I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there is a day dedicated to bicycle – 3rd June. And why not? Bicycle, after all, is an important part of life – the first independent mode of transport for a child, irrespective of the economic strata. As bullock carts were for long distances, bicycle was the easiest and most convenient mode of transport for short spins. In villages, bicycles are still one of the most important ways to commute. Being an environment-friendly means of transport and promoting a healthy lifestyle are additional advantages that bicycles offer besides pure nostalgia, even in developed nations.
Being brought up in a village, I knew of no other vehicle except bicycle. As a child, when I was in school which was around 7 kilometres away, I would walk down. While coming back I had to purchase some groceries or essentials for home and neighbours. I would carry it in my hands and walk such long distances. Occasionally, I would ride a friend’s bicycle, take him as a pillion to school. We didn’t have money to buy a bicycle. My mother understood that I needed one without which I had to face lot of pain of walking in the sun, carrying heavy bags of essentials and school bag after long tiring days at school. Unlike these days, where Hon’ble Chief Minister provides free bicycles to the students in rural areas, especially girls, we weren’t given such assistance.
I vividly remember the story we had in Odia Literature on Mo Cycle (My Cycle) about the evolution and origins of cycle as it is in its present form. From the ones which are functional, to gear fitted and advanced cycles, there has been a definite improvement in the look and function of the cycles.
I still remember that my elder brother had sent a saree for my mother from Jamshedpur. My mother sold it at Rs 50 and bought me a second hand Norton cycle. That was a day of joy for me. I was so happy that Maa got me a cycle and understood how dear it will be as Maa sold her saree to a neighbour and bought it for me. Maa for once, didn’t show her sacrifice. My joy knew no bounds and I was glad that even I had a cycle like my friends.
This was when I was in Grade VII. It made my life easy. Going to school and running errands became much easier for me. Sometimes I would take Maa or Iti as a pillion rider as well. When I reached Grade X, Maa got me another cycle after saving each pie – Hercules Cycle. I remember it had a basket in front and I used to keep my books there while going to high school.
When we were getting a cement wall done at our homestead in Kalarabanka, for which Maa had to run from pillar to post, I would carry bags of cement on the seat of my Hercules Cycle and get it home because we didn’t have spare money to give it to the civil contractor who would often inflate the price. It was immensely tough to bring those cement bags and push the cycle for more than five kilometres.
When I was in Bhubaneswar during college, and then lectureship and setting up of KIIT & KISS, I never used a bicycle. What I so dearly wanted once in life, I was not interested in it. I used to take town bus for commute or just walk ten kilometres daily. Then I purchased a second hand Hero Honda Sleek in which I would ride 25-30 kilometres per day while establishing KIIT & KISS during it’s formative years.
Nowadays also I don’t get to ride a bicycle except for rare occasions but I like it even today. My heart is still in a village – the river, the friends, the cool evening breeze, the warm sun, silent roads, running errands and going to school and cycling back to nostalgic times.