Bicycle Romance

by Manoj Nair

“Tringgg Tringgg “..

I was standing outside on my apartment balcony, overlooking the park flushed green with the morning downpour, with my morning cup of coffee warming up my hands. The incessant sound of the bicycle bell transported me back; in time & in place. 

It was my fourteenth birthday. I was a shy and lanky teenager coming to grips with my new found testosterone, living in the city we then called Bombay. My gang of friends had all got their own cycles and I was the only one left to get one. Every day I would go to the near-by bicycle rental shop and hire a cycle for an hour for a princely sum of two rupees and the whole lot of us would roam the streets of our colony. After a lot of haggling, threats and finally prostration, my father bought me my first brand new bicycle. I can still vividly recall my cycle; red in color, “BSA “brand, a neat black seat and a steel round bell. It had straight handle bars unlike the fancy ones nowadays. I had a sticker of a raging bull stretched across the frame and a black carrier behind my seat ostensibly to ferry my kid sister.

I wasn’t bright in my studies but my father had dreams of me becoming an engineer. So to spruce up my science I was sent for extra tuitions after school hours. My science tuition class was a little distance away from home. I would walk to the class, cutting across the park in front of my house, ambling along at my own pace, throwing stones at the street dogs that hung around the corner. It was a large class, almost like a full-time school class .I didn’t know half of the classmates. The girls would sit on the benches near to the door and the boys in the farther corner. Being shy around girls, I would enter the class with my head bowed and walk straight to a bench at the back not having the courage to glance around.

Since I had started taking my new cycle to class, I did not have the luxury of carrying an umbrella with me while riding. I had tried it once but found it to be a tedious affair, riding the cycle with one hand while holding an umbrella in the other. On one of the monsoon days, there was a sudden drizzle. A little lost cloud had opened up in the sky and drenched me from head to toe. As I entered the class, rubbing off my wet hair with the shake of my hand, I heard a giggle from the front bench near the door. I quickly glanced up. I can vividly recall, she was wearing a bright red frock, the color of her frock reflecting off her face , creating a deep red permanent blush. Her hair was tied up with a white band, a wisp of hair across her face. She had lovely black almond shaped eyes that set my heart throbbing .I didn’t know her name or her whereabouts and I waited impatiently for the class to get over .A new found confidence in my bicycle gave me courage to follow her home.

“Tringgg Tringgg “..

 It was the seventh day. I had finally figured out where she lived and the time she would be at home. I waited for her to come out onto the balcony, parking my cycle below her apartment in the shade of the red blazing gulmohar tree. As hope began to run out and I got wet in a heavy downpour, she came out onto the balcony. She looked at me .A beatific smile and the beginning of a long and heady romance that finally culminated into marriage. We explored the by lanes & the wooded streets of the city together, me riding my cycle leisurely as she sat on the cross bar, her hair blown over my face by the gentle breeze.

“Tringgg Tringgg “..

Nethra was our first born. She was five years old when I bought her first bicycle. A steel round bell, side stands for support, a little pink helmet over her tiny little head and off we went in circles around the colony, she constantly looking over her shoulder to check if I was holding onto her. The bicycle was our time together. She talked about the new friends she made in school and the songs they taught her. Minor falls would lead to tears and then loud guffaws. She learnt that I wouldn’t let go off her till both of us knew that she was ready. How she has grown, a beautiful young teenager, full on energy and life.

“Tringgg Tringgg “..

 The incessant ringing of the bell jolts me back from my reverie. A slight drizzle has begun.

Who is this lanky young boy standing near the park?

Why is he looking up at our balcony?

Where is Nethra going out with her bicycle?

I smile to myself, and withdraw into the house with my coffee mug.

 

Editor’s Note on Bicycle Romance:

Bicycle Romance is not Manoj Nair’s first work to appear in Eastlit. His previous published pieces are:

  • Stefan appeared in Eastlit April 2016.
  • 377 featured in Eastlit November 2016.
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