[Photo Credits: Deepak Duggirala
The sun shone weakly through the clouds and a cool breeze blew, causing the leaves on the trees to rustle and wave gently. The weak rays of the sun fell upon a solitary deer, contentedly nibbling at the dew-covered grass. It couldn’t have been all alone, deer never move around singly and sure enough, another one came into view up the path leading to the student’s mess. My position beneath the corrugated iron of the shed concealed partially the bulk of the mess-building behind a tree. It was nothing new, this was a view I had been privy to for a few months now and I had learned that the deceptively weak sun would progress to blaze forth in all its glory in a cloudless sky in a few hours’ time. In a few minutes, however, there would be an exodus of students from the mess-building and the two hostels flanking it. All would pass down the path, past the shed and beyond the library to go to their different blocks for the day. Come noon, most of them would pass up the path towards the mess-building and, for the remainder of the day, there would always be a student or two within my sight.
I’ll admit that I wasn’t exactly a new machine when my owner brought me to the campus. I had been used for a long time by my previous owner and although I was spruced up, I was far from being a shiny, new machine. My age lent me immediate respectability amongst the other cycles in the shed—many of my companions were fresh from the factory. True, a few of the newer models and more recent machines knew every stone on the campus much better than I could or would, but then, this was the autumn of my life. This was an easy life, not too taxing. I had been ridden around the city from dawn to dusk in the days of my youth and I was right when I expected not to be taken much out of the campus.
A few years ago, I could boast to my companions of having been around the campus at least once everyday. To and from class, to the mess-building for lunch, to Gurunath for some trifling thing or to any one of the four gates leading out of the campus. Then there were the half a dozen or so routes which I would regularly frequent before exams and quizzes, my owner desperate for some fresh air at two in the morning after having slogged away at innumerable books and papers. This was great fun and I looked forward to it very much. But as the terms passed by, I was taken out of the shed less and less often. At first, my owner began to walk to class, then to Gurunath and then, horror of horrors, began to take the bus! The late-night rides grew more infrequent as walks began to be preferred.
At first, I was rather put-out by this callous rejection. How could one give up the joy of cycling? Especially when I was such a capable machine, in good working-order too! From being parked in one of the very first rows in the shed, I slowly began to be pushed back, into the dark recesses as other cycles, more used by their owners than I was, began to be parked in the easy-to-access rows. Soon, however, I rather began to enjoy my days of leisure, as I termed them. This was largely to do with the fact that my owner one day wheeled me out of the shed to the cycle-repairman by Jamuna hostel and I was given a thorough clean and wheeled back to the shed. I was parked beneath a tree, half-inside and half-outside the shed. It was a most convenient spot— I could see the path, the mess-building and both the Sarayu and Sharavati hostels. All was well until I was noticed by a troop of monkeys. Having seen me beneath the tree every evening, the creatures realised I wasn’t being used and decided to perch upon my handlebars, sit in the basket and jump up and down on the carrier! One of them even had the audacity to ring my bell while the youngest of the lot amused themselves by working the pedals backwards. They tired of this sport after a week or two and quickly found themselves other amusements, being the fickle-minded creatures that they are.
The surroundings that I now lived in were a stark contrast to ones that I had been used to previously. For five long years, I had been used to the view of the path leading to Mandakini hostel, in the cycle shed of Jamuna Hostel. My owner, it seems to me now, had a bit of a compulsive habit of parking me in the same spot for the entire time I was his cycle— even a slight change was incomprehensible to him. Therefore, I was used to that corner in the shed near the walls, but still close enough to the entrance. Here, I made several acquaintances, I heard their stories with wonder and amazement and chipped in with some of my own as well. This is where I heard the terrible stories and the plight of some cycles as told by my friends— that several of the cycles were left by the Velachery and main gates to their doom, to a slow and painful end— forgetfulness being the first cause and that dreaded disease, rust, being the second, more palpable, more fatal one. Owners, most often than not, forget us there. They come back to fetch us after a long gap, only to find us rusted and dirty and unfit to use any more. The fear of neglect and gross mishandling by the owners is something that all us cycles live with and have seen our own friends and acquaintances suffer through.
My owners, the previous and the current ones, have been excellent and have treated me with the respect any cycle dreams of. I am always ready to go with my tyres filled with air, my chain and brakes are oiled and I’m ready to go the distance whenever needed. It fills me with a sense of joy and happiness when my owner lends me to her friends, I use these instances to show my complete prowess and make them realize that they need to fix their own cycles soon!
I have never had to fear the dreaded auctions that take place once or twice every year, but this is not the case with most other cycles. I have seen with my two wheels the plight of several unattended, forgotten and rusted cycles, long-forgotten by their owners, being bundled up and auctioned off. To most cycles, the auctions offer a fresh lease to life, a new beginning, one that the likes of us grab by the handles.