This story is inspired by the lives of two women I know.
“Nandini, come to the reception, there’s a courier guy waiting for you,” my company receptionist said on intercom.
I pressed ‘CTRL + ALT + DEL’ and walked towards the reception. I was expecting an important courier. Could this be the one?
I reached the reception, the man handed over the envelope.
I opened it hastily, looked at the contents and said “Yay,” so loud that all the people present in the reception stopped doing what they were doing and looked at me. A colleague passing by gave me a what’s-with-you kind of look.
I closed my eyes and kept it on my chest for a moment. The next moment, I dialed my hubby’s number. He picked up in the first ring as always.
“Listen Husband-in-law, don’t ask any questions. Stop whatever you’re doing and come home.”
He said, “You are at office right?”
“Yes, I am just starting now.”
I ran towards my desk, holding the envelope close to my chest. I opened the outlook, mailed my manager and set an ‘Out-of-office’ for 7 days. I was out in a flash. After haggling with the auto driver for two minutes, I sat inside and was on my way to home.
I checked the contents of the envelope once more. I couldn’t stop staring at it. “Yes, Yes,” I said to myself. The auto driver was confused to see a woman talking to herself. He must have thought that I was mad.
I held the contents once more in my hand. This was it, the key to my freedom. I remembered what I had to go through to achieve this. I clearly recalled there were seven tragic incidents that brought me to the stage where I was. In my mind, I replayed all the incidents one by one for the last time.
Incident 1: It was my 8th birthday, I couldn’t sleep the whole night because Papa had promised me that this time he will get the gift no matter what. He had kept his promise. The birthday morning, Papa was already up and I ran towards him. He picked me up and took me to the verandah. There it was, my first bicycle. It was pink and white. It was the most beautiful cycle I had ever seen. I climbed on to it and my father helped me ride it. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. All my friends have changed 3 to 4 bicycles by now, but mine was the first one. My father’s clerical job just paid enough to run the house and pay my fees. I was happy and I proudly showed the bicycle to all my friends who came to my birthday party. It was the best birthday of my life.
But my happiness was short-lived. Someone that night itself stole the bicycle from our veranda. I was devastated. I cried. I howled and didn’t eat for the whole day. My father didn’t know what to do. His hands tied up because of financial issues. He promised me to get a new one, once he get’s the next month’s salary. But that next month became next year and my hopes shattered.
then one day
Incident 2: My cousin Rahul, who was also my classmate, got his first bicycle. His father instructed him to share the cycle with me. They were financially well off. Rahul and I used to ride the bicycle alternatively. We would play and fight all day long. I had so much fun for those two months with Rahul’s bicycle. I was happy being a half-owner of the cycle, but one day Rahul’s father got a transfer. They left Kolkata and Rahul took away his cycle with him. I cried for 7 days. This time my father didn’t give me any promise.
All those years, I felt jealous whenever I saw someone my age riding a bicycle. Then one of those days life took a tragic turn.
Incident 3: I was having puchkas (panipuri) by the roadside and from nowhere a taxi came and hit me right in the knee. The taxi driver ran away. I was taken to the hospital where the doctor put a plaster on my right leg. Even though the plaster was removed after 2 months, I was warned not to exert too much pressure on the right leg – that means no running, no sports and worst of all no bicycling for few years.
That day I became an atheist.
Years passed by, but my feelings for a bicycle remained the same.
Incident 4: When I was in college, I made friends with a girl who had a TVS Scooty. We became good friends, she used to pick me up for college and drop me. One day, she offered to teach me how to ride a TVS Scooty. I was elated.
As planned, we met at 6 am in the morning. She made me sit in front while she sat on the back. She held my hands as we started the scooter. I was happy. Ten minutes in to the session, I took a sharp right turn and the scooter skidded. We both fell down. Luckily my leg was not under the scooter. Even then we had to rush to the doctor. He warned me to be careful, because it was the same right leg that got hit when I was in school.
Few years later, I got a job in Bangalore. First week in to the job and the next incident happened.
Incident 5: It was 8 pm at night when I left for home. It was raining cats and dogs. I was searching for an auto and every auto driver refused. One auto driver stopped and he demanded Rs. 200 (the meter fare from my company to home was Rs. 40). I had no choice, I agreed. It was the last Rs. 200 I had. He dropped me home. I had no money for the food. I slept without food that night. The following morning, I took a loan from a colleague and ate my breakfast.
Shaken from that incident, I realized that I had to do something so that I no longer had to depend on anyone for my personal movement. I started commuting through company cab (even though it was very expensive) from the next day onwards. Two years passed.
Incident 6: One day a colleague, six feet tall and bulky, offered me a lift back home. I became friends with him. One day I asked him if he could teach me how to ride his motorcycle. He agreed. The first three sessions went fine. From the fourth session, I noticed he purposely sat extremely close to me, while teaching. I didn’t bother to stop him. But then he started occasionally touching me, whenever he got the chance. I once sternly warned him. He became normal for few sessions, but once again he started. I couldn’t take it and I asked him that I didn’t want to learn.
I buried all my hopes of riding any vehicle.
Incident 7: Few years later one extremely handsome man entered my life. We hit along very well from day one. We used to spend a lot of time with each other as we worked for the same boss. I didn’t ask him to teach me bike riding, because I was scared – once bitten twice shy.
We were truly, madly and deeply in love with each other. It was the annual day of our company. He tricked me to get on to stage and went down on his knees to propose me. I was shocked and felt awkward in the presence of 1000 people. He waited for the answer. I could have said yes. But then a thought came to my mind. Just to make the moment more fun, I told him there is a condition – he has to teach me how to ride his Harley Davidson motorcycle. He was taken aback. The crowd cheered at my condition. He agreed.
We got married a month later. From day one of our married life, every morning 6 am he taught me how to ride his Harley Davidson bike. After a couple of months, I appeared in the driving test and rode the bike confidently.
“Madam, your destination has arrived,” the auto driver brought me back to the present moment. I paid him off by the meter and rush inside home. I took some of mine and some of his clothes and put them in an overnight carry sack. I changed into comfortable clothes and waited for him to arrive.
“What took you so long?” I fired.
He said, “on the way I had to stop by for the fuel and got the engine oil changed to Castrol Power1 Engine oil.”
“Anyways, see this,” I showed him the contents of the envelope.
“Wow, you got the driving license. Congratulations,” He gave me a big hug.
And the next moment I knew, we were seated on Harley Davidson and I was in front, ready to start.
He asked, “But honey, tell me where are we going?”
I started the bike, “Does it matter?”
“No,” he replied.
~ * ~
This short story is written for the Indiblogger – Castrol Power1 Blogging Contest on the topic
What motorcycling means to the Indian motorcyclist?
Here’s the link to the Facebook page - www.facebook.com/CastrolBiking
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