Zen and the art of bicycle maintenance

20 Mar

They say there is something to be learnt from every experience in life. Well I’ve learnt quite a few things in the last one month in the course of my daily trips on my new bicycle  from my home to the school where I spend some of my time.

First, do not let people try to dissuade you from doing things that you’ve wanted to do  pointing out your age. Barring those which really involve a risk factor , at least give it a try. I had just about learnt to ride a cycle when I was in my teens during one of those summer holidays when a shop in my neighbourhood started renting out cycles to kids . Well that was it. I never owned a bicycle and in that conservative circle, my father would never have allowed me to ride one on the roads once I had started growing up. But I had loved the feel of riding one and I guess, it has never left me. Whenever I  reviewed the list of the things that I would want to do before I died, riding a bicycle along a long tree lined road would always show up as one of them.

Once or twice many,many years later, I had persuaded my son to let me ride his bicycle and he had reluctantly agreed . So under the cover of night , he had held on to the cycle while I tried wobbling along on the road. I had managed to ride along for some length of the road on those occasions , on my own. But then I had lost balance and lay sprawled on the road much to my son’s embarrassment and that was the end of that chapter.

Now at the ripe old age of fifty three, I had set out with renewed determination to tick off one of the items on my “Bucket List’ (“Das Vidanya” , if you would prefer the bollywood version). And has it been worth it?  Of course!!!!

On one of those initial late evenings when I was practicing in the empty ground nearby and inside the lanes of my colony, I had skidded on a wet patch on the road where the water pipes had been leaking  and had fallen down cycle and all , bruising my elbows and ankle and bruising my matronly dignity as well in front of a group of young boys who were around. They were kind of course, helping me to my feet and making sincere enquiries as to whether I was okay etc. Back home, I had called up my nephew to report my progress( or rather the lack of it) and my little niece happened to take the call instead. She listened quietly and then disconnected rather abruptly. My sister later told me that after keeping down the phone she had got into a fit of uncontrollable paroxysms of  giggling, almost as if  she could visualize the scene in all its detail.

But from then on , my skill only improved and soon I was able to muster enough confidence to venture out to the school, choosing a route that would keep me off the main road for most of the part.Lesson number is  imperative that one is aware of one’s limitations. It makes no sense to indulge in any kind of false bravado.

On those  first few days, the kids who come to the school were embarrassed for my sake , I think. I can’t think of another way of putting it. I would see them nudging each other  if they caught me inside the lane and trying to cover up their crooked grins with their hands. ( I also wear a flop hat to keep off the sun from my face and that must have added to the  anachronistic image I must have been projecting) The adults whom I encountered daily would also look up with curiosity almost expecting me to topple off any moment  and I almost did  many times. I was more disconcerted and would almost lose my balance when I became aware of those glances.But by and by , their curiosity wore off .

So that was lesson number three. Do not put off doing things just because it may attract the curiosity of the world  and you feel uncomfortable with all the uninvited attention. Believe me, it wears off  and you would be a fool to have succumbed and given up for sake of the transient attention of the world.

The longer you persist with doing something , the more familiar it becomes and the odds that appeared insurmountable actually begin to feel as “no big deal”. You learn to get the pace and know how to slow down when you have to. The bends in the road and the obstacles  that seem intent to mow you down  stop being alarming.

You also learn that the “system” will always facilitate those who are bigger than you. In the vicinity of where I live, the  roads are all being “repatterned ” , doing away with the need for traffic lights at crossings to ensure smoother flow of traffic. So now , while the cars whiz along  without a break, pedestrians and cyclists have to wait humbly till providence awards you with a slight pause in the flow which just about allows you scurry across. Lesson learnt …Darwin’s theory  about survival of the fittest and other laws of the jungle extend to the cement ones too. So, might as well accept it .

These last four days,  I have been  finding it extremely laborious to pedal my way to the school and back home. I kept asking myself whether I had been foolhardy to conclude that I was “young” enough to take up something that most people give up at half my age. I have become quite fond of my companion of the roads and I knew I would feel very regretful if I had to give up cycling. But yesterday, one of the youngsters in the school pointed out that the tyres were either punctured or it didn’t have enough air.

So , yes , you may reach all the wrong conclusions of what you can or cannot do just because of sheer ignorance. Be aware of all the little things that are required to be attended to at the appropriate times and hey life can cruise along again .









Posted by on March 20, 2011 in Reflections


2 responses to “Zen and the art of bicycle maintenance

  1. Remitha Satheesh

    October 4, 2012 at 8:26

    Nadiraji! Salute! I can so identify with what you said. like, you i too had a brief stint with wheels when i just about learnt to cycle thanks to one of those places that rent out cycles by the hour. growing up, cycling to school was out of the question. but the dream remained and believe it or not, three years back, thanks to a very patient husband, i actually learnt to cycle. and one more item was ticked off the list of things to do before i turned forty. learning to swim was another. that too i have ticked off. now that i have crossed forty, naturally, i have added new stuff to my list.

    happy cycling:) let’s all conquer new lists!

  2. Jissy Thomas

    March 21, 2011 at 8:26

    Nadiraji, hats off to your ‘never-say-die’ spirit .. 🙂 … It’s not only the older people who face this problem … I too faced it when I was learning to ride Pep … I used to fall almost everyday … My mother was so scared that she told me to stop learning … How could she bear to see her daughter getting bruised everyday? … But I continued … It took me one whole year but now I can ride confidently anywhere .. 🙂


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