Few days ago, I spotted a little girl cycling around my apartment complex, oblivious to the world. It was nostalgia for me as I remembered my childhood, when as a little girl, I had done the same, albeit a bit later than my friends.
Not adept at pedalling, I spent many an evening watching my friends cycling around our neighbourhood, laughing as they pedalled by.
Their happy demeanour never failed to catch my eye. The ribbons in their pigtails coming loose as they flew past on their cycles, their giggles echoing all around as they swapped jokes about this or that, or teased each other as they raced ahead. How I yearned to join them and experience the magic, myself!
No, they never teased me, or laughed at the lone figure watching them (with a tinge of jealousy). Their laughter was born out of the freedom they experienced on their two-wheelers. Or so I would like to believe.
An older cousin promised to teach me to cycle. Sadly, though, he lacked patience and was not very good at managing his time.
Dad used to be busy with his work, and expecting mum to run alongside me as I cycled, was unimaginable! I remember wondering how long before I would be one of those girls, atop my own bicycle, shrieking with delight.
One fine day, the sun shone from behind the clouds of despair and Lady Luck smiled upon me. Uncle Shri, our friendly neighbour, called out to me as I stood in my veranda, watching my friends cycle.
“Why don’t you join your friends, Shilpa?” he enquired.
“I am afraid I can’t cycle, Uncle,” I murmured, embarrassedly.
“Uh-huh. No problem, child. I will teach you to cycle. Believe me, it is the most easiest thing on earth! In fact, you can learn it in a day!” he gushed.
His excitement was highly contagious, because no sooner were those words out of his mouth than I grabbed his hand and pulled him towards the shop that gave cycles on rent.
A rupee for an hour was the rent for the rusty bicycles. I was thrilled simply to be standing there, gaping at those beauties! It was indeed my lucky day!
Uncle Shri paid the rent and urged me to climb onto a cycle. Gingerly, I perched onto its triangular seat and held the handlebar with my cold and trembling hands. My feet firmly on the ground, I waited for the next instruction. Uncle Shri noticed the enthusiasm in my eyes, perhaps, because he had this big smile on his benevolent face.
“Now, Shilpa, all you need to do, is place your feet on the pedals and, well, pedal away! Oh, and remember, do not look down. You must focus on the road ahead ,okay? “ he beamed, encouragingly.
“But, Uncle, what if I lose my balance and fall?” I mumbled, nervously.
“Don’t you worry, little one, “ Uncle assured me, “I will run alongside you and hold you if you fall. You just look ahead and pedal, okay?”
Trembling with excitement and nervousness, I began to pedal – slowly, at first, and then a little faster – wobbling and faltering, I manoeuvred my way through the busy street, with Uncle running alongside me, cheering on.
Try as I might, my eyes wouldn’t leave the cycle’s handlebar. I was too exhilarated to remember Uncle’s instructions. Each time he said, “Look up, Shilpa! You might run into someone!” I would jerk my head up and look ahead, and then lower my head all over again, to gaze at the rotating wheel.
So mesmerised was I in the entire activity, I did not even notice when Uncle let go of my seat. I just kept pedalling on!
I cycled up to my house and called out to mum. Squealed would be the right word here, because she rushed outdoors to see what the matter was. My ear-to-ear grin was enough for mum to know I was finally fulfilling my dream, thanks to Uncle Shri.
Uncle was so right. That day, I had learnt to cycle! Well, almost. It did take some more days for me to learn to focus on the road. Days, and some mishaps, too.
But, I learnt to cycle, and soon joined my gang of girls.
And, experienced that magic I had been longing for all those days.
All thanks to Uncle Shri.
Image source: PIXABAY