Cycling and I… we kind of have a history. And not a very positive one. You see, by the time other kids my age were doing bike-tricks and ‘wheelies’ – I was making myself scarce and opting out of situations that involved ‘cycle-talk’ like, “After school, we’ll cycle down to Nina’s place and head out for icecreams”, or “My friends and I will cycle to school together tomorrow morning”, or “Let’s go and get ourselves some chocolate. It’s just a 2-minute bike ride”. I was 13 – an awkward teenager – slightly plump – and the only one who could not ride a bicycle. But I wanted to. I really wanted to learn. And I did. And how! Well. thanks to my dad’s immense patience and to his pandering to my demands that included: leaning to cycle in the dark, without falling, without anyone noticing me, without any kind of display of impatience. Dad was my hero and he doted upon me, no doubt 🙂 So every evening, after dinner, after homework, after television, after a power nap – at 10:00 pm, I would wake up again and get into my sporty ‘avataar’. Dad and bike in tow, I would head out of the apartment block – not acknowledging the lift-man, gate-keeper, or anyone who was in the way! Then, on a dark road flanked by trees, with no streetlights and no trace of life, dad and I would walk my shiny new bicycle up the slope. There – I would plonk myself on to the cycle and ask dad to give me a gentle push. Legs wide apart, heart thumping, eyes wide open with fear more than anything else – I would zoom down – supporting myself with my feet that grazed the road – obviously disturbing whatever little of my few-milli-second-long balance. But brakes? I forgot about them each time and jumped off the cycle only to fall and then look about to see if anyone else had seen me fall. Dad was patient and gently nudged me to place my feet on the pedal before he pushed me downhill. He was kind enough to explain the concept of brakes (sigh…) Months passed – I finally learned the art of cycling. And it was time to move from Bangalore to Ahmedabad. No one in Ahmedabad would ever need to know how old I was when I learned to cycle! Or so I thought…. The West of India brought me to a school that was just about biking distance from home. Ah! I could try my new skills there. And show off! That… was but a dream. One look at me – and anyone would know I was a fresher in this area. Clumsy, scared, and notches away from any level of confidence or security! Soon, I was to make history! Till this date – today, past 2 decades of school-life – the image of fear and clumsiness remains personified as me in the eyes of all who’ve seen me – rather experienced me riding my bike. I am happy to claim that till date – I hold the record of this high level of hilarious laughter that I generate among good old school friends. And finally, with no hard feelings 😉 Despite my shortcomings, I have been riding – with my husband, my family, friends and my kids… Aware of my clumsy look, conscious of my dreadful fear, hurt by the mocking eyes of strangers, jealous of the carefree bikers who breezed through the meadows with their head in the clouds, while I panted and fidgeted with my gear system that seemed like latin in action! But I did not give up. I admit – there was a time I hated the thought of clamoring on a bike – even though I knew how much I loved the feeling of cycling through the beauty that defined Switzerland. But not wanting to let the family down – I never gave up. I did stop initiating the topic. Soon the kids were too big to be in a carrier, too small to ride on their own. So for four years, I did not touch my bike. I forgot the feeling of elation on a bike altogether. My son asked if I knew how to ride a cycle as he was fast turning into an expert on wheels – skateboard, waveboard, you name it! I told him I could and did a clumsy 2 meter spin for him. “Ah, well, okay then why don’t you come riding when papa and I go?” He asked. Splat came my well rehearsed answer, “You’re sister can’t ride and she’s too big to carry and too small to be left home alone.” And then I turned to see her riding her bicycle straight at me. My excuses were gone! But, i didn;t want to ride. I didn’t want to face that fear again… even at the risk of letting down my family. Last week, the boys decided to go cycling, we girls didn’t know what to do. So we went on our trottinet or scooter in the other direction. Yes, I had learned this wheeled gadget as recently as 3 weeks ago – all thanks to my kids and encouragement of my 70-year-old neighbor. After a while, we wanted to head home as it was a tough terrain not right for a scooter. But then, something got the better of me – “Let’s see if there’s air in my cycle and we’ll go the same route. Just the two of us on our cycles,” I told my daughter. The light of excitement in her eyes sent a surge of joy through my soul. We reached home. There was no air in the wheels. But I got to my hands and knees, found the pump and we got started with the mechanics of the bicycle. Husband and son arrived and were a touch shocked at my enthusiasm. But they helped pump up the last bit. With a high degree of trepidation, I got on to the cycle. With my daughter, giggling and laughing, I biked along the beautiful meadows… I felt so free, so elated, so full of life. There’s no turning back! When you’ve go to live, you’ve got to live it up!