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Bicycle times

India opened up its market some time in 1993; the then Finance Minister swept us off our feet with bold sweeping measures. It took another decade for the market to take off in the IT field, post Y2K debacle. It took another few years since then for Indians to realise how the policy changed many other fields — to name a few, pharmaceuticals, restaurant chains, vacation homes, fast food, five-star hotels, cars, bicycles, and many more.

Bicycles bring me lovely memories. Circa 2011, my younger one demanded a bicycle, and her preference was the Firefox brand. We visited a neighbourhood dealer who was professional and allowed her to try a few ones before she picked her favourite blue. She was excited, while we went through delivery formalities. We loaded her new bicycle into our car and drove home. The charm and the novelty factor has diminished since then, but the bicycle takes a prime position in our garage — almost hooked to a wall!

Circa 1977, my district-level rank in public exams facilitated a nod of approval from my father. He agreed to buy me a new bicycle — Raleigh, the gold standard then. Bahusar agency in Mysore was another gold standard for a purchase, and among a heap of pretty identical not-much-of-a-choice selection, I closed my eyes and touched the one which was destined to be mine, or maybe not!

The accessories that my father allowed me to pick — a thick-cushioned seat-cover, a carrier, mud flaps, extra-soft handle grips, black-ribbed brake-lever grips, a black jacket for the front rod (called top tube), pedal cover — made me go gaga over its looks when it was all fitted. The true icing on the cake was when my father agreed to fix a dynamo for night vision! The whole package cost him some 750 rupees and indeed it burnt a big hole in our middle-class pocket.

My bicycle was extremely alluring and garnered attention. The looks came with worries too; dad commanded that I push the new bicycle from the dealership some 5 kilometres to home to perform puja before I could ride it lest I fall to get scratches in case of any evil eye. Later dad revealed that he too was bowled out by the looks; any scratches that I sustained being the least of his concern!

Raleigh deserved all my attention — daily cleaning, wax shine, and a prime place in our garage. One night it was unfortunately stolen. As much as I cherished it as long as I had it in my possession, I was down in the mouth and unable to overcome its absence.

During the time I rode my Raleigh, I covered the town with my cycle tracks all with gay abandon. I was sceptical to leave it unattended for the fear of you know what? Protective gear was unheard-of in those days in the 1970s and the entire road was our space. A bicycle trip with friends was a luxury and most cherished.

p_harihar@hotmail.com


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Printable version | May 19, 2022 11:54:28 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/bicycle-times/article38273597.ece