Come 2020 and the Swedes will eject all the remaining residues of petroleum derivatives from their system. Who said that blondes don’t have brains? Though not exactly what you’ll call an environmental activist, I prefer to ride on two wheels powered by fish curry and rice than any of the fuel guzzling speed devils that make a simple task like crossing the road a life hazard.
Pedalling a bicycle on a winding country road is a feeling that will give a Bentley a run for it Rs. 120 million worth. Though we control the steering, accelerator, clutch and the brakes, it is not us, but the complex internal-combustion engine which takes us forward. Whereas, a bicycle gives a feeling of total control. You are the lord and the master and the bi-wheeled muscle powered thing is at your command.
Living most of my live up on the hills, cycling was pain with pleasure. All pleasure downhill, uphill – the opposite. Those twenty or something changer gears do help, but at a 45 degree incline even the designed-in-Japan 150cc engines splutter.
Our films have romantacised the bicycle ride. With the beloved on the front bar, the hero lip-synced with many a playback singer. But ask her, is it so much of a fun? All the times I tried travelling with my behind precariously balanced on an inch and a half diameter hollow beam, I was left with a sore bum. Maybe the women find it comfortable with relatively more padding around there?
Doubling or tripling on a bicycle designed for one is not my idea of enjoyment. If two or more want to ride together, there should be two or more bicycles. One person, one bike – that’s the rule. And no blaring sirens please. The trrrrrrrring trrrrrrrring of the old steel bell is enough to signal people (or animals) to give way.
In India the bicycle as a mode of transportation in urban areas has remained restricted to the lower middle class. The rich and the famous will put their pedicured feet on the pedal only to burn a few calories. The middle class riding on their hamara Bajajs, slowly graduate to the matchboxes on four wheels. It is only the school kids who I find relishing their ride, but in a few years they’ll be zooming like maniacs on the latest Indian-made-Japanese-mobikes.
From the sleek racing cycles to the best selling Hero Jet, there’s a lot to choose from. And then there’s also a Mercedes that I can afford to own and operate. Just hoping that there’s an EMI scheme. At Rs. 1,56,000 a Mercedes bicycle doesn’t come cheap.
But looking at the roads of Delhi, all my pedalling pleasures hit the brakes. I still remember the sight on my very first visit to the city – a mangled bicycle on the edge of a foothpath, and on the road a bloodied body. During my extended stay I’ve seen so many more. That debars my potential Mercedes of the luxuries of a six-lane metalled road. Winding country roads here I come.