Cycling means Vichu alias Vishwanathan to me. My childhood senior and the owner of a multi-tenanted one-room one-plus-two floor agraharam type (only brahmins!) in Mylapore (Madras).
Why Vichu? Because I rode his bicycle more than him. When I cannot afford ten paise/hour rental, I will pick his non-motorized two-wheeler. Not once he denied the request. Great soul!
Why Vichu? Whenever he wants to reverse direction, he has a unique style. The always dhoti-clad Statistics graduate from Loyola College (12km up and down) would stop the cycle, climb down, and physically lift the cycle to change direction. Till today, I have yet to understand his rationale. Never asked him: why?
It is an interesting story that he joined Vivekananda College, 750metre away from home, to pursue a degree in mathematics, but quickly opted out to go to the Nungambakkam college so that he could be with his pals: Raghunathan (BCom), Krishna Prasadh (Statistics) and Vijaya Kumar (Statistics). Yes, all of them rode the bicycle to college daily.
Both of us were bulky in size. Me, on the higher side, warranting Shanthi, a junior and neighbor, referred to me as “Gundu Ramesh!” (Fat Ramesh) even today!
I avoided nighttime cycling. Know why? Because Vichu’s cycle was not dynamo-fitted. So, no light source to navigate at night. Nor he (we) had the conventional, poor man’s oil lamp with a wick fixed in front.
Was cycling in dhoti a challenge? Who bothered? If the split veshti (dhoti in Tamil) revealed a bit of manly thighs, so what? Sexy! I don’t recall cycling in a pair of pants. Why? Because I never wore pants till my final year of college (1975–76) pursuing economics. By then, I had lost interest in cycles. The only cycle that caught my attention was: the vicious cycle!
But the migration to Bangalore in 1977 would warrant a bicycle to commute to Macmillan India, to begin my publishing career. I have to purchase one. More about it soon.