-lick, go on a hunger strike, lock myself up in my brother’s room (for which I got into further trouble) and plead for it. But when at the end of all that, you get a friend for life, you just do it! It was a blue Hercules MTB Oversize 9000 and man, it was phenomenal! Of course, for having forced my dad to gift it to me, I couldn’t ride it to school. Parents’ idea of a win-win situation. Well, anyway, he had to be content being my friend at home and around the neighborhood. I used to ride my cycle all the bloody time. I offered to help my mom with domestic shopping so that I could take my cycle out. I would cycle to tuition classes and tennis coaching, despite them being at a proximity that would actually make the cycle ride a shame. But I didn’t care.

Then the unthinkable happened. I lost my cycle. Some slimy son of a bitch stole it from the parking lot in my house! I was so devastated, I thought I’d never recover from it. I went through what Tamil movies have made so popular – love failure. At long last, I drew myself out of the depression. With a feeling guilt, that only devoted husbands have when they give in to a sexy personal assistant, I bought a second cycle. With a feeling of shameless, remorseless submission that only consummate two-timers have, I fell in love with my new cycle – a stunning black-gray Hercules MTB Thriller. This love was to last.

Cycling meant the world to me. Cycling fast meant I was independent. Cycling slowly meant the world belonged to me. Cycling in a group made us cool. Racing made us men. Losing the cycle key (which happened more often than actually riding) taught us responsibility and breaking the lock open brought back our heartbeats. Cleaning the cycle made us fathers. It was not difficult to maintain a cycle at all and often, not necessary. After all, muddiness meant your cycle has seen action. I washed my cycle once a month on Saturday afternoons. I used to park it in my courtyard, bring a hosepipe and blast water on the dirty mudguards. I oiled the chain, cleaned the spokes and tightened the bell (which never seemed to clinked the way it did on the first day). I even employed my cousin Shravan as the helper boy. When my grandfather visited, I was the happiest boy on earth. He is the smartest, most technical man I have met. He used to dismantle the cycle, clean it thoroughly and put it back exactly the way it was! He seemed to understand my cycle and from the way he looked at my cycle I could see the remnants of a similar boyhood in his old gray eyes.

Cycles were never a mark of a social standing because we understood the evils a boy had to brave to get one. If one had a cycle, he was admired. If one didn’t, he was content with going doubles, without being judged unfairly. He was the partner in crime. He had to stand faithfully by the rider through the traffic, beat-the-clock speeds, chain malfunctions and bad roads. And we never defiled the purpose of our cycles. It was not for showing off or impressing girls. No, that was for morally corrupt bikers and car-owners. We respected our cycles. And like a true friend, he helped us back. Whenever I was late, all I had to do was to rub my hands over the chain till it was black with grease and tell my mom “the useless cycle let me down again”. Or take money for the innumerable air-fillings and cycle-services. It was a friendship only boys understand (And no matter how liberal you are, when it comes to cycles, men will always be sexists). It was a friendship that would have made Rajni and Mammooty submit meekly. I am proud to have had such a friend.

A boy’s relationship with a cycle is karmic, one that grows till they finally have to part ways. The boy moves on to the next stage in his life, forever longing to go back in time. And the cycle enters another boy’s life, making it as colorful as it made its old friend’s.


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This is the Chennai I grew up in. This is the Chennai that grew with me..

Marina Beach. Filter coffee. Rajnikanth. School friends. PTC bus. Panagal Park. Traffic. Kapaleeshwarar Kovil. Molaga bajji. Vidya Mandir. Street cricket. Light house. Gangotree. Auto stand. Traffic police. Chennai Central. Sachin Tendulkar. Landmark Quiz. Ratna Cafe. A R Rahman. Metro water lorries. Madras bashai. Pongal. IIT coaching. Power cuts. Mosquitoes. Sun TV. Summer vacations. Satyam Cinemas. Lifestyle. The Hindu. SPB. Maruti 800. Dappankoothu. Spencer Plaza. India vs Pakistan. Deepavali. Woodlands drive-in. Stella Maris. Kutchery season. Avani Avittam. Bharathnatyam. Pepsi Uma. Thirumailai. Samsa (Not samosa). Navarathri Golu. Children’s Park. Kamal Haasan. Gandhi statue. Road-side shopping. Tuition. Cafe Coffee Day. Kaiyendi Bhavan. Kite flying.  School culturals. Independence Day sweets. Hero cycle.  Baasha. Christmas thatha. Shanthi Vihar. R D Sharma. Myalpore Tank. Adyar Bakery. Mega serials. Thali meals. Koovam.

I have changed a lot in 21 years. Chennai has changed a lot more…

And I don’t like it. 😦

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