Somewhere around the age of 14 I initiated and won my first major campaign – That of persuading my parents to buy me a bike. There were only two two-wheelers in fashion those days. They were the very ugly Scooty or the very tiny Sunny – of course considering the limited choice available – I choice the bigger one. So we brought the scooty home – fitted with a proper guard for the front of its nose and all. My uncle took me for a spin in the nearby ground and with the supreme confidence of youth – I decided I was ready to tackle the world after one test ride.
The very next day I get ready to take it out and go for my tuition classes on it. And of course immediately my mother piped in with – ‘why do you want to take it out – this class of yours is merely 5 min away. You can walk. Also you should practice a couple more times with your dad or uncle’. But me being me – I said no – I shall take it out today. To top it – I decided to wear a dress. One of my favorite ones at the time. A pretty beige hand-me-down from one of my aunts in Canada. It fit me beautifully and ended at my knees in a flourish. Then my mom interrupts the mutual admiration club meeting I had going on with myself in the mirror with a ‘ And you are sure you want to wear a dress? Why dont you wear trousers or something more comfortable and practical?’. At 14 – when you hear the word practical – you usually discard the idea immediately. I just hmmfffed and walk off.
So I take the bike to class and sit through it – all the while patting myself on the back mentally for riding so well and imagining all the looks of envy I was getting from the students who were still cycling to class. At the end of class I walk back to the bike and then begin the real heroics.
I had to enter the main road from a bylane and turn left to go home. At the junction of the bylane and the road was a small speed bump. So when I reached the speed bump driving extremely slowly (trying to be overcautious and responsible – never has this done me any good)- the bike wouldn’t go over. So I revved the engine a slight bit but it still wouldn’t go over – so I gave the accelerator a proper twist. Of course that ensured I shot out from the bylane and jumped and landed smack bang in the middle of the road – where instead of stopping and turning – I panicked and accelerated further – taking me flying across the road into a ditch ( what we love to call nala in hindi) waiting with open arms. The bike dove in nose first followed by me flying over the handles – perfect dress and all. All of this of course happened in my mind in slow motion – matrix style – though to an onlooker must have seemed like 5 sec.
I remember vividly my first thought. ‘Do you think anyone saw my underwear?’
As people rushed to help me up – I was silently recalling what I had put on after my bath. Five min later I remembered – heaved a sigh of relief – I was reasonably presentable – and then went on to worry about minor matters like what had happened to my bike. As people struggled to get the bike out of the ditch – I smoothened out my hair and gathered up the pleats of my dress which had torn somewhere around mid thigh and were now touching my feet. I then held them with one hand around the place they should have been attached, picked up my bag with the other hand and started to walk home. I remember somebody asking ‘what about the bike’ – and I said leave it – I will come back for it later. My extremely shy Math professor who must have been around 23-24 years old himself – asked me if I was ok – and I said I am fine. I think he was debating in his head about how appropriate it would be to drop me home with a torn dress – and finally he decided to play it safe. His concern for his reputation triumphed helping random student who falls into ditches with no external persuasion.
So I walked home amid some very obvious stares and practiced the prologue to be recited for my parents especially my mother. After all I had crashed the brand new bike. When I rang the bell – and my mom opened the door – I was finally beginning to feel a bit worried. I needn’t have bothered. She took one look at me – torn dress and all- and burst into tears – ‘what happened what happened’ – she hollered into my ears.
Nothing serious ma – I crashed the scooty.
She let go of me – and burst into laughter. And you are ok she asked ? I said yes… I am – a couple of bruises thats all but the bike is ruined. And she continued to laugh – at the time I thought she had gone cuckoo.
I repeated – THE BIKE IS RUINED. CRASHED. BROKEN.
No worries she sang… that can be fixed. You are ok.
Cuckoo. Definitely Cuckoo.
A week later my bike was home after a fancy nose job and my mom had recovered her motherly senses enough to chant ‘I TOLD YOU SO’ loudly twenty times a day.
All was well with the world again.