On Cycling-3

Konsultramesh
3 min readJan 23, 2023
Subbu, the Walker-turned-cycler!

Cycling, the common mode of personal mobility, owes the Chinese premier Xi Peng a lot. Indirectly, of course.

What am I talking? Before someone jumps to label me “anti-national,” let me clarify.

The Chinese global release of Covid in end-2019 and the universal lockdown by every single nation on Planet Earth to tame the much-dreaded pandemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) dashboard (https://covid19.who.int/) claims 6.71 million deaths as on January 20, 2023.

This lockdown, or self-imprisonment, when lifted a few weeks later in 2020, led to a surge in people opting to step out to pedal with a mask on.

Cycle suddenly gained popularity. Cutting across societal status, men and women decided to burn calories through cycling. This led to the poor man’s non-motorized cycle becoming a rage.

My neighbor bought one for two lakhs of rupees. He rode in the neighborhood for some time due to government-imposed restrictions on road movement. He began with 50km a day, and at his peak, he pedaled to Chandigarh and back home! On a single day, yes.

His purchase appears cheap compared to the six lakh rupees high-end cycle of Subbu, the Walker (In 2018, he walked from Kanyakumari to Kashmir in less than 60 days to promote road safety with the ex-Hella India bossman Rama Shankar Pandey orchestrating the grand show!).

The six-foot-something Palghat brahmin and a highly placed Hella director has taken to cycling since then. He cycles to the office in Chennai daily. “I reach the office quicker than in my high-end cars,” he quips. He keeps a fresh set of office wear at his workplace from Monday to Friday. 250km on weekends is like you, and I was going to the nearest Reliance Fresh market.

Ramesh Venkat (left) with the author

Another Madrasi comes to mind: Ramesh Venkat, second-generation fleet owner-turned-logistician of repute. “I have both antique grandpa’s Raleigh Cycle & a swanky 1.5 lakh cycle. I use both equally & diligently,” boasts he when he heard about my proposed Chennai to Hosur cycle trip next week (January 30-February 1, 2023).

Covid has been tamed in India to a great extent while the rest of the world battles with this life-snatcher still. Still, Indian roads (at least in Greater Noida, where I live) are fancy-geared cyclists — both men and women and all ages — pedaling to glory.

Glad the poor man’s mode of transport has gained acceptance in the educated, middle-class segment. No longer looked down upon.

Still …

As I entered the posh market at Hiranandani Meadows in Thane in early January 2023 to check the cycle price, the owner greeted me. He shows me around the shop of his wares. He asks about my budget. I say, Rs.15,000. Can’t afford more.

“Sorry, Sir!,” he says. Suddenly, his attitude changes.

He asks: “You live in the neighborhood?”

I nod.

“If you don’t mind, what price you bought the flat? …. The kind of budget you tell me can buy a bicycle for factory workers. Not someone of your stature living in the Hiranandani Meadows area!”

I thank him and step out. Now I know where my social standing is!

Good God, I did not visit a cycle vendor in Hiranandani Estate the same Thane! I would have been crushed psychologically.

The cycles the factory workers pedal are certainly different from the cycle the likes of Subbu and Ramesh’s high-end personal mobility. Whatever it is, the cycle has graduated to the status symbol perch!

I haven’t. I belong to the lowly factory worker class! Will I reach their level to boast of you-know-what?

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Konsultramesh

An avid watcher & practitioner in the world of communication