Experiences of cycling in India…
I guess this post holds for the rest of us on the right side of 40. This is about our childhood and musings with a cycle. Like most of us, I didn’t have a cycle of my own for a very long time. The high point in life was when dad would give 25 paise (currently about 0.0004USD) per day during summer vacations. This princely amount was spent on hiring a cycle of your choice for an hour. The choices included which cycle doesn’t have a loose chain, or which one had the breaks that worked, or the one that didn’t wobble too much. Well, life did give us more than our due share of joy back then.
Eventually, after working for a couple of decades, I finally got my first cycle:
Fell in love with the Wahoo from Gary Fisher collection. I rode her for a good 20,000 kms, was a good partner, but I wanted to enhance my range, therefore wanted something lighter.
Enter my 2nd cycle:
Found a steal deal in Trek 6700, she weighed in just under 12kg. Rather heavy heartedly sold the Wahoo to a friend. Still have the 6700. Both the gurls put together would account for over 75000km.
The cycles eventualy became my primary mode of transportation for a good time period, multiple reasons:
- The traffic and the jams ensured that travelling time in a car was four times as much as that in a cycle
- Parking slot were limited and were allotted by lottery system, and as usual, I wasn’t ever lucky enough to be in the list
- By nature, am too lazy to wake up early to go exercising/cycling, and long working hours were not helping the cause either. If at all, cycling had to blend into daily routine
But the stated reason, to justify the cost of the bike to my wife and her friends, was that the savings on account of cycling (parking, fuel & maintenance costs) offset the cost of the cycle, and over a period of 2 years, saved 2.5x its cost. For those who know don’t know the cost, I’m not gonna be putting it up here, am sure Google will come to your rescue. It would suffice to say that they do cost a bombshell a piece and to my defence I submit that I earned that expense multiple times over, and I’m not counting the health benefits (not sure if there’s any in today’s traffic and my luv affair with Orthopaedicians).
The gurls have been quite a crowd magnet. Everyone wants to know the cost, without fail, and the curiosity levels, lemme assure you, far exceeds that of the Maruti’s “kitna deti hai” (A quip from a famous ad of an Indian car – Maruti 800, enquiring about the miles per gallon equivalent) fame. Guess it helps them gauge the degree or level of madness of the rider. Couple of exchanges really crack me up, even today:
Him: Kitne ki hai (roughly translates to – What’s the cost?) #Cost
Me: xxx ki hai bhai (roughly translates to – Costs xxx bro? <cost intentionally edited out, read on to see why>)
Him: Arre mazaak mat karo (roughly translates to – Come on, done mess with me)
Me: Kasam se bhai (roughly translates to – Hey I promise)
These 1st four lines are common. The 5th line has a bit of variations, but the incredulous looks have been constant:
Him 1: Arre theek theek bolo, mazaak nahin. (roughly translates to – Cut the crap and tell me how much.)
Him 2: Aisa kya hai ismein? (roughly translates to – What’s it got to cost as much?)
Him 3: Kehlati to fir bhi saikil hi hai na! (roughly translates to – Its but a cycle right?)
Him 4: Chalti to fir bhi pair se hi hai na (roughly translates to – You still gotta pedal right?)
Him 5: Ek hi banda baith sakta hai, aur seat bhi itni patli. Double ride chodo, kuch samaan bhi nahin le ja sakte. Mere harkulees par 2 log aur 4 can le jaata hoon, woh bhi 800 rupaiyye mein (roughly translates to – Seats only one, that too on this thin seat. Forget two astride, can’t even carry any stuff on this. My Hercules <a popular work horse of a cycle in India> can carry 2 astride and 4 cans <of milk>, and all it costs is INR 800!) #Cost
Him 6: Battery kahan hai? NAHIN HAI? Fir itne paise kyon? (roughly translates to – Where’s the battery? No battery? Then why this cost?)
Him 7: Sone ki bani hai kya? (roughly translates to – Made of gold eh?)
Him 8: Hire moti jade hain kya? (roughly translates to – Are diamonds and pearls studded onto this?)
Him 9: Arre, itne main to do Hero Honda aa jayenge! (roughly translates to – At this cost, I can get to Hero Hondas <popular commuter motorcycles in India>)
Him 10: Arre, itne main to 2nd hand Marrutee aa jayegi! (roughly translates to – I can get a used Maruti 800 in this cost?)
After a few (actually quite a few) such exchanges, I wisened up. I decided to stop behaving like Harishchandra’s grandson (a figure of speech – refers to a person who always tells the truth, no matter what). I swore not to tell the price to anyone (and therefore the reason for its omission here as well). The 1st four common lines:
Him: Kitne ki hai (roughly translates to – What’s the cost?) #Cost
Me: Arre chodo na bhai, daam mein kya rakha hai? (roughly translates to – Let it be bro, what’s in the cost anyway?)
Him: Fir bhi… (roughly translates to – Still??)
