For 44 months, I rode a bicycle in Bangalore. Daily. For work. From home to office and back. At various time slots. From January 1997 to August 1980. From 11th Cross, Maleswaram, to Church Street, just behind the Deccan Herald office on M G Road.
Macmillan India was my port of call, where my publishing roots sprouted under the expert eyes of Masud saab, the professor who taught Thiruvallah-born Macmillan chief M C Abraham also several summers ago.
I worked in shifts: six in the morning to two in the afternoon, two to ten in the evening, and the graveyard shift of ten in the night until the next morning at six am.
Dependence on the city bus is asking for trouble. So I procured a bicycle for Rs.3,500. I lived bang opposite Vyalikaval police station in Mathru Krupa Lodge. It was a double-story single-room bachelor accommodation, but two families lived: mine (with mother) and Eshi and her parents, with each floor having a common toilet and bathroom.
My daily route was Vyalikaval-Kuttahalli-Palace Orchards-Sankey Road — Chief Minister Devaraj Urs’ official residence-Raj Bhavan-Cricket Stadium-MG Road-Church Street.
I rarely rode alone. Sundar, the musician-turned-colleague, was my cycling partner. He rode a motorized scooter from his residence at the other end of 11th Cross, Malleswaram.
On reaching my home, he would alert me through the horn while the early morning BEL and HMT staff would await their pick-up bus in front of my home around half past five in the morning.
I would climb down from the first floor with my cycle. Sundar would lend his shoulder to help me avoid pedaling the Bangalore roads. There were many ups and down. The toughest portions were: the Vyalikaval-Kuttahalli stretch, less than a kilometer, and the Sankey Road underpass.
Rain or shine, we were like Veeru and Jai of Sholay fame. Unless we were on different shifts, we were two awesome partners. Being a musician, this Mysore Iyengar would regale me with musical nuances en route. And, of course, office politics, the inevitable fodder for the working class!
Morning rides in summer meant the “thwack” sound of golfers hitting their dimpled balls would provide the background score as we passed the long Bangalore Golf Course boundaries. For several meters, the curtained but transparent boundary fences would showcase the capped players brisk walking, talking, and with some laughter punctuating their conversations.
Or the roads were strewn with colorful flowers in August-September. “Is it possible to ride without crushing these beautiful God’s creations?” Sundar would ask.
There would be no responses because it was impossible to ride without crushing them. The road was a carpet of flowers. We felt “crushed” for snuffing them out.
Cycling downhill was the most pleasant experience. I would take my hands off Sundar’s shoulders and ride solo. That’s when I would recall Henry Charles Beeching’s “A Boys Song” I read in school.
“Say, heart, is there aught like this
In a world that is full of bliss?
’Tis more than skating, bound
Steel-shod to the level ground.
Speed slackens now, I float
Awhile in my airy boat;
Till, when the wheels scarce crawl,
My feet to the treadles fall.
Alas, that the longest hill
Must end in a vale; but still,
Who climbs with toil, wheresoe’er,
Shall find wings waiting there.”
My unassisted solo ride in the mornings would consume 45 minutes. With Sundar, it would be half of that time. On return rides, we would be on our own due to traffic of even the late 1970s. Hungry and tired after eight hours of work, I would pedal furiously for the tasty and sumptuous food mother kept ready.
I had to wait for 12 long years before pedaling a cycle after the transit from Mumbai to Delhi after the 44-month residence in Bangalore.