Me: Arre bahut dard hota hai bhai, chodo na. (roughly translates to – It hurts a lot to say, let it be.)
And the variations in 5th line include:
Him 11: 20-25 ki to hogi (roughly translates to – Must cost INR 25,000 – 30,000, no?)
Him 12: Fir bhi… (roughly translates to – Still??? The I’ll-not-give-up guy)
Him 13: Mast hai bhai, Mere ghar ke paas bhi ek aisa waala hi hai, laal phair-phax hai (roughly translates to – Looks great bro. My neighbour too has a red Firefox, just like this one.)
Him 14+: Seemingly unrelated comments as below:
People (in a crazy sort of a way, including me) haven’t managed to figure out why we do this to ourselves, especially on “pointless” weekend rides:
Koi race-wase hai kya? (roughly translates to – Is there a race/rally of some sort?)
Kuch milta hai isse? (roughly translates to – What do you get out of this?)
And people are so sure that we are crazy that they always around for a total rip-off:
Saab, sirf 100 rupaiyye saab (roughly translates to – Sir, just INR 100. #Cost <A benchmark – to fix a flat on the Hercules described above, they take INR 5 – and he was asking twenty times this amount from me>)– This was for fixing a puncture when I had a flat and had run out of my patches. I had to use my portable pump as 6700 comes with a presta valve, something that pumps are not compatible with. All that the guy did was lent me his patch while I did all the muscle flexing (mostly because I didn’t trust his capabilities) and he had the gall to charge 100bucks.
And then there are general questions:
Bacche ko cyclist banana hai kya – asked a policeman at a signal waiting for the traffic to yield when I was riding with my son. (roughly translates to – Wanna make your lil one a cyclist?)
Kitne gear hai? (How many gears?)
Kitna tez bhagti hai? (How fast does it go?)
Ye diks break hai – obviously refering to the disc brakes and not any part of the anatomy being broken
Poora taam-jhaam lekar chalte ho… (Oh, you carry all quick-fixes with you – when we were fixing a flat tyre)
The two gurls have seen me through a number of crashes, resulting in me being a Orthopaedician’s delight! Right from an amputated toe, to banged up knees, to a cracked hip, to broken ribs, to a dislocated shoulder and a cemented spine, just about every bone in my body has taken a beating. Seeing me hobble across the office soon became an extremely common sight. One fine day, my boss couldn’t help but comment –
Yaar, itne baar to gir chuke ho, kuch paise dekar chalana to seekh lete… (roughly translates to – Friend, you fall so often, why don’t you spend a few pennies and learn to ride?)
There are variants to this coming from other collegues –
Kitna gira hua insaan hai (A pun with the word fall, can’t find an English equivalent, anyone?)
Bechaara cycle (Pity the cycle!)
Chutti aise hi maang lete (roughly translates to – You didn’t have to do this just to apply for a leave)
Only spared site is the skull. So before I could become a Neurologist’s delight, a #SmallDecision has been taken to stop using the cycle for commuting! But that didn’t change the reasons why 2 wheels were prefered over 4, hence I got into my new musing(s) – biking (#ABikersMusings). Cycling is risky, so a heavier and faster mode – a motorcycle – is safer right?
And what must be said must be said – the 6700 sure’s been built like a rock, despite all the falls, she hasn’t got a scratch on her, not even a twisted handlebar!
To summarise, I have stuck to the traditional cyclist image to the T, one who gets agitated, has a short fuse, takes crazy risks… But only when one gets on a cycle and gets serious numbers on the odometer will they understand the reason behind this. The cyclist huffing and panting, giving all that (s)he’s got, gets the bike up to a decent speed, and that’s when things happen:
- A car overtakes you and brakes right in front of you, cutting you off from the gap that was big enough for you but not for the car, but he cuts in anyway
- At an intersection, motorist takes off despite see you coming, making you lose the speed that was built by spending sweat and blood, not by pressing that right foot
- Some roads (quite rare though) do have earmarked cycling lanes. But these are promptly used for parking, what’s worse is these parked cars open the doors without looking for the oncoming traffic, let alone a cyclist. Small habits can change this and save lives <Video credit – https://www.outsideonline.com/>
- Changing lanes to avoid a pothole is imperative, nevermind you killed a cyclist in process
- And turning without indicators of course is a right by birth we Indians have
- Then there is this grouse I have against the car manufacturers, in the process of homologation, they’ve shifted the position of the horn button to under the seats in their Indian specs.
About the author:
A biker | A blogger | An adventure junky | Animal lover
Tries to fit all of the above whilst working as a brand marketing professional. His blog is a product of contemplations, reflections and an unquenchable thirst for self-deprecating humour. It is the world as seen through the eyeballs of a salt-and-pepper *sixteen year-old* fighting off #MidLifeCrisis. No doubt perspectives will be different when seen by others and those are equally welcome in the comments section.
- This is written with a sole intention of laughing at and with the author, no offence meant to anyone else.
- No bikes or animals or bystanders were harmed while writing this.